Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Self Publishing Advice

On Facebook, a friend of a friend asked for advice about self-publishing.  Here's what I wrote.  I thought it might be helpful to other people.  

Never pay anyone to publish your work. These are called "vanity publishers." 

However, it is often wise to pay an editor and a book cover designer, and if you're going to sell anything significant, you probably need a marketing budget too. Just don't pay a publisher to do the actual publishing. You can publish your own stuff practically free: E-books free and easy, print books through a POD (Print on Demand) publisher like Amazon, where they don't actually print the books until someone orders them. With Amazon, the only cost to you for this service is that you have to order one proof copy of your book. This is smart anyway, to make sure it looks good. You can also buy author copies cheap and sell them in person. Print books through these places look self-published, however, even if you have a good designer, because of the odd sizes offered. 

Some companies (that often call themselves publishers) will bundle editing service, book cover design, some marketing, and publishing services together and charge you a fee. However, a lot of these just publish through Amazon or someone similar, so the books still look self-published, and it's not like they're going to be able to get you into libraries and reviewed in the New York Times. Some of these companies offer legit services, but some of them are real scams. I had a friend who did one, signed the contract, and then wasn't happy with the service and lost a lot of the control. For example, she couldn't directly see her sales, couldn't change the price as she wanted, etc. If you publish yourself, you can do all this easily. She had a hard time getting out of the contract. 

I recommend hiring any editors, book designers and marketers separately and then doing the publishing yourself.  If you have a reliable group of critiquers/editors (at least 3-4 with good proofreading skills), you don't necessarily need an editor. But please, please, please don't publish anything that hasn't been seen by at least 4 sets of critical eyes. It gives a bad name to self-publishing.  You can do a book cover yourself too, for free, using something like GIMP (free graphic art program), but if you're not a graphic designer, it'll probably look self-published and put off some readers.  You can buy pre-made covers where the artist just changes the title and author and maybe a few other details for you.  They won't resell it (if you're working at a reputable site), so it's yours alone.  These can go for as low as $30, but are often more like $70-90, and sometimes more if you want the print version too.  To hire a designer to do your project from scratch will cost significantly more.  Alternately, you might have a relative or friend studying graphic arts and wanting to bulk up their portfolio.  This might come cheaper.  

As for sales, unless you're good at marketing and have a lot of time/money for it, or if you have a real niche with no competition, don't expect to sell much.  It's still a fun and satisfying thing to do.  Just moderate expectations.

So, hope that was helpful.  

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