By Ron Pramschufer, President , Self Publishing, Inc. – Helping Authors Become Publishers since 1995
I have been a self-publishing advocate for many years. Until recently, I would have told you that you should always self-publish as long as you go into it with your eyes open. I’m not sure whether it’s my age, the economy, the political climate or what, but I definitely approach this subject differently today.
Writing is a love and publishing is a business. This is the way I start every seminar I’ve presented over the past 15 years. This fact has not changed. It’s one thing to love writing. It’s yet another to be able to take that writing, no matter how good it is, and turn it into a commercially viable book.
The vanity press industry, headed by companies like Author House, WestBow Press, Publish America and the likes, have done a huge disservice to authors, specifically, and the publishing industry, in general. The “If you can get it into the computer, we can make you a published author” mentality has so diluted the whole process and flooded the entire marketplace with so much junk, it is becoming harder and harder for a true self-publisher to be taken seriously or to be successful.
When I was a kid, the best team in the league, got a trophy. If a teenager’s room was filled with trophies, chances were that they were a very good athlete. Today, we don’t want to hurt any child’s fragile feelings so everyone gets a trophy. My son has three soccer trophies in his room and he was a hideous player who played on a last place team. What good did those trophies do him? Will they be kept or handed down to his kids? I doubt it. He happens to be smart enough to know that he was a hideous player on a last place team, so my guess is that these trophies will be tossed into the trash, if they aren’t already there. My guess is that this great socialist experiment in athletics will ultimately go down in flames the same way that every other socialist experiment has gone. Athletes are not all equal and neither are writers.
I am seeing more and more authors who have been inoculated with the vanity press needle to the point that they equate the printing of a few multi-page documents of junk, with having been a successfully published author. The overwhelming majority of the people that I run into who have any experience with one of these vanity presses not only know nothing about how publishing works, but need to be completely “deprogrammed” and made to start all over or it just doesn’t work. A bad player on the last place team is a bad player on the last place team. That player can get better, with practice and knowledge of the game and go on to be a good player on a good team but it doesn’t just happen… it takes a lot of hard work.
The “you’re in charge” aspect of self-publishing is a double edged sword that has been beaten into the ground and usually presented incorrectly. Once again, I’m not talking about a vanity press where you are stroked to feel that everything you do is right as long as you keep buying more useless services from them. I am talking about being really in charge. As a self-publisher you are the publisher and as the publisher you are in charge of everything. The buck stops here… (with you) so to speak. You do not have to physically do everything but you are personally responsible for every component of your book. Just like “ignorance of the law” is no excuse when standing in front of a judge, ignorance of the publishing process is no excuse when you produce a substandard product and it fails.
If you cannot commit to learning the process… don’t publish.
If you can’t take the pressure of every decision made during the publishing process sitting squarely on your shoulders… don’t publish. If you have a habit of blaming the rest of the world for anything bad that happens to you… certainly do not publish. As the publisher you and you alone are responsible for the editing, whether you hire an outside editor or not. There are going to be mistakes, no matter who does the editing. If you can’t handle this concept, don’t publish. You are responsible for the layout and design of the book, whether you hire an outside designer or not. A proof is just that… a proof. If your designer introduced an error into the book and you OK the proof, it’s yours. Same thing goes with the printer. If you are sent a proof with page 20 in front of page 19 and you OK it… and it prints…. it’s yours. On the more subtle side, if your cover color doesn’t quite match the color proof but the sky is blue and the grass is green…. chances are it’s commercially acceptable and you’ve bought it. If you can’t live with that, don’t publish.
Publishing is not easy. Self-publishing is publishing. The only difference is that you “self” are the publisher. Paying a vanity press to print your book is not publishing or self-publishing. Keep this in mind. Walking your word document to the local copy shop and printing a few copies is closer to self-publishing than paying a vanity publisher to publish your book.
Of course, for the time being, we have freedom of press so you are free to produce whatever you want. If you don’t want to learn the business and just want to “be in charge” and have some money you don’t mind wasting, you might be best sticking with the vanity presses. In doing so, though, look at them like copy shops. Unlike the vanity presses, the corner copy shop does not take ownership of anything of yours unless you don’t pay your bill. Do yourself a favor and make sure that the same thing can be said of whatever vanity press you’re using.
Hopefully I’ve lost all the readers who are not truly serious about self-publishing by this point. Their books can join the shelves at home along with all those participation trophies.
If you are serious about publishing…there is no time like the present to do it. Down economies present unlimited opportunities for the entrepreneur. There is always room for another good book. If you are just getting started, there are two things you should do right away. The first is to download a free copy of Publishing Basics – Navigating the Self-Publishing Minefield at http://www.selfpublishing.com/free-ebooks/. This book is a no-nonsense question/answer book designed to get you headed in the right direction. The second thing you need to do is take the What Type of Self-Publisher are You test at http://www.selfpublishing.com/type/quiz/. The test only takes a few minutes to take. The results are instant and will help guide you as you are reading your Publishing Basic book and further researching the business of publishing. Self Publishing is not for everyone but if it’s for you… there is only one place to start… www.selfpublishing.com.
I look forward to seeing your completed book.