New York Times Article on Authors Going Indie Fails to Mention Main Consideration in Publishing

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

What are the factors that authors consider when deciding how to publish their next book?

A well-written article by publishing beat newbie Leslie Kaufman in The New York Times entitled New Publisher Authors Trust: Themselves suggests that it’s money and support services:

…self-publishing will begin to widen its net and become attractive also to more established authors. For one thing, as traditional publishers have cut back on marketing, this route allows well-known figures like Mr. Mamet to look after their own publicity.


Then there is the money. While self-published authors get no advance, they typically receive 70 percent of sales. A standard contract with a traditional house gives an author an advance, and only pays royalties — the standard is 25 percent of digital sales and 7 to 12 percent of the list price for bound books — after the advance is earned back in sales.

And later:

Most top-flight authors have so far eschewed such deals because they are paid advances that are large enough to compensate for lower royalties. In addition, traditional publishers have experienced editors to whom writers become attached, sometimes for decades. And they still provide support services like marketing and publicity, even if these services are sometimes not to the authors’ liking.

While money (advance and royalty rate) and support services (editorial, packaging and marketing, for instance) are all important factors when authors are deciding how to publish their next book. But, according to a recent survey we at Digital Book World conducted among nearly 5,000 authors of all stripes, distribution is the No. 1 factor for authors. They want to know that their book can be seen and bought anywhere books are sold — on the Web, on devices and in the physical world.

More information on this particular data point from our survey can be found here: Why Do Authors Choose Publishing or Self-Publishing?

Also, illustrated in this chart below:

pub factors for authors

Or, if you really want to dive into what authors want, check out the complete report on our survey: What Authors Want: Understanding Authors in the Era of Self-Publishing.


3 thoughts on “New York Times Article on Authors Going Indie Fails to Mention Main Consideration in Publishing

  1. David Gaughran

    I really do wish the New York Times (and Publishers Weekly) would look a little closer at some of these companies they give uncritical coverage to. Argo Navis take a huge piece of the pie – 30% for distro, which is triple what someone like Smashwords charges.

    I suspect they charge premium rates for the other services they provide – scanning, formatting, cover design – but that information is only available to literary agents, not to the authors who wrote the bloody books and the ones who will be paying for all this one way or the other.

    I would also like to know if agents bringing authors’ work to Argo Navis receive any financial compensation for doing so. At the very least this ensures the agent will get their 15%. Argo Navis help out there too by sending the checks to the agent.

    By the time the poor writer gets their share, the royalties will have been whittled down to almost half what they would have been had they gone direct to KDP themselves.

    I blogged about Argo Navis two years ago – complaining of all of this. None of those criticisms have been addressed. Link:

    P.S. I’m wondering if your data for the factors in choosing self-publishing or not is a little cloudy and if it might be more interesting to separate the two (or three if you count hybrids) groups and then tell us which factors were most important to each respective group. Perhaps there isn’t much difference but my gut says there might be.

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