Whether it be ego, passion, or just a desire to disseminate information on a topic we believe we’re knowledgeable about, there is an opinionated writer inside a lot of us. The relatively recent proliferation of individual Web sites and blogs certainly demonstrates this.
Self-publishing is not a new concept. It may be the best—and sometimes only—method for new or even established writers to get their work into print. Many companies have been formed to help people become published writers. A Google search for “self publisher” revealed 39,000,000 sources of information for those aspiring to authorship.
As always, “Caveat emptor.” (For the non-Latin linguists reading this, “Buyer beware.”) All companies are not created equal, nor do they offer the same services. Particularly with respect to getting your book into the hands of book reviewers and book distributors, read the fine print and ask questions. Remember that when purchasing any item or service, the key is value, not the lowest price possible. Additionally, contact authors who have used a chosen company’s services.
Whenever possible, choose companies where you may pick up the phone and actually speak with a person. Questions and answers may arise during a conversation that may not have occurred in an e-mail. In my opinion, if a company doesn’t provide phone contact with a live person, it doesn’t value you as a human being. It is only placing value on your money and the ease with which it may get your money.
Quality of service and a variety of publishing options should be of paramount importance. Most companies will offer a menu of publishing options. They provide you with choices of varying levels of editorial input, hardcover or softcover, binding, paper, and typeface.
An excellent starting point for someone considering self-publishing is http://www.booksjustbooks.com. It provides a lot of useful information on the world of publishing in general. If you spend some time navigating this sizable site, you will learn much about the world of printing and publishing. For instance, you will learn enough about publishing to decide which venue to pursue—vanity, commercial, subsidy, or self-publishing. To anyone with at least some gray hair and who has had any interest in the publishing world, the term vanity press is familiar.
This site included a pull-down menu with options on trim size, single-color or four-color printing, and softcover or hardcover—all of which affect the final cost of your book. Estimates on what you have chosen will generally be e-mailed to you within 3 or 4 days. Booksjustbooks.com advertises a price of $3.41 for each book with single-color text for a 100-count production run. There is also a price comparison chart of some of the well-known printer/publishers.
Another self-publishing Web site is http://aachanon.com. This company advertises a low overall price of $195. When navigating this site, however, you will see that some of the options can raise the price to $795 and higher. One nice thing about this site is that it clearly breaks down what you get for your money. For instance, the $195 Budget Level offers two sizes: 5.5 x 8.5 inches or 8.5 x 11 inches. Other choices in the Budget Level are paperback or spiral-bound. A preformatted color cover with up to two graphics of your choosing, black text on white paper, and up to 10 black-and-white photographs or illustrations are included for this price. The Aachanon site is easily navigated and is chock full of information for potential authors.
Some companies offer a quick turnaround, meaning a short period of time from when you deliver your manuscript to when you receive your book. One of the faster advertised turnarounds is offered by the folks at Bookends (http://www.booksbybookends.com). At Bookends, you can have a paperback in your hands just 2 days after you drop it off or e-mail it to them.
Bookends is an actual brick-and-mortar bookstore that also hosts book signings and publishing-related events. Additionally, Bookends will list an author’s name, the book title, and a picture of the published book on its Web site. This gives prospective authors the ability to see some examples of books and covers they have produced.
Pricing at Bookends begins at $175 for the first 10 copies of your book (more for 8.5 x 11-inch books or books longer than 250 pages), $125 for the next 10 copies, and $85 for every 10 copies thereafter. You can get full-color covers, glossy or linen-finish covers, text paper upgrades, photos or illustrations in the text, and other formatting and design requirements at additional costs.
At http://www.outskirtspress.com, you’ll be able to choose from publishing options named after precious stones—namely, Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, or Pearl. The Emerald package is the least expensive and begins at $199, while the Pearl option is the most expensive—it starts at $999. Both of these prices will go up depending on the options you choose. Options include (but are not limited to) choices of full color, number of copies, editing services, publicity and marketing, contractual rights, and distribution.
The distribution facet of publishing cannot be overemphasized. Unless you’re living off Lotto winnings, you probably need to make money or at the very least break even from this endeavor. You may have written an outstanding book, but if no one can get hold of a copy, it will never sell. You could contact a book distributor yourself, but these publishing companies make distribution a lot easier.
With a price a bit higher on the initial cost scale than the preceding companies, there also is iUniverse, Inc. (http://www.iuniverse.com). Its basic package, Fast Track, starts at $299 for one paperback and goes up with Premium Plus to $799 for 10 copies of your paperback. There are two other packages to choose from: Select or Premier. Options such as access to book reviewers, clipping services, and editorial services are among the options that will determine your final price.
If, after investigating publishing companies like the ones listed here, you choose to self-publish, check out http://www.bookmarket.com. Run by John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, the site offers a tremendous amount of free useful information concerning marketing, promotion, book distributors, etc., as well as lists (which may be purchased) of independent bookstores and reviewers.
After visiting all of these sites, perhaps you might be in the mood for some inspiration. The Self-Publishing Hall of Fame, also run by Kremer, lists many successful self-published authors, some of whose names you’ll recognize. What you’ll find is that these authors went on to make many sales after said books were subsequently picked up by major publishing houses.
This reminds me of my job-hunting days when prospective employers told me, “I’m looking for someone with experience.” Well, how do I get job experience without a job? Now, at least in the publishing field, writers may become published before a publisher offers to buy their book.
Ken Rubino is a freelance writer, photographer, and curator. He has hung group art exhibitions on the East End of Long Island for 17 years.