Do it right the first time. By the end of this post you’ll have better knowledge of the various self publishing options available and what to avoid
There’s so much opportunity now to get a book out there with access to Social Media tools, book production professionals and eBooks, but does this new wave of accessibility come at cost?
It would seem it does, because many writers and authors are more confused than ever to what is the best path to getting their book out there, selling and into the hands of readers. Client horror stories of being ripped off by so-called self publishing companies, questions of desperation from writers and authors on Facebook and Twitter. For many who are only just entering into the publishing process, they see a very foggy publishing haze out there.
I’m going to run through the main options for those considering self/Independent publishing, whether you are aiming to publish for profit and credibility in your niche’ or use it to build a readership, social proof and create a side door to landing a traditional publishing deal.
I don’t want to bog down in the minutiae of publishing, this post is about answering those questions like “How should I publish?”, “Who should I go with?”. I aim to rid some of the confusion and help those upcoming authors out there avoid self-publishing traps.
1. Self Publishing / Independent Authors
Real self publishing is where the author has full control over all the aspects of the publication process. The author chooses the right professionals for editing, cover design, typesetting, formatting and printing to assist in crafting the authors book product. The author is responsible for the marketing and promotions, which is mostly the case for traditionally published authors as well. The author decides on pricing and what distribution methods will suit best for reaching their target audience. The author keeps all the profits and owns the copyright and ISBN’s, which is usually registered to their own publishing imprint, the ideal way I recommend to emerging authors.
Self publishing with good marketing is a means to profit and build credibility and is also a way to get the attention of trade publishers and get a traditional publishing deal as Amanda Hocking and John Locke did. This comes from having proven sales and a substantial platform. More authors should be capitalising on this opportunity to make some money ‘while’ they seek that elusive book deal.
‘If you’ve got the attention of a trade publisher the question is, will you want them taking a piece of your hard earned and well established pie at all?’
Real self publishing requires the author to seek out publishing professionals themselves for editing, cover design and typesetting. Rather than going to one place where someone makes the decision to delegate the tasks such as with a vanity publisher, with a splash of focus, a pinch of initiative and coffee on tap, you’ll find the right people such as contractors or service vendor companies that simply offer quality a la cart services.
As the publisher you’ll seek out a quality printer for your books and a distributor to get into stores. There’s also the print on demand (POD) option, where a book is ordered and then shipped from the POD vendor direct to the consumer with no stock stored on hand at all. Printers such as Create Space or Lightning Source are good for this, with the latter owned by Ingram arguably the world’s largest distributor.
When it comes to royalties, as the author and publisher your return is significantly higher. Let’s look at an example where the retail discount is set at 30%, nominated by the self publisher.
- Retail price $14.00
- Wholesale price $9.80 – $14.00 take 30% = $9.80
- Book print cost of $3.50
- Net profit per copy sold $6.30 – $9.80 take $3.50
Compare that to vanity or even traditional publishing royalty rates of between 15-30% after the wholesale discount, higher print cost and then the publishers cut. Keep in mind that the author is responsible for the costs and investment involved for creating the product up front. Though as you’ll see below, this is still the case even with so called self publishing companies. The difference is this way, you maintain control, profits and reach readers.
2. Subsidy Publishing
Also often referred to as Vanity Publishing. This where the author is required to pay up front for their book to be published. There’s no quality assurance with these publishers, they’ll take on any author with cash. The money paid up front can be anywhere between four and twenty-five thousand dollars. This is to pay for inflated service prices such as editing, typesetting, cover design and marketing. They’ll slap on their ISBN making them the publisher, instead of the author.
Another thing to note, is that with a little research, sometimes as simple as looking at the fine print of the company’s services pages, authors will find that their distribution and printing processes are the same if not a reduced service of what can be achieved with properly independently publishing yourself.
‘So-called “self-publishing companies” refer to themselves as such, based on the idea that anything outside of trade publishing is self-publishing and this isn’t the case!’
I’ve heard many horror stories first hand from authors who have been burned by these companies. These outfits charge outrageous fees for editing and book cover design services, only for the author to receive the finished work and have it still be unpublishable. I’ve had an emerging author explain her horror story, about her manuscript being corrupted with the editor’s own story ideas.
Shocking isn’t it?
These publishers have no real desire to make a quality book as they get money up front with little to no risk. Authors will be locked into a contract between two and five years and the publisher will set the book’s price so high it places the book out of the competitive market. This unfortunately sees books on the Amazon shelf with too high a price, consequently not selling and the publisher won’t look at you.
Select bricks-n-mortar stores will still be around a little longer, but for subsidy published authors this won’t matter as the majority of stores will present resistance and deny ordering vanity published books with the many imprints having become well known by stores.
If your an author who wants everything taken care of for them at the expense of control, credibility and your wallet, you can choose to go this way. If you want the opportunity to sell books, have your book elevate your authority in a niche’ and a quality book product you will be passionate about promoting then I suggest go with option one of real self publishing.
3. Online POD Publishers
These publishers have become more common place in the last couple of years as online publishing and book selling has taken off. These so-called self publishers are a kind of combination between real self publishing and vanity publishing. These publishers such as Authorhouse and iUniverse often attract authors who don’t understand or have the knowledge to know what they’re getting into.
They offer POD which is great, but if you want print copies for your next event, the cost of having print books is much higher from anywhere between eight dollars to nearly fourteen dollars a print book.
Like vanity publishers they require an upfront fee with different packages. These upfront fees can be much less than compared to some vanity publishers, but this is reflected in the lower quality of services such as cover design and editing. Some covers frankly just look awful and amateurish.
‘I believe an author can’t confidently sell a book they honestly would’nt buy themselves’.
On top of that, these companies often use the SAME printers and distributors self publishers/Independent authors have the opportunity of working with directly. So why have another middle man take a piece of your pie, when they’re not offering anything you can’t get by having professionals assist you craft your book product and self publish properly?
I hope this has helped explain the different self publishing options available to authors. I have helped clients retrieve their books that have been stuck in the black holes that are the unknown vanity publishing company online stores. I’ve assisted authors who have had unfortunate dealings with vanity publishers ripping them off for tens of thousands of dollars, only to leave them with an average, sometimes unsellable product.
I hope this post reaches many authors who I couldn’t otherwise talk to in person. I hope that if you are unclear about taking your next step in publishing a book, you might ask a question below or email us.
Helping authors navigate safely through the publishing haze