Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why Publishing on Your Own Is a Very, Very Viable Option

nce upon a time, in a land no so far away, there were two types of publishing: the coveted traditional route, where thousands of books were printed, media releases created and publisher reps marketed the books that only real authors wrote; and the disdained vanity press—here the giant spitting sound. Authors went the vanity press route only as a last resort. Under the vanity umbrella dwelled the small presses and self-publishing, costly ventures where mass distribution, marketing and PR were nominal or non-existent. And the average author sold far less than 100 books—total!

Times have changed. 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.

There are four key reasons why you should consider, and main, 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.

Quality is, well, about quality. If a print book—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.

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.

Timing can be everything. If the book is about anything in the technology work, even six months can be make 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.

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 $97, $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 $5 a la fivrr.com … 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, 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.  Then you print it—costing anywhere from a couple of dollars too 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 of the vanity presses and the pay-to-publish operations work within. And within them is a large array of publishing predators, all beckoning, “Come to me, come to me.” Well-established publishing houses have partner, some of them stealthily, with the vanity presses. The prey is the na├»ve 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, 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 a bell-weather to do it on your own post the editing cost with a bare minimal version, use Amazon’s CreateSpace—and the cost per printed book is based on the number of pages. Is it high quality—nope … but it’s a POD, fast and you are in the Amazon umbrella with an immediate eBook option. 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 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 your sales money a lot quicker than you do from the traditional bookstore selling route.

The money key for you is to get your marketing plan in order and hook it … get sales rolling in.  For me, 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.


Dr. Judith Briles 
The Book Shepherd - The Author and Publishing Expert

Create. Strategize. Develop. Publish. Achieve.
Chief Visionary Officer: AuthorU.org