As a writer, you already know about the waiting and rejection of the traditional publishing process. But due to the advancements in digital technology, writers have an opportunity to skip the anguish involved with trade publishing and get published. Anyone with the tenacity to finish a book can turn to self-publishing as an option. This is good news for many writers. But the ease and rampant availability of self-publishing options brings with it some new problems.
Before we go any further, you should also make sure you have a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, a book that all aspiring authors should have and read year-to-year, cover-to-cover. It will help with self-publishing and traditional publishing and is well worth the price of a book.
First, “self-publishing” means the writer must take on more of the work and responsibility involved to get their book to the readers. Even writers who use one of the best self-publishing companies, like CreateSpace, Smashwords, or Amazon, cannot simply write their book, upload it, and then sit back and wait for the money to start rolling into their bank account. Successful self-publishing takes work from the author.
Second, you must understand if you intend to publish your work, differences between traditional publishing or trade-publishing, vanity presses, and self-publishing companies are important. As writers, we’re familiar with how impossible it can be to break into the traditional or trade-publishing process.
But on the flip side, are vanity presses, are publishers who will print and publish any book as long as you are willing to pay for the services. Vanity presses have been around for a long time, charging exorbitant fees to writers who long to be published. In the past, this was an option for those who didn’t want to deal with the uncertainty and waiting of traditional publishing. But many vanity presses have a reputation for poor quality results and contracts with “fine print” clauses that allow them to legally scam money from writers who don’t thoroughly read or understand the contract. It’s not the best alternative to traditional publishing.
Advantages to Self-Publishing
- Greater Control
- Worldwide Sales
- Higher Royalties Than Trade Publishing
- Quicker process to Publish and No More Out of Print
- Set Your Price Directly
- Nearly Instantaneous Revisions
- Reasonably Priced Resources
- Less Strict Limits on Book Length
Third, while self-publishing has its advantages as listed above, to be truly successful the writer must be hands-on and thoroughly understand the entire process. You must plan for editing and formatting of the book, make decisions and be involved with production, rights licensing, distribution, marketing, and promotion. Getting quality outcomes in each of these areas of the process depends on your knowledgeable involvement.
Self-publishing companies provide a wide array of services to assist. Services offered can range from DIY for free to done-for-you, for a fee. Many writers digitally format their book themselves and upload it to a service to handle production, printing, and distribution. Knowing the right questions to ask will help you choose from among the best self-publishing companies to ensure the success of your book.
The Best Self-Publishing Companies Provide Author Control Over:
The best self-publishing companies allow you, the author, to retain control over all the rights to your published work. Check your written contract carefully to ensure the self- publishing companies you choose will allow you to end your contract at any point without fees. Also check to make sure that you are the owner of the files used to print your book, even if you terminate the agreement with them.
Another piece to check when researching publishing services is the amount of control you, as the author, have over pricing, profits, and discounts. It’s important for you to be able to set your pricing so that you can compete against similar books on the market. Your book should be priced to sell and at a rate that makes you a profit. The best self-publishing companies won’t charge a fee to set your own price.
In addition, costs and profit for you and the company, should be transparent. A company with a net sales profit model is better for you than a retail sale pricing model. The best self-publishing services provide a clear contract with fixed fees, based on book length and format.
Look for a royalty calculator and be wary of any company with hidden fees or fluctuating prices. Make sure you know the price for you to buy copies of your own book. Companies that offer authors a price per unit and not a “discount” off the retail price are in your best interest.
You’ve poured your sweat, tears, and maybe even blood, into your book to get it finished. The best self-publishing companies understand this and respect you as the author by giving you final creative input on all aspects of your finished book. The cover design of your book plays a huge part in successful sales. If your book cover doesn’t grab the attention of potential readers, it will negatively impact sales.
If possible, choose a customized professional cover design rather than a template recycled and modified by a thousand other authors. Make sure you can make design changes without incurring additional fees and that those who design your cover and interior are experienced designers.
Self-Publishing Companies to Avoid-Beware
The list of companies that provide publishing services is ever changing. There’s no way to get a definitive list of self-publishing companies to avoid.
- Be wary of any companies that don’t provide you with control over rights, pricing, or creativity.
- Avoid contracts with non-refundable “content evaluation or manuscript evaluation” fees. One writer lost $400 because a Christian based self-publishing company refused his manuscript for using inappropriate language. The language was as innocuous as “What the heck” and “Oh my God”, which is why he declined to revise.
- READ THE FINE PRINT of the entire contract. Treat each item in the contract as if it could apply to you. Do NOT rely on promises made to you over the phone that contradict or are absent from the written contract.
- Ask about production/printing, distribution, marketing, and promotion. Get clear what the company will or won’t do to sell your book.
- The best self-publishing companies will offer a proof copy to review for any errors or changes needed. Make sure you take your time with those edits and are happy with it, BEFORE you approve the proof.
- Run from companies that withhold fees and cost information until you sign an agreement with them.
- Carefully research any self-publishing company and its affiliates prior to signing a contract.
- Make sure you understand ALL the components of any agreement you sign. That includes what will happen if you terminate the contract at any point.
There have been a multitude of complaints filed against AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford, Lulu, and others. To see details of these complaints and how the parent company of all them, Author Solutions, Inc., responded, visit the Central Indiana Better Business Bureau website.
To review BBB ratings to get more information on additional self-publishing companies, visit https://www.bbb.org/ and enter the city and state where each company is located. Read any complaints carefully. For more information on how companies are “graded” you can read the overview of the BBB grading system.