I’ve spoken with thousands of authors. I understand how confusing self-publishing can be: how DOES a Word file eventually make its way into an Amazon box and get delivered to someone’s doorstep? Authors know there are many steps involved in producing a beautiful printed book (or eBook) that people will take seriously and readers will want to buy.
But as confusing or overwhelming as it might be, I’m here to tell you that there is nothing you can’t handle yourself, provided you do the research, educate yourself, and surround yourself with the right team.
As authors who decide to self-publish their books quickly discover, there are a multitude of “self-publishing companies” promising free services, free printing, few steps—the equivalent of a magic bullet for authors who want to publish their books as quickly, easily, and cheaply as possible without taking the time to investigate the possible ramifications of going “quick, easy, and cheap.” My personal favorites are the companies that require authors to submit applications to have their books “published” by a self-publishing company masquerading as a traditional publisher.
Self-publishing companies prey upon an author’s ignorance about the publishing process. They know that you don’t know anything, and a person who doesn’t know is easy pickings. Typically, here’s how self-publishing companies operate: Self-publishing companies insert themselves as the middleman between the author and the print-on-demand (POD) company.
The POD company is an author’s gateway to the world of online book sales. Readers order a book online, the order goes to the POD company, which prints it and ships it directly to the buyer.
And here’s the big secret that self-publishing companies don’t want you to know: there are only two POD companies—IngramSpark and CreateSpace—and authors can work with them directly without going through a self-publishing company.
By becoming the middleman between the author and the POD company, the self-publishing company usually becomes the publisher of the book—no, really. Instead of the cover saying “Published by Happy Author,” it will say “Published by Big Self-Publisher,” meaning that the author isn’t listed as the publisher, doesn’t hold the rights to the book design, and usually doesn’t own the ISBN. The ramifications of the author NOT also being the publisher may not be felt until well into the future, when the author wishes to revise the book’s content or design, release another version of the book, or determine that they wish to be the publisher. Wrestling control of one’s book from a self-publishing company may entail the author starting all over again or paying money to the self-publishing company for them to release the files. I have personally assisted authors who have found themselves in this bind, and it’s not pretty.
So how do self-publishing companies make money while at the same time promising “quick, easy, and cheap?” Here are a few ways:
- Self-publishing companies mark up the printing prices and keep a portion of the author’s royalties. Because the author never sees the POD company, he or she is unaware of the difference between the fees charged by the POD company and what the self-publishing company says is the printing charge and the author royalty.
- They increase the retail price of the book in order to give the author higher royalties, while they still help themselves to the difference.
- They sell expensive packages that don’t include essential services for producing professional-grade books (such as copyediting or proofreading), making the affordable package much less affordable.
- They offer cheap templates for cover and page design to start, then charge authors high fees for the slightest customization. The result of this “bait and switch” technique is that the author winds up paying the same amount of money for a poor design as they would have paid for a beautiful book in the first place from a competent designer.
How can you avoid these self-publishing traps?
- Educate yourself about the steps involved in self-publishing a book. A good place to start is by downloading my book Publish Like the Pros: A Brief Guide to Quality Self-Publishing (Click here to download).
- Maintain control of your book publishing project by becoming the publisher. Purchase your own ISBN and make sure you are listed on the copyright page of your book as having the copyright.
- Be on the lookout for hidden fees, particularly when services are being offered for “free.”
- Choose your own publishing team members: cover designer, book interior designer and typesetter, editor, and proofreader.
- Deal directly with CreateSpace and IngramSpark for POD and distribution, opening and maintaining your own accounts and setting your own retail price. We typically recommend CreateSpace for its link to Amazon.com and IngramSpark for everything else. Understand that you do not need to use CreateSpace’s editorial or design services in order to use them for POD. IngramSpark does not offer services other than POD and distribution, but refers customers to professionals including 1106 Design.
Just to clarify, 1106 Design is not a self-publishing company. We have assembled all the services authors need to self-publish books under one convenient roof, along with some nice add-ons like author website design and referrals to marketing specialists. While we will put together a proposal for you, authors are free to choose which services they wish to use. We assign each author a publishing professional who will manage the project, answer questions—and give lots of advice and hand-holding along the way! Authors arrange their own POD, with our assistance if desired. Authors keep 100% of their profits and set their own retail price. 1106 Design also offers the convenience of a one-price package for authors who appreciate a streamlined approach, and we don’t hide fees or leave any essential services out of our package.