There are many advantages to self-publishing your book. As a self-published author, I’ve found the experience to be very rewarding. It’s a lot of work, but fortunately, there are numerous resources out there to help you. Unfortunately, you need to be careful when choosing people or companies to help you. Here are some of the publishing services you need to watch out for:
Editors: Hiring an editor is one of the first things you’ll need to do once you decide to publish. You can do some of the work yourself and save money by making your manuscript as clean as possible. Enlist beta readers to find plot holes and inconsistencies. Ask ruthless friends to have a hack at it. But, before publishing, you’ll have to have at least one professional set of peepers have a peek at your manuscript. When searching for an editor, you’ll find a wide range of services and prices. So many choices! What type of editor are you looking for? Do you need someone to shift commas and fix misused words? Or, does your manuscript need a substantial amount of work before you can even consider punctuation? Different editors offer different services, so you need to know what you’re looking for. You need to be clear about your expectations. And, you need to make sure you are hiring the right editor for the job. Has your editor ever tackled a five-hundred page epic fantasy novel, or is yours the first? Does your editor even like fantasy, or are her eyes going to glaze over five pages in to your book? Is the editor a retired nun who is going to red-line all the sex scenes in your erotic romance novel? Is your editor qualified to edit anything at all? Anyone can set up a website and offer editing services. Make sure you get a referral. Read something the editor has worked on–is it well-edited, or did you find errors on the first page? Be careful what you’re paying for.
Formatting Services: If you’ve ever cruised around the KDP Select Forums, you’ve heard horror stories about formatting. There are some great free resources out there that will walk you through the formatting process. Kindle can be formatted right from a Word doc. CreateSpace has downloadable templates. There are books and websites out there. You probably have friends who have formatted and will be happy to give you some tips. But, if you abhor technology or don’t have the time to do it yourself, you can pay someone else to do it for you. Again, you’ll want to make sure the company you choose is an experienced, honest, established entity before you send your manuscript to them. Prices may vary, usually depending on how many formats you need and how long the manuscript is. A friend of mine paid under one-hundred dollars for Kindle and CreateSpace formatting. This seems reasonable compared with others I’ve seen. Always use caution when sending your manuscript to a stranger on the internet. Do some research before you hit that send button.
Cover Art: This is one of the most important marketing tools for your novel. An eye-catching cover is super-mega important. They range from about thirty dollars for a pre-made e-book cover to astronomical amounts that will make your head spin. Shop around, pick a budget, and go from there. It is possible to find an affordable cover, but be careful. Don’t try to make your own cover unless you have some serious skills. Don’t let your six-year-old make your cover with the Microsoft Paint program. And, don’t be tempted to snatch images from Google to create your own cover. If you’re skilled enough to make your own cover, be prepared to spend money on stock images (double-check licensing agreements before using). If you pay an artist who uses photo-manipulation, make sure they have the rights to use the images they are using. Ask questions before hiring an artist.
Marketing and Promotion: There are some great tools out there, many of which are free (Facebook, Twitter, telling your mom to buy your book). Marketing a book is hard work. You can pay for Google ads, Facebook ads, or Goodreads ads, but this can get expensive. Start with a small budget and see what works. There are services out there that claim to help self-published authors. I’ve never used one, but I’ve had a few contact me on my Authors to Watch site. They always approach me on behalf of ‘clients.’ I never respond. It’s infuriating because these ‘clients’ are paying thousands of dollars to be featured on promotional blogs like mine–free blogs that are always happy to help new authors. I never charge for a spot on my site. Most blogs don’t. I have paid for a blog tour. A blog tour is a great way to get a dozen reviews, interviews, and book features over the course of a week for two. I’m happy to pay a nominal fee (forty dollars or so) for someone else to organize this. I am NOT willing to pay hundreds of dollars for someone to do the very same thing. If an online service wants to charge you hundreds of dollars for what is essentially a blog tour and a couple of spots on blog-talk online radio show, run! If someone offers to get your book noticed by millions of readers, they’re probably full of crap.
Self-Publishing Supermarkets: There are lots of services out there that offer to help you self-publish your book for a low, low fee of several thousand dollars. They make it look so easy–they do all the editing, formatting, cover art, and even offer marketing and promotion! What more can you ask for? How about a second mortgage on your home? I’m all for streamlining and making life easier. Hey, no one is lazier than I am. But, I’m also cheap. And, I know if I break down all these services offered in “premium platinum packages” I’m paying way more than I have to. What are these services really offering? Can you do some of these things yourself for free? Will you have to sell your first born child to pay for their packages? Be super careful with these services.
Book Review Services: Okay, here’s where it gets tricky. It’s okay to pay for a blog tour that sets up potential reviews as long as the reviewers aren’t being paid. Let me rephrase–it’s okay to pay for organizational services, but it is not okay to pay for a review. There are services out there that pay reviewers to give five star reviews on books. No, really! I saw an advertisement on Craigs List when I was job hunting. Here’s how it works–the author pays a service to get them some good reviews. Some of these services charge four-hundred dollars for one review!!! The service that was advertising on Craigs List pays reviewers twenty-five dollars per review. Hmm. Someone is making lots of money. (It isn’t me, by the way.) If you decide to use one of these services, please don’t tell me about it because I don’t want to know. I’ll be very disappointed. Very.
Well, that about it sums it up. The moral of this post (and all my posts like this one) is this: Be careful out there. You worked hard on your book–you should be working just as hard to make sure you have a polished finished product. Don’t throw away all that hard work by publishing a poorly editing, badly covered book. And, don’t part with your hard earned money unless you know what you’re getting in return.
I’m sure there’s lots of stuff I either didn’t think of or forgot about, so please feel free to add to the conversation.