As we trek through the various methods available to those who genuinely want to dip their toes into getting a romance book published, we have addressed “vanity presses”, e-book publishers, and we have touched on a few aspects of print and ink publishers. Today I will address the pros and cons of self publishing. In my last article, we reviewed e-publishers, and the benefits of having a full service publisher who provides cover art, editing services, and promotion services. Of course, if you will recall, print publishers do the same, but it’s far harder to get a foot in the door there, because of the costs we discussed. And the last thing you want to do is find yourself with a print publisher who does absolutely nothing to market and sell your books. I discussed that kind of publisher in my article about “vanity and “so-called” publishers”.
Self publishing is a God-send to authors who simply cannot find a “niche” in the publishing world. Authors whose books just don’t “fit” with any of the many e-book or print publishing concerns, or simply don’t seem to have an “audience”. Using the self-publishing resources I will discuss today can put your book front and center on the Internet…but not all self-published books will find a “niche” and create a stir like some of the highly-touted books seen in the news of late. In fact, 90% of self published books never make it into the limelight, although they may sell hundreds, or perhaps thousands of copies. Selling one hundred copies of a 99 cent book will garner the author about $35.00 at 35% royalty levels. That’s not a large return on a hundred hours of work. But it is practice for the future. And it’s nothing to sneeze at.
Using the FREE self-publishing tools at Smashwords, Amazon, or CreateSpace (print books that are POD), an author can get his or her books published without paying for a vanity press, asking for help from a subsidy press, or going through a publisher who purports to be a “traditional publisher” but who holds your book hostage for up to ten years. The pros of self-publishing using the free tools are obvious…a writer can upload his or her book to the tool, and voila! You are published! The costs are relatively low…Amazon gives kindle books a free ASIN. Print books require a publisher’s ISBN or even a UPC code. Other publishers may issue you an ISBN under their publishing umbrella, but for those who want to keep total control, ISBNs are available from a specific company that is licensed to sell them to any publisher who needs them.
One of the concerns an author should be attentive to is the genuine need to find a competent, professional editor to go over the manuscript. Unless you are very experienced and extremely talented with proofreading and content editing, a good editor is a MUST. If you choose not to use an editor, your book may not have the high quality and the excellent content readers are looking for in a great book. Editors research things…like word usage…correct grammar…and they are very concerned with repeat words, excessive usage of certain terms that can grate on a reader’s nerves, etc. (I know…I drive my poor editor to distraction from time to time!)
If you write historical romance books, you’d better be an expert in the period of history you are writing about, or your readers will instantly know…and believe me, it can be embarrassing when a fan writes to tell you that you blew it.
Of course, professional editors don’t work for free. Fees range from 3 cents per word to 10 cents per word. And that can add up if you have a 100,000 word book! (Another reason to think about going with a good e-book publisher.) And editors do earn their money. I have done a bit of editing, and know how much work it is, especially if the author is a newbie and has very little experience.
Another possible expense for self-publishing is cover art. Over the past few years, cover art has become easier to find, and far better. There are stock photo companies who sell stock photos of about anything…and reasonably. If you are looking for royalty-free stock photos, simply Google or use your own favorite search engine with the words “royalty free photos”. And get yourself a good photo-editing program like Photoshop. There is also good free software available. Learn to do your own great titles. But if you can’t, there are some pre-fab ready-made romance novel covers out there that are great! And fairly affordable.
Yet another possible expense is self-promo of your books. You should have a special website or blog with a large following. Or join several author/reader Yahoo Groups. Having your own book-related or author-related website is a very important thing. Nowadays, most readers will run a search for your pen name or the title of your book. Professionally run websites or blogs cost you money, so get some experience and do the best you can on your own, or be prepared to pay out for professional help.
Now, the “cons” of self-publishing are pretty routine.
- A poorly presented or badly edited book does you no service. Make certain that the book you self-publish is as good as it can possibly be.
- Readers are most discerning. They demand good books. If they get a “dud”, they aren’t embarrassed to quite rudely shoot down your attempt in the “reviews” section of the publishing website. It doesn’t matter if the book was a “free read” or if they paid $10 for it…a very badly written book can be a real downer. Make certain it is clean and well-written and entertaining.
- Review and research before you choose your self-publishing service. Use the best free service you can find. Each has its good points and not-so-good points.
- A bad cover can break your book before it’s even bought. Create a beautiful cover that draws readers.
When you choose to self-publish, you are telling your readers that you are good at this stuff. That you don’t require help. You don’t want them to regret purchasing your book. Entertained, happy readers are future buyers. You build a reader base by giving your fans what they want and need.
Got all that? Good. Next column will be about what readers of romance want in a great romance book. Just in case you are interested… :)