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Saturday, 24 May 2014

How Much..?

Cost and Value; inextricably linked but often separated by a huge gulf. add up the figures and the cost stares you in the face, but the value of a thing?

Cynthia Polutanovich explores her decision to self-publish on her blog in an eloquent expression of the value of her work, and the personal investment in the process of writing a novel. Read it for yourself, I found her words striking and evocative.

There will always be someone prepared to take your money. Vanity Publishing is a sweetly set trap for the unwary and reminds me of the child catcher in Ian Fleming's story "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," Sneaking around the town enticing the children into captivity with promises sweets and treats.

One of the accusations levelled at the Vanity Presses, and with some degree of truth is that they will publish anything regardless of the quality,and the bill can be substantial. You have to scratch the surface, check beyond the first link and weigh the pros and cons, and balance it against why you want to publish.

A frequently asked question on Silverwood books website;  I'm publishing my book to make a profit - is that a good idea?
Answer: Probably not... there is more to the answer that follows, but the opening remark sums up the attitude of many Vanity Publishers. They will take the money, rack up the bills and publish. The reputation as money mills churning out sub-standard products is justified. Personal experience of a purchase from AuthorHouse revealed the sections offered as a sample proof read and copy edited, and the rest of the story untouched. A serious disappointment, the story itself was good and the ideas explored were genuinely interesting but the final production values were so low the book was difficult to read.

Authors are becoming more aware of the pitfalls of Vanity publishing, but the Vanity Presses themselves are shifting their tack and re-branding themselves:Partnerships, Publishing Service Providers, Author Support Services; are a few examples.

The long and the short of it; a Press that expects the Author to stump up the money to  publish is a Vanity Press, even the small independent press working on the traditional model will take the risk; that is the role of the publisher, to take a risk with their investment in the author, publish and promote their work and the see a return on the investment. The cost to the publisher is financial, but also the value of their reputation plays a part.

Reputation can be worth money in the bank, and yet it is incredibly fragile. Taking the decision to self-publish, ignoring the tempting offers of the Vanities to do it all for a price, you put everything on the line. The cost will be your own, and the price will be set by how you value your work. If you care, it will be the best you can do yourself  or working alongside proofreaders and editors you are prepared to trust with your creation.

Doing it for yourself is a daunting decision and there are things that every writer struggles with, proof reading and editing, cover design, and formatting the book for print or ebook and with those aspects finding a good editor and a reliable proof-reader are important.

You've finished the text, the book exists  and the copyright is yours, the moment you create the work the copyright comes into existence, in the United kingdom useful information can be found at UK Copyright Service, where you can register your copyright, but as the site explains there is no legal requirement to register, the copyright is yours - a section known as the learning centre offers information on a variety of aspects to do with copyright and a common copyright questions section. The site contains a broad compass of references to copyright law in the UK and the various international treaties dealing with the subject, including when and where to use the © symbol. Copyright is a way of protecting your investment in the created work, and as mentioned earlier is there when the work is created. Registration is voluntary, but one of the strongest assets to identify the association between the writer and the work is through the ISBN number, but more of that later.

The question of profitability, the question answered with probably not earlier on, is a matter of balance, how many items will you have to sell before the books break even and move into profit. The initial outlay is significant here, and the more significant the outlay the harder it will be to reach break even, or move beyond it. Self-publishing is about finding the most economical way and minimising the expense thereby reducing the number of books to be sold to pass the break-even point. It is the most important aspect in any successful business, and the way forward is to regard writing as your business, and approach sales and distribution with that in mind. Research your options, look beyond the gloss and see what lies behind.

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