What is the value of signing a deal with a Big 5 Publisher or a Large Publisher?

Getting a deal with a Big 5 Publisher has immense value

This post will go through all the advantages and disadvantages

Top 5 Advantages of Signing with a Big 5 Publisher

  1. A Powerful Ally – You get a very powerful ally who has skin in the game
    1. The first very important aspect is that the Big 5 Publishers are very powerful and very experienced
    2. The second very important aspect is that they have skin in the game. They make money only when your book does well
      1. There is no better way to ensure a company is motivated to help you, than to make their success depend on your success
    3. Being an author is a very difficult and challenging marathon
      1. We cannot stress enough how helpful it is to get a powerful ally
  2. Visibility & Discoverability – Publishers have a very powerful distribution network, which you can benefit from to get your book in front of a LOT of readers
    1. You get distribution into physical bookstores, grocery stores, airport book stores, etc
      1. Physical books still make up 70% of sales
    2. You get distribution into ebook stores, with the added cachet that you are published by a Big 5 Publisher
    3. In some ways, this is the single biggest advantage of going with a Big 5 Publisher. You can increase the number of readers you reach by 3 to 30 times
      1. In the end, it’s all a numbers game (provided you have a high quality product, and have written for the right market)
  3. Trust & Credibility – A ‘Brand/Label’ for Life
    1. You are now a Big 5 Published author for life
    2. Everyone, including other Big 5 Publishers, will take you seriously now
    3. People will automatically assume you are a very good author
      1. They will be curious about how you got the deal
      2. They will assume you are brilliant
  4. A Shot at Success – A Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher gives you a significantly better shot at financial success
    1. You will perhaps get a bonus. The more the Publisher believes in your work, and the bigger your existing readership, the bigger the bonus
    2. You will get royalties from book sales
    3. You will get royalties from possible new revenue streams
      1. Remember, every new streaming service from Disney+ to Apple to Amazon is looking for powerful stories they can turn into shows
      2. Being published by a Big 5 Publisher increases your chances (though they are still very slim) of getting a TV deal or a Movie deal
    4. You have a significantly higher chance of success (although still very small, overall) of succeeding as an author if you have a deal with a Big 5 Publisher
  5. Focus on Writing Books – You can focus, for the most part, on your Core Competency of writing books
    1. You also have more time for the critical task of finding The Right Market to Write For
    2. If the Big 5 Publisher believes in your book, it will do a good amount of marketing for your book
    3. You can add on your own marketing, if you so choose
    4. Your main focus can go to two very critical things
      1. Researching and Searching for Blue Ocean Markets to write books for
        1. Please see our post on Blue Ocean Strategy for Authors
      2. Becoming a better writer and producing higher quality books

These are all absolutely critical advantages

Even one of these would be enough to make Getting a Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher an amazing thing for you and your career

Together, these 5 are likely to give you a big boost in your career

10 Additional Advantages of Signing with a Big 5 Publisher

Let’s look at some other advantages of signing a book deal with a Big 5 Publisher or a Large Publisher

  1. Higher Sales – Your book will sell more than if you were self published or published with a small publisher
    1. The ‘brand’ of a Big 5 Publisher like Macmillan or Harper Collins gives you instant ‘approval’ and ‘validation’
    2. It is pre-selection. Readers think that ‘the author must be very good’ if he got a deal with a Big 5 Publisher
      1. The Big 5 Publishers have built up a reputation over decades of picking high quality authors and producing high quality books
      2. You benefit from that
    3. There is absolutely no question that you will sell more once you get a Big 5 Publisher deal, provided the same number of readers are seeing your book in both situations (self published versus published with a Big 5 Publisher)
      1. Also worth noting is that it is very likely that your book will be seen by a lot more people once you sign a deal with a Big 5 Publisher
      2. So it’s two great positive effects stacking on to each other
  2. A Talented Team – You will work with some of the most talented individuals in Publishing
    1. You will be working with the best editors, the best marketing teams, the best proof readers, the best marketing people, and the best cover designers
    2. You can learn a lot from people who are professionals at the top of their game
    3. You can learn a lot from their experience, and from how they work
  3. Experience – You will benefit from the 100+ years of experience of publishing books and selling books that Big 5 Publishers have
    1. The more things change, the more the core fundamental principles of Book Publishing remain the same
    2. You have to find the right market
    3. You have to write a great book
      1. You then have to craft it into a very polished product
    4. You have to do excellent marketing
    5. You have to learn to SELL
    6. You have to learn customer acquisition and customer retention
    7. You have to figure out how to be profitable
    8. The Big 5 Publishers represent the ‘best of the best’. Those who won and became large and successful
    9. You get to learn from their experience
  4. Easier Marketing (it will still be hard, just not next to impossible) – All your marketing will become easier
    1. Any problems with Facebook Ads or Amazon Marketing Services Ads?
      1. Your Publisher’s marketing team can help with advice
      2. They have a better direct line to the Ad Support Teams at those companies
    2. Having problems getting into the top promotion sites?
      1. Not any more
      2. Big 5 Publisher books have a significantly higher approval rate at all of the Top 10 Book Promotion Sites
    3. Not sure what marketing channels will work for your book
      1. The Publisher Marketing Team has a wealth of data and experience to help you
  5. More Effective Marketing – Your marketing will become more effective
    1. Depending on what book category you are in, it will either become much more effective, or somewhat more effective
    2. Big 5 Publisher books gets 30% to 300% more sales than self published books
      1. Yes, that is not a typo. With our sister company, where we have done over $1.9 million of book promotion packages, we see that books from Big 5 Publishers will usually get 100% to 200% more sales than a self published book
      2. The actual range is between 30% to 300%
        1. If a self published book is getting 100 sales
        2. A Big 5 book in the same category/genre, will get between 130 to 400 sales
          1. That’s an increase of 30% to 300% in sales
      3. Most often, the increase is 100% to 200% higher sales (two to three times more sales)
      4. Basically, there is a good chance that you will start getting DOUBLE or higher sales for the same amount of marketing spend
  6. Focus on Actually Selling – Working with a Big 5 Publisher will train you to focus on SELLING BOOKS
    1. Remember, Publishing is a business model where the Big Successes have to cover for all the failures
    2. So the focus is on creating BIG SUCCESSES
    3. You will see what it takes to make a book that can sell 10 million copies
    4. The flip side is that if your work is not up to par, or if the market demand doesn’t seem to be there, then your book will be sidelined
    5. It’s absolutely critical to experience this
      1. Most authors are never in a position where ‘if they don’t produce big successes they die’
      2. Nearly all Publishers are constantly in a position where ‘if they don’t produce big successes they start dying’
      3. The ‘Succeed or Die’ imperative brings a focus on quality and selling that you cannot understand until you actually experience it
  7. Stronger Brand – Your Brand and Your Recognition as an Author will grow much quicker
    1. As a self published author, people will very rarely stumble upon your book
      1. It’s there on a virtual bookshelf in the back somewhere. A corner of Amazon which hardly ever anyone visits
      2. Nearly all the people who will see your book will be
        1. People you send yourself via advertising
        2. People who see your book when you can get it on to the bestseller lists or hot new releases lists for a few days (or hopefully a few weeks)
    2. With a Big 5 Publisher, people will see your books at a lot more places
      1. In physical book stores
      2. In grocery stores
      3. More often in the ebook stores, as the Big 5 Publishers buy a lot of marketing space in the ebook stores
      4. At airports
      5. Pretty much anywhere you see physical books
    3. What that does, is that you become ‘familiar’ to readers
      1. In Books, familiarity does not breed contempt
      2. Familiarity breeds sales
      3. Scientific Studies show that the more often we see someone, the more we begin to like them and the more we begin to consider them ‘good looking/attractive’
        1. Please Note: These scientific studies seem to not have included married people
        2. However, for authors and musicians and actors, it does seem to work that way
        3. The more often you see a book, the more likely you are to take a chance on it
  8. A Better Writer – It will make you a better writer
    1. Working with a Large Publisher will force you to up your game
    2. The editors will be world class and will give you feedback that makes you a better writer
    3. The Quality bar will be higher and you will be forced to do more rewrites and write better
    4. The general level of professionalism will rub off of you
      1. If not, you might have a problem getting another contract
      2. So, basically, you will be forced to up your game and get to a high level of quality
    5. You will see a lot of aspects of polishing and crafting your book, which most self published authors don’t even know exist
  9. A Higher Quality Book – The quality of your book will be significantly higher
    1. This will be a contentious point for some self published authors and some authors working with smaller publishing houses
    2. However, there is no question that the quality of work will be clearly higher when the book is produced by a large publishing house
  10. Pride in Your Work – You will be prouder of the work you do
    1. It will take a lot more hard work and effort when working with a Large Publisher
    2. You will have to really step up your writing quality and the amount of polish you do
    3. You will be held to a much higher standard
    4. Remember, if you don’t do your best work, the Large Publisher will not make back the money they invest in you
    5. So they will pressure you a lot to do great work
    6. The flip side of that is you will produce a very high quality book, and will be prouder of the work you do

It really does help to get a Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher

At this point, it should be clear that signing a Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher is a BIG WIN for Almost Any Author

The 5 big advantages are very, very significant

The remaining 10 advantages are also significant

Getting all these advantages, especially now, at a time when Publishing is in a state of transition, makes signing a Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher a Big Win for any author

Our Recommendation is Simple: If you get offered a Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher -> Take It!

To give some balance, let’s also look at the disadvantages of signing a Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher or a Large Publisher

We’ll also consider some special cases where it doesn’t make sense to sign up with a Big 5 Publisher

Top 7 Disadvantages of Signing with a Big 5 Publisher

  1. Loss of Creative Control – You lose creative control when you sign a Book Deal
    1. The final decision lies with the Big 5 Publisher
    2. They will be nice about it. They will be polite about it. They will make the final decision, not you
    3. If you are the sort of author who cannot bear losing creative control, consider very carefully before signing a book deal with a Large Publisher
  2. Publishers will price your book High – Publishers have pricing control and will price high
    1. ¬†If you’re a new author, this makes it tougher for you
    2. As a self published author you can use discounted books to gain a competitive advantage over established authors and large publisher published authors
    3. As an author published by the Big 5 Publishers, you have to go with whatever pricing they determine
    4. That price will usually be between $4.99 and $14.99 for the ebook, and between $10 and $30 for the physical book
    5. Those prices work for well known authors. They do not always work for new authors
  3. Smaller Share of Book Sales (albeit the total book sales might be higher) – You sign over a large percentage of book earnings
    1. Large Publisher Book Deals give between 8.5% to 15% of paperback sales, sometimes lower
      1. Higher if you are a well established author
    2. Large Publisher Book Deals give between 8.5% to 25% of ebook sales, sometimes lower and sometimes higher
    3. If you are an already established author, then you must calculate whether it is worth it to give up a significant portion of your book sales
      1. In some cases, it will be, as you increase the chances of success AND you increase the extent of your success
      2. In some cases, it might not be worth it
    4. If you are a brand new author, then it is almost always worth it, as your chances of succeeding by yourself (on your own) are very low
      1. 15% of a large amount is better than 75% of Nothing
    5. If you don’t have a Book Deal being offered to you, it is still worth it to explore how you would react to an offer
  4. Low Market Potential Books get Less Attention – If your book is not high quality, or if your book’s market potential seems low, you will be ‘demoted’ and treated as a second class citizen
    1. You will get a very small bonus, or no bonus
    2. You will get the 2nd tier editors and cover designers and marketing professionals
      1. You will not work with the A Team
    3. You will not be treated as a priority author
      1. Instead of days, some answers might take weeks
    4. Your book will not be prioritized
    5. The amount of marketing budget for your book will be quite low
    6. For some authors, it is not worth it to sign a Large Publisher book deal if they are not going to treat you as a possible home run
  5. Need for Flexibility & Adaptability – You cannot be stubborn, or set in your ways
    1. If you are a ‘My Way or the Highway’ kind of person you will go nuts because the Publisher will not give two hoots what you think
    2. If you are an ‘I already know everything there is to know about Publishing’ kind of person you will cause yourself a lot of grief
      1. Publishers will not be shy about telling you, subtly, that you know nothing
      2. Your ego might be in a constant world of hurt
      3. Publishers will make all the key decisions
    3. Everything will be done according to Publisher standards, not according to what you think is best
  6. Rejections – You will get rejected by a lot of Publishers before a Publisher signs your Book
    1. As opposed to self publishing where there is literally ‘no rejection’ and you just publish
    2. With signing a Book Deal you have to submit to dozens of Publishers and get dozens of rejections before you get a book deal
    3. Often, you will have to do rewrite after rewrite and keep submitting, before finally getting a book deal
  7. Publishers work at a slow speed
    1. As a self published author you can churn out 3 to 10 books a year
      1. Admittedly, the quality will be lower than of a Publisher published book
      2. However, if the market is hungry for your books, then you can skimp on quality
      3. Additionally, the market might be hungry for ‘any book at all’ and you can react quickly to meet that demand
    2. Large Publishers take 1 to 2 years to launch one book
    3. There is a lot of value in being nimble, and you have to accept that if you sign a Book Deal with a Large Publisher, it might take 1 to 2 years to get the book out
  8. Publishers will almost always win any dispute
    1. If there are any legal disputes, or other disagreements
    2. Large Publishers will almost always win
      1. They have 100+ years of experience
      2. They have very good lawyers
      3. They do this regularly
    3. You have almost no chance of winning. So it’s imperative that you read every contract well, and make sure you know what you are getting into

Please consider these disadvantages carefully. None of them should be deal breakers, in theory, except the Slow Speed at which Publishers move

For some authors, one or more of these might simply be things they cannot live with

The ‘Will You Ever Get a Book Deal’ Question

One thing to consider in all this, is that the chances of an author getting a Book Deal are low

  1. Literary Agents say that for every 400 manuscripts submitted, one gets a book deal
  2. If we assume a very generous 4 manuscripts submitted per author (that an author submits 4 separate books), it means that only 1 out of every 100 authors is likely to get a Book Deal
    1. The ratio is far lower when you consider your chances of getting a book deal with a Big 5 Publisher or a Large Publisher
    2. It might be as low as 1 in every 1,000 authors
  3. If chances are only 1 in 1000 you will get a book deal, perhaps you are better off not spending too much time thinking about whether or not you would accept a Book Deal from a Large Publisher

It’s important to get this out of the way – Focus on writing great books, for Large Viable Markets, and only after that should you focus on ‘Whether or not you will get a Book Publishing Deal’

Now let’s move on to some other disadvantages of working with Publishers

5 Additional Disadvantages of Signing with a Big 5 Publisher

  1. The Publisher Controls Your Destiny – If you sign a Book Deal with a Publisher, you accept them as the determiners of your destiny
    1. They decide whether to prioritize the book or not
    2. They decide whether to push it to large book store chains or not
    3. They decide whether to give you the A Team (the very best professionals), or the B Team (the merely good ones), or the C Team (interns)
  2. Publishers might not do much/any work to push your book for a movie deal or a TV deal
    1. You might be convinced your book has massive potential to be a TV series or a Movie
    2. It is totally up to the Publisher, and if your Publisher doesn’t think it has potential they will not raise a finger
  3. Publishers have Rights to Your Book Series
    1. Deals will usually include rights to follow on books in the series
    2. This is usually not an issue if the book is a big success
    3. If, however, the book is a small success, or doesn’t sell, then you have a real problem
      1. Your Publisher might not consider it worth it to sanction the remaining books in the series
      2. They might not give you the rights either
      3. Your book series is effectively dead
  4. You might get stuck in a Dead Zone
    1. Success is obviously beautiful
      1. You make money
      2. You build a brand
      3. You get offered new book deals
    2.  Failure is not so bad
      1. You can learn and move on
    3. Signing a Book Deal with a Publisher involves a lot of work, and you might get stuck in the ‘Dead Zone of neither failing nor succeeding’
      1. You have obligations to the Publisher
        1. Sometimes it might be ‘appearances’
        2. Sometimes it might be writing the next two books in the series
      2. You have to fulfill them
        1. Even if you know the book is going nowhere
  5. You might become a ‘Back List Star’
    1. This is both a disadvantage and also neutral
    2. It might happen that your books are not big hits, and still sell steadily enough for Publishers to keep giving you small book deals
    3. This is especially tough because
      1. On the one hand, you are getting book deals at a steady pace
        1. You are getting a slow trickle of royalties
      2. On the other hand, if you were not writing these ‘back list money generator books’, you could focus on going for a big success
    4. It may very well be that you quite like such an arrangement
    5. Be aware that Publishers’ marketing clout means that you can make a living from selling books that are ‘small successes’
      1. At the end of the day you might find you’ve spent 2 or 3 decades writing books you are not excited about, instead of writing a few masterpieces you can leave as your legacy

The Discoverability Problem i.e. No One Knows You Exist AND The Credibility Problem i.e. Are You Worth Their Reading Time

Perhaps the two biggest things to consider, when deciding whether or not to sign a Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher, are The Discoverability Problem

  1. No one knows you exist


The Credibility Problem

  1. No one knows whether or not your book is worth reading

Literally no one knows who you are, how good of an author you are, that your book exists, how good it is, and where to buy it

Both aspects are critical

  1. How are you going to get your book in front of readers?
  2. How are you going to show them that you are worth reading?

The two biggest things a Publisher can do for you are – get you in front of readers AND get you credibility in the eyes of readers

We hint at this in our Top 5 Advantages of signing a Book Deal with a Large Publisher i.e. 2 of the Top 5 advantages are

  1. Publishers have a very powerful book distribution network, which will get your book in front of a lot of readers
  2. Trust & Credibility

Signing a Book Deal with a Publisher gives you a Solution to The Discoverability Problem

AND it gives you a Solution to the Trust & Credibility Problem (in fact, it gives you a Solution to the Trust & Credibility Problem for LIFE)

The Skin in the Game Aspect

One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that Large Publishers NEED some big hits each year

If they do not get Big Hits they cannot continue on as a business

This is both good and bad

  1. Good Aspects are
    1. They will motivate you to create a very high quality book
    2. They have a shared purpose with you – to sell a lot of books
    3. They will put all their marketing muscle and experience behind your book
      1. Far more than you can conjure up on your own
  2. Bad Aspects are
    1. You might never get a book deal even if it is very well written
      1. Publishers might never think your book has commercial potential
    2. Even after getting a Book Deal, if your book is not high quality if will get ignored
    3. Even after getting a Book Deal, if your book’s commercial potential decreases, it will get ignored
      1. If at some point Publishers feel your book no longer has market demand, they will drop it

So, it’s good to think of a Book Deal with a Large Publisher as 3 Steps

  1. Step 1: Getting a Book Deal
  2. Step 2: Emerging as a ‘Potential Money Maker’
    1. One of the books that can become a huge success
  3. Step 3: Living up to the quality required and delivering a Huge Success

If you do Step 2 then you get the best a Large Publisher has to offer

If you do Step 3 then you are set for life

Please Note: In some ways, just getting a Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher or a Large Publisher will set you up for life. It will make everything you do as an author a little bit easier

The Hardcovers and Paperbacks in Physical Book Stores Aspect

At the moment, no one except the Big 5 Publishers, and some large Publishers, can get your book into physical book stores

This is a critical advantage that Publishers have

  1. Self Published authors have close to zero chance of getting their paperbacks and hardcovers into physical book stores
  2. Many book stores don’t stock books published by smaller publishers
    1. Many don’t even stock books published by Amazon (Amazon has some small publishing imprints)
  3. Airport Bookstores, Grocery Stores, etc. don’t stock books by smaller publishers and they don’t stock books from self published authors

Signing a book deal with a Large Publisher or a Big 5 Publisher gives you access to the 40% to 50% of readers who buy physical books only from physical book stores (some buy from Amazon and online and you can sell your paperbacks and hardcovers from there)

Authors for whom signing a Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher does not make sense

For the following authors, it makes no sense to sign a Book Deal with a Big 5 Publisher

  1. Authors who are getting offered guaranteed big money upfront to sign an exclusive with Amazon or Barnes & Noble or some such company
  2. Authors who are very big brand names and will sell a lot
    1. For them, it makes sense to do some calculations on whether they would make more with a Large Publisher, or by self publishing
    2. They should remember to also factor in a slightly higher chance of success with a Large Publisher
  3. Authors who want a lot of control and need creative control
  4. Authors who want to ‘do things their way’
  5. Author who like to move quickly
  6. Authors who don’t like to do lots of polishing and rewrites
  7. Authors who already have contacts in Hollywood and TV and think they can get a deal done without requiring the backing of Large Publishers

Closing Thoughts – If you get the Offer, Sign the Deal

Currently, there is a lot of chaos in Publishing. Lots of changes and madness in both eBook and Books

At a time like this, it really helps to have stability and a powerful ally

For the vast majority of authors, if a Big 5 Publisher or a Large Publisher is offering you a Book Deal, you will be much better off signing it

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