This by no means is some exhaustive list of all the different ways you can publish a book. This is just an account of my preconceived ideas about the publishing process and what actually ended up happening. Spoiler alert: Amazon ruined everything!
Before this all happened I wondered on more than one occasion about how a book got published nowadays. Mostly I just wondered if anyone still read stuff printed on paper. I’m a pastor and I regularly refer to the Bibles in the back of the pews as “analog Bibles.” I also tell everyone that if I see them on their phones then I will simply assume they are reading their “digital Bibles” instead of checking the score of the game. Needless to say, most people are on phones. I have no idea if they are actually reading a Bible, but I’m pretty sure the Bible app doesn’t text you, so I’m not sure about all the typing I see…
I grew up imagining authors were these older individuals who lived solitary lives all around the world. Maybe they lived in a cabin in the woods, or a loft in a big city, but wherever they lived, I imagined them spending most of their time behind a typewriter. I imagined that they were inspired by the world around them and that because of the artistic process, they couldn’t be bothered with normal human interactions. Hence, in my head all authors were hermits.
I also have had the assumption, until a year ago, that authors simply called up publishers and said “I want to write about this.” The publisher would then say “do it” and send them money so they could focus all their energies on their manuscript. For whatever reason I never much concerned myself with the whole return on investment perspective that publishers obviously care about. When I first considered this perspective was when I answer my initial call with my now publisher.
Publishing Rep: So we do assisted self publishing.
Publishing Rep: We help you publish your book.
Me:Well I figured that, but what does
assisted self publishing mean?
Publishing Rep: It means you will have to pay for
our services in order to publish your book.
Me: So I have to pay you to get my book published?
I thought you paid the author and they wrote the book?
Publishing Rep: Well once upon a time that happened
but thanks to companies like Amazon, publishers are no
longer willing to take the risks on unknown authors like they once did.
He was right. I had already called, emailed, and scoured numerous publishers to try to figure out how to even submit my manuscript. A vast majority wouldn’t even let me submit my book at all, as in they flat-out said they weren’t accepting any manuscript suggestions at this time. The only reason I got a call from this guy in the first place was because I wanted to download a PDF.
I had done a Google search looking for the cost of printing a book. At this point, my “book” was a glorified journal of my first year as pastor. I was trying to find a price list of printing maybe 10 copies so I could give it to my family and friends. This website said I could find out how to get my book printed and so much more, but I had to submit some information before I could download the PDF that contained said information. One bit of information I begrudgingly gave was my phone number. The next day was when I got a call, the one that contained a portion of the conversation I shared above.
This conversation went on for a couple of hours. The guy on the other side said that Amazon changed the game. Publishers were on the brink of bankruptcy because the old business model no longer worked. Once upon a time publishers would invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in mass printing a book that they hoped would sell. That hope was rooted in the belief that their author was marketable, that what they wrote was interesting enough to sell copies of these books. These books represented a monetary investment, and if enough of the books sold, then they saw a return on that investment. That meant that the risk they took on said author was a gamble that paid off.
Amazon screwed all that up. They explored a new technology which allowed them to print books on demand back in 2005 (check it out here: Amazon Explores Book Printing). This new technology changed the game. Instead of printing thousands of copies and having money tied up in those copies selling, Amazon prints a book when someone orders it. Now I can’t say this happens with every book on Amazon, but the fact that this is possible is why assisted self publishing is a thing now.
Essentially my book will exist digitally once it is “published.” When someone buys it, a fancy printer somewhere will print it, package it and ship to you. If you have Amazon Prime, this whole process will happen and you will still get it two days after you buy it.
How flippin’ crazy is that…
So long story short, this is why I had to have a gofundme page. I had to pay to publish. I share how the decision to go forward and publish my book came about in a future post. Thanks for reading.