Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in Self-publishing Services

I love movies. So does my wife. We would rather go see a movie in the theater than have an expensive night on the town. I like Clint Eastwood's films and find his spaghetti Western's are particularly entertaining for a variety of reasons. Thus, I am borrowing the title of one of those films for today's blog post.

Much has been written about what truly makes one a self-published author but that is not the point I wish to write about today. For a wide range of reasons, self-publishing authors may want to contract out the production of all or parts of their book. This may include editing, interior design, cover design and other elements of book production. The choice of print-on-demand service or a traditional press run is also important.

The metaphor might be stretched a bit today, but I want to share my experiences with The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of the industry as I have either experienced myself or had the good fortune of avoiding by doing my homework.

The Good include Dog Ear Publishing, CreateSpace, Lightning Source and Deanna Riddle.  My best selling book is Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball. Editing, interior design and cover design was done by Dog Ear Publishing and Lightning Source is the POD service responsible for printing and distribution. Some would argue the book was not truly self-published due to Dog Ear Publishing's involvement. So be it, but it was my first book and I needed the help, learned a tremendous amount and it was money well spent.

All of my other books have been published with CreateSpace and I have nothing but good things to say about CreateSpace and the service I have received. The lone drawback is the mandatory 40% discount Amazon commands if CreateSpace is the POD responsible for printing and distribution. Unlike Lightning Source which allows the short discount pricing and distribution model, CreateSpace is not flexible in its discounts.

What more can I say about Lightning Source? If you have not heard of LSI and want to learn more, I strongly suggest reading Aaron Shepard's POD for Profit which details the ins and outs and advantages of using LSI as your POD printer and distributor through Ingram. 

Deanna Riddle was the cover designer for another of my books, The Game of Basketball, and she did a superb job. She provided me with a range of cover concepts to select from and then honed the final cover until I was happy with it.

There are some good people in the self-publishing industry who willingly share information and provide advice based on years of experience and trial and error. While these individuals often do not have the time to provide individual coaching in the field of self-publishing, they have blogs, have published books and if time permits do answer e-mails. The Good in this category include Aason Shepard, author of Aiming at Amazon, Perfect Pages and POD for Profit, all of which are must reads for any aspiring author considering self-publishing. Morris Rosenthal is another self-publisher who has shared much of his knowledge via his books Print-on-Demand Book Publishing and Internet Book Marketing and his blog Self-publishing 2.0.

Christy Pinheiro has been helpful to me personally. Christy owns her own publishing company and blogs about self-publishing on The Publishing Maven, an interesting and helpful blog on self-publishing. She writes about a wide range of topics related to self-publishing and as a CPA often has insights into the business side of publishing many of us would otherwise never be aware of.

Some might argue about my inclusion of the next individual on The Good list, but if you have a sense of humor that is a bit off, you'll love the blog Book Making written by Michael Marcus. It's irreverent at times and Mr. Marcus has little to no tolerance for incompetent companies in the self-publishing industry who take advantage of aspiring authors who are in the early stages of their learning curve. Having said that, regular reading of his blog allows one to learn a great deal. Michael has a wide range of life and career experiences that provide him with different insights into self-publishing successfully and profitably, much of which he will share, in time, on his blog.

The Bad and The Ugly - I learned long ago through some negative experiences sleeping on a decision before spending money is a good thing. It helps to eliminate the impulse purchase. That's not to say I have never made a bad decision with my money, but that one practice has helped me to lessen the total number of those bad decisions. So far, I have not had many bad or ugly experiences as a self-publisher that were not of my own making.

Having said that, I purchased Brent Sampson's book Sell Your Book On Amazon and wish I had not. Mr. Sampson is the owner and president of Outskirts Press, a self-publishing services company. I admit I did learn about the existence of some marketing features available to self-publisher's on Amazon from the book, I did not learn that many of the suggested practices are frowned upon or a waste of time. You make take my statement for what it is worth. 

If you would like to "learn more" about Mr. Sampson and Outskirts Press, visit Michael Marcus' blog Book Making on a regular basis as Outskirts and Mr. Sampson are a regular subject on his blog.

Another company I have learned about through doing my homework, but not from direct experience is Lulu. To be fair, there are some positives about the company I have learned about, namely the low cost of proof copies. For authors who need a large number of review copies, this might be a good route to take to save money while actually using LSI or CreateSpace as the POD service of record to print and distribute the actual book. Again, I will point you to Michael's blog Book Making for more on Lulu.

Regardless of what you read on this blog or others, always do your due diligence and homework before spending a dime. Make the best decision you can before spending money. When things do not go as planned or as you hoped, simply learn from your mistake and move forward. Mistakes, if not fatal, are many times the best teacher.