Deciding to self-publish your book is not easy. Deciding who to work with is even harder.
* The aim of this blog post is definitely not a Work with us, we are the best! kinda thing. We are not, and we know that. Maybe there is no “best”, anyway.
Beware vanity publishers! POD is the best!, POD doesn’t make sense!, Don’t do this!, Why don’t you do this? etc. . . You hear all kinds of advice, and it’s getting confusing, isn’t it?
Here is the truth: Every publishing service and method has its own pros and cons. There are many professional publishing services out there that will fit your needs. But there are also some bad apples in the bag. Luckily it’s not so hard to eliminate them.
Know who is doing what
No service in the world offers you everything at the same time—in the same quality. Every service focuses on one area and makes all the other things secondary. Some services focus on local distribution, some offer free e-book conversation, some are strong on offset printing, some others publish only e-books, some focus on picture books, some do adult fiction. . . . You decide what your primary goals and needs are for your book. Research which services can do it best for you. If one service claims they are the best at everything, read “Ask Yourself” below.
Ask Uncle Google
In the age of the internet, everything is becoming more transparent, and it’s great for a customer. Check out what people say about the service you found. Try a Twitter search if Google doesn’t give you enough.
Ask your friends
Your friends might have heard about various services; ask them. Ask your writing group. Ask your social media groups. It’s a small world, after all.
Ask the services themselves
Ask direct questions to the service. For example, if you told us, “I have an e-book project, 300 pages long with no illustrations,” we would say something like, “We focus on children’s books, but why don’t you go with Book Cover Cafe?”
Ask their clients
Find former clients of the service. Send them e-mails. I believe most of them would answer you. They are writers like you, after all: they are nice people.
You found a service and it looks great. They offer everything, they are the best service in the world, they will make you rich and famous, plus they will charge you only $500 for all these amazing things.
Whenever you see something too good to be true, ask yourself if that is really possible? If the answer is “No,” you just eliminated a bad apple. Bravo.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is it really possible to make you famous and make your book a bestseller around the world for $500? Even traditional publishers, let’s say Penguin, with tens of thousands of bucks for promotion wouldn’t promise that. So if someone promises you they will make your book a bestseller with their 100%-guaranteed formula, run away.
- Is it really possible to put your book on every bookshelf in the whole world? Think of your local book shop. Now put two million books on the shelves. Do they fit? If not, now think about why a small bookstore, let’s say in Boston when you live in Texas and your book is about Texas, would have your book on their shelves? (Published book count on 2015 – Worldwide, 2.200.000.000)
- Is it really possible to make a success-guaranteed marketing plan for you for $300? Even when you are working with global marketing agencies, with millions of dollars, there is no guarantee that your marketing plan will succeed. It’s half science, half art, and another half luck.
- Is it really possible that a small company has thousands of partners all over the world? Using Amazon’s distribution channels for a book means using Amazon’s distribution channels, not partnering with Amazon or all their distributors. You can use Amazon’s distribution channels all by yourself.
- Is it really possible to make you rich? I won’t say there are no writers earning a lot through self-publishing. But promising that? Really?
- Is it really possible to design a book cover for $20? If yes, how many minutes will designer work on it? Will they even read your book first? Understand the concept? Decide the typography after tens of “not the best” ones? Think about the hook?
- Is it really possible to edit your 200-page book for $20? Don’t get me wrong, but a professional editor wouldn’t even read the first chapter for $20.
- Is it really possible to design your whole book for $100 and make unlimited revisions? Someday, I’ll buy a service like that for $100. Then I will ask for one revision every day, for years. Just for fun. Sounds crazy? I’m not the crazy one; the guy who’s offering this “free” service is. Obviously, this relationship will end up with some hard feelings on one side or the other.
I am not saying “You get what you pay for.” Although that is kind of true, a service that costs you an arm and a leg won’t necessarily be the answer to all of your questions. You still need to ask “What I am paying for?”
The bottom line is, if it’s looking too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. You may be looking at a “bad apple.”