One of my books – self published through Lulu.
The question the aspiring author is often faced with once the work is completed to publication standard, is how to get the masterpiece into print. The traditional route for many is to use an agent who will place the manuscript with the a suitable publisher, handle much of the mechanics such as editing, publicity and of course the contract. All this done for the usual fee, and fair enough too if the heavy administration work is to be done allowing the author to get on with writing the book.
However, in these modern times it is difficult for a new writer, unless they are in the right place at the right time with the right and popular material, to get a sniff at an agent let alone a publisher. Most publishing houses are unwilling to risk investment in the work of an unknown preferring their established authors or celebrities’ books.
You could say that some of the latter are money making rubbish, but unless an agent or a publisher can see money making from your work they do not want to deal with it. Any writer will be aware of that.
So, what happens?
The alternative is self-publishing.
Self publishing systems can be tricky ranging from those that sell a simple low cost system hooked into the current e-book market as well as print productions, offering ‘print on demand’ (POD) marketing, to those who want to tie the author in to expensive contracts.
I will not name any of these systems in this item but point out the differences in approach and some of the traps that can await the unwary.
Let us begin by stating that the easiest American based POD company gives the author control of all processes during publication, has an individual ‘shop window’ and is fully up front with all charges, and will not expect, or demand the author buy large numbers of copies, although the more you buy the cheaper each copy is. This same company offers facilities beyond the basic that, if taken up can cost a considerable amount, but again you as the author can control how many services you want to buy.
The alternative is the extension of the so-called Vanity Press systems. Some you will immediately recognise for what they are, garage fillers whose sole purpose is to get you to use their system and, under the directive of marketing for your self will send you boxes of books all looking quite plush and well finished, but destined for the re-cycling bin. You will be charged a lot of money for an item that you cannot sell unless you are a gun at marketing.
The next, and most interesting system, is the one that will offer a professional service at a price that appears to produce a quality product, and will do so. Within limits you have control of the process all the way and on offer is some excellent marketing tools for you to use.
It is at this point I am tempted to identify the companies but it would be unfair to do so and instead point out the pitfalls. Both companies offer similar services but one appears to be more professionally concerned with the success of the author rather than the success of their bank balances.
Company A: Offers a professional service that will need some investment by the budding author. The service includes, templates for setting out the book, cover design including the ISBN, editing to a professional standard, a quality end product and promotion of the book with a POD and advice on how to personally sell yourself, how to promote your book and will give you a place on their extensive lists. All is given with good follow up support and charges are negotiated at the outset with no hidden extras. These services are normal with all such publishers and are paid for by you but the results can be good. You do not have to buy large numbers of your books.
Company B: Offers the same or similar services but without the marketing or promotion.
Both companies take a share of the profits and pay royalties on all books sold.
As you can imagine, all self publishing systems will charge for printing the copies, charge for shipping, and will offer discounts for trade orders.
The traps are:
getting tied into a contract you cannot really afford.
paying for shipping costs that are far too high
not having access to promotional sites
being charged for items, such ISBN that you can buy cheaper
sent promotional ideas that you cannot use
being overcharged for services
Lastly, the author can take the step of creating their own publishing house. A group of authors can set up a web site, find editors, design artists and printers in their local area and using the templates that can be created on most text formatting systems, write and design their own books. Control of the process is assured every step of the way, knowledge and resources can be shared.
Marketing becomes problematic but by linking in to local book fairs, using the web sites and alerting the local press there will be some success.
In conclusion it should be said that self publishing books is popular and your book, unless you find innovative ways of marketing, will be lost in the mountains of titles on offer.
James Apps – editor.