Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there were two types of publishing: the real publishing route where mega-thousands of books were printed each year; authors were paid moneys upfront called advances; publisher reps happily pitched books that only real authors wrote; all marketing and publicity were handled by the publisher for an author when the book was published and available via real bookstores; and to claimed the moniker of a published author was one that was met with acclaim. It was called traditional publishing and New York owned it and authors wore the badge with honor.
The other called the badge of disdain: vanity publishing. New York didn’t want the book. Authors went the vanity press route only as a last resort and under the rejection; any marketing and PR were nominal to non-existent—unless the author hired someone or a company to attempt to do it. And the average author sold far less than 100 books during the “life” of the book. One could almost hear a giant spitting sound that shouted, “You are no good!” Ick.
Times have changed. And it was on full display at the annual Publishing at Sea conference I do each January. Within the three days of workshops, authors with published books participate in a type of cooperative book signing event that is open to all passengers on the ship—passengers of all ages and cultures. The books are fiction and nonfiction. The covers sparkle with promises of entertainment, ahas, solutions and much more. The authors have learned: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” They’ve worked with book designers, book coaches, editors, and others to get them to this level … and yup, they are competing with New York published authors … and selling books … many times exceeding what traditional publishing delivered.
Welcome to the new world of publishing. Where the “self-published” author isn’t scorned … unless the book looks crappy—the first bridge to cross. Where the book looks professionally created, not hand-glued or laid out. Where it has had an editor work with grammar, spelling, punctuation and overall structure.
With the Internet and today’s technology, traditional publishers are being turned on their heads, shaken up, forced into unheard of mergers and marriages, and vanity presses have morphed into new critters. And the new, new breed of small press, independent publishers have scooped up many of the old “self-publishers” and created an amazing, and quite wonderful, new world for the serious author to choose and step into. Are there companies that should be spit at? Absolutely … and they are breeding because of the demand that had exploded over the last decade.
The Big Four … Don’t Publish without them!
There are four key reasons why you should consider publishing on your own: quality, control, time and money. And in no particular order—although, if you have a “hot” topic the time factor rears its head first.
1 Quality is, well, about quality. The cover presentation; back cover copy; the paper; the interior design—the whole visual aspect of the book. Then there’s the content. The story makes sense; you don’t need a special urban dictionary to figure out all the typos and God awful grammar nuances and just plain things that make no sense that a great red pen would have whacked out. Quality—when you see it, you know it.
2 Control hooks on to quality. Control of how the cover will look and feel—what it actually says and does it reflect what the author’s message is about. Control is about the author having input that is heard and implemented.
3 Timing can be everything. If the book is about anything in the technology work, even four months can turn it invisible—it needs to be out! If it’s political—there’s an election around every calendar corner. If the topic is truly ground-breaking, or a necessary position for a career move—timing becomes an essential ingredient.
4 And then there is money. Always money. To publish on your own costs money—sometimes minimal, sometimes lots. It’s not just a few hundred dollars—anyone, for $197, $297, $397, $497 or whatever $97 of the month is the current flavor—is telling you the rest of the story.
Yes, there is someone who will do your cover for a few dollars … and 99.999999 percent of the time it will look like $5. There is someone who will design the interior for mini-moneys—and believe me, it will look like it … you might as well do it yourself, something that is not recommended unless this is what you do professionally. And there is someone who edits your book for a few hundred dollars … or less … and it will read like it. That someone could be you or a friend or relative. That type of editing should be the “first” read through; one that says, “Okay, it’s time now for a real editor—someone who works with books like mine.” Unfortunately for the author and the book, too many decisions that friends and relatives are all that is needed.
Then you print it—costing anywhere from a few dollars via the print on demand (POD) method to many dollars per book, depending on where and who you work with. In the end, you have an inferior product—your book, your baby.
This is the world where the vanity presses and the pay-to-publish operations live. And within them is a large array of publishing predators, all beckoning, “Come to me, come to me.” Well-established publishing houses have partnered, some of them stealthily, with the vanity presses/publishing predators. The prey is the naïve author who thinks they are working with a true subsidiary of a major publisher, where in truth, they have signed on with a “contract” operation.
When it comes to money … you must and must is the appropriate word … learn what the costs of true publishing are. Editors, Design, Illustrators, Consultants, Printing—all have a cost and you can get it upfront so there are no surprises. Post publishing has costs too. Social media—are you doing it yourself, or are you hiring/outsourcing it? What about any publicity and/or marketing costs? Plan, budget, implement and execute.
And there is another world—the world where you, the author, take control selecting editors, designers and which method you will publish within; the world where you, the author, decide on the moneys to be spent and where to spend them; the world where you, the author, decide what weight of paper and cover you want as well as any other embellishments that might allow your book to “pop” visually over competitors; and the world where you, the author, decide what month, day and year is best for you.
If you want to or need to reduce your costs to bare bones; get to do it on your own post the editing cost with a bare minimal version, use IngramSpark and/or Amazon’s KDP—and the cost per printed book is based on the number of pages. Both are a Chocolate or Vanilla type of options—a very limited paper choice (as in white or natural/cream); no bells or whistles to enhance covers like embossing, and quality is okay for most… But, it’s a POD, meaning you will have books within a week or two—it’s fast. With KDP, you are in the Amazon umbrella with an immediate eBook option. With IngramSpark, you bring bookstore and library power to the table—Ingram is well-known in the distribution and a go-to place for stores and libraries to order books. Let’s face it, bookstores don’t love Amazon.
The plus of POD It’s a few dollars per book in most situations without the requirement of having cases and cases of books loaded in your garage.
Depending upon the editing needed and if you have someone design the cover and interior, your cost will most likely come in between $2,000-3,000, a heck of a lot better than the “add-ons” that get piled up after that initial bargain $_?97 whatever you got quoted from the so-called self-published/pay-to publish operation.
Higher quality will demand more moneys in creation, design, printing, and publishing—and those cases of books you will be printing need to be stored somewhere.
Your return, though, is greater. Because you are in control—moneys come to you via sales. They may be full retail, or they can be discounted via the online bookstore route. For years, authors have howled that Amazon takes too much money from the author. Sales a la Amazon are comparable in return to you as they would be if with what a distributor/wholesalers/bookstore is going to take—Amazon takes 55% with the Advantage program—and you get paid monthly—a lot faster the traditional publishing selling route. The KDP route is bi-monthly payments.
The money key for you is to get your marketing plan in order and implement it … get sales rolling in. For me, my turning point was in 2000. It began with a phone call. A client I was speaking for in a few months wanted to know if I could get a discount from my publisher on a book I had published. I could … and then started to “crunch the numbers” … once I figured out the net return to me of 1,000 books sold to one customer, there was no turning back. Plus, I liked the control, quality and timing options. It’s in my author DNA. I suggest you get it into yours as well. Are you game?
Dr. Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and author of 36 multi-award books. She’s guided over 1,000 authors in creating their books, earned in excess of $3,000,000 in speaking fees based on her books and gathered over $2,000,000 in onsite book sales at her speaking gigs. Her latest book, How to Create a $1,000,000 Speech flips a difficult topic into a simple and easily comprehensible plan. If you want to get into speaking, this is the guide that will be the game-changer to success.
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