Because Writing Is The Easy Part … The perils of self-publishing.
By Gery L. Deer
Creative Director / Writer
The New Awareness
Recently, the self-publishing industry has received a great deal of attention, particularly after the success of the “Fifty Shades” book series by E.L. James. What started out as a self-published project for the author turned out to be a phenomenal commercial success. As more resources become available to authors, an increasing number of self-published print and e-books have hit the shelves, but not every writer takes the time to make sure the quality is high enough to elicit strong sales.
As my friend Peter Bowerman, author of the book “The Well-Fed Self-Publisher,” is fond of pointing out, “The best way to have a successful book is to, first and foremost, write a good book.” Many writers are far too emotionally tied to their work and won’t allow critique and thorough editing to be done before any decision about the publishing process is made. There are also formatting and layout considerations, often unknown to the self-publishing novice, that give the book the same visual components and standards as those traditionally published.
As a result of this heightened awareness, people regularly query our office about what we do to help a self-published author get a book into the hands of readers. First, we would prefer to speak with an author before the manuscript has been readied for submission. Unfortunately, we often don’t get to talk to a new author until the book is printed – not the ideal situation.
For those writers who are genuinely interested in selling a book and eventually turn some kind of profit, or at the very least recover printing expenses, the marketability of the entire project must be considered from start to finish. From the title and very first line of text to the last page and cover art, a great many things should be taken into account before attempting any publishing activity. Who is your audience? How much will someone likely pay for it? Why? What are the obstacles to its success?
GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing treats a book like any other product and the author as the “brand name.” Contrary to popular belief among traditionalists, this does nothing to diminish the art involved in writing. In fact, that’s our purpose; to let the writer CREATE and leave us to the business end. We start with a review of the manuscript and generally insist on a professional edit of the book – you can choose your own editor or we can provide one.
Of course, there are times when we have to say, “Sorry, it’s just not good enough,” and ask you to shelve it and try again. Sometimes the best answer is, “It’s not ready.” On the other hand, if it’s got current market appeal, we’ll help you choose a course of action, depending on the subject and marketability. We can even help you submit it to agents and try going the traditional route.
Printers vs. Publishers.
There are a number of print shops in the country who have gone into trade paperback printing (self-publishing). I think this is great, but I do advise the authors to proceed with caution. Typically a company classified as a publisher provides all of the following services, at no cost to the author: editorial review, cover art, ISBN registration and cataloging, marketing and promotions, author branding, and so on.
A printer, on the other hand, may provide line editing (grammar, punctuation, organization, etc.), layout, artistic support and binding, but all at the author’s expense and direction. The problem here is that there is no professional oversight of the project. Unfortunately, good authors are generally not also book publishers, layout specialists, graphic artists or marketing consultants. You can’t possibly know everything and “printers” rarely offer a standardization for trade publications. You have to pretty much tell them how you want it to look, from the copyright page to the text margins.
Printers generally don’t provide story, character or continuity review and, while they can often help the author create cover art, they have little to no expertise in the “curb appeal” of the material – how it will look or be received to the potential buyer as it sits on a shelf or on the screen of their e-reader’s online shopping cart. The book needs to be attractive to the buyer, not the author or those he is paying to create the artwork. A third-eye is necessary – one experienced in marketing and promotions, an area that will be vital to the book’s long-running success.
Many of these printer/publishers are popping up online with package deals for printing your book which includes minimal editorial service, cover art, marketing and so on, all at your control with little or no outside review. Trust me when I say, you need outside review – along every step.
At this point, it’s important to point out that GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing is not now, nor will it ever be a “publisher.” We are not in competition with printing companies or small press houses. Our job is to help make their job easier in creating and bringing to market the best possible product for the reading consumer.
How can we help?
We act as the advocate for the author. We don’t work for print shops, publishers or reviewers. We have editorial, artistic and other resources available to get as many eyes on the project as we feel might be necessary to create the best possible end result.
Our fees are hourly or by the project and we never take a cut of your book sales. Call us or email for more information. Meanwhile, here are some resources for getting help with your manuscript and self-publishing.
The Western Ohio Writers Association – Critique, Educational and Networking for Writers in Southwest Ohio
GLD Enterprises Amazon Bookstore – A link to books and publications by all of our represented authors.