Publishing a book: Part 2 – Self-publishing

Last week, I wrote about publishing a book through a traditional publishing house. This week, I wanted to discuss going the self-publishing route.

There are many benefits to be self-published. You have complete control over what you publish and when. You retain all rights to your book, and you receive 100 percent of the profit. The main drawback is that you have to do all the work and pay for any expenses yourself.

You have several options when it comes to self-publishing. You can opt to publish just an electronic copy of your book (an e-book), or you can actually print a physical copy or you can do both. Let’s look quickly at the options for physically printing a book.

Vanity

In this option, you pay for all the services to print your book but own the book and receive the profits. You are in charge of distribution. This is best for the hobbyist or those who just have a goal of seeing their work in print. (Hence the reason it is often referred to as a vanity press.)

Subsidy

While similar to a vanity press, a subsidy publisher contributes toward the cost of editing, distribution, warehousing and marketing of the book. Typically, the author pays for the printing and binding of the book and will receive royalties.

Print on Demand

This is a good option for someone with a limited audience. You use your own money to produce the book and then have a company (such as Amazon’s Createspace) print them one at a time as they are ordered. The plus is that you don’t have any books that you need to store.

Self-Publishing

You pay to produce, market and warehouse your books.

With all of these methods, the majority of the work and expense of publishing falls on the author’s shoulders. And as hard as it is to find a traditional publisher, it can be equally hard to find physical retail location that want showcase your new novel.

But often with today’s technology, many readers no longer buy physical copies of books. Many readers now have e-readers so authors need to determine whether they even need physical copies of their books to sell.

And this leads us to the last section in this three-part series on publishing a book – e-book publishing. Next week I will go over the steps to publishing your e-book.

Avoiding Vanity Publishers

Last month, my mom mentioned to me that her friend’s daughter had just published a book. She paid $3000 to have it done, and now it was on Amazon for $18 IN PAPERBACK. Wow! All I could think of is that this woman had found a vanity press to “make her an author.” With the relative “ease” of becoming an author today with Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace (among others), I hadn’t really thought much about vanity presses.

And the funny thing is that a week or so later, the topic turned up on another blog I help promote through Triberr. The author wrote about Vanity Presses as her letter V topic in the A to Z challenge.  (Check it out for seven signs of a vanity publisher.)

So, I don’t want to assume everyone knows the difference between a traditional publishing house and a vanity press, here is the difference.

With a traditional publishing house, they take all the chances on you and your manuscript. They pay for the printing, cover design, layout, editing and any other cost of publishing the book and distributing it to book stores and online retailers. The author pays NOTHING.

A vanity press, on the other hand, will often offer to “help” you get your book printed by guiding you through the system for a PRICE. You PAY them for editing, using their cover designer, for printing the book and distributing it. And often, you still pay them a percentage of the sales.

I am sure many authors in their quest to be published run into vanity publishers. Basically, if a place promises to help you get published but want to charge YOU for it, then you have run into a vanity publisher. My advice is to say no, thanks and walk away from these businesses. Even if they are not a scam to get your money, you are better off either continuing to look for a true publishing house that believes in you or go the self-publishing route.

Now, be careful as some vanity presses promote themselves as out to “help” you become self-published through them. If their names appear on the cover or inside of your book, you have not self-published. When you self-publish, you are in charge and are publishing under your own name or company name, not someone else’s.

And even worse is having to watch out for scam artists who will take your money and leave you with nothing. If anyone is charging you for your copyright, don’t do it.  (Your book is already copyrighted as soon as you wrote it though you can choose to register it if you want.) Other key words to look for – joint venture, subsidy or offering to be your partner.

If you see a publisher advertising for authors (or to include people in an anthology), it is probably a vanity publisher as major publishing houses NEVER have to advertise for authors. Heck, they get way too many submissions as it is to even read but a percentage of the query letters and sample chapters.

My suggestion of course is to run as far away from a vanity publisher as possible. You shouldn’t have to pay someone to print your book (and you shouldn’t be listing it for $18 on Amazon either.) Either continue looking for a real publisher or go ahead and become an independent author and do it yourself.