When I first started on this journey, I was confident of only one thing: I would have a lot to learn. Needless to say, I wasn’t wrong. In fact, I was being too conservative in my estimation! Self-publishing is a wonderful, scary thing. I had, many years ago, discovered that the world of publishing had three routes to getting into print: finding a literary agent willing to take you on (along with your money) so that they might make a deal with a large publishing house, finding a small publishing house specialising in your favoured genre, or being suckered into “vanity publishing” (whereby your masterwork is printed and bound just as you’d wish, regardless of quality, errors or other blunders, and having the delightful task of hawking your published book to every bookshop you could get to, unless you wanted stacks of boxes of your book, unread by anybody). The one beauty of this was the simplicity of it. Today, things are nowhere near as simple.
Very recently, I had my first ever sale of priced ebook! It will sound silly but I was ecstatic and would have capered with joy if able. The ebook is self-published through Smashwords. They provide an excellent service, and I have no complaints. In fact, I consider myself immensely lucky to have found them first, before discovering the numerous alternatives. In a very short space of time, I have learnt that the service sites differ widely (and wildly, at times). They may shout about a “free service”, and provide just that, but the quality of that service is another matter. On just one issue, I have found that Smashwords is unusual. You can publish your ebook and offer it for free, in multiple formats that will serve the vast majority of eReaders. Some others will allow you just one format, or perhaps more than one as long as the prospective reader is willing to pay membership fees. Many will allow you to self-publish for free, but insist on you charging a minimum price for your ebook. There are several other factors, too.
Apart from these “free service” sites, there are publishers clamouring for submissions, allegedly. Some of these are seemingly legitimate, though I can’t vouch for any. They offer all that you could want, from editing, through proofreading to professional cover design. Of course, it all comes at a price, which varies considerably between publishers. Most of these are actually offering real, printed books. Some, if not most, of these publishers don’t print a quantity, however. They print on demand, when an order is received. It’s a very sensible concept, in many ways. The potential pitfalls, however, are that your book won’t appear on any book shop’s shelves, unless it’s second-hand, and just what happens if the company folds? You could find yourself with a pile of orders (let’s be optimistic) and no way to fill them! How so? Well, you’ll find that, as is commonplace with all self-publishing, you take on an enormous burden – marketing! You will lose a significant amount of writing time to publicise your book, creating promotions, giveaways, and various other devices to try to win an audience. Of course, you could pay another company to do all that for you, or the publisher (really more of a printer than a publisher) may offer the service for a hike in their fees.
There is, of course, still the option of finding, satisfying, and paying a literary agent to do it all for you – at least as far as getting published is concerned. And there are still traditional publishing houses, many of whom disguise themselves under the names of various less well known names. You will, naturally, still find the same old obstacles to dealing direct with these big publishers.
Having a publishing option sorted, you may want to recheck the terms and conditions, and any royalties arrangement. There are services out there where you will be expected to give them exclusive rights, which really isn’t a good idea. The amount of royalties offered varies widely, too. Be wary on this one! A service that has only just started up and hasn’t yet gotten a proven record of success could offer a high royalty rate, but then you may not sell anything through them. You also have to beware of things like transaction fees ns other ways to minimise what you actually receive! So, don’t sign over any rights and make sure that royalties are fair and that fees are minimal or non-existent.
Ah, the joys of self-publishing…