This is Vanity Publishing, but that’s not always a bad thing…

Last week I talked about the other options, beyond Amazon, for self-publishers. There were a few interesting comments from people recommending various companies which offer to publish you for various amounts of cash, so that’s what I’m going to think about today.

It used to be called Vanity Publishing. In the days of print-only, you could pay to have your book produced and printed. There may or may not have been a certain level of editing. Some authors did well. They went on tours and gave talks, and their work was of sufficient quality that people bought it. Occasionally, the author would be picked up by a publishing house, and everyone was very happy.

Some authors were scammed or misled. Some thought they would get more of a service than they did. Some ended up with boxes of shoddy product rotting in their garage. Some paid over the odds.

Some were happy with just seeing their work in print.

The comments recommended to me various companies which now describe themselves as offering “services to authors” or “self-publish with us.” Whether it is ebook or print, this is still vanity publishing.

It’s such a negative phrase and I don’t think vanity publishing is a bad thing at all. Seriously! Why shouldn’t businesses offer services to authors who want to be published? It’s a shame it’s called “vanity” really.

HOWEVER. What I am talking about in these blogs is NOT about any of this. Why? Because I don’t have any experience in using these companies, that’s why. And my gut feeling is that they might not be the best option for everyone. They charge an awful lot for stuff you can learn to do yourself very quickly and easily.

Look at it another way. Let’s say someone offers to format, convert and upload your ebook for £300. You have to provide an edited copy and the cover. Is this a bargain deal?

Hell NO. How much are you worth per hour? £20? This might take you 5 hours to do correctly the first time. Bill yourself £100 and save yourself that other £200. I can now format, convert and upload in about 30 minutes. Will you give me £300 if you know how easy that is?

Amazon KDP takes Word Docs for heaven’s sake. So does Smashwords. Draft2Digital takes a word doc and provides you with shiny mobi files that they expressly say that you can use anywhere else! Calibre is a free ebook converter (though the files it produces won’t pass the iTunes checker, they will go through Kobo fine).

Look very closely at the deal you are thinking of paying out for. If it’s just formatting, conversion and uploading – walk away. Do yourself a favour. Do it yourself!

Editing and covers do cost. It is a rare writer indeed who can edit their own work. Partnering up with another author will be the best thing you can do – edit each other’s for free. If you can’t, then you must leave your work aside for as long as you can bear, and edit it with fresh eyes.

Covers are vital. Readers really do judge you on covers. You can spend a fun few hours scanning Amazon and spotting the amateurs. If you MUST do your own, here are the tips: get GIMP which is free image editing software, and learn how to use layers. Go to dafont.com and get Open Source fonts  – check the licences! And go to a stock photography site and pay for the images you are going to use. Respect other people’s property and hard work! Do you want someone to pirate your book? No. So don’t pirate images. I recommend 123rf.com, but I have also used fotolia and dreamstime.

See? Even “free” self-publishing is not free. So choose very carefully the services you are going to pay for, and what you ought to do yourself. None of this justifies a £1000 price tag.

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  1. #1 by autumnbarlow on February 4, 2013 - 10:13 am

    And there’s this on the BBC website today: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21205372

  2. #2 by drewdog2060drewdog2060 on February 1, 2013 - 8:26 pm

    You make a number of good points. When I published my collection of short stories, The First Time I paid just under £400 to have my manuscript formatted, to be sent to approximately 200 ebook retailers and the design of a book cover. Had I paid for proof reading or the book to be produced as Print on Demand the price would have risen further. I’m considering publishing the book on which I am currently working, Samantha myself rather than using the services of a self-publishing company.

    • #3 by autumnbarlow on February 4, 2013 - 10:13 am

      Yes – people do need to remember that publishing is a business, and when you self publish you become, effectively, a business, which will cost money. But you can be clever about where you spend that money. You might find you can do your own formatting and use the cash saved to have it proofread perhaps.

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