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Why Do Authors Pay a Publisher to Publish Their Book?



Last Updated on October 17, 2022 by Ben Oakley

The simple fact of life is that money talks. Behind money is business. Publishing is big business with the likes of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc listed on stock exchanges worldwide. But why on earth would an author pay a publisher to publish their book?

Why Do Authors Pay a Publisher to Publish Their Book?

Enter the world of the vanity or hybrid publisher. These types of publishers set themselves up as traditional publishing houses, who offer publishing packages to authors who don’t meet their standards.

99% of the time, an author who submits their work to one of these publishers, will be sent an offer. But the offer of acceptance and publication usually comes with a high price tag.

Their offer of a hybrid publishing deal normally includes a sum of between £1,500 and £7,000, which the author will have to pay. They will claim it is only 25-33% of the costs of publishing your book, and that they will cover the rest.

They’ll word it in such a way that makes the offer too good to be true. Buzzwords like partner, front page, professional, campaign, marketing, global reach, are designed to hook an unsuspecting author in.

Money in the publishing world should flow from the publisher to the author, NOT the other way around.

An estimated tens of thousands of authors a year are paying a hefty sum to vanity/hybrid publishers across the world. It begs the question, what is exactly going on here?

Why do authors pay publishers?

I advocate self-publishing, as I find it to be the most rewarding and beneficial way to get a book to market. But I appreciate it’s not for everyone, and traditional publishing is a viable route to success.

Notice I mentioned traditional publishing. To be published with one of the big publishers, you’ll need a book agent, a near-masterpiece, and tons of patience.

For hybrid publishers, you need none of the above. They don’t care what your book is about, what standard it’s up to, and they won’t keep you hanging around.

Within a matter of weeks, you will have an email accepting your submission on the basis of ‘shared costs’, meaning you have to give money to them.

Here’s a list of some reasons why authors choose to pay a publisher.

  • Paying costs in instalments.
  • Editing is covered.
  • Formatting is covered.
  • Some marketing.
  • Worldwide distribution.
  • Printed books sent to you.
  • Not having to worry about self-publishing.
  • ISBN included.
  • Cover design.
  • New authors don’t know any better.
  • OR it’s just easier to pay a publisher.

Sounds pretty good right? Well.

Why you should NOT pay a publisher to be published.

Let’s work it backwards. If you pay £3,000 to have your book published with a hybrid publisher, you need to sell a lot of books!

Assuming you get £2 royalty per book sold, it means you would need to sell 1,500 books to break even on your investment. Which is before taxes, other business expenses, and additional cut for new ‘services’ from the publisher.

1,500 is a LOT of books. Selling 1,500 books in a year is a hard slog, and never normally a figure attained. Unless you have a bestseller on your hands, or drop your book at the right moment, you’re unlikely to make it back quickly, if at all.

Everything listed above, including editing, formatting, marketing, and distribution, can be outsourced or learned at far lower costs.

If you’re serious about publishing your book, then it’s a good idea to learn the ins and outs of the industry. See what needs to be done to succeed, where the money flows, and increase your own personal knowledge bank.

It might seem easier to pay a publisher to publish your book, but in the long run, I believe it’s best to have complete control over your product.

A publisher that takes money upfront from an author, is not a traditional publisher. They may also have many fake accounts online, leaving glowing reviews from themselves.

I hate seeing new authors being taken advantage of, and vanity/hybrid publishers are the top of the pile when it comes down to it.

In the wide world of publishing, it pays to be vigilant.

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Ben Oakley is a bestselling author, researcher, publisher, blogger, and mental health advocate from Camden, England. Usually found on Twitter or in the bars and parks of Camden. Agathokakological is his favourite word!