Sunday, November 22, 2009

Do Your Homework First

Like anything else where money is involved, the buyer needs to beware.  This is certainly true in the case of the author considering self-publishing.  I decided on three different self-publishing companies before I took the leap and decided to use Dog Ear Publishing for my first self-published book. I am glad I made the choice I did and have been very pleased, for the most part, with my choice.

Without naming the names of the other two companies I nearly selected, mainly because I just don't want the hassle, I would have had almost no chance of recouping the funds I had to invest in order to get my book published.  The two reasons for not choosing the two self-publishing companies were hidden costs and the high cost per copy for the print-on-demand publishing.

The hidden costs weren't really hidden, they just creep up on the unsuspecting customer.  Once you are committed to using that company, you will likely want to add services you had not originally planned to spend money on.

There is no real excuse for the high cost per copy that authors are charged for purchasing their own books to resell or the high cost per copy that is deducted from the list price when determining the author's royalties. Why? Almost every self-publishing company in the United States uses Lightning Source as their print-on-demand printer.  The self-publishing company then marks up the price to make a good profit per copy at the expense of the author.

I am not opposed to these companies making a profit. They are after all in business to make money for the owners.  I do think it is short sighted on the part of these companies to try to make so much money per copy that they discourage the author from attempting to publish another book.  Which is a better model? Make a lot of money on one sale, or less money per sale, but have lots of sales over an extended period of time?

Other things that must be considered are the quality of the services offered. If the author chooses to pay for editing, how good are the editors? If you do enough checking you will read some real horror stories. How good are the cover designs or is the only option available stock templates? What is the turn around time from the day the manuscript is submitted till the day the book is available for distribution and sale?

Take the time to research a wide range of self-publishing companies. Read the books available that review the various self-publishing companies. Check with the Better Business Bureau about any self-publishing company being considered. Read blogs like this one to learn as much as possible about the self-publishing industry and hear about the experiences of other authors.

Before spending a single dime have a business plan. Develop a budget for the production of the book and include the cost per copy as part of the equation when determining the list price. Be aware that the average total sales for a self-published book is about 200 copies and most, if not all will be sold via the internet. In the worse case scenario, breaking even should be the goal.

You have worked long and hard on your manuscript. If it is a work of fiction it surely is your hope to provide hours of entertainment and pleasure for your readers.  Likewise if your book is non-fiction, it is your hope that the information contained is useful to your readers. Do not allow the wrong self-publishing company ruin your publishing experience, your book and any chance you might have of making a profit on your book. Do your homework.

Three books were extremely helpful to me in my research of the self-publishing industry.  The first was Mark Levine's The Fine Print of Self-Publishing which reviews 45 self-publishing companies and rates them. This book stopped me from going with the second self-publishing company I had chosen. The second book was Aaron Shepard's Aiming at Amazon which discusses a business model focusing solely on book sales on Amazon.com and not through traditional avenues of book sales. The final book was Morris Rosenthal's Print On Demand Book Publishing: A New Approach To Printing And Marketing Books For Publishers and Self-Publishing Authors. Rosenthal focuses on the business of publishing, how the business of print on demand publishing works and the self-publishing author can develop a successful business model using this approach to publishing.