What is the difference between self-publishing your book, calling yourself a hybrid author, or using assisted publishing? What can one method offer that another can’t?
Those were the questions discussed during a self-published author’s open house held in May at the Lincoln Township Public Library. I attended because a writer friend was on the panel, and also because I’m going to self-publish my next book and wanted to hear answers to those questions. The panel was comprised of writers of non-fiction, genre fiction, children’s fiction, and poetry.
Fact: There is a strong stigma against self-publishing in the library community.The two librarians on the panel nodded and mentioned how self-published writers come in and beg them to buy their books, even though the books are poorly written.
But what about the self-published books that are suddenly picked up by a big, traditional publishing house and go on to make the authors piles of money? (For instance, 50 Shades of Grey.)
Members of the panel cautioned the audience to realize that only happens to a few. Publishing is about numbers. For a self-published book to be picked up by traditional publishers (the Big Five), the book must sell thousands of copies in the first six months. (Most books don’t come near selling that many copies in six months.)
So why self-publish?
Some said it was because of the difficulty in getting an agent or a publisher. Others said they wanted more control over the content and look of the book.
If you are going to self-publishing your book, one writer suggested formatting the manuscript as you work on it in 14pt and use single spacing. She said gives her a better idea of how the print will look in book form.
What are the self-publishing choices?
Several writers on the panel chose a collaboration method; in other words, they didn’t do all of it by themselves. Hybrid publishing helps with distribution and marketing. The writer does pay up front ($4,000-$5,000 was mentioned), but the book is then professionally edited and the cover and look of the book is professional. They said they had a say in how the cover looked, could refuse a cover if they didn’t like it, and didn’t have to make changes in the text if they didn’t agree with the editor. The royalties are better than they would get with a traditional publisher.
Assisted Publishing (often called Vanity Publishing)
The difference between vanity/assisted publishing and hybrid is sometimes hard to define, but vanity publishing is a packaging publisher. You maintain all rights and you pay them to publish your book. You have less say in how the book looks (you must pick from their styles and their cover choices), and most bookstores and libraries won’t carry the books.
If you are truly self-publishing, you are either formatting the manuscript yourself and designing the cover yourself or you are outsourcing the work to others (and paying them for their work). You pay for the ISBN and to have the book copyrighted (if you so choose). Once you have what you want, you must find a printer.
- Amazon’s Create Space is a print on demand publisher and charges nothing up front if the writer provides the formatted manuscript and cover. CS takes a percentage of the cover price when a book is sold.
- Lightening Source Lightning Source was mentioned as doing a good print job. They have different packages
- Also, check out Ingram Spark http://www.ingramspark.com/
Both have International Distribution.
If you don’t have a company that distributes your book, you must be the distributor and the marketing department. Also, if you want to have your books in book stores, you have to consider returns. That can get expensive.
Everyone on the panel said, “Even if you self-publish (i.e., don’t do hybrid publishing), hire an editor to read your book.” (Not a friend or family member, but someone who can actually tell you what’s good and what doesn’t work or isn’t necessary.) No matter how many times you, the writer, have edited your work an outside editor approaches the work with a different perspective; is a fresh set of eyes. All said hiring an editor may cost you money, but it’s worth it.
For what’s legal and what’s not, the book that was recommended was: The Writers Legal Guide: an Authors Guild Desk Reference by Kay Murray
The panel also suggested entering contests for feedback on your writing.
- Poets and Writers (magazine) lists contests
- Writer’s Market
- NewPages.com (submissions) New Pages
- AgentsQuery.com Agent Query
Before you release your book, get a review from someone with credentials (someone well known who writes the type of book that you’ve written.)
- Goodreads. Join and get active https://www.goodreads.com/
Get peer reviews
Hold a giveaway.
Goodreads handles everything
- Bookbub is another way to get the word out about your book, but you must pitch to them (and it can be expensive)
- Use Amazon’s author pages.
- Use any and all free author’s page.