Yog’s Law

For those who have been following my blog for the past two weeks you know that I recently received a submission for a novel that I really like. However, because of the current word count I don’t believe I can publish the book at a profit. My first blog on this topic talked about what it costs to print a book of this size using digital printing, while the second blog talked about the cost and risk associated with doing an offset print run for the same book. In this blog I would like to talk about something that the author wrote in an early email to me:

I would not be averse to considering making an “investment” in your company to get this book published if you ever do anything like that.

The short answer is that we don’t do anything like that, and the reason why is Yog’s Law.

Yog’s Law was coined by author James Macdonald (the same person who brought us Atlanta Nights) in response to a question from an aspiring author regarding how much one should expect to pay to get their book published. Yog’s Law is

Money should flow toward the author.

It’s that simple: unless you’re self-publishing, it should not cost you anything to publish your book. Period. You should not be asked to help pay the production cost for your book or to buy a set number of copies as a condition of publication. You should never be asked to pay a fee to have an agent or editor read your manuscript. The costs of editing and cover design should be paid by the publisher. Most importantly, a publisher should be willing to answer questions about their business model and the compensation you will receive before you sign a contract.

If a manuscript cannot be published at a profit then no amount of investment an author is willing to make will change that. Most publishers will be honest with an author about that. Most vanity presses will not. For Divertir Publishing, this blog really serves two purposes. The first is to share my experiences starting a publishing company so that others can learn from what I’ve done (the good, the bad, and the less than sane). The second is to create a convenient place for authors to obtain information about our philosophies on publishing.

In case you’re curious, we are currently working with the author of this manuscript both to look at the current word count and to see what options exist for publishing her manuscript. None of these options will involve the author making an investment in our company, because money should flow towards the author. Period.



Filed under For Authors, Publishing

2 responses to “Yog’s Law

  1. Pingback: Hacks and Vanity Presses… | Divertir Publishing

  2. Joe Kraus

    Belated thanks for these three blog posts; I’m only just discovering them now.

    You do a great job of clarifying the nuts-and-bolts of the economics of P.o.D. publishing. I love the idea that you, as a publisher, can begin to turn a profit (small, of course) on a book that sells barely 100 copies. If you can develop a solid backlist — one that’s cheaper to maintain than a traditional publisher since you’re inventory is on-line until you have it printed on demand — and maybe get lucky with one or two titles, you can make enough money to make the press more than just a hobby. It’s tough and it takes a good eye for talent, but it’s a version of the dream behind the impulse to say “I’m going to become a publisher.”

    As a slight corollary to Yog’s Law, I think it’s worth recalling that the author’s investment is in the time spent writing and, later, promoting the book. In between, it’s in the time spent editing, proofreading, and contributing in other ways to production. In the case of this example, you’re asking for a lot from a writer to have him cut a 150k word manuscript down to 90k, but it’s reasonable. You’re contemplating a business deal with him (the terms of which you clarify here) and each of you has to make a full contribution. As a writer, it’s frustrating to do all that on spec, but it’s the unfortunate nature of the game.

    Thank you for putting that full transaction into a new perspective.

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