This is Part Three in my continuing series of posts on the very basics of self-publishing books. This part discusses print-on-demand publishing—an indie author’s best friend (print-wise, at least).
One development that has made self-publishing much more feasible is print-on-demand technology. Instead of having to pay for hundreds or thousands of books per print run at a time, books can now be produced in single units or more at a time, as needed.
The quality of print-on-demand (or POD) books has increased over time and is as good as books produced by Big Six publishers. This makes POD the no-brainer option for most authors. There may be exceptional cases in which a POD press may not fit your needs, so do your research before choosing your printer.
Authors have a choice of POD publishing options that include the following:
- vanity presses;
- author services companies (which I define to mean a company that gives authors the means to self-publish and provides editorial and other services for a fee); or
- completely self-publishing under a trade name and producing print books through a POD company such as IngramSpark (a publishing and distribution platform created by Lightning Source for indie authors and small publishers) or KDP Print (a publishing and distribution arm of Amazon).
A vanity press is a company that charges authors to publish their books. Four words: don’t waste your money. As an indie author, when you publish your work, you should be able to put it up on a distribution platform (without cost, in the case of ebooks), and be compensated in the form of royalties.
So … rule one for indie authors: do not, I repeat, do not pay a company up front simply to publish a book. Just don’t. You have too many options available to throw money at a company to publish your books these days. Period.
Do not even consider unsolicited queries from alleged “self-publishing companies.” No reputable company has to look for authors. Authors tend to look for them, right? 🙂
If you have any questions about the legitimacy of a particular publisher, check with Writer Beware to see if they’ve shown up on their radar.
Author services companies are a little different. Examples include Lulu.com and so many others now, that frankly I
couldn’t care less don’t bother keeping track of them. These companies won’t charge you just to publish your book. They will charge you for editing, formatting, cover art and other optional pre-publication services, but note that these additional services are optional not required. That’s the difference between these companies and vanity presses. No one at Lulu or any other so-called “hybrid publisher,” “assisted publishing company,” or whatever the hell they’re called this week should force you to pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars up front.
However, you will be responsible for finding someone to format your book (as a PDF file) to meet the publication requirements. Unless you choose to go DIY on that, which totally can be done. If you don’t want to, it’s easy enough to use fiverr.com or another service like UpWork.com to hire a freelancer to provide the following services:
- develop the cover art;
- format the print and ebook versions
- edit the book’s content; and
- copyedit and/or proofread the book.
In addition, when you publish through an author services company, if you choose to let them be the publisher of record, they will pay for the ISBN (a number assigned to every book – more on this in the next blog post). As a matter of record, the publisher will be the author services company, but the rights continue to be the author’s. The author gets paid a royalty, just like under a traditional publishing contract.
Essentially, if you’re only planning to publish one or two titles or you feel like you need help with price setting and getting an ISBN, an author services company could be the right option for you.
However, if you publish directly through a POD publisher like IngramSpark, you are entirely your own publisher. You establish your own account. You register your own trade name or d/b/a (which stands for “doing business as”). You are responsible for buying your own ISBN. You keep all the profits. In other words, you skip the middleman entirely. This will cost you a $49 set-up fee for each of your titles, which IngramSpark has been known to waive when they run the occasional special deal. You can sign up for your own IngramSpark account here. Learn more about IngramSpark’s features and cost by clicking here.
On the subject of being your own publisher, this can also be done using KDP Print
or whatever it’s called now. However, if you want bookstores to carry your books, I’d suggest going with IngramSpark instead. As an indie author, most of your bookstore sales will probably be made by taking the effort to contact local booksellers directly. If they hear that you use an Amazon-owned company to publish and distribute your print books, I can almost guarantee you’ll get a frosty reception. These days, Amazon is acting as publisher, bookseller, movie studio, streaming service, and retailer in many other sectors, among many other things. They may even have a brick-and-mortar store competing with indie bookstores in your area. Small booksellers can hardly be blamed for not wanting to carry your book if it’s being published by their biggest and most formidable competitor.
However, being your own publisher entails responsibility and work. The decision to do this depends on how much time, effort and money you’re willing to invest in it.
Next week: What are ISBNs and how do you get them?