The Partnership Publishing Model 6

by Meredith Maslich

meredith_partnershippublishing_image2In the two years that Possibilities Publishing Company has been around, I’ve faced many challenges as CEO. Such as choosing the best printing/distribution system, finding the right accounting system, and figuring out how to add four to six hours to every day.

But I anticipated all those things as part of the challenge — and, if you’re a management nerd like me, the fun — of starting a new business. And this is a really exciting time to be innovating in the publishing world. Every element of “this is how it’s done” is negotiable, and the freedom to create is invigorating.

However, one challenge I did not anticipate and still struggle mightily with is author engagement. In the beginning, I believed that if anyone was going to be committed to promoting a book, it would be the author. I actually worried that I would have a hard time keeping up with authors’ energy and creativity.

I was so naive.

I told writers about my company’s philosophy of an author/publisher partnership that would turn certain conventions — such as royalty splits — on their heads. My authors would receive the majority of the royalties because without them, how could I have a company? We would make money together. We would market their books and grow and find success together.

So. Damn. Naive.

Almost immediately, authors started resisting when I suggested various marketing ideas, such as a blog tour or walking their books into indie bookstores that didn’t return email messages or phone calls.

And when a book didn’t immediately hit the bestseller list or meet whatever measure of success an author had set, it was a slow slide into total disengagement. Except I was still here, trying to recoup my investment and trying to not to go bankrupt on each book so I could meet my obligation to my other upcoming authors.

Something had to change. And fast.

I developed a much greater appreciation for the traditional royalty structure where the author gets 25% or less. At least then the publisher has some financial protection. But changing my royalty structure was a non-starter — it’s a central tenet of our philosophy. So I tried looking at the issue from the writers’ point of view, and I was reminded that visions of fame and being able to relax while someone else sells the book often helped motivate them to keep writing. And I get that.

I was also reminded that standing before your friends and family, not to mention the general public, and saying, “Look at my book! Please buy this piece of my soul and say nice things about it,” is really scary. And really hard.

I began to appreciate why an author might get discouraged and decide it was easier to just move on to something else.

I realized it was my job, as their publisher and partner, to help writers set realistic goals and expectations. So I have formalized and quantified my notion of partnership publishing.

PPCo will continue devoting time, experience, money, and brand collateral to each book we publish. In addition, authors will receive 60% of royalties for the first 500 books sold. After passing the 500 mark, they will receive 65% of royalties. At the 750 and beyond mark, they will receive 70% of royalties.

Additionally, each author will be asked to make a financial investment in the success of his or her book. This is NOT a fee to get the book published, and contracts will still be based solely on the strength and marketability of the book. Instead, we are asking for concrete evidence of writers’ commitment in a form that everyone respects: money. That money will be used for marketing efforts for the book. We look at it this way: if the writer ends up totally dropping the ball on social media, and we have to make up that difference by buying ads and promoting posts, then this is the money that will pay for that. It’s a way to ensure the author’s commitment, even if the author falls short of expectations.

The amount of the investment is equal to the amount that PPCo will invest in the book and is based on an estimate of what a writer can earn back in royalties with the first 500 books. The funds will be used for mutually agreed-upon marketing or promotional expenses. The goal is to make sure that authors are fully invested in promoting the book after all the writing is done. That is absolutely essential to a book’s success. And if authors fail to live up to their end of the partnership by disengaging from the marketing process, they forfeit their investment.

We didn’t invent the term “partnership publishing,” and other publishers interpret it slightly differently. But this is a model that we feel fits well within the PPCo ethos and will ensure that we continue to grow and produce strong books — and strong authors.

Meredith Maslich is president and CEO of Possibilities Publishing Company. She is also on the faculty at SpeakeasyDC, where she has been teaching the art of storytelling for more than six years.

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6 thoughts on “The Partnership Publishing Model

  • Leora

    I don’t know much about the publishing business, but I do know that it is hard. Then again, as my husband often says, there is really no easy way to make a buck. You sound like you are doing a good job of learning from your experiences.

  • Marquita Herald

    While I feel your pain of discovery, I must confess I was chuckling and shaking my head as I read your article. You see I am an author, former life and small business coach and sucker when it comes to lending a helping hand. Armed with a lengthy sales and marketing background when I published my first book it never occurred to me not to be hands on actively promoting it and treating the whole process as a business.

    Then I started joining some of the author groups and forums and found one writer after another lost about what to do to get their book into the hands of readers. None had given a single thought to building a platform, etc. I shared information, wrote about about building a platform for beginners, set up a Google page for “The Business of Being an Author, and even mentored a few first time authors. I don’t regret any help I may have been able to give my fellow writers, but all too soon it became overwhelming – one first time author emailed me on average a dozen times a day!

    Just from my own experience I’ve come across few ‘new’ authors prepared or interested in putting in the work required to build a platform and market their books. I think the notion of being a self-published author sounds romantic, but in reality most would be better off looking for a reputable publisher such as yourself to work with.

  • William Rusho

    I am glad you are interested in the promotion of your books. I know many, including the one I am with, want the author to carry the majority of the weight of promoting the book. I was sent the publishers press release, and was told, send it to who ever you want to, that was the major influence of the promotion I got from them.

  • Jacqueline Gum

    What a great name for a publishing company!! You should look into PubSense Summit – a writers conference devoted to the business of writing Personally I think this is an expectations thing…both author and publisher have to be on the same page, so to speak:) It’s a mad mad mad world…publishing. Changing every day…

  • Arleen

    I love the name Possibilities Publishing Company. Isn’t it always the way that the amount of the investment is equal to the amount that someone is willing to put into whatever they are involved in. I could not even image writing a book. I think I will stick to sales.

  • Ken Dowell

    Publishing is a tough business on all levels. Authors without much experience might still feel their job is over once the book is written. The partnership publishing model seems to make sense. Good luck with it.