Today I’m writing on a topic which has been on my mind for a while, that of why pay for someone to publish your book versus doing it yourself. I admit, part of my intention in writing this is to come to the defence of people like myself who are sometimes considered imbeciles or losers for doing so. On the other hand, I’d like to share my experience in the hopes of helping someone considering this option.
Still, the question is valid. With resources like CreateSpace, Smashwords, etc., why pay to get your book published?
My knee-jerk reaction? Have you seen some of these books? My husband bought me a Kobo a few years ago and I was so excited! Cheap books, some offered for free, which I could load into it and go off into Book Heaven! Hello!! It was too good to be true!
You know what? In a lot of cases, it was. Some books were so badly written I never finished them. Or, the covers were so awful or the pitches and blurbs so badly done I passed them by, never giving them a chance because I figured, if they don’t have a decent cover or blurb, what’s the inside like? (Harsh judgement I know, but there’s good reason why authors are encouraged to spend a little to create an attractive cover and invest time in getting their blurbs right). That’s also when I realized that self-publishing was exploding and that regular Joes like me were writing and publishing their own books. Needless to say, the experience turned me off my Kobo for a long, long time.
So, almost two years ago now, I finished writing my second book and felt it was good enough to publish. Being new to publishing, I did my research and first tried the traditional route. I queried, slaved over pitches and synopsises, suffered rejection after rejection. Then I submitted directly to publishers and was even offered a contract, which I refused in the end. I decided traditional publishing wasn’t for me and that I wanted to self-publish. But how? Thinking of my past Kobo experiences, I couldn’t stand the idea of putting something out there that was subpar. After all, that book would be the first taste many readers would have of my work, so to my mind it had to be the best it could be.
I looked into a few online do-it-yourself sites and even uploaded the book to try one out, but encountered so many formatting problems I eventually gave up. After researching more of these sites, I discovered many other people were suffering the same difficulty. Could I have persevered and gotten through it? Sure. But I took stock of a few things: I work full-time, have a family, write every free moment available, and have to do this thing called ‘brand-building’ which is time consuming. Amongst other things. Back then, I didn’t feel I had the time or energy to wrestle with the problem. So I didn’t. (Note that it’s possible that these issues have been corrected and publishing with these services now could be easier than it was then).
I also found other sites which would publish my book without any upfront fees but rather asked for a small portion of sales in exchange for their cover and distribution services, only they didn’t offer editing. Whether I used a service like that or an online one, I knew I would have to pay for a final edit. Editing isn’t cheap. I’ve used the same editor twice and she gives me a discount because the manuscripts are pretty clean, and I still find it’s a big chunk of change. With this in mind, I came to the conclusion that if I had to pay for editing anyway, and if I didn’t have the time or skills needed to use an online publishing site myself, then why not pay a little more and have someone else handle the headaches I wasn’t prepared to?
So I did.
But here are a few things to consider:
1) I negotiated. I told the company that their price was more than I could pay and countered with an amount I was willing to pay. That meant leaving out some of the less essential services and/or coming up with solutions to cover the services I opted not to get (see next point). The worst they could say was no, and if they did, I’d move on. No biggie. In fact, I expected them to refuse and was surprised when they didn’t.
2) Because I chose to drop certain services from the package, I had to come up with alternatives. In my case, I chose to eliminate the art-related things (cover design and promotional materials) because my husband is a graphic designer and he offered to do the work for me. I’m extremely picky about visuals and book covers so this suited me fine; I knew he could deliver what I wanted.
It’s true that now, almost two years later, by virtue of researching, building connections, and having gone through this publishing experience, I am better equipped than I was then. If I decide to publish again, the idea of using CreateSpace or a similar service isn’t as intimidating. At the time, however, new and inexperienced as I was, getting the support of people who are in the business seemed like a good option in order to produce something I could be proud of.
And I am. 🙂