Thursday, November 30, 2006

Why Don’t You Self-Publish?

I get that a lot. It’s a reasonable question posed by well-meaning folk. They don’t understand that proper self-publishing costs a great deal of money--between $8,000 and $10,000. This doesn’t include distribution. It would be entirely up to me to get my book into stores or to sell it from the back of a room following talks.
One the good side, I’d own outright any book that came off the press. In real self-publishing the author is in charge of every aspect of production from editing to cover art to the physical size of the finished product. I’d make all these decisions, get my ISBN, and hire a short-run printer to make 500 or so copies for the first printing. Then I’d set my cover price, fill the trunk of my car, and start selling.
Even if I could afford this I’m not keen to do it. From what I’ve learned through reputable websites and blogs around the Internet it seems to be rare, though not unheard of, for a book that’s been self-published to be picked up by a commercial trade house.
And I’d have just used up first rights this way. Reprint rights aren’t that enticing.
What about all those others self-publishing outfits? You get royalties from them, right?
Those aren’t really self-publishing outfits. They’re vanity presses trying to pass themselves off as self-publishers or real publishers. I’ve looked at a few of them to see what they’re about. They’re not for me.
Not only would I give up first rights, but I’d sign a contract for X number of years giving said outfit the right to publish, and I’d have paid the company to do it.
Real publishing companies pay their authors, not the other way around.
Vanities are often referred to as PODs because they use print on demand technology. That means copies don’t physically exist until they’re ordered. If five are ordered, then five copies of the book are produced. Commonly, these books cost more than a book from a store shelf.
Vanity presses don’t do any distribution. Books they produce can be ordered through bookstores, but they aren’t likely to be on any shelf beyond the author’s hometown bookstore.
Unlike proper self-publishing, the copies spat out by vanity publishers are owned by the company, not the author. Not only would I have paid the POD to put my golden prose in print, I’d have to buy copies of my own book for resale.
So there I’d be, out a few thousand just to get the thing on a file to be printed out as needed, out hundreds or thousands of dollars more just to have copies on hand to sell, and I’d have to charge a ridiculously high price in a vain effort to get some money back.
I wouldn’t have a publishing credit. No commercial trade publisher will go near it because it’s been published already. All I’ll have to show for it is a trunk load of books and a huge credit card bill.
That said, vanities have their place. If all you want is to have a record of Great-Grandma’s Top 100 Rhubarb Recipes, and you know that all 200 of your cousins will buy a copy, then go ahead.
But if you want to be published author, then write good books and submit them to the commercial trade publishers that accept the kind of books you write.
If–-when--you’re turned down, try again.
I’ve been rejected literally hundreds of times. I keep at it. Maybe I’m hopeful; maybe I just don’t catch on quickly. But I’m still trying.

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