The following interview of John Kremer was conducted by Heather Vale of Publishing Unwrapped.
Her questions are bolded. His answers follow the bolded questions.
What is self publishing?
Publishing a book on your own.
What is vanity publishing?
Paying someone else to publish your book.
What is Print-on-Demand publishing (POD)?
A tool that anyone can use to publish books one at a time or
in small quantities. Authors might use POD to self-publish a book. Publishers
use POD for galley copies, to keep older titles in print, and to experiment with
What is subsidy publishing?
A form of vanity publishing, but where you might have a
greater stake and responsibility in publishing the book.
How do the above models compare to traditional publishing?
For authors, all of the above models involve paying to have
your book published while in traditional publishing, the publisher pays you for
the rights to publish your book.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Vanity Publishing has no advantages. Lots of disadvantages,
too numerous to mention.
Subsidy Publishing, if done with a good company and for good
reasons, might pay off.
Self-Publishing, whether via POD or regular offset printing,
is a good option.
Traditional Publishing is, however, often the best option.
Control over content and packaging, fast turnaround, control of all subsidiary
rights, opportunity to sell reprint rights to traditional publisher for more
money if book is successful as a self-published venture
Costs money, takes commitment of time and resources, not as good bookstore
distribution as traditional publishing, not the same reputation as traditional
publishing, publicity may be harder to get
POD versus offset advantage:
less money commitment upfront, great for keeping books in print, great for
galleys, good for testing the market
POD versus offset disadvantage:
much higher cost per book sold
Traditional Publishing advantages:
they pay you, better bookstore distribution, better reputation builder, more
Traditional Publishing disadvantages:
takes a year or two to publish, loss of control over content and packaging, give
up more of the subsidiary rights income
How long does it take to get a final product out to the
reading public in these various options?
Vanity Publishing: 3 months to 2 years
Subsidy Publishing: 3 months to 2 years
Self-Publishing, Offset: 3 months or more
Self-Publishing, POD: 2 days or much more time (generally
depending on the POD service used and the author’s turnaround time and
Traditional Publishing: 6 months to 2 years
How does the quality of the output compare?
Vanity Publishing: poor
Subsidy Publishing: can be equivalent to traditional
Self-Publishing: variable, totally dependent on editorial,
design, and printing choices. POD is generally not as good as offset printing
Traditional Publishing: generally good, sometimes great
How does a writer check the reputation, legitimacy or
quality of a publishing company?
Ask booksellers and librarians. Consult with me (John Kremer).
What are the pros and cons of e-books (vs. paper-based
E-book pros: fast
production, low or no cost, downloadable sales, opportunity to change content
continuously and rapidly
E-book cons: nothing to
hold on to, hard to give as a gift, no retail store exposure, generally harder
to read for long periods of time, not collectible, not as likely to get reviewed
by major media
Tree book pros: nice feel,
great tradition, holds value longer, collectible, reviewable, signable, giftable,
retail sales, reputation builder in a way no e-book can match
Tree book cons: longer
production time, higher cost, must be shipped, shipping costs, not amenable to
fast or frequent changes
Why has the publishing world changed over the years, and
how do you expect it to change further in the future?
Changes in past 35 years that make self-publishing
1. Better distribution, more distributors servicing the market
2. Better knowledge and support via publishing associations,
books like mine, consultants and publicity services, web sites, etc.
3. Short-run printing. More printers have opened to serve the
needs of shorter runs. And now, with POD, the costs to self-publish are even
4. Computers have made it possible to design and typeset your
books at little or no cost compared to $12 to $20 per page former cost.
Computers also make it a lot easier to track and handle direct sales and
customers, with specialized software being developed for the needs of smaller
5. The Internet has opened up the world to smaller publishers
and self-publishers. It has made it possible to sell foreign rights
economically, sell books to overseas customers direct, and develop promotional
campaigns that cost little money.
What kind of stigma is attached to self-published books vs.
those published by a major publishing house?
Some media still ban self-published books, equating them with
vanity presses. Very little other stigma applies as long as the books are well
edited and well designed. There have been many, many self-published bestsellers.
See John Kremer’s Self-Publishing Hall of Fame
How much money involved in each publishing model, both in
terms of what is spent and what is potentially earned?
Vanity Publishing: Spend $3,000 to $25,000. Earn very little.
Subsidy Publishing: Spend $1,000 to $75,000. Earn variable.
Self-Publishing: Spend: $95 to $80,000, but generally around
$5,000 to begin with. Earn: From $10.00 to millions. But the typical
self-publisher does not make his or her money back. I would guess (this is an
informed and reliable estimate) that 70 to 80% of self-publishers lose money on
self-publishing when printing via offset and spending money on promotion.
Similarly, 30 to 50% of those who self-publish via POD probably break even or
make some money.
Traditional Publishing: If the author is paid an advance and
spends no money on promotion, the typical author probably makes $10 to $15
If an author is accepted by a major publisher, should they
still consider self-publishing?
Yes. There are good reasons to self-publish. The most
important ones being greater control over content and faster turnaround. If the
book is timely and needs to get out right away, traditional publishing will
rarely work. If your market is very specialized and you know it well, then
self-publishing also makes more sense.
Most of the time, however, I recommend authors to take the
traditional publisher's deal — as long as they negotiate their contract
vigorously so they get the best deal possible.
Who holds the rights to the content in the various
publishing options, and why should the writer care?
Vanity Publishing: Generally the vanity press holds the rights
and shares income (if any, which is rare) with the author.
Subsidy Publishing: Negotiable, but generally shared.
Self-Publishing: The author holds all rights unless really
Traditional Publishing: The author grants most or all rights
to the publisher and shares in the income, which can sometimes be substantial.
The author should care because subsidiary rights can bring in
significant income. Even if going with a traditional publisher, the author
should negotiate to retain as many rights as possible.
As a writer, which publishing models have you used (and
Self-Publishing: Because I wanted books published and couldn’t
wait for a publisher to make a decision. Because I knew the market better than
Traditional Publishing: Because I wanted better distribution
or was through doing the self-promotion for the book.
Print-on-Demand Publishing: I've used it several times where I
am updating the book frequently.
Which publishing model would you choose for your next book
Which model I would choose would totally depend on the book,
its need for wide distribution, its content, its audience, and how much the
publisher would be willing to pay me for the rights. I would tend to favor
self-publishing or traditional publishing.
What kind of earnings have you been able to make from
From several million dollars to $5,000.
How does someone know if they really should embark on
writing a book?
Do they have passion for the subject? Do they have time and
commitment to write a book?
How does a writer know if they’ve chosen a good topic?
If they can’t sleep at night because their book is always on
their mind. If they wake up in the morning raring to write. In general, the
writer does not chose the topic; the topic chooses the writer.
What style should modern books be written in?
Short and sweet is the key nowadays. Shorter sentences,
shorter paragraphs, shorter books. As for style, keep your own voice. If you
don’t have one, develop one by writing a journal every day.
How should the manuscript be formatted for self-publishing?
In self-publishing, you format so the book is camera-ready or
PDF ready. That means typeset at some point, with an appropriate choice of type
fonts. If using a typesetter, then formatted double-spaced in any type font.
What software is required (word processor, MS Publisher,
PageMaker, Quark, PDF writer)?
I currently use Ventura Publisher, but if I were to make a
choice today, I’d use Adobe’s InDesign software for typesetting. If you are
going to hire a typesetter or type designer, then you can use any word
processing program for input.
How does an author choose a service provider (publisher,
printer, etc), when there are so many options available?
Make use of the many listings at
http://www.bookmarket.com for printers,
typesetters, editors, cover designers, POD printers, and publishers, etc. Then
query them with requests for quotations. Also do your due diligence and check
out their references.
What is the editor’s role, and how does a writer find an
editor (or proofreader)?
Almost every self-publisher needs a substantive editor, a copy
editor, and a proofreader.
A substantive editor edits the book for clarity, structure,
style, etc. A copy editor checks for spelling, sentence structure, grammar, etc.
A proofreader reads the typeset copy to make sure no errors have slipped through
the process of editing and typesetting.
To find people, again check the listings at
Where should books be marketed and sold?
They should be sold wherever the audience buys books. That
might be bookstores, but it might also be other retail outlets, the Internet,
direct sales, book clubs, catalogs, TV, etc. It really depends on the book.
There are a 1001 ways to market books.
How important is it for books to be found in major
Depends on the book. If it is a gift book or novel, very
important. If it is nonfiction how-to, much less important.
How important is it for books to be found at online
retailers like Amazon?
Absolutely imperative. Also easy for anyone to set up.
Why is there a trend of moving away from bookstores towards
alternate niche-market outlets (like a flower shop for a flower-arranging book)?
Because bookstores can’t begin to stock the number of books
available. The largest physical bookstore stocks 150,000 titles. There are 6
million titles in print. It’s not hard to do the math.
How does a writer get their book into various outlets,
The short story: Persistence. Good cover and interior design.
Lots of publicity.
What are some of the best methods an author can use to sell
books direct to customers?
The Internet, email newsletters, blogging, direct mail,
publicity, radio interviews, speaking. There are 1001 ways to sell books.
What kind of promotion is the author responsible for?
These days, if the author wants her book to sell, she needs to
get out and do a lot of promotion. She should take complete responsibility while
still making use of whatever resources her publisher offers her.
1001 Ways to Market Your Books, 6th Edition describes more than 1,000
ideas, tips, and suggestions for marketing books — all illustrated with real-life examples showing how other
publishers and authors have marketed their books.
“Without glitzy idealism or funky hopelessness, Kremer does a sound job of talking about marketing, telling
stories from his own and others' experiences. He knows his subject, imparting important information in a
fast-paced, very open way. Extremely good stuff here.” — The Book Reader
May, 2008. 704-page softcover. $27.95. ISBN: 0-912411-49-X.