The High Cost of Publishing

I just got home from a fabulous weekend in Long Island, NY, where I attended the Romance Writers of America Long Island Chapter’s annual luncheon. Agents, editors, and authors mingle, chat, and connect. Each year, I’m astounded by what an amazing event this is.

Upon my return, I had the privilege of Patrica’s post on the reality of editing costs over on The Cerulean Project. It ties in with the questions I posed to agents and editors during the luncheon—has our expectation of the craft changed with the major upheaval in publishing in the last decade?

The answer may surprise you.

I’ve long suspected that we’ve lowered our expectations. That’s why we see so many poorly polished tomes—readers will accept them. What’s more, they’ll laud them. But that’s only partially true.

The truth is that we’re seeing a significant delineation in readers: those who will purchase low-cost, indie-pubbed books, and those who will hold out for the higher-priced, traditionally published ones. Mind you, I suggest that this is all about perception, and a lot less about whose imprint is actually inside the cover. I doubt most readers are double-checking the publishing street cred before they pick up a book.

But the price of your book says a lot about the quality of it. As does the packaging and content.

Let me offer an example.

Suppose you are an Apple fanboi, and you decide to grab the newest iPhone/iPad/iDoohicky that was just announced. Lo and behold, there’s a completely different charging cord for this lineup. Dangnabit! Off to the store you go—or off to Amazon you click—to get a spankin’ new cord. When you get there, you discover that the “official” Apple cord is $40, but beside it is the equivalent by an off-brand for $15. This is a no-brainer, right? You buy the cheaper one.

But when you examine the off-brand, you notice the packaging is cheap, the quality circumspect, and we won’t even talk about the poor spelling and grammar used in the directions.

You also know that the last time you bought the cheaper version, you had a heck of a time getting it to work, and it failed within a few months.

Which cord do you buy?

Some of us will keep trying the cheapest version, if for no other reason than sometimes, they actually do work, and we love a bargain.

But many of us will always default to the reliable cord with a reputation for quality.

As authors, our job is to create the best book possible. When we take the independent path, we take on the burden of the cost. If a friend came to you with a product  they want to impress the public, would you tell them to cut corners on production costs and lower the price so folks won’t bother returning it when their widget doesn’t work? Or would you tell them to take the high road, to understand their responsibility as a business owner and inventor, and save up the money to get it right?

Yeah, I’m Ellie the Encourager on a Monday morning. 🙂

We’ve all had to make tough choices, wait longer for what we wanted because the quality was worth it. That doesn’t lessen how frustring and scary it is, and those are legitimate woes. Hey, if it was easy, everyone would do it, right? And while it may feel like everyone is some days, few last.

I want you to last. I want you to be writing and thrilling your fans with books for years to come. And that’s why I want you to take the slower, less trodden path, create a book that’s of the highest quality, and then publish it yourself or go get that awesome book deal with a publisher. Whatever you choose, make it your best.

And how do you suggest I afford this, Ms. Editor?

The same way I do. Save up. Call your editor and ask for a payment plan. Get involved in critique groups so you get the bulk of the heavy-lifting out of the way so your editor can do their best—and you can pay for fewer rounds.

Use the time to hone your craft. Write the book you not only think will sell, but more importantly, sculpt the story that will enthrall your readers. Go deeper with your characters. Go wider with your vision. Go farther with your subplots. Create a story so impactful, you can’t believe you wrote it.

By the time you’re done, you’ll have a tale worthy of your audience, and I bet you’ll have the money saved up.

When we take our work seriously, we take our goals seriously, and  we turn into people who can make awesome happen.

You’ve got this. And you’ve got a community here to encourage and support you.

Write the change,