A good word processor is an essential writing and editing tool, but many authors struggle with expense, computer problems and software issues. Though Microsoft Word is the standard for word processing, there are excellent, free and commercial alternatives.
I do encourage you to use Microsoft Word. It’s not cheap, has an annoying tendency to try to think for you, is bloated with too many difficult-to-turn-off features and long menus with cryptic choices—but it’s the standard. It has excellent spelling and grammar check features and a suite of essential editing and annotation tools. Continue reading →
There are plenty of good reasons to self-publish, but not all are profit-oriented or even rational. Before you invest in your book, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself some serious questions.
Why did I write my book?
If the answer is, “I don’t really know. I had a story inside me and it just had to come out,” you’re the sincerest kind of writer, but you may not have a good product upon which to build a publishing business.
Who is my book for?
If the answer is “anybody who loves a good tale with a surprise ending,” you may have a great story and a well-written book, but you may not have a good product upon which to build a publishing business.
What are my goals as a publisher?
If the answer involves the bestseller list, Oprah, selling movie rights to Warner Brothers and licensing a series of toys based on your characters, your ambition is admirable but your expectations for massive success with a startup venture in an industry with which you have no experience are probably unrealistic.
What’s my time and money budget?
If the answer is “I can part with a few thou and I’m willing to work a few days a week after the kids are off to school,” you’re typical and your dedication still counts, but you may not have the time and capital upon which to build a publishing business.
A great technology is getting a bad rap for the wrong reasons. Print On Demand (POD) technology is often mislabeled “Publish On Demand,” which consequently associates it with the Vanity Publishing world; a realm inhabited by a few reputable operators and a large number of scammers waiting to prey on naive writers.
While it’s true most Vanity Publishers do rely on POD technology, the majority of reputable self-publishers and many small traditional publishers do, too. POD is entirely disconnected from matters related to whether you own your own ISBN numbers, share rights and royalties with a third party, own your cover artwork or choose one distribution chain over another. After all the business arrangements are decided on, a file is sent to a POD printer and books are then manufactured to order in quantities as small as a single book. POD is a digital printing technology, not a business strategy or a scam. Continue reading →
I was participating in a forum discussion about self-publishing where the topic starter expressed legitimate concerns about poorly written, poorly edited and poorly designed self-published books ruining the market for those of us who work hard to produce books of the highest quality.
“All the connections, marketing strategies, publicity packages, and so on won’t save a mediocre book from itself.”
I’d like to believe this is true. It’s the writer in me. The good guy should win. And I’m the one always pushing for excellence. Nobody likes a story where the main character struggles to be the best, works hard, overcomes obstacles, gambles it all on a long shot and then…nothing happens.
You can have the best book in the world, but chances are, it’s the best because it was written from the heart, not as a well-placed product for market distribution. The book still has to be excellent, but the big money is in mediocre books that are excellently marketed – not the other way around. If you want a quick parallel, turn on top 40 radio for as long as you can stand it.
Sadly, good marketing saves mediocre books from themselves all the time.
We self-publishers have to be that much better and that much more clever with our marketing strategies and cover designs—and that still may not do the trick. Continue reading →
If you’re hoping to have mainstream bookstore distribution, using a Vanity Press may present some obstacles. Book buyers will likely tell you, “your book may be excellent, but you’re using a Vanity Publisher and the vast majority of their books are poorly edited. We’d have to read hundreds of their titles before locating a gem. We have neither the manpower nor the time to spend on that endeavor.” While this isn’t true of all Vanity Publishers, it’s true of many.
There is a difference between engaging a Vanity Publisher and being a Self-Publisher with your own imprint. A Vanity Publisher charges others to publish their works and then uses a service like LSI to do their Print on Demand printing. A Self-Publisher with their own imprint and their own ISBNs can use either a traditional offset printer, an offshore printer or a POD printer depending on their needs and circumstances. Apparently, many book buyers won’t consider POD-printed books citing the same concerns they have about Vanity Publishers.
Having your own publishing entity won’t guarantee bookstores will be willing to carry your book for many of the same reasons they won’t carry a vanity published book, but it can protect your work from “guilt by association.” What’s clear is serious self-publishers must maintain the highest standards of design and production or risk being sucked under by the tide of mediocre books retreating into the ocean of well-meaning do-it-yourselfers. Continue reading →
There is a tendency to refer to “POD Publishers” with disdain, but POD is just a printing technology. I use Lightning Source for printing, own my own ISBN numbers and retain all of my rights. I do my own design and layout. “Vanity Press” is the term most often associated with companies who offer book production packages, take a share of royalties or rights and bundle your work into their “publisher’s catalog”—and I think the more reputable vanity presses can be a good fit for many writers.
Lightning Source is a printer. iUniverse is a vanity press. Both use POD technology. I suggest a distinction between “POD Printers” and “Vanity Presses” with the term “publishing” reserved for those who own their own ISBNs, rights and royalties. If you publish through Xlibris or iUniverse, technically, you’re not self-publishing, but whether that distinction is important varies according to individual circumstances and points of view.
Irrespective of intellectual property considerations and who facilitates production, without POD, we’d all be sitting on stacks of books, handling fulfillment ourselves, and praying for the day when we get our closet space back.
The following is something I posted on a discussion forum in response to someone who asked for a critique on about a dozen of their self-designed book covers.
Since you asked for a critique, I’ll pick on you, but with the caveat that you make many of the same errors everyone else does. I’m using you as a catalyst to educate rather than to make an example of.
The sore spot for me (and with many of my university design students, by the way—you’re in good company) is the typography. Continue reading →
My only difference with the article is based on the following assertion:
The top-five Kindle selling authors of all-time, over 500,000 copies each, are all fiction writers (including Stieg Larsson, Stephanie Meyer, and others). In the top-50 Kindle bestsellers right now, I counted just three (3!) non-fiction books. If you’re a non-fiction author, I’d think carefully before jumping the gun to all digital.
My challenge, posted as a comment (plenty of excellent commentary on this post worth reading) is as follows.
Great post and excellent commentary following.
I’d like to differ with one perspective. You make conclusions about the fiction vs. non-fiction eBook markets based on statistics for the top 50 books. These are likely to be driven mostly by outside sources such as book reviews. You suggest that since only two non-fiction books are in that top 50, fiction is the better market.
But like local bands who never sign with a record label but bring in the dancers and drinkers night after night, there are excellent opportunities for writers to make decent income well below the #50 slot on the list. It’s not a get rich game, but it can mean decent money and indy writers don’t have to set their sites on the top of a pyramid controlled by mega-industry.
Many eBook selections are made after people search for specific topics, and in these cases, success has to do mostly with your findability on Amazon. My novel is a needle in the fiction haystack, but my One Hour Guide to Self-Publishing shows up near the top on a kindle book search two weeks after being published.
Consider sampling the top 5,000-10,000 books before directing writers towards fiction as their best opportunity. I’m a novelist at heart, but I’m betting my publishing business on nonfiction. Fiction is an art product, while nonfiction provides a solution to a need recognized by a reader in search of an answer. That sounds like a sounder business proposition to me.
All the best and thank you,
Ultimately, while anything is possible, the odds are enormously against an unknown writer producing a blockbuster mega-hit. However, indy writers get to keep a much larger slice of their smaller pie. Selling a few thousand books can bring in some nice financial rewards regardless of whether that places you anywhere near the top-50 list, and Amazon searchability has much to do with whether people will find your answer to their problem or not. Nonfiction has a distinct advantage, here.