As a small publisher with a fairly successful range of local books, authors often come to me either for advice on getting a book they have written published or asking me to publish it for them.
I only publish books that relate to East Kent, this is partly because of the limited amount of time I have and partly because I have neither the distribution nor the promotional facilities to deal with a national title.
Although I have to admit that recently I have been considering setting up a publishing business to produce books for a wider area, geared up to selling through the big national chains.
Anyway that aside and coming back to my existing publishing business, let us say that you write a book about some aspect of Thanet’s history and bring it to me for publication, what happens essentially is that I pay you money in the form of royalties not the other way around.
The normal deal is that I pay the authors who write the books I produce 10% of the cover price of the books I sell.
For example let us say that you write a book about Ramsgate Railways as Dave Richards did, now Dave isn’t computer savvy, so he came along with pictures of various aspects of our railways attached to sheets of text that he had typed out. This produced most of the makings of the book “Ramsgate all Change”, I then did the publishers bit, this varies from book to book, in this case it involved scanning the pictures into the computer, and finding some more to add to the ones he had already got, typing out the text into the computer, adding to some of it and rewriting some of it, taking a photograph of Ramsgate Station for the cover and putting the whole thing together in a form that my printers could turn into a book.
After various stages of proof reading by Dave me and several other people that happened along at the time the book was born.
The price of the book relates mostly to the cost of the materials, although I tend to make it a bit more expensive if I think a large proportion of the copies will be sold by post rather than in the shop. What came out was an 88 page A4 monochrome book with coloured cover selling for £7.99.
So if I sell 100 copies this means a combined selling price of about £800 this means I pay Dave £80 it’s not really rocket science and if you print 88 pages of A4 and an A3 coloured card wrap around cover and tot up the price of the materials, you will appreciate that there is no fortune to be made for anyone in this arrangement.
So where does the ripping off of the author come in you may wonder? This is when the author tells me that he has found a publisher that will publish his or her book for a price. By this I mean the author pays the publisher money and the publisher publishes the book, normally the book will be the authors first novel, by now my alarm bells are ringing.
I always tell the author concerned to go to a big chain bookshop like Watersones and look amongst their fiction for sale and see how many books published by the publisher concerned are actually for sale on their shelves, invariabley the answer is none.
Although there is nothing new in vanity publishing this is something altogether else where the publisher is giving the impression that that they can sell books, when on investigation they have nowhere where the would be likely in practice to sell them.