There have been many comments, questions, and criticisms of the status of “Indie Authors” . . . those vagabonds who dare to eschew the services of traditional publishing in favor of taking the reins and publishing their beloved manuscripts on their own.
Unless you are Stephen King, James Patterson, or Edgar Allan Poe, it is a very tough road to plow to get your hard work acknowledged by the mainstream publishing houses. But, it is not an impossible dream to pursue, and there are hundreds and even thousands who are doing just that.
In reading and talking with fellow authors, there are all types of horror stories about the vultures who lurk in the shadows, waiting to pounce and prey upon the eager first time novelist. Those vultures have a name . . . and the name is ‘vanity’. Vanity publishers are those who seek to take advantage of the uninformed, yet eager to get their work published, authors.
They offer a plethora of ‘services’ . . . proofing, editing, marketing, distribution to major booksellers, like Barnes and Noble . . . e-book ‘formatting’, cover design, and visions of sugar plums and dollar signs glowing in the eyes of the author. UNTIL, that is . . . they send you their contract outlining how much they want YOU TO PAY THEM!
Having one’s novel picked up by a traditional publisher (the reputable ones that actually offer an advance, even though it may not be in the millions of your dreams) is a feather in the virtual cap of any author, but it still requires work on your part, particularly in the arena of marketing and promotion.
“But”, you say, “Aren’t THEY supposed to do all that for me?”
Well, yes, they do, to some extent, but in today’s economy, and with the influx of thousands of manuscripts waiting to be discovered, even the ‘big houses’ don’t have the money to invest in more than basic promotion and marketing . . . unless of course you ARE Stephen King . . . whose books practically sell themselves by virtue of his name alone. I once commented that even if his books were written in Crayola, people would buy them, solely because of his highly regarded reputation as an outstanding author.
In light of the fact that you must not only be secure enough in your own skill as an author, you must also be savvy enough to know that you will need to be willing to promote your own work. Blogs, internet sites, local venues, targeting your specific audience, and going after them like a dog on a bone. You cannot expect that your masterpiece will sell itself without a little assistance on your part.
If you are A) not lucky enough to be picked up by a traditional publisher; or B) you wish to go the “Indie Author” route, it will definitely take time, dedication, and extra work on your part to boost recognition and thus, sales of your novel(s).
WARNING: RUN, do not walk, away from any ‘publisher’ that asks you for money upfront to publish your work. Nine times out of ten, the promises they dangle in front of your starry-eyed gaze will fall by the wayside as soon as the check is cashed, and all for things that you can accomplish just as easily on your own.
There are several fantastic sites that offer the same services for FREE, and with good proofing and editing on your part, and/or with the help of a trusted colleague, you will be able to put out a top notch product. While you can’t always rely on ‘spell-check’ to catch little nuances such as word substitution (as in reign instead of rein), simply having another ‘set of eyes’ go over your manuscript prior to publication, offering minor editorial suggestions, like your POV, grammatical errors, or typos, will be a huge benefit in the long run.
CreateSpace offers publishing services for free, including setting up your book cover design, placement on Amazon as both an e-book as well as a ‘hard copy’.
Smashwords offers free publication as well, although some have noted that is a little more persnickety to work with. (Patience will work wonders in dealing with their ‘vetter’ program). With Smashwords, your e-book will be made available to online book retailers: Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, Apple, Diesel, and libraries as well.
Between these two venues, the fledgling author has an excellent chance at promoting their work on many sites, and at no cost initially. Of course CreateSpace offers ‘extra’ perks for a price, but are not bound by any contract to accept or use those perks unless you so choose.
If you do your homework, (and who doesn’t LOVE homework?), you will even find traditional publishers who will allow you to submit your manuscript in conjunction with self publishing, as long as you research thoroughly, and read their submission guidelines carefully. Many do not even allow dual submissions.
With publishing on Amazon, you will need to pay close attention to their offering of KDP, which requires exclusivity. They do not want your work to be made available on any other site, and if you want to limit yourself to Amazon only (which I do not recommend . . . solely for purposes of greater exposure) go ahead and use KDP. Various authors I have dealt with have noted that it is of no real great benefit as opposed to the exposure attained by having their book available on multiple venues.
With the multitude of internet sites, blogs, and promotional venues available, marketing is made much simpler than back in the ‘old days’ of pounding the pavement, and making multiple phone calls. Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, LinkedIn, Book Daily, Tumbler, Goodreads, just to name a few are excellent sources to interact with, communicate with other authors, garner readership, and make SALES happen!
Yes, it takes a little more time and effort, but once you are established, and the networking almost takes care of itself, as your audience grows, you connect with your target audience, and VOILA . . . before you know it a strange thing happens, you find people seeking you out, connecting with you . . . reading your blogs, watching your book trailer(s) . . . and BUYING and REVIEWING your book(s)!!!
I consider myself extremely lucky with the background that I have in photography, graphic design, typography, and having worked in the printing and advertising industries for over 30+ years. I create my own book covers, layout my books to the specs required by CreateSpace and Smashwords, and create my own media kits and marketing materials. It is a lot of work, but it is costing me nothing more than the ink for my printer, and printing materials for business cards, fliers, book marks and postcards.
Note that the ‘vanity’ publishers, and yes, even CreateSpace and Smashwords are what are considered P.O.D. (print on demand) publishers . . . and so far, the only ‘brick and mortar’ bookstore that I’ve come across that will NOT carry P.O.D. books, is Barnes and Noble. That should not be, nor is it for me, a deterrent . . . Their comment to me was if I went through a publisher “Lightning Source” that distribution would be accepted through them. That, my dear author friends, is NOT guaranteed, AND Lightning Source IS also a P.O.D. venue, that charges you for the very services that you can accomplish for free through the aforementioned sources!
Believe in yourself, have confidence in your novel. Target your reading audience. NETWORK, and do a lot of ‘self-promotion’. Offer up excerpts on your Facebook author page, your blog, on Goodreads, etc., just enough to ‘tease’ the reader into wanting more. If you do not have the tools or desire to produce your own marketing materials, there are much cheaper alternatives than paying $3k to $4k for unquestionable work by a ‘vanity’ publisher. They will promise you the moon and stars, and you will get left with a lump of coal.