February 9, 2012
Reaching the World (or Not)
With all the options and advantages for self-publishing print and ebooks, authors are weighing their options these days, wondering what traditional publishers really have to offer. One consideration is selling rights.
A book is not just a physical object or a digital file, it is intellectual property that can be developed and disseminated in a variety of forms. All or part of a book can appear in audio form, in magazines and newspapers, on websites and in blogs. Book clubs may be interested in licensing their own edition, or college professors may want to use a chapter in a custom textbook. Sometimes a book can inspire movies or ancillary products like greeting cards and t-shirts.
Many authors will have very little experience, networks or time to maximize intellectual property rights. Many publishers, on the other hand, have full-time staff devoted to just this sort of activity.
One of the most common adaptations of a book is a translation. What can a publisher offer? At IVP, by way of example, we have a mailing list of over five hundred publishers around the world who receive our catalogs. Our rights manager, Ellen Hsu, regularly attends book shows where she meets with international publishers to show them our books and make recommendations to each publisher. Every year we attend the International Christian Retail Show and the Frankfurt Book Fair where publishers from around the world meet to negotiate translation rights to suitable books. Ellen also visits our publishing partners in Brazil and South Korea every other year. She has, literally, a global reputation for service and excellence.
Based on years of corporate and personal experience, Ellen knows which publishers will do a good job for a book and an author, and which publishers we should shy away from. She is also aware of the specialties each publisher has, so she can recommend just the right book to fit in each publisher's program. As a result, she has earned their respect and trust.
While a publisher can't guarantee rights sales, it can guarantee widely promoting subsidiary rights that the self-published are unlikely to undertake. In addition a publisher will manage all of the administrative details involved, including sending complimentary reading copies, negotiating contracts, collecting royalties and following up when books are not published or royalties are not paid on time.
A few stats:
So if, as an author, your main focus is on reaching your friends, family, those you speak to and those connected to your organization, self-publishing may be for you. If you have wider desires and ambitions, a traditional publisher may be your choice.