Radius News

Publishing Advice: Risk


From Editorial Director Mark Fretz:

Like life itself, publishing involves risk. Authors, agents, publishers, booksellers, printers, distributors, marketers, publicists, you name it, everyone has to weigh the risks in performing their job. Individually and collectively, people’s risk tolerance ranges from a little to a lot. It doesn’t matter whether you are a self-publisher, a traditional publisher, or something in between (i.e., a hybrid or independent publisher), risk is part of the deal. Self-publishers don’t bear more risk than traditional publishers, or vice versa. Hybrid publishers may represent an attractive alternative to either of those choices but publishing independently doesn’t eliminate risk.

The real trick to risk management is awareness. To be fully aware means you gather the broadest base of current and accurate information relevant to publishing, you are crystal clear about your priorities and goals, you establish firm risk tolerance parameters across a spectrum of factors, and you seek sage advice by surrounding yourself with a network of advisors you can trust. The circumstances of your decisions play a significant role in whether or not you take risk, and if you do, how much.

Authors weighing the best publishing path for themselves are in essence doing risk assessment, perhaps in the form of a cost-benefit analysis that provides a measure of the return on investment (RIO). Of course, the outcome of risk assessment depends on the inputs. If the inputs are exclusively financial, then considerations outside the financial sphere won’t be a factor in the assessment. For instance, besides the finances, several nonmonetary factors may be important considerations: the value of a publisher’s expertise, the breadth, reliability, and track record of a publisher’s infrastructure, the quality of the products they produce, the knowledge, integrity, and experience of their employees, the culture of the company, whether you can trust them, whether you can develop a healthy positive working relationship with them, and so forth.

One feature of publishing independently that authors find attractive is being able to share the risk. Hybrid publishers can structure the author-publisher relationship in different ways to accurately and fairly reflect the relative risk each party bears. One indicator of this is the royalty rate earned on retail sales. The greater the risk an author bears, the higher the royalty she or he should earn. A true 50/50 partnership should be reflected in the responsibilities each party has, whether they be financial, work load, or other. But then again, authors may choose to take on more risk betting on earning a bigger reward.

In the end, book publishing is never risk free. Weighing risk and choosing your path and partners wisely go hand-in-hand. The amount of risk you decide to take on to publish your book is up to you. Better to venture down the publishing road knowing what you are getting yourself into, than being surprised by the risks you didn’t know you were taking.