by Will Viharo
Every launch needs a platform, and when it comes to putting your own ebook into orbit, there are several choices to consider. Begin the process of elimination by deciding in advance not just what you need from an ebook publisher, but what you don't need.
As I've stated earlier, simply writing a book may be the easiest part of the whole process, especially when it comes to marketing and distribution. Despite the allure of autonomy, you can't do it all yourself, which is why so many ebook publishing platforms have sprung up in recent years, capitalizing on this rapidly growing phenomenon. Among the most popular platforms are CreateSpace, Kindle, Lulu, and Smashwords.
But how to discern between them? In future posts I'll be offering more in-depth examinations of each, but for now, let's begin with what you DON'T want from your new “partner.”
1. Editorial interference. One of the most rewarding aspects of self-publishing an ebook is the creative freedom. While you may want to take advantage of an affordable editorial service, especially to catch those annoying typos which detract from the professionalism of your presentation, you don't want anyone telling you what to write, or more importantly, what not to write, i.e. censorship. I'm not suggesting you be a total egomaniac and deny any and all authoritative guidance. Just keep hold of those reins or else you'll lose control of your buggy.
2. Poor distribution. Most but not all self-publishing platforms offer you both an ISBN number (crucial if a library or bookstore wants to order copies on demand) and global distribution. The Amazon platforms like Kindle and CreateSpace only offer your books via their own venue. Other sites like Lulu will distribute on their own site, Amazon, and dozens of other sites including Barnes and Noble's NOOK, Diesel and Apple's iBookstore. Avoid any sites that skimp on access.
3. Low profile brand name. Even though self-publishing has lost much of its stigma due to its dominance of the industry, prospective readers may still notice which platform distributes your book. If it's a little known fly-by-night company, that reflects poorly on you. Kindle and Lulu have become respected players in the competitive field, with track records and testimonials to back up their reputations. They may be pricier than “vanity” presses like PublishAmerica but the relatively prestigious association is worth it.
4. Paid promotional packages. Most platforms offer extra programs to promote your book via various channels for extra fees. You may ultimately decide you require this service, but you can effectively promote your own book via your own free social media networking. Stay tuned for more on that subject in this space.
5. Bad communication. You're going to need to stay in touch with whichever platform is responsible for your ebook's overall appearance and access, and any sites that don't have email addresses or better yet phone numbers for tech support – that are actually responsive – will ultimately be of no use to you. If you have trouble reaching an actual person, then move on quickly. The best platforms offer real human contact as part of the deal.
We're still only scratching the surface of your self-publishing/self-promoting adventure. Much more to come in this column, so stay tuned and browse around for more information on social networking. Also, join our Facebook page as this conversation and others will continue there...
Photo by Mike Licht.