Are you looking for a publisher to help get your book ready? Cover, edits, proofing, layout, uploading, marketing…these are all aspects involved. And there are many publishing companies willing to help you. You may have seen a few on television commercials, some with a religious element, others just a lot of empty promises. So how can you tell?
DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!
I’ve been a writer and a publisher for many years. I’ve seen many companies come and go, offering all elements for a fee, or sharing the royalty you make. Deciding on a company is easy; if they charge you anything, run as fast as you can! But be warned, even those that claim to have no costs, may have costs that are only listed in the contract you sign, so be sure to read that very carefully.
• No costs to you (that includes cover, proofing & editing, layouts, ISBN, uploads, marketing and more.) Many companies will offer you a set number of free copies of your book; however it is reasonable that you pay wholesale costs for added copies. It is not reasonable if you are obligated to buy additional copies.
THE VANITY PRESS ROUTE WILL END YOUR CAREER!
Vanity Press companies make their money by taking a fee and printing a set number of copies. They are called Vanity Press because they appeal to your vanity; having a book in your hand is one heckuva ego stroke. After that they do not care whether you sell a single copy. Their job is done.
Small publishers will handle your work at no cost, and split royalties with you. They tie you to a contract ranging from a year to five years, giving them time to recoup their investment, and hope that your work sells. The problem with most small publishers is that they are NOT marketing companies, have little knowledge of how to promote a book beyond Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. They have no mailing list, limited site viewers, and as a result, have little to offer you. The appeal to being a publisher is as strong as the appeal to have your published book in your hand. So how do you know whether your publiser fits this category? Ask them for their marketing plan before committing and have, in writing, exactly what they are going to do. If they claim it is proprietary information, then I would suggest that you go elsewhere.
IT’S ALL IN THE CONTRACT!
The contract is the clue to all things. Everything should be spelled out in the contract. Trust me when I say that the publishing company will have no hesitation to demand that you meet the contractual obligations you signed on for. They are, after all, a business.
Trust is not something that you can bank on. Even with a beautfully covered, solid layout, well edited and proofed novel, you are faced with the one elephant of a problem. Everyone and their mother has written a book and is competing with you for attention. Amazon couldn’t care less whether your book is a hit or not. Their costs come from printing, as do their profits. And studies have shown that the average book might sell only a few hundred copies in its lifetime. Hardly an income for you, the writer.
Bookstores and other tangible outlets rarely deal with small publishers and authors, unless the risk is removed. They usually want a larger number of copies, shipping paid, with an option to return them after a designated period of time, at your expense, and no money takes place unless the books sell, and even those come with a waiting period before a check is cut. Even at wholesale that is one huge gamble for you to take, especially without any guarantee for placement in the store, or in-store promotion.
Because of this reason, so many writers have gone the self-publishing route. And rightly so, except for that elephant in the room; marketing. Writers are not pushy people, usually. They write. They observe. They do not negotiate well. They are filled with unrealistic hopes, and count on the success of one writer out of millions, that makes a living with their book sales.
A confession: When I started out as a publisher, while I was always up-front and honest, and never had a model that cost authors anything (you can read the TESTIMONIALS on this site about that), I found the same issues coming up, over and over. How to get a book recognized. How to make it stand out. How to get sales to keep generating. It is a HUGE problem. Every writer has a social media site and every writer makes sure to populate it with other writers (instead of readers). I had to change the way I operated.
But very few writers are merciless promoters who do not get discouraged and…give up!
One such writer I have interviewed in Books ‘N Pieces Magazine, chat with often on Twitter, and even asked permission to use the opening chapter from one of his books as a source for other writers to draw from. He markets himself. He covers all bases. He tries all methods. He never gives up and yet still finds time to write books. His name is Mike Wells, an author out of the UK with a fascinating tale about how he started. You can read it HERE.
But Mike is a rarity, one of a handful of writers who have developed a suitable pattern that works.
And the rest? They hopefully still have full-time jobs that pay their bills.
Whatever you decide, I hope that you have learned enough from this article to avoid the pitfalls out there. So many authors are locked into oppressive contracts. If you are one of those, I am happy to review your contract and advise you of options. No charge, no strings, and no expectations that you will work with me.