Saturday, November 17, 2018

Pitfalls of Self-Publishing and How to Avoid Them

Because self-publishing is now accepted as a reputable method of getting a book out to the public, inexperienced writers must be on their guard to keep from being defrauded of their money. 


Companies like Xlibris, Author Solution and others are accused of manipulating writers into paying big bucks for the company to print the book, and then coming back with outrageous prices to market it. Law suits are ongoing against these companies. One woman was offered a book trailer and offers to send her manuscript to movie connections in Hollywood "because the book is perfect for a movie script." No one has sympathy for those who fall for these scams. Some say, "author beware." But I know it is easy to fall for something that we see online or see in an ad and before we know it, we have fallen for a fraud that costs us much money.  Read this article to learn more about scams in publishing. 

The author is asked by Xlibris to pay tens of thousands of dollars for extra services which are useless or are never given. I will never forget the woman author who came to me fifteen years ago with a poorly written book that she said she had paid a company $20,000 to publish for her. The trunk of her car was filled with boxes of the books which she had not sold. She asked for my help in selling this book.

I had to tell her straight. Her ears had been filled with enough bull manure already, and she needed some honesty. 

First, I told her to take writing lessons and learn to be the best writer she could be. 
Second, I told her to forget the first book and chalk it up to a very bad investment. I urged her to join a writing critique group. After much editing by herself and other writers, send her next book to a professional editor before submitting to anyone.
Third, I told her she should research legitimate publishers, small presses or large, and submit her work to them first.
Fourth, be open to the publishers' edits and any changes they think are needed.
Fifth, be prepared to do her own marketing and have a plan in place as to how she will find and reach her readers, no matter how the book is published.

Today I would add more to my advice for her or anyone:
Begin to build an online presence through Facebook or blogging years before your book is to be published. Grow your email list. Prepare a mailing list of everyone you know. You will send these people postcards with your book cover on the front.

If you want control over your book, how it looks, what is inside, you might want to self-publish. Just remember, self-publishing also means marketing your own book. No self-publishing company will spend thousands of dollars to market your book, not unless you pay them thousands of dollars to do so. 

My most recent book, co-authored with Estelle Rice, was not published by a traditional publishing company. We hired Old Mountain Press whose owner/publisher is Tom Davis, to format the book for printing, create the cover with my help, and then we sent the manuscript to a printing company he recommends. We signed the contract with them and in a couple of weeks several boxes of books arrived at my door. Most of them are gone now into the hands of eager readers. The cost of printing the book is paid. So, we will order more books delivered to us.

Most of our books are sold face to face and we want to reach out to as many people as we can before going to Amazon.  At the present time, City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC is the only store where our books can be found on the shelves. I would like for readers to order from them online, www.citylightsnc.com, if not ordering from us at Blue Heaven Press.

Authors should be aware that when a book is sold by a bookstore, the store gets a percentage of the retail price. Amazon takes much of the profit on a book, so authors need to sell lots and lots of books on Amazon to make anything. (Light bulb moment?) That might be why most writers don't get rich. That is why self-publishing is popular - the author actually makes a little money on her book.

The business of writing is not what we writers enjoy. We like to write, but we don't like promoting our own books or selling our books. If we don't promote our books, who will? Not the publishers and not the booksellers. Tell people where they can buy your books, tell people why they should buy your books, and tell people how much you appreciate their buying your books. 
But don't tell people: "Buy my book."
The readers of books want to know what your book is going to do for them. Why would they like your book? Why should they purchase your book? What was your purpose in writing your book? Do you know the answers to these questions?

If so, you should be able to promote your book and sell it. 

Most writers don't think about marketing a book until it is in their hands. Too late. Be careful of the predators in publishing. Don't be scammed out of thousands of dollars when it is not necessary to publish a book and sell it. Join a legitimate literary organization like NC Writers' Network and get to know writers who are happy to help you and give you good advice. Find a writing group or create your own. In Western NC we have writing groups in almost every county south of Asheville. Visit www.netwestwriters.blogspot.com or www.ncwriters-west.org to learn more. 

More on self-publishing:  http://www.ncwriters.org/whitecross/2014/11/18/self-published-the-numbers-dont-lie/


2 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

And please, please don't stint on editing. I suspect many authors are too close to their baby to see its flaws. And sadly there WILL be flaws.

Glenda Council Beall said...

Writers cannot see their own flaws. I can tell you from experience, I missed many flaws when editing Paw, Claws, Hooves, Feathers and Fins. We just don't see the mistakes no matter how many times we read our work. It takes the eyes of others to see and help us correct those errors. And, we need editors who can help with content as well as punctuation, etc.
But, we learn from our mistakes and hopefully, will do a better job next time.