Episode 55: What Authors Need To Know About Book Publishing Before Choosing a Publishing Path

July 27, 2020

In this episode, Michelle Vandepas, of Grace Point Publishing and Ellen Violette discuss the pros and cons as well as myths of traditional, hybrid, and self-publishing-type deals, how authors get paid and what they can expect from each type of deal, so that they can make an informed decision.

Resources mentioned

Grace Point Matrix

Grace Point Publishing

Purpose, The Alignment Guide

Marketing Tips for the Holistic Practitioner

Documentary: Woman as Butterfly

Our Souls at Night

3 Key Points

Whether you go with traditional, hybrid, or self-publishing, you still need to market your book.

If you don’t have the money to invest in your book, getting a traditional deal, maybe the way to go.

Write your back cover and introduction, or your subtitle first so you are clear what the core idea of your book is before you write it.


[00:50] Ellen:

Hi everybody and welcome to Episode 55. Today my guest is Michelle Vandepas. She is a leading expert for entrepreneurs, personal-development experts and quantum healers who want to share what they’ve learned with the world by becoming an author.

She’s the co-founder of Grace Point Matrix and Grace Point Publishing. And she’s also an esteem TEDx speaker and TEDx speaker coach. And what I love is that we were talking, I’ve known Michelle a long time, and so many of us book people have other great talents. And Michelle is a visionary marketer who combines creativity with smart business sense to unleash the power of her clients. She’s written several books. One is Purpose, The Alignment Guide, and Marketing Tips for the Holistic Practitioner among others. But she’s also an has an award-winning documentary: Woman as Butterfly featuring the artists Ann St. Johns, and Hawley. So, that is just awesome.

And in her bio, she mentions Our Souls at Night with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. So, hi, Michelle, welcome to the call. It’s so nice to reconnect.

Michelle: It is, it is. It’s nice to reconnect with people I’ve known for years online, right?

Ellen: Yeah. Yeah. So, why don’t you start by telling us how that came about, Our Souls at Night, and then tell us about your journey.

Michelle: Okay. So, do you want to hear about my role in All Souls at Night?

Ellen: I do.

Michelle:  It was a document, not a documentary film, a Netflix film, with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, and my daughter’s an actor. So, we went to show up for auditions and while we were there, I went ahead and auditioned, and they called me back and not my daughter for an extra part. Right? So, it’s here in town where I live, Colorado Springs, “Okay, so I’ll show up.” And I went for many, many days. I went in and swept floors and did all kinds of things as my role, not to sweep floors as an extra. And then the movie comes out and I’m so excited. Right? I’m so excited. And here’s where I am in the movie. I am in the opening scene in the movie.

Ellen: Oh my God.

Michelle: It’s so cool. So, there’s about half a second of me in the opening scene, switching the sign on the cafeteria from open to close. And that’s it; it is literally half a second.

[03:29] Ellen: Well, at least you ended up in it.  Sometimes, people will say, they were an extra, and then they ended up on the cutting floor.

[03:34] Michelle: Right. And the rest of it ended up in the cutting floor days and days and days, but I’m in it. You can’t tell it to me. It’s dark, it’s closed, cafe’s closed, but there you have it. And that adds to my creative resumes.

Ellen: Absolutely. That’s hysterical. So, tell us about your journey.

[03:52] Michelle: Yeah. So, I’ve done a lot of things in my career like most women of a certain age. I’ve lived a full life. I’ve lived a very full life, but twenty-one years ago, almost twenty-two years ago now I wrote my first book, and this was pre-Amazon, pre-print on demand, all of that. And so, just like many authors at the time, I ended up with a garage full of books.

Ellen: I still have them, yeah.

Michelle:  And I still have some of them. And my expectations of  you will write it and they will come, and you’ll sell lots of books didn’t happen at the level that I was hoping for. So, I quickly learned how to market, and this old-school marketing twenty, almost twenty-two years ago. So, this is before like Facebook, groups and all those kinds of things. And so, I had to learn how to market.

And my book was about marketing, so I was putting my own skills to the test there. And as a process, I then helped other people market their books. So, I spent a whole decade in, how do you market your book? Once it’s published, then Amazon came along, and I was helping my clients then publish and do print-on- demand publishing and all of that morphed. And then, six years ago, I co-founded an actual publishing company, a traditional publishing company with another woman and together we have a publishing company now. So, I’ve got expertise and experience in the full range, writing books, coaching authors, marketing books, publishing books, the whole thing.

[05:39] Ellen: Yeah. And the reason that I really wanted to do this call with you is because you have done all the different types of publishing and I have not, I have always been self-published. And the reason for that is that I come from the music business where you would make ten cents a record and they would take all the rest of the money, and they’d all become multi-millionaires. And I was like, “No, thanks. Uh-uh.”

That’s why I really loved the idea of self-publishing when I got online. And that was what excited me. But the fact that you have worked in all these different areas and you have that expertise of understanding the pros and cons at a much deeper level of the ones that I am really not that familiar with, I thought that would be a great topic for us to talk about.

Michelle: Yeah. I’d love to share some things.

Ellen: Okay. So, have at it.

Michelle: Okay. So, these days, there’s a million ways to publishing. So, I’m just going to talk about where I focus and where my expertise is. And there’s basically three ways: self-publish where you edit your book, or maybe you hire out and get editing and layout and design, you put it up on maybe Amazon or one of the other print-on-demand places, and you publish it. Maybe you get an ISBN and maybe you don’t. Right? And then, you are responsible for marketing it, and you get to keep a 100% of any profit that you make. And so, that’s one end of the spectrum; very legitimate authors go that way. It does not have the….

Ellen: Right.

Michelle: Whatever that salt is that it used to have, like Seth Godin and Danille LaPorte and all kinds of people publish that way.

Ellen: Yeah, because they figured out that they have a big enough reach that they don’t need anybody else.

[07:26] Michelle: And that takes us to the next place.

Ellen: Yes.

Michelle: Traditional publishing. Traditional publishing is you give me a manuscript or in some cases would go into contract before your manuscript is finished. We handle everything. Editing book covers, design layout, getting ISBNs barcodes on the back, the copyright page, and publish, and pay your royalty. Right?

We handle distribution as a publisher. The place that’s really interesting there. and we’ll come back to this is all often authors say, “Yeah, I just want to give it to a publisher, and let them handle everything. And they’ll sell the books and they’ll market.” And so, I always like to talk to authors that technically yes, but as an author, you still have to get out there and market your own books whether you go with me, or Random House, or Hay House, or Simon and Schuster, or some other small publisher, or self-publish, you’re still going to have to keep your foot in the game as it were and do some marketing yourself.

Then the third, and this is a huge growing industry, is a hybrid of the two is called hybrid publishing where you pay, you invest some money in your book, and the publisher also usually some money in your book, or at least the time and energy. And then, the publisher publishes on your behalf and you get royalties, maybe a slightly different royalty split, probably higher, at least it is with us than with a traditional publisher. Okay, you have questions?

Ellen: Yes.  So, when people go for traditional publishing with you like what percentage of the people actually get a deal?

Michelle: That’s a good question. So, we specialize in a couple of genres. And so, if you’re in Human Design, Astrology, a niche, we take probably 80% of people in that niche, because we’re the number one human-design publisher in the world. So, we don’t want you to go there.

[09:41] Ellen: Okay, so everybody who’s listening, that’s in that niche now, what, what is that exactly?

Michelle: It’s a very specific arm of astrology. It’s a blend of astrology and I-Ching. And so, people either know it or they don’t.

Ellen: Oh, okay.

Michelle:  But you can go get your chart and run a chart and learn all about your personality type and all of that. And so, we don’t want people going elsewhere. So, if someone’s got a manuscript or book, we want you to coming to us first, and we take about 80% of those. If you’re doing a memoir, we probably take 1% of the ones that are, because there’s less of a chance for us to recoup our investment on a memoir. Now there are exceptions to that.

[10:26] Ellen: Yeah. Memoirs are tricky. A lot of people come to me and they want to do memoirs. And the easiest ones are the ones that also have life lessons or can also go somewhere other than memoirs, because if you’re not famous, memoirs are hard.  They’re very difficult.

Michelle: They’re  very difficult. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write it.

Ellen: Right. Absolutely.

Michelle Right? So, I think,

Ellen: It’s how you market it.

Michelle: It’s how you market and what your expectations are. And there’s lots of reasons for writing a memoir. It’s cathartic, it’s your life legacy. You’ll help your friends and family. You have got something on your bucket list to be proud of. Right. Lots of reasons.

[11:06] Ellen: Or, to be a motivational speaker, and you can sell them from the back of the room, but don’t think you’re going to get to the top of Amazon.

[11:13] Michelle: Right. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.

Ellen: It’s knowing the strategy to use.

Michelle: And then, if you come to us with a personal-development book that is based on something like essential oils, tapping, some of the holistic health, there’s a, maybe a 30% chance we might take it, which is pretty good in the publishing industry, pretty dang good in a pub, and we’ll look at it, and we’ll talk to you, and we’ll see about what your goals are. And here’s what I like to talk about with authors. And you and I talked about this off-camera a little bit. If you’re coming to us and you have a big platform or any publisher, and platform, meaning you’ve got 10,000 people following you on social media, and an email list of 10,000 people or YouTube following or Tik Tok following, I’ve got someone right now with the Tik Tock following.

[12:08] Ellen: Yeah. That’s hot now.

Michelle: Yeah. It is whatever it is. Publishers want you because you can sell your books. You have an outlet, you have a pathway to sell books so publishers want you. And here’s the interesting piece of that, you may not need the publisher as much as you think you need the publisher. And so, this is pulling the curtain back a little bit. I like to talk with each author individually, find out what their goals are, what their expectations are, and let’s figure out the right publishing path for you. Last thing we want to do is invest in an author that’s not going to sell.

Ellen: Right.

Michelle: But there are many ways down this pathway.

Ellen: Yeah. So, what would be the criteria for when you would tell somebody beyond, I mean, is there anything else beyond having a big list, which is the obvious thing, why you would take somebody in and tell them to do a traditional versus a hybrid versus self-publishing? Are there any other criteria?

Michelle: Well, what we look for is something, so a little bit like the TEDx, what’s your idea we’re sharing? What is it that you’re going to say in your book? So yes, you’ve got to have a list, but if you have a list and a crappy book that doesn’t help you. Right? So, we want an interesting idea.

So, I just helped someone publish a tapping book for those people who know EFT., There’s a lot of books about EFT and publishing out there. What we’re looking for is something a little bit different, right? So, do you have a unique spin on it? Is there something different that you can say? Is there something that you want to do or say that’s going to take a different perspective on how you tap or the procedures on how you tap- all those kinds of things. If you’re doing essential oils, do you have a new blend out there, right? So, it’s, what is your idea where it is different than everyone else?

[14:11] Ellen: And I want people to understand, whether you get a publishing deal or you’re doing self-publishing, I mean, that’s one of the things when I work with clients, and I’m always getting on them for when we do the marketing and visibility study, which is how is your book different? Even if you’re not getting a traditional publishing deal, you still need to know how your book is different.

Michelle: Absolutely.

Ellen: Because when it’s sitting there on the (Amazon) page with all these other books, why would they choose yours?

Michelle: Right.

Ellen: So, yeah. It’s still important.

Michelle: Yeah.

[14:36] Ellen: Well, let’s talk about money. I know people want to know about money.

[14:40] Michelle: Yeah.

Ellen: So, tell us more about, how that works with traditional versus hybrid versus self-publishing.

Michelle: So, I’m happy to always pull back the curtain on what we do. And I can tell stories that I’ve heard about what other publishers do, but I’m not for a minute representing the whole industry. Right? Cause someone’s going to come and say, “I got a different publishing deal and that you don’t know what you’re talking about.” So, it’s just what I know.

If you publish through us, we have programs between $3,000 and $12,000, depending what you’re looking for. Do you need platform building? Are we doing marketing together? Are you turning over marketing to us? It does include layout design,  depends if you bring us something already edited or not. Editing can be extremely expensive and people don’t realize editing can be a thousand dollars, $3,000, more.

[15:40] Ellen: I had one client who had spent $7,000 and it still wasn’t right.

[15:45] Michelle: Yeah. And often, those kinds of manuscripts might’ve been better served with a ghostwriter upfront, actually changing some of it, working with the author to make it more presentable before it goes to an editor. So, it’s kind of a big range from $3,000 and$12,000, but I’ve heard of other hybrid publishers or self-publishing consultants charging $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, right?

Ellen: $60,000. Right? We talked about that.

Michelle: We did talk about that (before the interview). And so, for most people, it is somewhat affordable, especially if you’re using it for business, which is a lot of what we do.

Ellen: Yeah. I think people really don’t realize what you just said. It seems like they always want to cheap out on the editing. I think, they…

[16:37] Michelle: They don’t understand this. The difference between, “Yeah, this is a good book. This is okay. And let’s get a really high-professional-quality editor to turn this from an okay book into a really polished book.”

Ellen: Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah.

[16:54] Ellen: And then, what can they expect to give up in regular publishing, traditional, I mean, publishing versus hybrid.

[16:59] Michelle: So, I’ve heard traditional publishing can go as low as like 12% up to maybe 20%, 22%. Our contracts are typically 15% that we pay you royalties. We have a couple of others outside of that. But if you just hand it over to us and say, “Handle it,” then we’re investing a lot of money in that. People don’t realize layout and design, yeah, you can go on Fiverr or whatever and get cheap layout and design. It’s going to look mostly like cheap layout and design unless you know specifically what you’re asking for.  People don’t know to ask about gutters and kerning and all these things that go into publishing that the average person doesn’t even know to ask. And so, when we work with designers, we work with high-end designers, so the books look beautiful. They look like they’re published well, right?

[17:58]: So, lots of money goes into all of that. So, when we pay a royalty; it might be 15%. And then, the author’s only getting a little bit per book it’s because we’ve invested a lot, and it takes a while to get that back. But here’s where the author will make money.

Ellen: So, that’s the question,  yeah.

Michelle:  What are you expecting this book to do for you? I had a client send me her business… not a client, someone that I was looking to hire, a PR person, send me her book, her business-card book through the mail. I got this paperback book said, “Michelle, it was so lovely to talk to you. Here’s more about what I do. Read the book and let’s talk next week.” And I hired her for ten grand.

That one book paid for whatever she’s probably she spent in publishing. Right? If she had a traditional publishing deal, I don’t remember, it’s was while back. If she’d had a traditional publishing deal, it doesn’t matter. She just made ten grand. And that is what we want to talk about, especially in the business world. What are your goals? What’s this book going to do for you? We need to make it high quality enough. So, your prospective clients will buy from you.

Ellen: Right. And so, you’re proud of it. I’ve had people come to me where it’s like, they’ve had somebody do their book and they’re not happy with it; they’re. not proud of it. And I’m like, “Well, how are you going to get on a stage and sell this to other people when it’s not even sold to you?”

[19:32] Michelle: Yeah. And I have a traditional publisher, an author who went traditional publishing, who now publishes through us through our traditional arm as well, but like a big publisher. And she hates her book cover. She didn’t like design, and she had no say in it. And so, when we work with authors, yeah, we take it all and we handle it, but we have communication. In communication, “Here’s where your book is. Yes. It’s still in editing. Yes. It’s still in editing.” It takes a while, but that’s because we treat each book with care, and with some of the really big publishers, you just don’t get a say in what your covers going to look like.

[20:14] Ellen: Right. And you don’t get that personal attention either. And also, they have tiers. I went through this in the music business where I wrote a song with a guy who was signed to a major company, but he wasn’t one of their top people.

Michelle: Right.

Ellen: Right? And so even though they were giving him money to be a staff writer, he wasn’t getting all their attention to get it where it needed to go. Luckily, I had a publisher also, who was more of a boutique publisher, and we’re the ones who ended up getting the song to the right people that got the Grammy nomination.

Michelle: Nice.

Ellen: Yeah. Not the big company.

[20:53] Michelle: Nice, congratulations. Well, when you’re starting out, it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, right?

Ellen: Yeah, yeah.

Michelle: Get seen and where you can really be seen. So, boutique, that word boutique. I love that.

[21:08] Ellen: Yeah. So, I still think some people might have some confusion about it, so why would they get a traditional publishing deal with you and get 15%? Why would they do that? You touched on it a little bit, but I want you to go deeper into that.

[21:22] Michelle: Yeah. So, number one, let’s say you don’t have 10K to invest, but you know you’ve got a really good book, and we look at it and we say, “Yeah, we think this is a good book too. Let’s go into partnership. We’ll invest that 10 K.” We’re taking that upfront costs for layout, design, editing, marketing, all that. It really is what it costs. People are like, “Oh, I can get it done for less than a thousand dollars.” Yeah. But it’s not going to get out where it needs to get out. So, that’s one reason

[21:56]) Ellen: You say, and you market as well for people cause big publishing companies really don’t market for people.

[22:01] Michelle: Right. We do market. We do Amazon, as you told me offline, you’ve seen some of my ads.

Ellen: Yeah, I have.

Michelle:  Facebook, we do an email list. We do all kinds of marketing. We do summits and all those kinds of things. We promote our authors: press releases, blogs, posts, podcasts, all of that. But we also do want the author to step up as well.

[22:24] Ellen: Right. Right. But at least you do that. This is really educational to me because my what’s the word I’m looking for? I don’t know. My personal view of this whole thing was always, I wouldn’t touch traditional publishing because of what I went through in the music business and just how much they ripped writers off.

Michelle: Right.

[22:43] Ellen: So, I kind of just had a bad taste from that. But to find out that there are publishers who actually do work with you, who do listen to you, it makes me a lot more hopeful for, at least. I’d rather have people. If their books are in the right genres and they’re going to go that route, I’d much rather they go to you, then go to somebody big where they’re just going to… chances are they’re not going to get it in the first place. And then if they do, and it could be like, what happened to my partner? Right?

Michelle: It gets lost.

Ellen: Yeah. It gets lost in the shuffle. And

Michelle: And, the other thing is in traditional publishing, 70% of books, you never really get your money back.

Ellen: Right.

Michelle: So, we’re just like everybody else looking for that one or two books that are really going to make it a little bit bigger, help us all. But again, whether you self-publish, hybrid, traditional it’s, what is the purpose of your book? And is it going to make your money in other ways?

[23:40] Ellen: A lot of authors do not understand that. So many authors will come in and go, “I just want to make money writing books.”

[23:46] Michelle: Right.

Ellen: And that is like…

Michelle: You can, but it’s going to take more than one book.

Ellen: Yeah.

Michelle:  You can. But you’re going to have to put out some books.

Ellen: Yeah,  but they’re just not realistic about it. They’re not realistic about it. There is this idea that are going to write a book and they’re going to make tons of money and their life’s going to be easy.

Michelle: I don’t think anybody’s life is easy.

Ellen: Exactly. Exactly.

Michelle: Yeah.

Ellen: There’s always going to be things that either you don’t like to do, don’t want to do. And it doesn’t mean there are other ways to figure out how to get other people on your team or whatever, but nothing is ever as easy as people who think they’re going to come and say, “Oh, I’m going to write one book and just sit and write, that dream of that.

Michelle: Yeah.

[24:29] Ellen:  Anyway, before we run out of time, I do want to talk about the TEDx

Michelle: Yeah.

Ellen: You’re a TEDx speaker. So, tell us about that.

[24:36] Michelle: Yeah. I did talk about, well in praise of procrastination. So, it is when you really are supposed to be procrastinating because, for whatever reason, the project isn’t ready to be birthed yet. Maybe you’re in creative mode; that’s especially true for writers. They try to push a book out, and they haven’t gone deep enough yet into the creative process of really flushing out what they want to say; they do surface stuff. They say, “Here’s my book.” And I like to get underneath. Let’s really dig deep and see what else is under there.

Ellen: Oh, I like that.

Michelle: What’s really (in audible) about you.

[25:14] Ellen: So, how did you get there? How did you get on the stage? Yeah. What do you think were the salient points?

[25:20] Michelle: Yeah. In my case, because it was a long time ago. It wasn’t even who I knew. I heard there was a TEDx coming to Colorado Springs. It was the first one here. And I dug until I met the curator.

Ellen: Good for you.

Michelle: Right? But these days, it’s a little bit different process. You have to submit. Sometimes, it is who you know. You have to get other people to submit on your behalf. So, I’ve helped people also get on TEDx now.

Ellen: Oh nice.

Michelle: But it’s a little bit like getting a traditional publisher or a record deal. You got to dig and try all the different avenues now.

[25:56] Ellen: Relationships, relationships, relationships.

Michelle: Yeah.

Ellen: Okay. So, before we go, do you have any final tips for people?

[26:06] Michelle: Yeah, I do. I work with a lot of people in my book coaching hat, I’m take off my publishing hat,and I’m sure you have the same. They say, “ I have this great idea, but I don’t know where to start.” I suggest people start writing the back cover first.

Ellen: Oh.

Michelle: It helps focus really on what you are going to say in this book. If you’re writing the back cover, think about it, you pick up a book, it’s like this isn’t, what’s going to end up on your back cover where I’m not saying this is what’s going to actually be published, but you’re reading your book and it’s going to be, when you read this book, you will hear the three exact things you need to do to lose those extra ten pounds and why your mindset has stopped you from getting there before.

Ellen: Right.

Michelle:  It’s like, “Oh, now I know what to write about.” Right? Write the back cover. It’ll focus it down exactly, specifically, what you want your audience to know. So, start there, and then go write that book.

Ellen: Oh, that’s interesting. Because when I do it with people, I always say, start with the subtitle, for the exact same reason. It really comes down to, regardless of how you decide to do it, that you are able to figure out what that core thing is that you’re talking about. That’s the bottom line.

Michelle: Exactly, that’s exactly right.

Ellen:  Yeah. Yeah. Whatever works for you. Okay. Anything else?

Michelle: I also say write the introduction first. And I know a lot of book coaches say they write the introduction last. Again, the introduction of, “Why am I writing this book? What I hope you’ll get out of this book?” It may not be the introduction, but write an introduction to why you’re writing the book, right?

Ellen: Your why.

Michelle: It helps you focus your thoughts about what’s actually going to go on this book and what you’re hoping the readers will get from it.

Ellen: Great tips. Okay. So, how can people reach you?

Michelle:  So, if they go to gracepointpublishing.com/ellen, cause I’m going to give your listeners and watchers here, a special offer if they’d like. So, if they go to gracepointpublishing.com/ellen, we’re going to have some free gifts there, 10 Things You Must Know Before you Hit the Publish Button, a little webinar I did about writing your back cover first, and some other free gifts that you can go there.

Ellen: Well, that’s so nice.

Michelle: Yeah.

Ellen: Thank you. Okay. So that was gracepointpublishing.com/ellen. Okay. Well, thank you so much for coming on. This has been really great and yeah, I think it’s so important for people just to get clear about what they’re doing and what their options are, and that’s why I really wanted to have you on.

[28:48] Michelle: So, thanks Ellen,  that was great.

Ellen: Yeah. So that’s it for today to get the transcript, go to www. books, businessabundance.com/podcast. You’re also welcome to join our Facebook group, and that’s where you get first notice of the new podcasts, we sometimes do book giveaways. You can network with other people; we have a marketing day and we’d love to have you there. Also, be sure to pick up your Book Planning Secrets, A Simple 4-Step Guide to Writing a Bestseller; that’s also on the page. So, again, it’s www.booksbusinessabundance.com/podcast. So, that’s it for today. Until next time, Bye-bye.


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About the Author

Ellen Violette

Ellen is an 3X award-winning book, including being named one of the Top 20 Book Coaches of 2022 by Coach Foundation. She's also a multiple #1 bestselling author, a 3-time eLit award winner, podcast host, and a Grammy-nominated songwriter. She has been helping entrepreneurs increase their credibility and expert status, become #1 bestselling authors, and make a bigger impact in the world since 2004. Her mission is to make the world a better place one author and one book at a time!



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