Despite the fact self-publishing continues to be a force that traditional houses are still reckoning with, there remains a stigma attached to the whole DIY notion. I know, since I still experience it myself.
It’s tough to get reviewed, or interviewed (though I’m luckier than most, since I had a pre-existing “brand name” platform to promote my pulp). It’s even harder, if not impossible, to get your books stocked in brick-and-mortar stores, even those run by fellow independent entrepreneurs.
The latter is due to the ongoing war between the “establishment” and CreateSpace – which ironically is a major corporation, not some grass roots “movement.” Writers and publishers like me take advantage of its free services, from publication to distribution, though the promotion is all on us.
But that would be the case even if we were contracted with larger houses. That’s why, from a logistical perspective, there really is no difference between self-publishing and small presses now, since both often use CreateSpace, and big money mainstream contracts are harder to score than ever in a shrinking – or, to paraphrase This Is Spinal Tap – “selective” marketplace.
While there are “start up” costs associated with the conscientious self-publisher – from editing to design – it’s the most cost-effective way of circumventing “the system” and getting your work out there. Thrifty authors can opt out of these extra costs, but they often do so at their own commercial expense, viability-wise.
Whatever you do, do not pay anyone to publish your book. Ever. It’s not worth it – and now, you don’t have to. ⤺ Tweet This!
The distinction between so-called “vanity” presses and modern self-publishing is made quite clear in this recent article, which also refers to a piece that denigrates the DIY industry.
Everyone has an opinion. Just make sure yours is fully informed before you make your own choices.
Vanity presses – also known as “subsidy” publishers - date back as far as 1941, and long before the digital revolution, they were the only option for authors that found themselves repeatedly rejected by the mainstream publishing industry.
While it’s true even traditional houses rely on the author’s own self-promotion via social media, and even booking their own live reading events, at least they don’t expect them to pony up for printing costs. Typically authors get an advance, still the main appeal of "the old-fashioned way" (along with the attendant "street cred"). The downside, of course, is that you have to wait at least a year between acceptance of the manuscript and it’s actual publication.
And then, if it isn’t an instant bestseller – by their standards, anyway – the book is “mid-listed,” which basically means it’s relegated to the remainder shelves in bookshelves, slated for oblivion. This is makes it that much harder to score a second deal with that same publisher, or given a lackluster sales record, any publisher.
The attraction of vanity presses was that the writer could keep the book in print as long as he or she desired – but only if they could literally pay to keep it in print. They also claimed creative control over the content.
These are both assets of self-publishing, sans any upfront investments other than the ones already mentioned, which remain optional, if highly recommended.
Those costs also pale in comparison to the expenses incurred by signing with a vanity press, which can cost upwards of a thousand dollars and more, just to get the book in print, along with the extra editorial and design services they offer at much higher rates than most DIY platforms.
On CreateSpace, you can hit a button or two and readers immediately have the choice of purchasing your book online in either digital or print (on demand) formats.
The biggest downside of vanity presses? They own the book’s ISBN. They also decide the retail price. So ultimately, the author has even less power over his or her own career than if they just did it themselves.
In the end, you have to decide what’s right for you. But do your research and carefully consider your many options before making any decisions that could cost you a lot more than money in the long run.
PHOTO: SEAN MACENTEE