This guest blog post, by Robert W. Walker, originally appeared on Buried Under Books on July 13, 2010. In it, Mr. Walker compares the traditional publishing model to the new ebook self-publishing models, and finds the traditional model wanting.
Robert W. Walker is a graduate of Chicago’s Wells High School, Northwestern University, and the NU’s Graduate Masters in English Education program. Rob has taught writing in all its permutations (“All writing is creative writing but not all writing sings,” he says.) from composition and developmental to a study of the literary masters to creative and advanced creative writing. His first novel was one only an arrogant youth could have conceived — a sequel to Huckleberry Finn (now published as Daniel & The Wrongway Railway, Royal Fireworks Press, NY), but his first suspense-techno-thriller-sf-mystery came in 1979, after college, a novel that won no awards entitled SUB-ZERO.
In any non-traditional publishing as in ebook publication, there is no such thing as “an advance against royalties”. In Traditional Publishing as we know, now often termed DTB’s by our younger generations, ie. Dead Tree Books the “advance” has always been there. This is a significant difference. For the older generation, my generation, the first phrase that comes to mind for the author is “an advance against royalties” and what this means is the author gets a lump sum “loan payment” to start work on the process of crafting a book or novel. However, in ebook non-traditional publishing wherein everything is lower case, there are NO advances. In fact, in “non-publishing” as some like to call it, there are a lot of “NO’s” to the traditional model.
However, before we get too far afield, an advance against a royalty of a $100, 000 is a thing of beauty on the surface. No doubt about that. A writer can rejoice. However if it is for four books to be written over four years, that’s pretty much slave wages or $25,000 a year, which if one is independently wealthy makes for nice pen money. Not so with most people who are attempting to make a living (no joke) at writing.
To the midlist author who wins this arrangement or spin of the publishing wheel, 25,000 a year does not go far. It’s about minimum wage if that. Whereas in ebook publishing, there are NO advances and no paying back of that 25,000 a year either. On the one hand, your publisher grants you a “loan” to be paid back via your royalties (if royalties even occur); on the other hand, every cent of an advance must be paid back to the publisher via your royalties, and until that hundred thousand is worked off by your royalties (if at all) you see no additional funds from royalties. Should your sales be too low to return that advance to your publisher, you are both left with a bad business loan, and your name or reputation as a writer is mud thereafter.
The above is one area where traditional and non-traditional publishing go in very different directions. But there are far more differences for the writer as businessman as well. Below are some of the glaring differences other than no advances.