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December 16, 2008

Myths and Misunderstandings About Self-Publishing

Posted in: Self-Publishing, Self-Publishing FAQ

The following assertions/observations were recently stated on Yahoo Answers by a ‘Top Contributor’. They wrote:

with Self publishing:
– you pay them
– no quality control (no editing, poor printing in many cases)
– you have to market the book
– real stores and libraries do not want them (being ‘available for order’ is not the same as being on the actual shelf where the vast majority of people get their books)
– not considered a real publishing credit in the industry
– most authors do not sell more than 50 books (and most of those are sold to friends and family)
– cost of each book is often higher than those published by traditional houses
– royalty rate is high, but since there are few copies sold, you’ll likely never see any money
– they make their money selling their printing service to authors

I think the person writing this is assuming that all self-publishers work with a company that provides all publishing services for a set fee. Many companies exist where an author sends the manuscript and pays the bill and the company is responsible for getting an ISBN number, copyediting, illustration, getting a cover design which might or might not include a barcode for bookstore sales, sending the manuscript to the printer, and offering the book for sale to stores. For most of these companies all of the above assertions would be true.

However, this is NOT all that self-publishing is about. There are many self-publishers who do not sign up for this one-stop shopping. Instead these authors-turned-publishers actually become publishers. They register ISBN numbers in their own name. They hire copyeditors and illustrators and cover designers. They have the ultimate quality control. In fact, not to be argumentative, but you have no quality control as a new author whose book is being published by a traditional publisher. You may not particularly like the illustrations or cover, but you won’t be approving them.

The assertion that real stores and libraries do not want self-published books, is only true of those self-published books that scream ‘self-published.’ If a book is a good book, stores and libraries, don’t care about the source. Of my self-published book, Poster Girl, Diane Chen, a School Library Journal contributor wrote, “you’ll want to order multiple copies for your elementary collection.”

As for authors not selling more than 50 books, if they publish without considering who or how they are going to sell books, then it’s true.

My point is there are many different ways to self-publish, to learn about self-publishers who follow this author-turned-publisher method, there are a couple good sources:
- the Independent Book Publishers Association - http://www.pma-online.org/
- Small Publishers of North America (SPAN) — http://www.spannet.org/

or stop by this blog again with more questions.

P.S.  Silly me took so long typing a response that the Yahoo Answer period closed, hence I figured I would post the information here.

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