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Sunday, 7 June 2015

Close to the mark!

How close can you get to the ideal of someone else footing the bill for publishing your magnificent opus? The traditional publisher will do that, but what if you decide, or have no other choice and decide to walk the walk yourself.

The traditional/commercial/trade publisher buys the rights to publish, and occasionally the subsidiary from the author. The largest publishing houses and the bigger independents will pay an advance on royalties, which the smaller presses may not. They are highly selective and only a small fraction of the submissions ever reach the bookshelves. For the select few who make it down that road  every aspect of editing, publication, marketing and distribution is taken care of by the publisher; at no cost the author!

A very small number reach the public this way and to read the various offerings in the "How to Get Published" genre - we're looking at a scenario of such improbability you might as well pack up, throw the manuscript in the shredder and grow rhubarb instead.

Yet the manuscript is intact, not mulched for rhubarb fodder and our author is up for the challenge, and the heartache, so where do we go from here?

The alternative; Publish It Yourself. Not so long ago the last resort of the desperate and the prey of the Vanity Press, but in a dynamic situation where the guardians of traditional have a back door into the nefarious world of the vanity press the chance of finding a reputable company may not be straightforward

The language and the landscape are changing; which begs the question; are we actually speaking the same language, when you hear traditional, hybrid, co-op, subisdy or partnership publishing; who and what are we talking about, I asked the same question and started nosing around for a possible answer. A frequently visited site, Writer's Beware, offered a solution with a blog unpacking the definitions of publishing, 

Yvonne Hertzberger (author of the Earth's Pendulum Trilogy) posted on Indies Unlimited about her publishing experiences stressed the importance of due diligence, Doing your homework and nosing around to get the low down on the options.

But the options: Once the road to the commercial publisher has been tried and led nowhere, what remains?
Vanity or Subsidy publisher; Self-Publishing Services; True Self Publishing.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!  It does look like that, everywhere you look the word crops up, even under the cloaks of the supposedly most respectable names, but what is a vanity press?

Victoria Strauss puts it in a nutshell: Any publisher who requires the author to lay out any money for anything at any point in the process is a Vanity publisher; period!

Simply put; a vanity publisher charges a fee to produce a book, or publication is conditional on purchasing your own books, guaranteed pre-orders/sales, editing, publicity etc. The spectrum is broad, models of vanity/subsidy publishing vary from a print run delivered to the author's door to a full a la carte menu of design, editing, distribution and marketing in addition to the print run or digital formatting. All at a price, and the figures involved could be the most expensive high five you've ever seen!

Discarding the vanity, Self Publishing Services are next on the list, lying between Vanity and true self publishing. Self-Publishing services are more transparent about who and what they are; unlike the vanities they don't pretend to be publishers, Usually digitally based the fees involved can be lower than the vanity press, but some still push the numbers to an eye popping level. Costly extras (marketing services etc) may be pushed heavily and a sizeable cut of the sales proceeds may be required to recoup production costs. 

Which leaves true self publishing, and like vanity publishing requires the author to bear the cost of publishing. Sounds the same, wrong, this time the author is calling the shots. The author puts together the package, hiring the editors, proof-readers, cover designers, publicity and marketing. Any or all of the elements can go out to bid making the process far more cost effective than either vanity publishing or self-publishing services.

The end result van be  a higher quality product, with the added satisfaction of complete author control!

When I'm digging around on the Internet a personal quirk is to check out the publisher and get the low down. Certain phrases tickled the hairs on the back of my neck,a urging me to look more closely. 

Magazine articles promoting new authors unfold the trials and tribulations of reaching the public and the piece often tells the story of how the author got into print stressing the struggle to find a publisher; then in the next sentence, almost the next breath, comes the reveal; the name of the publisher! That's when I'm looking for something to write on.

A personal quirk is to check out the publisher and get the low down on the business. Check out the location, links to similar operations and see where the names keep cropping up. I can be slightly obsessive at times, (is it possible to be slightly obsessive?) and drop into Google Maps and send the little guy on street level for a walk. That can be quite revealing!

At the first available opportunity, the company name is Googled and the results checked. Find the web page and read it carefully. The original article won't mention vanity, predatory, subsidy, or partnership  or anything to suggest this isn't the real deal; a traditional author-publisher set up. The whole tenor of the piece will push the idea that the author has been snapped up by a squeaky clean commercial publisher.

Does a leopard change it's spots, can swapping the name and making it sound grander change the nature of the beast? I don't think so, the underlying characteristics are set and the label on the box makes no difference. Adopting the air of respectability by association with links across the web from seemingly impeachable sites to the centre of the network.

The first clue will be on the publisher's website and the language will weave a veil over the reality, the writer is invited to go deeper, perhaps even submit an enquiry email before the price range comes into view.

Any reference to partnership or subsidy, or suggests that the author will incur a cost before their book is published tread cautiously; check the links from the website and see where they lead; then go right to the bottom of the page and check the name in the footer. Where it says powered by Blogger on this page you might find the reality - the power behind the site! When you've done that, search whatever it says there!

There are small presses who will publish your book for a price, Victoria Strauss remarks at Writer Beware/vanity/alternatives are sound as is the information on the self-publishing page; but consider the costs and the expectations carefully.  If your  book is a specialist subject, or intended for a limited distribution, say for example, friends and family, then maybe investigate further.

They may be what you are looking for, contact authors who have published with them and hear what they have to say. David Gaughran and others offer the same sage advice;  type the publishers name followed by 'complaints' and see what happens. Take into account the number of complaints, not that there are any, and what the complaints are about. I don't believe there is a company anywhere who has never received a complaint.

Look at the package they are offering, list the items and sweep the Internet for alternatives. Work out what it would cost for freelance editors and proofreaders, (they will certainly not be included in any basic package offered.)

What are you looking for, is what the company offer fit for your purpose? Simple questions, but like so many questions, the answers may not be so simple.

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