Saturday, November 13, 2010

Self-Publishing Thoughts

I've been asked to give presentations on self-publishing twice in two weeks. And that has generated some thoughts that I'd like to share here.

People self-publish for a variety of reasons. For myself, it was a means of not giving up. I put a lot of time and energy into those books and wasn't prepared to chuck them just because they didn't get the blessing of agents and/or editors. That decision has resulted in opportunities and experiences that I wouldn't have had otherwise, including the establishment of Jorlan Publishing and the forging of some very dear and special friendships. The books I published and the awards I subsequently won have also helped me to keep going and stay motivated with my writing.

For others, the decision to self-publish might be based on similar or completely different reasoning. Some of my clients are in their 70s and 80s and don't feel that they have the luxury of waiting. Some have a built-in marketing platform through their careers that enables them to target a niche audience and provide a valuable product to existing customers. Some simply feel passionate about making their books available to friends and family. I'm proud of all of them and proud to have been a part of their journey.

I think we can all agree that landing a contract from a traditional publisher would be our first choice, no question, and that's what we ultimately hope to achieve. But for those out there considering the self-publishing route, below is some advice:

* Research the options carefully. Be aware of contractual terms. If you are paying a company to publish your book, then they have no business demanding the rights to your book. What kind of nonsense is that? You are paying them, not the other way around. I've even seen contracts that require authors to pay the self-publishing company an agent's commission should their books be picked up by a traditional publisher. What?! They are not serving in the capacity of an agent; they are not going to be actively trying to sell your manuscript to a publisher; they are not going to be helping you negotiate a contract with a publisher; they have no business demanding an agent's commission!

* Even if you are paying a company to publish your book indirectly (i.e., buying copies of your book at exorbitant prices), the above cautions apply.

* Consider the printing costs as well as the "setup" costs and find out in advance who has ownership of printer-ready design files. Many companies call book design "setup fees" and then hold the files hostage to their high printing prices.

Don't allow yourself to be taken advantage of by anyone!