Last week I looked at the pros and cons of self-publishing and traditional publishing, If you’ve decided that you’d like to self-publish (as I have), then the next step is to decide how you will self-publish.
There are so many options out there for the would be self-publisher, it might even make writing that query letter to those agents and publishers more appealing. Well, let’s check out those options first.
Pay someone else to do it for you
This is probably where the term ‘vanity publishing’ comes from. These companies are similar to publishers, but you have to pay them to get the book published. Some examples include Grosvenor House Publishing, AuthorHouse and Matador.
These companies will do the tricky stuff for you, such as typesetting, book cover design and distribution. The price will often include an ISBN, something you need if you want to distribute the book and which is expensive to buy yourself.
They tend to offer POD (printing on demand) and some also offer ebooks.
The main advantages are the easiness of publishing, as someone else really will be doing the tricky stuff for you, and the distribution. You won’t have to worry about getting your book into certain outlets (although check which ones when looking at the companies) and most will also distribute your books to a certain number of libraries (although this is a legal requirement). Most companies also offer basic to more involved marketing packages. Some offer editing and proofreading services (often at an extra cost).
The disadvantages are that the company will take a commission on the books you sell. They become the middle man because they are your publisher. It will be their name on the book, and if they are well known this could raise red flags with some readers who have a negative view on the self-published.
Generally, packages are below £1000, although this is a starting price and will depend on any extras and the number of books you want printed.
This might be the best option if you can afford it and have only the one book you wish to self-publish.
Complete and utter DIY
The other way to go is to do everything yourself. I mean, everything. Get your book professionally edited and proofread (definitely recommended), design your book cover or find a willing artist (there are freelancers all over the internet), format your book, buy your ISBN package, market, distribute, and push for those sales.
This method can be incredibly daunting, but also so exciting. You effectively get to create your own publishing company.
You can’t buy just one ISBN. The smallest package is ten numbers at a cost of £132 and you can’t sell these on as you register them with your publishing name. If you’re self-publishing in the UK, ISBNs are available from Nielson UK ISBN Agency.
If you decide to have a printed book and ebook, each will need a separate ISBN, so if you’re planning on publishing a lot over the next five years, 10 isn’t that many.
There are companies out there who will print your book for you, whether you want one copy, 100 copies or POD.
Distribution is a little trickier. Waterstones seem to have a way in for the self-published, although it sounds quite a process. Basically, you need a good marketing plan and to put a lot of work into your promotion in order to be taken seriously by the big book sellers. Independent and local book shops and thinking outside the box may be required for printed books. Ebooks still require a good promotional plan to get sales (more on that another week).
The middle ground
If you’re like me, and the publishing company doesn’t appeal but the complete DIY option is too scary right now, there is a middle ground.
Companies such as Lulu, Createspace and Smashwords exist to allow you to keep control but offer some support should you need it. Amazon KDP is also available, but pay special attention when researching as they appear to operate in their own world.
Choosing which of these to use will depend on your future plans. If you only want to sell through Amazon, Amazon KDP might be the path to tread. If not, the others distribute to Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iBook… Remember to research each company thoroughly before you sign up.
It’s also worth knowing that Createspace is owned by Amazon and I personally find the website horrible to use.
The advantages of using these companies is that they are cheaper than the other companies, mainly because you are paying for the publishing and not the extras (which come at a price).
Or, if you want to do it all yourself, publishing is free. This means you stay in control. You can have your book edited elsewhere, bring in your own cover design and purely use these companies for the publishing and distributing (and the ISBN). The royalties can also be better but be careful and read the small print.
The disadvantages can be the quality of printed books and it may be worth buying one or two from the company to see what they’re really like. Something I found particularly irritating while writing this is that these companies don’t have any easy to find information about commission, royalties, etc, even after you sign up. It took a special Google search to find that information.
These companies take a commission of the books you sell, so it’s worth checking and comparing these. Createspace commission isn’t great, check out the royalties tab. It seems that both Lulu and Smashwords take a commission of 10%. But considering you’re publishing through them for free and they’re sorting that tricky distribution for you, that doesn’t seem too bad. They also sell their books through their own platforms which means more royalty for you.
Bear in mind that some American companies will need you to complete complicated tax treaties if you’re in the UK, so it might be worth checking out the British companies such as Blurb.
Of course, you don’t have to just choose one option, especially if you go for the middle ground. You can publish your book via Amazon KDP and use a company like Smashwords or Lulu to distribute elsewhere.
So there you go, your self-publishing options in a nutshell. All work, all have success stories and whichever you choose is up to you and will depending on your budget, know-how and future plans. There is no right or wrong, simply choose which is best for you.
With all of these options, the main thing to remember is that quality sells, so do your research, check out the company’s results (buy or find some of their books). Do the hard work but enjoy it, and remember, by the end of the process, you’ll be a published author.
On my Google travels, I found this infographic, which might also be of some help.