Self-Publishing

Ah, the woes of being a writer in today’s world. It is hard to break into publishing, especially with the big names. Even small press publishers are closing their doors to unsolicited manuscripts, meaning if you don’t have an agent who is willing to back your work (which is sometimes a trial in and of itself, finding an agent that you get along with and is willing to work for you), you’re a little out of luck. And that’s why I turned to self-publishing for my first novel.

Well, that’s one of many reasons why I self-published my first novel. There is the fact that, if you pick a reputable and cost-effective publisher, you will get higher royalty checks than a traditional publisher. Also take into consideration that there is something amazing about doing something for yourself, by yourself. And having total control of your work (be careful who you publish with!). For instance, did you know that when a major publisher picks up your book, you can suggest what you would like for the title and cover, but keep in mind that they have the final say, and consider it a compliment if their editor tries to persuade you to like it. Now, if your working title of your manuscript is in the take-it-or-leave-it section of your heart, you’re golden. If not, and your dream is to be traditionally published, you better start preparing for disappointment. Though, they might think your title is good enough; the key is marketing.

Now. On to the trials of self-publishing. It is dangerous. If you don’t do your research correctly, you will end up with no rights to your work. Or, you could be sucked dry, financially. Ron from PublishingBasics.com has this to say:

Aren’t the various publishing services like Author House and Xlibris just printing services? How’s the old saying go… can’t find the forest for the trees? This is how I am starting to feel on this subject. I have spent the past 3-4 years harping on the Vanity Press aspect of Author House, Xlibris and other publishers like them. A quick search on the keyword phrase “Vanity Press” will show publishers who are paying to be listed as vanity presses. Answers.com, using the Houghton Mifflin dictionary, defines Vanity Press simply as: vanity press – n. – A publisher that publishes a book at the expense of the author.

Some of the presses listed are: AuthorHouse (formerly 1st Books Library), Booksurge (formerly GreatUnpublished.com), Dorrance, iUniverse, PublishAmerica, Trafford, Vantage, Xlibris.

There are no surprises in the above list of publishers. They are all publishers, because they own the ISBN’s of the books that they publish. They all charge a fee to the author for the service of publishing their book. There is a place in the world for the Vanity Press as long as the author knows what they are buying, and what they aren’t. Some of the above companies practice extremely deceptive advertising in an attempt to lure the naive author to their services and amount to little more than scams. These companies should be investigated and put out of business. Maybe after Elliot Spitzer runs out of Fortune 500 executives to put in jail, he’ll have time to focus on the vanity publishing industry. But not all “pay to be published” publishers practice deceptive advertising to obtain new customers and are, in fact, extending a service to authors, who are finding it more and more difficult to become traditionally published.

In a recent WBJB Publishing Basics Radio interview with Jan Nathan, the Executive Director of PMA, Jan was asked the question, “What type of publishing (vanity, subsidy, traditional, small press, independent) best describe places like Author House, Xlibris and IUniverse? Her reply was that she considered them more printers than publishers… POD “People”. Wow…. Why didn’t I see it that way? I thought about it for a while and after doing so, the pieces started falling into place. Those of you, who know me, know that I am a printer by trade. My first website, BooksJustBooks.com , dealt with small press and independent self-publishers and was strictly a print buying service. The online Instant Printing Pricing is still the centerpiece of the original site as well as the new site, SelfPublishing.com. I expanded into other services to answer a need I saw in the marketplace. The services I offer now cover every facet of the publishing process from education to marketing. Other than the ISBN ownership issue, which I still believe is very important for the author and not the publishing service to own, publishing services compared as printing services makes sense.

With that in mind, let’s look at several of the more popular publishing services on the Internet. All these services offer the identical “worldwide distribution” under various names and all have online bookstores associated with their websites. In addition, all sites provide either direct services or associated services for everything from editorial and design to book marketing.

The first example is based on the average sales figures supplied to me by the former VP of Finance of Xlibris in a Publishing Basics Radio Interview and are based on an average 256 page book. The other services were either a little over or under the Xlibris sales number. According to Xlibris, the average book sells 150 copies out of which the author buys 100 for himself and the remaining 50 are split evenly between books sold via the publishing service website and books sold through the Ingram/Lighting Source worldwide distribution program (POD).

1st Published Title SelfPublishing.com Lulu Iuniverse Xlibris Author House
150 copies
Setup/Admin Fee $100.00 $0.00 $459.00 $500.00 $698.00
ISBN**** $225.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
100 author copies $765.00 $790.00 $932.00 $1,319.00 $848.00
Bookstore Distribution $69.00 $149.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Royalty/Profit on 25 books through company website -$189.00 -$166.00 -$90.00 -$137.00 -$100.00
Royalty/Profit on 25 books through distribution channel -$99.00 -$46.00 -$40.00 -$55.00 -$43.00
Total cost to author $871.00 $727.00 $1,261.00 $1,627.00 $1,403.00

***** The author owns the ISBN with the SelfPublishing.com option only

You can view more comparisons at the actual article online (PublishingBasics.com), but I really thought this was a good resource. And if you have your heart set on traditional publishing, don’t throw self-publishing aside. If you have the determination to self-publish a quality product, and organize a good marketing campaign, then once you start querying those traditional publishers, they already have a good idea of how much you’re willing to put into this. Plus, you already have a fan base and know exactly who your reading demographic is. Just something to think about.