Weekly Musing: What is Partnership Publishing?

Since one of my goals this year is start learning more about the publishing business, I thought I would spend this week’s musing explaining what partnership publishing is. Honestly, even though I re-read the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest article by April Eberhardt which inspired this post, I was still a little bit confused. Looking up additional information helped as did figuring how it differs from vanity and some other forms of non-traditional publishing.

The best way to define what partnership publishing is the author pays a publisher, either up front or from profits from book sales, to have their book published. This sounds very similar to the definition of a vanity publisher however, there are several large differences.

With a vanity publisher, a term that’s been around since 1941 although the concept has been around far longer, the only way the “publisher” turns a profit is from how many authors it convinces to give them money to physically publish their book. The vanity publisher doesn’t care if the book is good is properly edited, nor do they help with book cover design, distribution, or marketing. Essentially the author gives the publisher a certain amount of money in exchange for the publisher printing out a certain amount of books for that author. After that, it is up to the author to sell their own book to recuperate their costs which rarely happens.

In partnership publishing, an author approaches a publisher to possibly publish their book. The publisher reads and reviews it to see if it has merit. Then they work with the author and come up with a plan for cover design, marketing, publicity, and distribution. The catch is the author does bare part of the cost for all of this. From my research, partnership publishers are often willing to stick with an author beyond the initial release of their book. I guess in traditional Big Five Publishing, it’s not uncommon for the publisher to give a book a big push for six weeks and if it hasn’t gotten any traction, then that’s it in terms of promotion and marketing and most likely, their contract with the author.

If some of what I described about partnership publishing sounds similar to self-publishing it’s because it does. However, with self-publishing you are doing all of this on your own meaning you are hiring and paying for an editor (and please get a quality editor!), a book cover designer, as well as marketing and publication. Also, unlike either traditional or partnership publishing, you don’t have the backing of a publishing company who will do both print and digital publishing.

So now that you’re probably a bit confused, let’s refocus on partnership publishing. I’ll admit, the first time I read the Writer’s Digest article I was very skeptical. I still am even though it sounds like it is different enough from vanity publishing to be legit, different enough from self-publishing to shake off the DIY stigma that still exists, and different enough from traditional publishing where the author might actually be allowed to have a say in each step.

Publishing a book is a team effort no matter which route you take. But I guess what concerns me the most with partnership publishing is how much money it costs the author. On average, according to the Writer’s Digest article, it can cost $5,000 to $10,000 and that’s not including printing costs. If an author wants to focus strictly on digital, then the average costs are $3,000 to $5,000. Of course, as mentioned above, these are to pay for services such as editing, cover design, initial marketing and promotion, and distribution. Some of the websites referenced in the article I took a look at and some only provide a few of these services while others provided all of them or would work with places that handle marketing, for example. So in a way there could be multiple companies involved beyond the publisher.

Another concern I have is how is partnership publishing different from an author approaching a small or medium-sized publisher? Some of the authors I know who are with small to medium sized publishers have mentioned they were involved with the cover design decision as well as marketing and promotion. That’s one of the draws many newer authors have to a small or medium-sized publisher is that more personal relationship. So instead of paying a publisher to help with marketing and promotion, which many authors are expected to be responsible for regardless of who has published their book, to do this, why not pursue a small to medium-sized publisher?

I’ll be honest, partnership publishing doesn’t make much sense to me especially in light of small to medium-sized publishers. I understand and appreciate that within a partnership publisher that the author retains the rights to their book, rather than the publisher, and that it is a team effort with the author having input along every step of the way. But there is an alternative that exist which can allow for the author to not pony up the money directly. Or why not just self-publish? Of course, self-publishing doesn’t allow an author to distribute paper copies of their book unless they partner up with an independent book store.

Perhaps I’m missing the appeal of it which is fine. If this particular business model works for an author, and it’s legit, then go for it. Personally I’d rather save that several thousands of dollars I don’t have and take my chances in the future either doing parts of it on my own or going through traditional or smaller publishers.


Weekly Musing: How May I Help You?

Writing, like any other career, has lots of information and resources designed to help. Information about the mechanics of writing, quotes from famous writers to help motivate and inspire, writing prompts for when creativity is low, etc. Various types of software, books (a gazillion it seems), websites (gazillions raised to the 10th power), and people are available for writers at any level. Since I consider myself a green writer, I’ll only list those resources I’ve found helpful so far for someone at my experience level.

People – One of the biggest sources of help for me has been other writers. Being part of my local writer’s group has helped my writing tremendously in the few months I’ve been attending. It’s a great mixture of published authors, those close to making the leap into publishing, people writing for fun, and optimistic beginners. The group works because of the supportive but honest environment. It’s also been a great information hub for informative books on all aspects of writing from The 10% Solution to character motivation and goals. And then there are the wonderful discussions about books read, favorite authors, and just life in general.

Another group that has been extremely helpful to me has been the local chapter of the PNWA. Each month we meet to discuss a variety of topics from character archetypes to upcoming conferences and to celebrate our successes. This group has provided me a much more formal type of education set in an informal atmosphere and also gives a glimpse into the career of a published author.

Websites – This is a tricky one for me. About 2 years ago when I more heavily considering becomes a writer I went overboard, I think, with bookmarking every website related to writing. But this year I’ve noticed I’ve become pickier about which websites I find useful.

The websites I keep going back to are Writer’s Digest (which I also subscribe to their magazine), Author Magazine , GoodReads, CritiqueCircle(I submitted work here first before joining my local writers group), and WritingForums. GoodReads I go to log what books I’m reading, write a review after I’ve finished reading one, and to see what other people are reading. I enjoy CritiqueCircle because of the daily quote they have as well weekly polls. The other websites I go to because of great information and that connection to other writers.

I’m also using a variety of websites like the local library, Amazon, foreign libraries, and museums for my research. Too numerous to list but as a beginning writer, these have been great tools for me.

Books – Oh boy, where to start on this one. There are the basics every piece of writing advice I’ve ever gotten have recommended: On Writing by Stephen King, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, The 10% Solution, a good dictionary, thesaurus, and recently, a good synonym/antonym book.

In addition I’ve started a small collection of books on plotting, writing a novel, character development, a thesaurus filled with unusual words, books to help describe emotions and character traits, and a book to help flesh out descriptions in general. I plan to add more books as I pinpoint deficiencies in my own writing.

Software– This is one area I don’t use a lot of specially designed for writers software. I’ve heard of Scrivener, StoryCraft, MasterWriter, and others but those seem be above my current level of experience and goals. At this point, I’m content to use Word but I’m open to trying software that will make my life better.

What I’ve been using the last few weeks that is fun and helpful is EverNote. I’ve tried using OneNote and found it cumbersome. EverNote is great for me because I can ‘clip’ pictures from websites, individual webpages, as well as search terms I’ve entered in. Although I haven’t needed this function yet, I can also search everything I’ve already got saved. EverNote stores this information into different workbooks.

Another neat feature is I can insert notes into these notebooks. EverNote has been awesome to get a visual of whatever research I’ve collected and allows me to brainstorm. With saving search terms I’ve entered into Bing or Google, it makes it so much easier for me to go back to something. Personally it is beneficial to me to have a visual of a place or article of clothing so I can describe it as best I can. In the past, if I’ve found a picture, I could never remember the correct phrase to bring up the picture again. Thus the visual is gone.

Finally, a piece of software I’ve discovered recently is Google Earth. I stumbled upon this via an article I read by a historical fiction author who mentioned using Google Earth. He used it to get an overall view of an area he was writing about. He could zoom onto streets, jot down street names, and compare the current streets with historical documents to see if they were around in the time period he was interested in. If they were, then he could see exactly how streets intersected thus lending more authenticity.

What’s really slick about Google Earth is you can click on a city and get directed to Wikipedia with info about the city. What’s also nice for me since I need visual points of reference is I can map out the distance between two towns and see what the terrain looks like. This is valuable when terrain and weather will play a significant part of your story.

These are just a few of the resources I’ve found helpful so far and I’m constantly discovering more. When I first started writing, I had no clue how much information was out there. It’s still quite a bit to take in and I suffer frequently from information overload. While I’m getting better at weeding out what is useful the biggest challenge for me is getting my hands on those resources which are valuable for a historical fiction writer.