Thursday, February 28, 2013
Bloomberg Article on Self-Publishing: Pure Manure; 15 Percent of All E-Book Reviews Will Be Fake
Well, the Bloomberg article on self-publishing isn't pure manure. It's just misleading to most writers who might be thinking about self-publishing. And If I had read something like this a year ago I might never have self-pubbed anything on my own. So I decided to add a few things I've learned.
When I posted that I was getting into self-publishing last year around this time I made a point of saying it was going to be a humble venture. One year later, four self-published books later, it still is a humble venture. At least it is compared to self-pubbed books released by some others. But, in the same respect, I managed to hit several best seller lists with all of the books, and all did better than I expected them to do. So, if nothing else, at least that should qualify me to speak on the topic of self-publishing to a certain extent. I'm not claiming to be an expert. I'm only sharing the things I've learned first hand...and I'm still learning now. And, I didn't use a literary agent's self-publishing service. I did it alone...I'm not holding back the complete truth like some who claim they self-publish.
Just because I came from a twenty year background of getting published with both traditional publishers and e-publishers it didn't make self-publishing any less intimidating for me than an unpublished author. It's new territory and you're on your own. In fact, I think that was the scariest part for me. There was no one to lean on.
The Bloomberg aritlce is long, so I'm going to go over each section and commenting on what I think it misleading...or sound advice. Again, this is just my opinion and the only reason I'm offering it is because I don't like to see writers spend more money than necessary. I also don't like to see them get discouraged by articles that often don't make sense...or are written by people who really don't know what they are talking about.
The really explosive growth has come in e-books, which went from 7,000 to 87,000. "Not long ago if you said you self-published you weren't taken as seriously as other authors," says Beat Barblan, a director at Bowker. "That's no longer the case."
It starts out okay, not argument here. But there's more to come.
Dotting the I's
$1,460: Price paid by Pandl for editing, proofreading and structure suggestions; self-published author Sander Flaum, who wrote "Big Shoes: How Successful Leaders Grow into New Roles," paid $500.
This section basically gets into the cost of editing. But the ambiguity of this section boggles my mind. Yes, you can pay $1,460 to have your self-pubbed book edited. You can pay $4,000 for that matter. There's no set rule to what editors charge and I'm not even going there.
However, you can also find editors willing to work for less. You can also partner with some other writer you know and edit for each other. And frankly I would recommend a copy editor or a proofreader more than I'd recommend an editor. That's how I did it. One of the reasons why I love self-publishing so much is because I don't have to listen to an editor. I get to call the shots, not the publisher or editor. And I get the control.
But more than that, a lot of the mistakes in self-pubbed books come more from bad formatting than bad editing. And, if you don't want to pay an editor or a copy editor, you can do it yourself and save tons of money. I'm not of the school that thinks all authors need editors. Some do; some don't. It all depends on how hard you're willing to work, and if you can take the stress of editing your own work. It's not easy, but not impossible.
Covers That Pop
$200: Price Freethy paid for a book cover design (that was not used)
$1,600: Price Julia Pandl paid for an early book cover design ($200) and interior design ($1,400).
I really smiled at this part, and not just because they used the word "pop." Of course covers are important. However, if you don't want to pay a cover artist you can get free software to create your own covers. Again, this is all about how hard you're willing to work at it. I've tried my own and I'm by no means a tech genius. I'm actually a tech dummy and I learn as I go, gaining knowledge about what I need to know at the time. Google is your friend.
There are also excellent cover artists out there willing to create good covers for less than $200. I know this because I've used them myself. Frankly, I don't think $200 is over the top to charge for a cover. But I think that would be my top end limit. And look at it this way, do you really think e-publishers are paying their cover artists $1,600 per cover? I doubt that highly. And if they are, I'm in the wrong business.
The Printed Book
$8,800: Cost to print 1,300 copies (240-page book) with shipping – Julia Pandl
Though probably true, it's still pure manure for today's serious self-pubbed author. First, unless you're only interested in publishing print books for your friends or family (I understand this), you would be better served catering to the digital market instead of the print market. The article goes on to mention getting your print book into bookstores and distribution. But with the state of affairs brick and mortar bookstores are in right now, why spend almost nine thousand dollars on producing print books?
And I self-pubbed all my digital books for free. So did this excellent author. It wasn't simple. It took weeks of learning how to read HTML and convert. But it's doable if you don't want to pay anyone else to do it. If you aren't comfortable with that, there are e-publishing services out there you can hire. Prices vary and nothing is set in stone right now. But most I checked out were affordable.
And, writers like me are always willing to offer advice in private. I've done that with more than a few authors who got confused while they were self-publishing. There are also blogs and posts written all over the Internet by other authors who've self-published and didn't pay a dime to do it. Most don't mind sharing their experiences. Tony is doing it right now for an older friend of mine who is self-publishing spiritual new age books on Amazon. Don't be shy about asking for help.
Part of the decision on whether to go the e-book route may have to do with your choice of topic.
This part honestly didn't even make sense to me. I asked Tony if he downloaded any software to pub my books and he said he didn't. The trick is learning how to convert Word docs into HTML. I'm not going into detail here because that would be another post, but it doesn't cost that much...if anything...to do this. And, as I said, you can always look for an e-publishing service who is willing to do this. Tony and I have played with the idea of starting one ourselves. We'd like it to be affordable and something that would debunk all the rumors going around about self-publishing.
You Book's ID
If you want to sell a printed book, you need an ISBN.
$125: Cost for one ISBN -- Bowker
If you self-pub a digital book on Amazon you get what's called an ASIN: B007R6POYM . Or, you can go to Smashwords and the ISBN will cost you ten dollars...or free. This one is my number for Chase of a Lifetime on Amazon. It did NOT cost $125.
So this one only matters if you're self-pubbing print books. And I honestly don't see why any new author would go that route nowadays.
This one is very entertaining.
There are reviewers out there who, for a fee, will read your book and write a review. Some authors create fake accounts and give themselves high ratings while assigning lower ones to rival books. Jenny Sussin, a research analyst at Gartner Inc., says by 2014 as many as 15 percent of all e-book reviews will be fake, as authors and marketers pay for positive reviews.
I read this part a few times. I'm sure they're not suggesting self-pubbed authors pay for reviews and start sockpuppet accounts to push their books...or review their own books with five stars. I'm sure they wouldn't suggest self-published authors rate other authors lower either. At least I'm hoping this isn't true.
Because if you do that you're an idiot. Plain and simple. It always catches up to you and then you're really screwed.
$550: Price to get a review -- Kirkus Indie Reviews
Waste of time...and this comes from a friend who has been a NY literary agent for over thirty years.
Let the World Know
$2,300: Website for a book, including PayPal link -- amount paid by Rick Spier, author of "The Legend of Shane the Piper: A Novel Memoir"
$45: 250 color bookmark business cards -- Staples
$100: Press release printing -- Staples
$300: Facebook advertisement -- Facebook
$1,000: Direct mail -- Julia Pandl’s cost
Of course you have to let the world know, but social media, last I looked, is free. From facebook to twitter to blogging, it won't cost you a dime to promote. And then there are yahoo groups and other forums as well. If you really want to promote online aggressively there's no limit as to what you can do. And it doesn't have to cost you a dime. I've watched one romance author in particular over the years build a platform and readership just through blogging. I've seen other do it in different ways.
But also tread with care, because there's a fine line between aggressive marketing and obnoxious marketing. You don't want to turn people off with spam that says, "Read My New Book."
Get the Book Out
If you publish an e-book, distribution is as simple as uploading your manuscript to, say, the online bookstores of Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.
So far, this is the only part that makes sense to me. You do need to distribute your e-book in as many places as you can. But being that Amazon rules right now and most e-books are sold on Amazon, you can take your chances and just sell from them. There's the Amazon lending program, that will lock you into Amazon for three months. I've done it and I'm not totally against it. For new self-pubbed authors sticking with Amazon in the beginning might be the best way to go as you're learning the ins and outs of e-book distribution.
But that's a key factor: learning the ins and outs. When you self-publish you're not just an author anymore. You're also a businessperson taking on all kinds of other responsibilities. And if something sounds too good to be true, or too expensive, it probably it. Don't get suckered.
The One-Stop Shop
$5,000 - $6,000: Includes designing hard-copy book (printing costs an additional $5.40 per book) and creating e-book versions. Discounts depending on volume -- IndieReader
For those who don't want to get into all the small details of self-publishing, there's nothing wrong with this. But you don't have to do it to self-publish successfully. Not by any means. That's a lot of money for most people, and the odds are you'll never get it back. So, thinking like a businessperson, as you should be, you want to know that what you invest will at least come back, with at least a small profit.
I would like to state that most of the facts in this article are things that can't be disputed. You can pay anything you want...or anything someone charges you...to self-publish a book. You can spend thousands on covers, editors, and marketing services that you may or may not ever see again. But if you self-publish like I did, and take the time to really learn how it works and how e-books are formatted and designed, it won't cost you much at all. And my overall point in this post is to show you how much it all varies so no one takes advantage of you and sells you a bill of goods you might not need.