Should Your Self-Publish?

Should Your Self-Publish?

Before I began writing for the Guardian Express, I had begun my first novel.  I am an avid reader, but never believed that a novel existed within me.  I had written songs, essays, and short stories, but did I have the imagination and perseverance to complete an effort I have admired in so many?  I realized that after working in the Reno/Sparks casinos for 20 years, I had an idea for an unusual novel exposing an industry few knew much about.

I completed it in the fall.  Researching, I discovered that none of the major publishing companies will even consider a submission without the author having a literary agent or prior success.  I knew about “self-publishing”, but had no idea what it involved.

I did my homework.  Although there are many companies who will publish your book, and allow you to keep all the rights to it, some have better reputations than others.  I selected three that were given five stars, and were rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau.  I contacted them all.  Prices and services vary.  Because of the time of the year, they were all offering some discounts to assure production before the Holiday Season.

When I decided on one, we began to work out the details of how my book would be produced and published, and details about editing, marketing, and other promotions.  I informed them immediately that my wife and I were on a fixed income, and the cost of the package I had chosen would be all that I would spend.

They worked with me well at every stage previous to my book going into production.  I couldn’t afford their editing charges, so I had to do it myself.  I was allowed 50 free corrections, and of course any errors made by the company would be changed at no cost.

The first proof they sent to me was the proposed front and back cover.  They were excellent.  I had chosen the “Reno Arch” for the front, with the title “A Little Murder in the Biggest Little City” superimposed over it.  The back cover was a short biography about me, and the process that led me to attempt writing an entire novel.  They did a superb job.

Throughout the process, I was given a new person to communicate with.  The last step before actual production was for them to send me an actual copy of my novel.  I chose a paperback version, a hardcover being too expensive.  When I received it, my excitement cannot be articulated in a single word, probably not in ten.

I knew there would be a few minor errors.  I had performed the editing myself, and I was the proof reader.  In addition, many paperback novels I have read had small errors.

I approved it, and into production it went.

I received 5 free copies as part of the package, and 20 free “e-books”.

I was contacted several times from the marketing department, and constantly explained to them that I couldn’t afford what they were suggesting.  I was called from them at one point to inform me that my novel was considered as a potential candidate for a movie screenplay.  But to expose it to the “movie makers” a campaign to publicize it was necessary.  Same story, no money.

My novel was to be in paperback on a “print to order” situation.  It would also be available on Kindle, Nook and e-books.  When I went to Amazon to see what it looked like, and what the price would be, I encountered my first problem.

The “e-book” price was $3.99, about where I thought it should be for a first novel.  But the paperback was priced at $20.99.  I called them and explained that I had never paid more than $11.00 for a paperback in my life.  They explained that because it is costly to “print to order”, that was the set price.

So, what did I learn from all this?  I, and those who have read my novel, think it is very good.  But few have read it with no marketing to promote it.  I don’t think anyone has purchased the paperback version, I know I wouldn’t.

My suggestion is based on my own experience and those of others I have seen on television or read about.

For example.  One woman had her romance novels published with a company similar to the one I used.  They were the electronic version priced as little as .99 cents.  She has sold enough “e-books” to have made hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Others spent as much as $2,000 to market their books, and have found limited, and sometime great success.

I have come to a conclusion.  In the future, if I use one of these companies, I will purchase the cheapest package they offer that includes copyrighting.  I will focus on the electronic portion of the sale, and virtually eliminate concern about an actual printed book.

I haven’t looked into Amazon as yet.  They help writers self-publish, but I don’t think they have the art department and layout capabilities.

In the meantime, as I finish my second novel, I am looking into more possibilities.  I have learned a lot.  One piece of advice I have, is to immediately create your own website to give your book more exposure.  Don’t do it through the publishing companies, they charge too high a price.

My satisfaction was bitter sweet.  But I am aware that most of the people I talked to were no more than salespersons.  Their primary job was to encourage me to purchase additional services in addition to the original package.  If I had the $3,000 it added up to, I would have hired a literary agent.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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