The New Publishing Game


I teach people to write books. I love what I do. I also love this exciting new publishing world of ours. Publishing is changing. People who earn their living from writing, producing and selling books are feeling the pressure.

What does this mean to the pre-published writer?

A lot, according to Trish Gentry, on her blog, ChickletsLit. She highlights the challenges she faced to get her first book published. Gentry paid in money, time and tears. She spent time writing her first book. She spent more time researching publishers who accepted authors in her chosen genre. She spent money on editing. Then more time rewriting. She submitted. And waited. And waited.

Hopefully, she will receive a request or rejection. Admittedly, she has more chance of winning the lottery. Not because she is a bad writer. It is because she is a new writer. Publishers are playing it safe. They are reluctant to commit to a pre-published writer. Why? Because publishing is expensive. If a consumer wants a book, which one would they choose? An unknown writer or a James Patterson? Retailers will provide prime shelf space to better known writers. The unknown writer’s book will languish in the dusty recesses of the shop.

So why do people still feel it is important to go the traditional route? Gentry admits that publishers and agents do have clout. They know the book game. For a writer it is about acknowledgement.

How much can a writer expect to earn? 

After production costs, marketing, agent’s commission, and retailers’ discounts, the writer may receive R12 per copy sold.

Is it worth the effort? Or should you try and do it yourself?

Amanda Hocking is a success story. Hocking self-published her ‘Trylle’ trilogy after publishers said the supernatural genre was over-subscribed. Hocking sold her books online. She has earned a cool million. A large publisher then offered her a publishing contract. Her followers are not happy. They feel she should have continued on her own.

As a pre-published writer you can:

  • Research the market.
  • Understand what readers want.
  • Ensure that your book is as close to perfect as possible.
  • Spend the money on attending a great writing course like Writers Write.
  • Spend money editing your book.
  • Publish it online.
  • Spend money promoting.
  • Get a social media presence.
  • See what readers and reviewers say about your book.

Once you understand this process, you may realise why publishers are nervous. You may also earn some money. You will also realise why publishers are courting self-publishing success stories. These authors know more about this new world than they do.

The key for any writer to take from this is that they are better off than they ever were. If you get a wonderful contract from a traditional publisher and you are happy with that, that’s great. However, if you don’t, you have a world of opportunity open to you as a self-published author. It really is a writer’s world.

Ulrike Hill - Writers Write by Ulrike Hill

Ulrike is a Business & Creative Writing Facilitator for Writers Write.

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.