Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: March 6th, 2009 ]

Regardless of whether you are holding out for an old-fashioned publishing contract or taking matters into your own hands with custom self-publishing, here are 5 questions you should know the answers to when you decide to publish:

1 – What is the minimum number of books you have to purchase, and what does
each book cost you? Many require certain quantities to be purchased at highly marked up prices. That is how they ‘get you.’

2 – Who determines your retail price? How much is it? – Here’s another one
to look out for. You should have that control. Publishers that don’t allow that are often in the business to make money on your book. You’ve done the work. You should see the rewards.

3 – Who determines how much money you make from each book? Another good test.
Your publisher should pay 100% of the difference between the wholesale price and the
production price of the book. Most publishers pay anywhere from 5%-50%.

4 – Do you receive marketing support after publication? Free services like the Marketing COACH offered by Outskirts Press is an invaluable collection of proven tactics shared to help improve your book sales.

5 – Do you retain all the rights to your book? You definitely should. Check
the contract of wherever you publish.

Isn’t this fun!

– by Karl Schroeder

Karl was right back in 2009, and he’s still right today in 2016–when it comes to publishing your book, it’s better to ask the right questions ahead of time, so that you don’t end up locked into an unsatisfactory contract or stuck in a bad situation after the fact.  His five questions, too, were well-chosen, and if you’re just setting out to self-publish for the first time I recommend you start with his original list as a starting point; while the market and self-publishing process is always going to be something of a moving target, most of his fundamental assumptions  about the nature of self-publishing companies remain highly relevant.

And the most important assumption of all?

Self-publishing companies are out to make money.  

But of course they are!  If they weren’t, they’d operate as nonprofits–and I have actually worked alongside several nonprofits that publish as a part of their service mission, enough to know that they tend to be highly competitive as well as highly selective, and therefore look very much like a traditional publishing model.  Which brings us full circle, back to the self-publishing company as a wholly unique animal on the world stage.  If I were to add any question to Karl’s list, it would be:

How transparent is the company in question about how it makes its profit?

Because it’s one thing to partner with an ethical, reliable, and empowering company with sound business acumen which it places at your disposal as well as at the service of its shareholders–and it’s another thing altogether to sign on to a publishing venture which is out to pad its bottom line, no matter what the cost.

The takeaway?  It all comes down to research.  Talk with the company directly, and don’t hesitate to ask the tough questions.  Ask how they make their money, and what their internal corporate goals are.  Ask previous customers about their experiences, and specifically how well they felt they were treated.  Ask the company to treat you like an adult, which you are.  And if at any point you feel like the shareholders are the company’s priority and not the authors, take that as a sign and take your business elsewhere.  There’s no point in expecting a company to alter it’s corporate DNA for one customer–when it comes to self-publishing, you deserve to be at the heart of your own story.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

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