Note: this article appeared in CYH Magazine, 2006.
My literary journey as an author began in the summer of 2000. I’ve been writing poetry (among other genres) for a long time and had been seeking a publisher by attending many spoken word events, poetry readings and book club meetings. Ironically enough, a good friend of mine had invited me to her book club’s annual summer festival. After I read a few poems, I informed the audience that I was looking for a publisher. A gentleman at the event heard my plea and pointed me toward a well-known publisher of African-American authors. I later attended the publisher’s workshop the following month.
I suggest a subsidy publisher if you’re a novice in the book selling business. Perhaps you lack marketing experience or have no clear idea on how your first book should be compiled and presented. Maybe you’re a mother with children who can’t find the time to self-publish, or your job doesn’t give you much time to compose your book by yourself. Perhaps you’re retired and that first book is in your head and ready to come out. Whatever your life situation, if you do not want to endure the hassles of publishing a book by yourself and don’t care for the troubles of a mainstream house, then subsidy publishing may be the avenue for you.
What is a subsidy publisher you might ask? A subsidy publisher, in the form of payment, will edit, format, market and distribute your book for you. However, once your book is finished, it is the subsidy publisher’s property. You will receive a royalty from the publisher for your works as a small percentage of the sales costs.
Let me add this: you do not have to stand on the sidelines while your book is being created if you have ambition and want to learn the tricks of the trade on how your works are marketed and distributed. I made more of a creative contribution to The Voices of South Central than I did with The Depths of My Soul. I chose the book’s content, the introduction and in fact, the order in which the poems are listed. These achievements can be made if you have a subsidy publisher who is willing to work with instead of against you. While it is fact that your book is the sole property of the publisher in major bookstore sales, there are ways to retain your profit through attending book festivals, expos, and special events. Build and maintain relationships with book clubs. Just as a self-publisher does the legwork, you must do the same. Out of the store selling means the profit belongs to you when you make interpersonal sales. You do have that choice. Keep in mind subsidy publishing does come with a cost; you pay for your content to be published and once it is, it becomes that publisher’s property. However, if you’re willing to transform this journey into a long term plan by studying, learning and then applying your input to your book, then it is worth it.
Charles Chatmon is the author of The Depths of My Soul; The Voices of South Central, is the executive director of the Los Angeles Black Book Expo, writers workshop instructor and freelance writer. He is the co-owner of Chatmon’s Books with his wife Chandra and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org