Self Publishing – Part 2: The bad and ugly

Self-publishing is easy and this creates a two-edged sword. Because it is available to anyone, the end product widely varies. It is the reason why self-publishing has a bad rep – anyone can do it and do it incredibly badly if they wish.

Self publishing is not new, but its accessibility is what has brought it to the attention of the public. In each case, the “publisher” – more accurately the printer – derives his profit from the person paying to have their book published. In contrast, a traditional publisher derives his money only when people purchase the book. So with two different goals, you can see that a self-publisher has no interest in making sure the book is publicly acceptable because they have already realized their profit, whereas a traditional publisher has a huge investment in making sure the public likes their product.

If you are contemplating self-publishing a book, here are a few rules you should observe to avoid a bad experience.

Rule #1 Money is the Litmus Test: If you are expected to contribute monetarily to a book’s creation, you are self-publishing.  A true publisher picks up the tab for creating a book. He pays the author for his time to write it, the cover art, the type-setting, the marketing.

Be aware of the changing market, because in an attempt to keep ahead of the game, some self-publishers have tried a new twist. They advertise themselves as a traditional publisher, but tell you before they accept your book you must hire a marketer for it. They make this stipulation knowing that a book marketer will charge between $15,000 – $25,000 a year, so they generously offer you the use one of their in-house marketers for a mere $4,000.00. Don’t be led astray by rhetoric: anytime you pay money, no matter how it is presented, you are self-publishing.

Rule #2 Do Your Research: In an attempt to keep novices from crashing and burning on the self-publishing altar, there are a few watchdog organizations you would be wise to check with before selecting a self-publisher to assist you with your book. The best in my opinion is Preditors & Editors –  They have offered a guide to publishers and publishing services for serious writers since 1997. Check out their website and if the company you are considering is not recommended, go with someone else. Before you sign with a company do more than take their word about their services. Ask to speak with satisfied customers and look at the products they have produced. There are plenty of companies to choose from, so pick wisely.

Rule #3 New York Times Bestseller List – Not: Self publishing companies do not care if your book is successful. They’re in the business of printing books for others. They make their money off your initial outlay and therefore, that is the extent of their interest.

Rule #4: You Get What You Pay For: If you produce a book and your financial outlay is less than $500.00, you have cut too many corners. Self-publishing doesn’t mean you won’t have expenses.  You do. In the current market, you should expect to pay a minimum of $5,000 for the various services necessary to produce a quality book. My personal opinion is to choose to use professionals. No matter that your aunt has an English degree or your best friend writes great essays, they will not have the level of expertise, the experience (nor the guts to cut you no slack) to produce a final print-worthy copy. It’s not that friends and family aren’t helpful in the creation, they can offer good insights, catch most of your typos, offer opinions on outlay and art, but the difference in the finished product will be evident if you do not use professionals.

To sum it up, the end result is up to you. Think like a professional. While good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions, try to cut the learning curve by doing your homework so you are not disillusioned by your experience.

Posted in Book Addicts