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    « Style for Writers: You Can Look It Up! | Main | Is Your Book Finished? Ask Your Friends…and Your Editor »

    The Self-Publishing Controversy

    Have you heard good stories, or bad, about self-publishing? Some say it’s the greatest opportunity for writers since Guttenberg. Others issue dire warnings about self-publishing companies that take advantage of authors. Which is true? Both. So we’re here to straighten it out and explain how to take advantage of this new technology, so you don’t get ripped off.

    Right now there is a hot debate raging about an article in The Atlantic by Peter Osnos, a former publisher at Random House. He laments that Penguin, a traditional publisher, bought the self-publishing giant Author Solutions. Armed with statistics that the “overwhelming majority” of self-published books don’t make money, he calls self-publishing’s success a “cruel” paradox.

    Sometimes the experts just don’t get it. Old-school publishers like Osnos only want to publish books that sell millions of copies; they write off their lesser titles as “failures”. Yet to authors, selling a limited run isn’t always a failure; that may be their dream come true. A quarter of a million authors self-published books in 2011, for reasons including, but not limited to, making money. Never before have you been able to:

    • Create a book for a limited audience of family and friends
    • Establish your credentials as an expert to advance your career
    • Get your fiction into print so you can find an audience for it
    • Retain control of all your rights and all your profits

    No, self-publishers don’t have a corner office in New York, and they don’t need one. The cost for an individual to self-publish is negligible; they don’t have the massive costs that are killing the traditional publishing industry.

    However, we are frequently shocked when we hear how misguided some authors are about self-publishing companies. We’ve seen some very nice people who have been taken advantage of and sold expensive services they don’t really need.

    Type self-publishing into your browser and you’ll see links to X-libris, Author House, Wordclay and iUniverse (all owned by Author Solutions), Outskirts Press, Publish America, Lulu and Amazon’s CreateSpace. They’ll all promise to simplify the complexity of self-publishing by selling you a package, bundling together editing, book design, printing, marketing, and lots of add-ons.

    What they don’t tell you is that you don’t need them. You are SELF publishing, so why exactly do you need a publisher? That’s the old model, people! Most of these packages will include services you don’t need, some at prices often substantially higher than you should pay. Look twice: included in the contract are some nasty surprises; as your publisher, they now have rights to your book (and to the pricing of your book) that you should never sign away.  We can say only, “Buyer beware!”

    That’s where we come in. Of course, editors and book designers and printers are small businesses, not corporate enough to turn up in a Google search. When you work with a small business or a freelancer, you only contract and pay for the services you need. You’ll also know and communicate with a real person, a skilled professional who is working for you.

    What do you really need to self-publish? A well- written book (that’s your job) that is well edited (that’s our job) and designed (our job) that has an ISBN in your name (easily purchased, we’ll help) and made available for distribution. (We help with that too.) That’s it. You can do this thing, and then sit back and collect your whole profit, or if you’re not in it for the money, then you can savor the satisfaction of a job well done.

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    Reader Comments (3)

    Thank you, Nan, for a responsible answer to this on-going question. The challenge is to continue to get this message to the newer writers who really need it. This blog is a great example. Thanks for continuing to share this information. Best wishes on your continues success, as well! ;-)

    Sep 15, 2012 at 4:55PM | Unregistered CommenterDr. Bill (William L.) Smith

    Thank you. I am in the process of figuring all of this out and this was extremely helpful.

    Oct 15, 2012 at 7:04PM | Unregistered CommenterStirling Gardner

    We're glad it helped. The decision on which route to take to get your book into print can be a complex one. We truly believe in independent self-publishing where you act as your own publisher and retain all of your own rights.Drop us an email if you have more questions about the process.

    Oct 15, 2012 at 10:03PM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

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