by Will Viharo
I often see posts on Facebook and elsewhere from new writers wondering “what to do” with their book now that they’ve finally completed it.
Sure, the big dream is get an agent that starts a bidding war which results in a million-dollar contract with one of the “Big 5” New York publishers, which in turn starts another bidding war amongst the major Hollywood studios for the film rights (though you’d be okay with a cable TV series, too).
So that might all happen. But it’s good to explore other options in case not all of those steps pan out…
Increasingly, self-publishing is shedding its stigma as more and more indie authors – as well as veterans of the traditional industry – cut out the “middle man” and take their work straight to the only critics that count: paying customers.
This means after Amazon or whichever platform you choose takes their share, you’ll be keeping all the profits. And if it’s a Kindle book, you could be earning up to 70% royalties on each digital copy sold.
Of course, having the “validation” of a third party might not only increase sales, but also elevate your “credibility” amongst both your peers and readers alike, as well as boost your own confidence.
Subjective selection of stock aside, there is very little daylight between small press publishing and self-publishing. In either case, someone with a computer and Internet access is uploading interior and exterior art files via any of the preferred platforms (CreateSpace being by far the most popular), hitting a few buttons, and voila!, that title has been published.
Does it really matter who hits that button?
Depends on whom you ask.
If you’re just asking yourself, probably doesn’t matter at all. But since you want to present your work in the most professional presentation possible...
First impressions count when readers are browsing the overcrowded marketplace. That means you need an instantly seductive title and cover, compelling description copy, and to top it off, a “publisher” that takes credit for this must-read material.
If it’s really you, instead of admitting your “publisher” is Lulu or CreateSpace, you can publish under your own imprint, which means your book is represented by a brand name.
So what if you created that brand name? All small, medium, and even large presses started out with the same humble origins. Hardly anyone is a born publishing tycoon like Orson Welles in Citizen Kane. All successful publishers are self-made men and women.
With today’s technology, you can be your own publisher by launching your own publishing “company.” It helps build your cred and rep if you already have several titles to offer under your imprint – which itself should boast a catchy title, along with your books.
Welcome to Thrillville
I recently decided to declare myself my own publishing company when I “founded” Thrillville Press, a proactive reaction to the sad fact a small press that only last year published four anthologies of my previously self-published novels suddenly went out of business. This happens all the time in this industry, because small presses have to worry about paying royalties, copy editors, artists, etc. for multiple titles.
Rather than start all over again, trying to shop around collections of my early, frankly unconventional, work to fickle publishers with their own agendas and tastes to consider, I decided to self-publish them again, but this time, do it right. Plus, not only would I maintain creative control, but I'd also determine my own books' shelf lives, without worrying about the designated custodian of my career suddenly throwing in the towel, and my hard work with it, for whatever reason.
As owner of your own imprint, the only employee on your pay roll is you. So as long as you don’t get upset by the low wages, there’s no reason for your imprint to close up shop unless and until you decide it’s time, not due to financial pressures.
Of course, there will be some investment capitol you may or may not recoup, but if you really want to be considered a professional small press publisher of your own work, you should farm out the skills required for top of the line cover art, copy editing and interior formatting.
If you possess all of those talents, great. But you probably don’t. It’s enough work to just write and promote a book. Presentation should be left to the experts.
You Get What You Pay For, So Pay For What You Get
Me, I went with an industry veteran named Rik Hall, who was referred to me by a fellow author, for re-formatting the files already organized by my defunct publisher, which immediately reverted to me once the titles were pulled from Amazon’s distribution channels (which means you need to carefully read any book contract before signing it, to make sure you either retain or resume all rights to your book if and when your publisher calls it quits).
On Amazon, product pages remain live indefinitely so merchants can sell “used” copies of your OOP books, which often shoot up to stratospheric amounts, none of which benefit you or your publisher since now those copies belong to whoever bought them at market rate while they were still available in "fresh" condition, i.e. still "in print" (my OOP copies have gone for anywhere from $2 to $3000!).
This is all new information to me, since, though I’ve published eBooks via Kindle, this is my first experience with CreateSpace. So you and I both have a lot to learn together.
Anyway, I also paid a professional artist, Dyer Wilk, who has worked on the cover designs for all four of these suddenly defunct anthologies, contributing original artwork to one of the covers, to create my own small press logo. This helps sustain the illusion that your book is being issued by an actual, experienced publisher. There’s only way to become one of those, though, and that’s via actual experience – publishing.
Though I already have my own website with a pre-established brand name, I also created a Facebook fan page for Thrillville Press, in addition to the separate fan pages for each of my books. Since you'll be doing all your own promotions and marketing as your own publisher, might as well take advantage of free social media as much as possible.
I suggest you do all of this, and much more. I’m learning as I go, on the job training, as it were. But at least I’m my own boss and make my own hours.
This answers a little of the "why" part of the question, at least in my case (you'll have to answer that yourself eventually). But "how" is really what you're wondering, and that's not a subjective matter. But no worries. Starting your own "imprint" is not nearly as hard or even pricey as you might think...
Next: should you buy an ISBN?
PHOTO: DYER WILK