By Judith Briles
Welcome to the new world of publishing where the “self-published” author isn’t scorned … unless the book looks crappy—it’s the first essential bridge to cross. Where the book looks professionally created, and not botched on the layout, cover design, and editing. Where it has had an editor work with grammar, spelling, punctuation and overall structure of the storyline if fiction.
With the Internet and today’s technology, traditional publishers have been 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 publishing predators are alive and well, unfortunately.
And … drumroll … more books are being bought from the indies, small presses, hybrids, and “self” worlds than via the traditional publishing offerings. This is hot news for authors. A new breed of entrepreneurs has arrived … the author-preneur—authors who get that this is a business and needs to be treated as one whose products are BOOKS and any “off” products that are seeded. That they are the CMO—the chief marketing officer of any “products” that are produced. Books.
The Big Four … Don’t Publish without Them!
There are four key reasons why you should consider publishing on your own:
And in no order—although, if you have a “hot” topic, the time factor rears as a priority.
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 from today can make it passé. Your book can’t wait a year plus to get 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 means that there are upfront money costs—sometimes minimal, sometimes lots. It’s not just a few hundred dollars. Sources that you can do it all for $297, $397, $497 or whatever the $97 of the month is the current flavor—aren’t telling you the rest of the story.
Yes, there is someone who will do your cover for a few dollars … and 99 % percent of the time it will look like $5. Recently, I interviewed the editor-in-chief of a major book reviewer—one that all of us would love to have our books posted within its pages. It’s a huge yes—books are judged by the cover as the shipping wrapping is removed. And a reveal, keeps a running posting of the worst book covers. That’s a wall I don’t want to be on … and I bet you don’t want to be too.
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 will edit 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 decide that friends and relatives (or just the author) are all that is needed. It’s not.
Then you print it—costing anywhere from a few dollars to several via the print on demand (POD) method to many dollars per book, depending on where and who you work with. I can’t tell you how many discussions I have had with others that includes the reveal of what some of the POD costs are per unit—literally, the only way that the author could make any money is to sell directly—any retail operation is impossible because the book is so upside down in printing costs.
In the end, you may end up with an inferior product—your book, your baby can only whimper.
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, designers, 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?
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 option—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 Kindle 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 is that it’s a few dollars per book in most situations without the requirement of having cases and cases of books loaded in your garage or warehouse.
Depending upon the editing needed and if you have a professional 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 or 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.
To get to your bottom line, you will need to plan, budget, implement and execute. Are you game?