The Cost of Hiring a Traditional Publisher

Throught of the DayHave you ever had one of those Ah-ha! moments? Those times in your life when you believed one thing only to find out the opposite was true?

Everyone has them. Some probably have them more than others. I like to refer to these Ah-ha! moments as thinking outside the box. That’s been a catch-phrase of the past two decades, so now it doesn’t have the same power as it did before. It has lost its edge from overuse and misuse. Thinking outside the box to some might be ordering muffins for a meeting instead of the doughnuts that have been ordered for the past ten years.

That’s not really thinking outside the box. That’s just making a change.

One way of thinking outside the box to me means someone has taken a truth that is generally known in society and flipped it inside out to reveal the actual truth. It’s like viewing something from a different angle and learning it is “B” instead “A” like everyone else thought.

This sort of discovery is thought of as innovative thinking because it was never before realised.

outside the boxSometimes we are led into the box and given a truth to believe because the person, company or organisation wanted us to think a certain way. This usually benefits the person leading us into the box but not those within the box.

More now than ever, we are being told what to think. We are swayed, influenced and brainwashed through television and radio commercials, newspaper ads, news reports, official studies, government literature, books, magazines and many other printed and visual material. The person initiating or writing these sorts of things are working to make us think the way they want us to think, and they will lie—I mean twist the truth—to meet their goal.

Only when we know the truth and read someone else’s version of it do we realise how the truth can be twisted to benefit the person presenting it.

For a few minutes, I want you to forget everything you have been told to think about traditional publishers. Forget about what I’ve said in the past because I too was a messenger of misinformation. I spread it because I believed it. I believed it because so many others spoke it. They believed it because they were told what to believe.

Now that your mind is clear of influence and propaganda, I’ll ask a question I want you to think about for a minute before answering. I want you think outside the box and come up with the answer and not take the answer that has been provided for us all these decades.

The question is: How much does an author pay a traditional publishing company to publish their book.

The answer to this question came to me in a rush—that Ah-ha! moment—after reading an article by a local writer who tried to shove a fact down my throat: free of charge to you, he wrote about what it would cost to have a book published by a traditional publisher. Often when I feel pressured into believe something, I start questioning that belief.

How much do authors payThe answer to this question is not to criticize traditional publishers. They do a great job with getting much-needed and wanted books on shelves, and for the most part, they treat authors fairly well.

The answer is instead to provide the truth about the cost a writer pays when they hire a traditional publisher to publish their book.

Because let’s keep thinking outside the box; writers hire traditional publishing companies to publish their books. Of course, there is so much demand that the hired company can pick and choose who they work for—and because of this, these companies have taken the commanding position and have twisted reality to make it look as though they are ‘hiring’ the writer.

But in truth, without the writer, publishing companies are nothing. They can’t produce a book if they don’t have someone to write it. The same is not true for writers. There are many authors throughout the centuries who created books from their stories. They didn’t need a publishing company, just a printer who could pull it all together.

So now that we know who is hiring who, how much do authors, who go with traditional publishers, pay to have their books published?

Often times, that cost is 90% of the book price. Sometimes it’s 93% of the cover price. That means for a book that costs $20 to the reader, the author gets $2.00 and pays the publisher $18.00.

NOT FREEI’m going to pause there. I realise publishers pay for the production of the book, the marketing and getting the books to the stores and their customers, and I know they gamble with every book they publish.

But for one minute, let’s think about this answer. Authors pay publishers on average $18.00 of every $20.00-worth of books sold.

So do traditional publishers publish your book for free? No, they don’t. I will never again say that traditional publishing is free for the author. The publisher pays the cost upfront, but they expect that bill to be paid by selling thousands of books. And that is why they choose sure-things, books that will sell.

Now I’ll return you to our usual world of thinking and forget about this Ah-ha! moment. It just muddies the waters for those trying to explain traditionally published. It was easier and cleaner to think authors didn’t pay to be published by traditional publishers, that they instead were paid. That’s how traditional publishers want us to think, and we have spread the message far and wide.

9 thoughts on “The Cost of Hiring a Traditional Publisher

  1. the question on the reverse side is — how much does an indie author pay to self-publish. I recently went to one such site, recommended by a friend who self pubbed with them, and was shocked at the exhorbitant cost. And there were still royalties, which blew me away.


    • If she’s buying a package, that’s not considered self-publishing. That’s assisted publishing, better known as either joint publishing or subsidiary publishing (iUniverse is an example for the latter). All types of publishing costs money, but some are more economical than others. Thanks for your comment, Judy.


        • Before it was all lumped into self-publishing, and it still is for many people. When self-publishing took off several years ago, it was said there were only two types of publishing: traditional and self. The publishing world has changed a lot since then, and new players are in the game. To save writers from falling victim to some of these players, it’s better to have clearer titles.

          I wrote a blog post about the five different publishing methods. Perhaps in a few years, there will be six. Here’s the link:

          Thanks, Judy.


    • Short answer – Time. That’s it. Time to educate yourself about the industry, time to learn the many platforms available. Time to learn the skills necessary to do it all yourself. Time to research the reputable companies who will provide such services as cover art, editing, formatting, etc, if you don’t want to do those things yourself.


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