In January of 2010, I started working on my first book, Project Joseph. As the year wore on and the book came to completion (it’s kind of an interesting story and if you want to read more about that in the context of Overboard Ministries launching, make sure you read this post on divine convergences) I started shopping it to various publishers. I had prayed hard about the book and was confident I would have publishers arguing over who would get the publishing rights. I pictured several dark-suited editors meeting in a smoke-filled basement laying large sums of unmarked, non-sequential bills on the table in an attempt to pick up what they were calling the “next Swindoll”. I called my bank to make sure they could handle 6-figure deposits.
By October of 2010 I realized two things. I wasn’t the “next Swindoll” and not a single editor had even seen my book. As I shopped the book to purchasing agents from various companies, I started collecting a series of rejection letters that could paper one of the 9x9 bedrooms in our house. Actually, one of those rejection letters was pretty encouraging, as the writer actually read the material I sent him and told me it was a book worthy of publishing -- just not one that fit the niche of their company. Other letters weren’t so kind.
Through a series of events and new relationships, Traci and I decided we would launch a new ministry and start a new publishing company. So Overboard Ministries and Overboard Books was birthed. I want to share with you some interesting facets of book publishing, share some things you probably wouldn’t know unless you’ve published (or tried to publish) a book, and encourage you to step out if you think you have a book ready for the world to read.
One of the most surprising details I learned as I started pursuing publishing was learning what authors actually make. Based on several studies, I saw that first-time, unpublished author-newbies will usually get a contract which gives them 8-9% of the royalties on the sale of each book. In other words, if an author writes a book that sells for $10, he would get a whopping $.80. Of course, traditional publishing companies have a lot of overhead in personnel, advertising, actual printing cost, equipment updates, editors etc... etc... so it makes sense that they would get a larger cut of the pie since they are absorbing all the expenses. However, I was shocked at the ratio. I assumed it would be like 65-35, or 70-30; I never imagined it could be 92-8.
As I researched more, I learned that most traditional publishers argue that they are promoting the book and advertising is expensive. As I’ve begun to develop this in Overboard I’m learning just how expensive advertising can be! However, I also discovered that most advertising done by publishing companies is done in the first 3-4 weeks of the book’s release, after that, you’re on your own. In theory though, during that 3-4 week span, your books reaches huge audiences across the country.
A good friend of mine released his first book with a traditional publisher. For three weeks his book was in bookstores all over the country and he was feeling great. However, in week four his book wasn’t doing well and it was pulled from the shelves as he only sold about 300 copies during that span. After that, he continued to sell copies of his books during his speaking engagements and training seminars. Through those avenues, he sold over 3,000 copies. Get this: he was still only making $.80/copy when selling at his seminars and events, even though the publishing company was doing nothing to promote him, his workshops or the book. This was a key factor in my decision to take Project Joseph in a different direction.
Choosing a Printer
Once we realized we were going to launch our own publishing company, our first objective was to find a printer since building a print shop in my garage was a bit cost-prohibitive. Just a few years ago if you wanted to publish your own books, you had to be prepared to purchase several thousand copies of your book to store in your garage until you sold them. You were responsible for your own sales, packaging and shipping when it came to orders. Online sales were very challenging and everyone I knew who had taken that approach still had cases and cases of unsold books sitting on shelves in their garages. While this can potentially be a less-expensive way to print books (based on a per/book cost), it was not an option for Overboard Books.
After a lot of research, we finally settled on the idea that we were going to print books through POD (Print on Demand) printers. No longer is it necessary to carry a house full of books and handle the shipping and handling headaches that come from turning your garage into a regional postal center. POD printers will print, package and ship your book only when it’s ordered. The costs are slightly higher per book than other more traditional printers, but there is little out-of-pocket expense in setting up your book for printing. Because we had no desire to get on a first-name basis with our UPS driver (not that Brad’s a bad guy!) we were more than happy to let someone else handle our shipping headaches. So POD it was.
There are a bunch of POD printers out there, it was a matter of choosing the one that worked best for us. We settled on Amazon’s Create Space printer. Once we found who we wanted to print with, I started immersing myself in what it would take to format a book for printing according to their arduous standards. We also found a number of great companies that would help us convert our material into eBook formats compatible with all the popular eBook readers out there.
Content and Cover
When it comes to books, editing is everything. If the book doesn’t sound like a book, you’ll never get those second hand referrals which are crucial for companies like Overboard that depend on word-of-mouth, grassroots advertising. After we found a printer, I went after the best editor I could find. A close personal friend of mine is one of those people who reads books and keeps a journal of the mistakes she finds; and she does this for fun! I then asked publishers and sought the advice of other professional editors to determine what they charged for their services to determine a fair-market value for her work and we agreed to a solid working price for the book.
Finally I hunted for a graphic artist to help design the cover of the book. Content is King, so an editor is essential, but if the cover doesn’t draw a customer in, they’ll never find out how good the content is. We live in a visually driven culture so the book has to “pop” if it’s going to be picked up and read. The artists at Innovative Graphics perfectly met our needs and I couldn’t have been more thrilled with how the cover of Project Joseph turned out. I spoke with Nate about creating a cover that made you look more-than-once to see it all. I wanted “layers” and he brought that cover to life!
Once the book was written, the editing process took about four months, and during the last month I worked tightly with the graphic artist to see the cover come to life. In less than six months my book went from disheveled content on my computer to a great looking book available online at Overboard Ministries or online retailers like Amazon. At the end of the day, I was pretty excited to see the book come to life. The responses from people who have read it have been incredibly humbling and very rewarding -- it makes the hard work of writing worth the effort.
If you have a book that is aimed at helping people live life out of the comfort of the boat and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom, then Overboard Ministries may be for you. Check out our author page and brochure to see if what we offer fits with what you are seeking in a publisher. We would love to see if we could partner with you. If you are an author and want to pursue publishing your own book or starting your own publishing company, we also offer a $500 consulting package to help you get your book/company off the ground. This service will give you a number of resources and templates to help you design a great book and get your publishing company off the ground. We spent hundreds of hours researching publishing, including learning about companies that would help us convert our books into digital formats. Our services can help you get your book or company off the ground in a fraction of the time it took us to start. Contact us if you want to set up a consultation for your publishing needs.
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That’s how Overboard got started in the publishing business, trying to deliver the message of moving people out of the comfort of the boat, and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom.
Take the plunge, life is better on the water!