While I indie-publish many of my things, I have worked with a traditional publisher since around 1992 and enjoy continuing that relationship as well. This morning, I was finishing a short story I needed to send to them today and had the radio playing classic rock tunes in the background.
Thats when I heard the commercial.
Now, I have to admit that I hate commercials anyway. But I have a very special slot in my hatred-file for commercials that are created to say things that misrepresent something. The commercial this morning was from a company that offers authors the “opportunity” to publish their work. The ad talked about how challenging it is to self-publish, and how their company would make it so easy to not only get your book published, but get it on Amazon and Apple Books, and get it on the shelves in bookstores all over the country. They said they would handle “everything”, so you could just spend your time writing.
Sounds pretty good, huh?
However, the simple truth is that indie publishing is not all that difficult today. And, more importantly, not only will you pay more to have them do the work, some of the things they will do “for you”, may come back to haunt you in the future. I’ll give you two examples.
The ad this morning promised me they would take care of complicated things like securing my book’s ISBN number. They did not mention that “securing” an ISBN number involves going to a website, filling out a basic form, and paying something like ten dollars. They also failed to mention that the ISBN number identifies the “publisher” of the book which means if they purchase the ISBN, they are the publisher, not me.
Secondly, getting a book on Amazon, Apple, B&N, IndieBooks, and most other sites is about as complex as getting the ISBN. Each of those sites has step-by-step processes for indie publishers that can be completed in an hour or so. Most include free templates and plenty of guides and tutorials to get it done. Sites such as IngramSpark offer tools for getting your book in front of bookstore buyers and library book selectors. However, none of them can or should guarantee to actually get your books in the stores or libraries. There is more involved in getting that done, and we’ll save that for a later blog.
Now, I will say there are times when using one of the companies to help indie publish your book may be just fine, and I did just that with my first novel. But I would be VERY careful in selecting the company to use. I would NEVER use the company I heard on the radio this morning.
I recently took the time to take a close look at 30 of the current companies currently offering to “make it simple” for writers. I found 25 of them either promised things they did not actually do, charged far more than necessary, or misrepresented things and actually ended up having control of what you could do with your own book.
One of those companies just made me shake my head:
They did put your book on Amazon and the others, but if the book did not produce what they determined was enough revenue over the first six months they then pulled it from those platforms. And, the fine print of their agreement said they had control of where and when the book was promoted, so you couldn’t put it back on Amazon if you wanted to. Unless…unless…you paid the company an additional fee for the “republishing” the company said was involved.
Their fine print also stated that if a traditional publisher or media company became interested in doing something with your book, they needed to deal with them and not you. Why? Because they purchased your book’s ISBN which means they were the official publisher.
Oh, they also had full and final power to create and choose your book’s cover…you had no say in that whatsoever.
Did I mention the fine print also stated that you would personally purchase 500 copies of your book directly from them over the next six months? Yeah.
While there are certainly good companies out there, you do need to be very careful.
If your goal is to indie publish your works, I would recommend that rather than using one of these companies making their grand promises, spend just a part of what they would cost you and do three things:
I would pay a professional designer to create your book’s cover. The number two criticism I hear about indie published books is that their covers just do not look professional.
I would pay a professional editor to do a formal grammatical edit of your book. The number one criticism I hear about indie published books is the number of grammatical and spelling errors they contain.
I would pay someone with personal indie publishing experience to help me walk through my first adventure of indie publishing my book.
While I see are a number of advantages of this do it yourself approach, the number one advantage is that you learn how to publish your work yourself so you don’t have to pay someone else to do it all again for your next book.
This is the reason I made the decision to take some of my writing time and be what many call a “Coach” for other writers. I made some of the mistakes I didn’t need to make, and want to help others avoid making them again. I really don’t think most writers need a “Coach”, or someone who promises to “take care of everything”, but just the chance to have an occasional conversation with someone who has been down the path before and can point out some of the things to be aware of.
That’s what I do.
If you are interested in knowing more about that kind of conversation you can take a look HERE.