Subsidy Publishing: Should You Consider It?

The decision to subsidize the publication of your book is one that should be undertaken with a great deal of caution. Subsidy presses are often regarded as scam operations that produce low quality books, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Some writers might fare well, or even better, with subsidy publishing, although self-publishing may be preferable, since the writer retains more control and spends less money. Still, if you can afford to subsidize, won’t be financially affected by lack of a return on your investment, and are willing to promote your book, consider subsidy publishing as a valid option.

Let’s say you’re a bird-watching enthusiast living near a large nature preserve. Over the years, you’ve sighted some unusual birds in the area. You’ve kept careful notes and easily translate them into a book , which an acquaintance says is well-written, useful, and entertaining. You’re fairly certain that local and visiting bird watchers will purchase a copy if you publish it, but even if they don’t, you can easily afford the $10,000 subsidy costs. You’d like to see your fleshed out notes in print.

Or perhaps you’re an amateur genealogist with a very large and very complicated family. You’ve written and repeatedly revised the passages on the Green Mountain men who fought during the Revolution, the branch that went to Hawaii as missionaries, and the German landowners and Irish shopkeepers who gained and lost their fortunes in two generations. You shyly let your uncle read it. “It reads almost like a novel!” he raves. “It would be perfect to give out at Mom and Dad’s fiftieth anniversary.” All of your cousins – and there are a lot—donate $200 to publish your book, which is distributed at the anniversary celebration. Your grandparents are thrilled, and you feel warm and fuzzy for months afterward.

These are perfect situations to consider subsidy publishing. The audience is small but clearly defined and money is not a pressing factor. And, as luck would have it, both the bird-watcher’s acquaintance and the genealogist’s uncle are lawyers. They scrutinized the contracts — and even requested a few changes to the language — before letting you sign.


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