David Gaughran, who is a brilliant and prolific blogger as well as author, hosted Emily Suess in this post about Author Solutions.
We’re in 2013. At this point, self-publication has evolved to where it is not only taken seriously, but is seen as a very viable alternative to traditional publication, especially for new authors. And at this point, we as authors have learned enough about the ins and outs of the publication process, and we learned the cardinal rule. The rule is simple: money flows to the author.
What people usually tend to get confused about is the fact that there are publishing mediums that you pay money for. They are called vanity presses. And again, the effect is the same as self-publication: your name is in print, your book is out there, and you still end up doing the bulk of the work yourself. Problem is, with a vanity press, you’re also out some money.
Seriously, guys. If you’re thinking about publishing a book, I cannot say this enough: you have to do your research. Ask around. Ask people who have published through the press you’re considering. Ask people who did it self. Ask people who have gone small-press, Big Six, anthology, or web magazine for their publication. Ask. Ask often. But do not, under any circumstances, go into something half-cocked. You absolutely must know certain very basic things about publication.
And, considering that this is 2013 and people expect authors to have e-versions of their books on a regular basis, now’s a really good time to get real about self-publication, what it is, and what it isn’t..
Let’s begin with the obvious: a self-published author is a detriment to a publishing house. Why so? Because the same author is showing that he or she doesn’t need the publishing house to release the book. An outside editor can be hired. An outside cover artist. A print-on-demand press that withholds a nomminal percentage to reimburse for costs. And presto! you don’t need a publishing house. Similarly, if you go through PubIt!, KDP, or Smashwords, why in the world would you need to pay someone a fancy upload fee in order to be distributed to the exact same mediums that, let’s face it, you can do at no cost with, again, a nominal percentage held to counter delivery and hosting costs?
Using this logic, why exactly would you think that a publishing house offering a “self-publishing” solution has any of your better interests in mind if you are their direct competition?
Seriously. Beware of Trojans bearing gifts. No one ever disputed Homer, and now’s not the right time to start.
Listen up, people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if a major publishing house, especially a Big Six, is offering a “self-publishing” solution, go the other way. You have nothing to gain from it. Their logo won’t be part of your book jacket. The publishing house itself will not market your book past offering you another service, which will invariably cost you more money. The fine print in their contract will not benefit you. You will lose more than you will gain, and on top of that, the money that they will take from you is much better off being in your own pocket. I can guarantee you: there is nothing that Author Solutions, Book Country, iUniverse, or whatnot offers that you cannot reasonably to on your own and on your own terms.
If you want a hard copy of your book to be available to print, go to CreateSpace or Lulu. Neither of those will claim rights, neither of those will claim exclusive distribution rights on your hard copies. They will take anywhere from 30 to 50% of your price to cover printing costs, but that half-split on a royalty is yours. Yours and anyone whom you may have subcontracted for a royalty percentage, i.e. editor and graphic artist.
This is the thing about self-publication: you do have to do the work yourself. The money you will shell out if you do not will go for services rendered. Can’t self edit? Pay for an editor. Not good with Photoshop? Pay for a cover artist. This is the real grist of money leaving your hands: services rendered. Not paying an up-front fee to publish, but handing over money in order to have a service performed. If you’re handy with the ‘Shop and know how to self-edit impartially, then hey, you’re saving some cash.
Let’s also get real and acknowledge a certain truth, which a lot of those so-called “self-publishing options” from the Big Six will never tell you: the actual process of formatting and uploading is a one-time thing. It is also free. That’s right: free. If you check KDP – not KDP Select, which does expand your distribution in exchange for having exclusive distrib rights, but regular KDP – and PubIt, you’ll find that they are free to upload and free to host. You get, based on the price you set, either a 30% cut or a 70% cut – benchmark is usually $2.99, which is underpricing for an e-book, really, at this stage. So what does that mean, in terms of your royalties? It means that you turn a profit from your first sale. No up-front money, and immediate profit.
Gee, I wonder why none of those Author Solutions will tell you that. Oh yes, that’s right: it will cut into their profit margin.
As my editor Gayle and I have said before, on multiple occasions, why in the world would someone pay money for a one-time expense that can be done at no cost? Answer: lack of research. Other answer: because they believe that going through a publishing option backed by a Big Six house, they may have something extra. They will get cruelly disappointed. Not only will they be out some serious dough, but they will be exactly where they would be if they would’ve gone the freebie path: with a book, and needing to market it.
I am likely to shell out some money for someone to market my books. Why? Because I hardly have the time, and honestly, I suck at it. I’m a writer, photographer, and designer, not a publicist. So I’ll have to hire one. Still a self-published author, still have turned a de facto profit by not using a vanity press backed by a publisher, still in complete and total control of my distribution, and most of all, still dooing my research before even thinking about going in any other direction with my publishing. So far, KDP and CreateSpace have met both my markets (e-reader and print) admirably. I see no reason to discontinue my current path.
I can’t say this enough. Do. Your. Research. Do your research, and not only will you save some serious dough, but possibly your ownership rights. And in this day and age, your master rights are your holy grail. Under no circumstances, unless there’s a Hollywood movie with your book as a basis and even then put up a good fight, should you give up your masters.