The Many Approaches to Self-Publishing
When you self-publish, you take on the role of publisher and are responsible for all aspects of publishing your book--you can choose to
do as much or as little of the work involved as you want, hiring freelance service providers for the work you choose not to do. The good
news is there are many options available to you to achieve your ultimate goal—creating a successful book. The bad news is, these
options have complicated the process. In this article, I hope to dispel some of the confusion.
There are five basic approaches to self-publishing to consider.
I would argue no one can do it himself entirely, but just in case you are a brilliant writer who needs no editor, and are someone who
has artistic abilities, knows all facets of book formatting, and have a printing press in your basement, here is a list of the basic steps
involved in producing a book on your own.
- Conceptual editing
- Line editing
- Copy editing
- Cover design
- Formatting (paperback and e-book)
Obviously, the more you can do yourself, the less money youʾll need to invest in the production cost of your book. I would only caution
you that if your book does not appear to be professionally edited, designed, formatted, and printed, sales will likely suffer, and you may
not be taken seriously as a writer. I've seen this happen.
Independent Service Providers
If you are in a position to pay a little more and have the time and knowledge to coordinate everyoneʾs services, this may be a good
option. There is no shortage of individual freelancers and companies who provide the services listed above, and hiring them
independent of each other gives you the opportunity to hand select the ones who will work best for your particular project. For more
information about how to choose service providers and avoid frauds, click this page of my website.
Assisted Self-Publishing Companies
As the self-publishing industry grows, more one-stop companies are cropping up who offer a variety of packages to get your book
published—the elephant in the room being Amazonʾs CreateSpace. These kinds of companies charge a fee for their services and
collect part of the royalty for themselves. The best advice I can offer is to read the contract, terms, and conditions very carefully, and if
you donʾt understand them, seek out someone to explain them to you. Know exactly what you get for your money and who ends up
owning rights to your book. The only self-publishing company I have ever used is CreateSpace, and I found them to be very reputable.
Unfortunately, there are several disreputable companies out there taking advantage of new authors. Click this page of my website for
information on how to spot them.
Vanity publishers are publishing houses where authors pay to have their completed book published. They generally do not offer any
other services besides taking the authorʾs ready-for-press manuscript and producing a printed book. They have no stake in book sales
because their revenue comes from the fees they charge for the printing service, and because of this, they are generally not concerned
with the bookʾs content.
Subsidy, Joint Venture, Partner, or Co-Publishers
These types of publishers are similar to vanity publishers except they contribute a portion of the cost to design, edit, promote, market,
and distribute your book. Authors receive a royalty, and the book becomes property of the publisher.
Choose carefully. Do your homework. Talk to other authors. Seek advice. Make the right choice for your book to ensure a successful
Choosing the Right Publisher
Once I made the decision to self-publish by using a publisher who offered a variety of service packages, I spent a considerable
amount of time looking for the best one. If you Google ‘self-publishers,’ you’ll find numerous lists of vendors to help you with the
process. The ones I ran across repeatedly were Lightning Source, Book Surge, Lulu, CreateSpace, Dog Ear, Smashwords, Outskirts
Press, and Xulon Press. I am by no means endorsing any of these companies--they are merely the ones I see most often that have not
been flagged on Preditors & Editors. Click here for some insight on scammy publishers.
I visited all their websites and based on my needs, pricing and terms, I narrowed it down to CreateSpace. I can’t stress enough how
important it is to fully understand the terms of agreement with any service provider. The last thing you want are surprises after you’re
well into your project--like who owns the rights to your books in the end. Save yourself some time by talking to others before you even
start looking for a publisher.
I chose CreateSpace’s Advanced option which included basic copy editing, comprehensive copy editing, a unique book cover, a
custom book interior, a press release with extensive distribution, LCCN assignment, ISBN assignment, and promotional text creation.
Here is what I liked about CreateSpace:
- They assigned my project to a team (mine was Team Apollo) so that the same people worked on it from beginning to end.
- They managed the project in short methodical steps, each of which required my approval before they continued with the next
- I could contact the team’s coordinator by phone or by sending a message from my CreateSpace project page. Their response
time was excellent. Their staff was pleasant and very accommodating.
- They offered a phone consultation before each major phase of the project so that I fully understood what was going to take
place. There were no surprises along the way.
What I wish they had done differently:
- I preferred my bio to be printed on the inside back cover but was told they were unable to do that given their printing equipment.
So my bio ended up as the second to the last page of the book, the last page being a blank one. That was disappointing. I
suppose I could have revised the synopsis on the back cover so that the bio could fit there as well, but at that point, it would
have cost extra because I had already approved the back cover. Lesson learned for next time.
- The other disappointment was in the first-in first-out method they used for completing jobs in their work queue. This worked out
well in the beginning when the work they did for me was in big chunks, but toward the end, when I had only very minor changes,
my work had to wait in line behind other authors in front of me who were in the beginning phases of their projects. For example,
the graphic artist who created my book cover (who was fantastic I might add) took a reasonable amount of time each step of the
way. But at one point I asked for a minor change, something that couldn't’t have taken more than a few minutes to make, and I
had to wait eight business days for her to do it because she had other jobs in her queue. That held up releasing my book –
everything else was done at that point. If it were me, I would take care of the small jobs first just to get them out of the way.
The way CreateSpace calculates royalties is as follows:
If bought through CreateSpace’s eStore – Retail price X 80% less the cost to print ($6.72)
If bought through amazon.com – Retail price X 60% less the cost to print ($3.73)
If bought through any other source – Retail price X 40% less the cost to print ($0.74)
My book is 9X6 with 355 pages and retails for $14.95. The cost to print it is $5.24. If everyone bought the paperback
book through amazon.com, my break-even point would be 840 books.
Retail price X 70% ($3.49)
I priced the Kindle version of my book at $4.99, so if everyone bought the Kindle version, my break-even point would be
After I had completed the manuscript, the entire process with CreateSpace took five months, and I can say it went quite smoothly.
Based on my experience, I can certainly recommend CreateSpace for self-publishing.
Note: I didn’t rely solely on CreateSpace’s marketing platform. I also had one of my own. For more about that, click here.
I broke even about six months after releasing my first book. The second one reached the break-even point immediately after being
released, thanks to the KDP Select promotion I had with book number one. Book number two is a sequel to book number one, and so
the successful KDP promotion for book number one had a nice affect on book number two. Click here for more on the KDP Select
One-Stop Shops Versus Freelancers
For my first two books, until I learned the industry, I used CreateSpace for everything. Now I hire a freelance illustrator, formatter, and
editor for my books and use CreateSpace just for printing and distribution. While it is slightly more expensive to go the freelance route,
the quality of the work is substantially better, and I have more control over the process.
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- Anyone can do it. You don't need acceptance from a publisher or anyone else.
- The author controls content, title, cover & interior design, price, distribution channels,
marketing, and timing.
- There will be a much faster publication schedule.
- It's easy to make changes along the way.
- The author will enjoy higher royalties.
- There will be no possibility of excess inventory if using POD (print on demand).
- The author does all the work himself or jobs out the editing, design, production,
marketing, and PR.
- The author pays all up-front costs.
- The book will likely get less exposure.
- There is potential for publishing a poor quality product.
- Self-publishing still holds a stigma for some.
|Self-Publishing Vs Traditional Publishing