In Your Corner : Shopping for a publisher? Three lessons from a lingerie counter.

No–I promise the title isn’t just for clicks!  One of the critical components of a conversation about lingerie that should be a part of a conversation about publishing–but often isn’t–is that of support.  How does your publisher affect your book sales?  Does your publisher offer support before, during, and after publication?  Does your publisher offer marketing solutions to help your book sell?  Making an informed decision prior to publication will help you long afterwards, as you transition into the life of a published author and begin to weigh some of the risks … and, hopefully, the rewards.

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So what’s this about underwear and support?

lingerie

Lesson One:

Your publisher should be your advocate and ally, not just a platform.

In today’s competitive world, authors have more choices than ever in terms of where they take their manuscripts for publication–whether traditional publishing, hybrid publishing, or self-publishing.  We’re still in a somewhat weird place where the market is flexing, and where supergiant corporations like Amazon can afford to be monolithic and self-absorbed, but the paradigm is shifting in favor of the reader.  How do I mean that?  More hybrid and self-publishing companies are serving as fierce advocates for their authors above and beyond basic tech support.  The term “support” has come to mean a dedicated band of professionals working together to find a marketing solution for your specific book, and companies are sitting up and realizing that they need to do better.  Even traditional publishers have begun to realize that they need to be better, especially in respect to their treatment of their authors.  The downside of being a traditional publisher or massive corporation (like Amazon) today is that it takes a long time for even the clearest of realizations to trickle down into actual corporate behavior.  It’s like turning a behemoth around–smaller, more nimble companies will leap ahead of the curve…and this is what we’re seeing with small presses, hybrids, and completely self-sufficient self-publishing authors.  Don’t settle for mediocre support!

Lesson Two:

You’re paying for support–support–and that means highly structured, organized assistance.

Here’s another fundamental fact of the universe: when you pay someone to publish your book (according to the hybrid and self-publishing model) or allow someone to take a cut of your book’s royalties (according to the traditional publishing model), you are not paying for therapy.  You have the rightful expectation of seeing more than a tepid response to your book, a lukewarm attempt at promotion, or a scattershot approach to marketing.  You have every right to expect–and demand–meticulous, highly structured support.  Even if you choose not to pay for a full-fledged marketing campaign, you are the beneficiary of the best work of each professional you engage with over the course of the publication process.  And if you’re not getting it?  Here’s where feedback is important.  There are two ways to go about giving feedback: asking for better treatment, and actually taking your money elsewhere.  Realistic expectations are important, but if you’re worried that you’re not getting real advocacy from your publisher, it might be time to start asking the tough questions.

Lesson Three:

A good publisher + good marketing + your book = good sales.

The implications are clear, right?  If one of these components is broken, every other element in the formula for success will fall out of joint.  If sales are not strong, apply a microscope to the work done by your publisher.  Are they showing real dedication?  Do they display a sense of organization and interest in your work, specifically?  A half-baked marketing plan will only ever produce half-baked sales figures, and a haphazard publishing package will take you to the exact same place.  It’s hard to strike the balance as a self-publishing author paying for a minimalist publishing package, but there are still options.  Don’t be content with the first bare-bones self-publishing website you stumble across!  Read the fine print.  Call up the help center.  See what all is available to you as an author in terms of targeted support and guidance.  Only you can decide how much of the marketing process you want to take on, and how to spend your money effectively.  Don’t let a company decide that for you!

You are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner : Loving Your Self-Publishing Company

What does it mean to love self-publishing?  It’s one thing to love the theory of going indie: the creative control, the rights and royalties, the community spirit, and everything else that goes along with making your own way on your own schedule at your own page.  But it’s another thing to love the experience of going indie, and as our veteran self-publishing readers can attest, this experience depends in large part on the company you choose to self-publish through.

Has Amazon KDP moved past its “Big Bad” corporate image to provide personable services?  Will Kobo Writing Life treat you right?  Has AuthorHouse overcome its checkered past?  How do Smashwords, Lulu, and hybrid publishing companies like Outskirts Press measure up?  For those of you who are just starting out down this road for the first time, the answers to these questions may hold the key to unlocking the joyous, fervent love-affair you never expected to have.  I’m speaking, of course, about your love affair with your self-publishing company.

loving your self publishing company

I’d like to offer you a list of characteristics I think make for the ultimate lovable self-publishing company and also make for the most positive self-publishing experience.  What should you, the eager author, look for as you research what options are out there?

  • Expertise.  A company that says it knows what it’s about is all well and good, but a company that actually knows what it’s about makes for a far superior experience.  Since this year is a presidential election year here in the USA, bear with me a second: it might prove helpful to think of your publishing candidates the way you would your political ones.  What do you look for in your future president?  Know-how, that’s what.  Companies that lack this crucial characteristic slide headfirst into problems of honesty, accountability, schedule-keeping, transparency, reliability, and trustworthiness.  When researching your options, you can get a good sense of a company’s expertise by watching for those tell-tale symptoms of a company in retreat––a company that throws up smokescreens to disguise its lack of expertise.
  • Experience.  Coming on the tails of its close cousin, Expertise, this characteristic is of equal importance.  You simply won’t feel confident in your choice if you know you’re a living and breathing guinea pig for a wet-behind-the-ears company looking to build its portfolio.  And if you don’t feel confident, well, you won’t find yourself falling in love anytime soon.  As you carry out your research, watch for testimonials provided both by the company on its own website and by past clients elsewhere.  It’s easy to find out if a company has the necessary experience, since authors love to blog about what they love and hate; all you need is Google!  (And some spare time.)  The benefit of going with a hybrid self-publishing company is, in my mind, that you only have to research one vendor (the company itself), whereas if you take time to research your cover and interior book designers, editors, publishing coaches, website designers, copywriters, eBook and print on demand experts, and marketing specialists … well, you’re looking at a substantial investment of time and energy.  With a hybrid self-publishing company, these experts are vetted for their skills and reliability already.
  • Diverse offerings.  Your book is a work of art, and every work of art has its own special demands.  One of my college professors once compared books to babies, not just because authors feel a deep emotional connection with them, but because they seem to take on lives of their own and often prove as troublesome and demanding as a fractious toddler.  Because your book by its very nature requires special treatment, you as an author need to trust your self-publishing company to provide diverse customizable offerings to fit it––and you.  And while some self-publishing platforms might be willing to work with you on creating something totally custom from the ground up over the course of a dozen panicked phone calls, it’s better to start with set of offerings that you can winnow down to something close to what you want––and customize from there.
  • Flexibility.  Is this self-publishing company going to be a pleasure to work with?  Are they going to be calm, flexible, and eager to please––or are they going to be stubborn, inflexible, and resistant to your suggestions?  Are they willing to revisit decisions you’ve already made, or change course in the middle of the design process if you find this is what your book requires?  At the heart of a company’s openness to flexibility is its fundamental perspective on the nature of books.  If a company looks at your book as merely a product it is bringing to market, then of course it’s going to look for the fastest, most expedient way to do so.  If that company, however, understands that your book is a masterpiece and you are a partner rather than a problem or an obstacle in the way of publication, its representatives will work with you rather than around you.
  • Soul. “Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are,” wrote José Saramago in his book Blindness.  When you go looking for a self-publishing company, you’re not just looking for an entity that ticks all the boxes in your “looking-for” list; you’re looking for a company with that little something extra, that thing which moves a person or a company out of the realm of “things I’d be okay with” to “things I feel a deep connection to.”  You’re not looking for a company.  You’re looking for company along the journey.  You’re looking for a good match between you and professionals who know what they’re about, and who share your heart and vision for your book.  If this sounds a little like you’re looking to fall in love with someone, then you’re not far off!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Always remember: you are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 7/15/14

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

How to Get Successfully Published TODAY: Big 5, Indy, or Self-Publish?

This great article discusses the pros and cons of three publishing options. It also mentions famous self-published authors and reasons why self-publishing might be the right choice for you. This is a must read for authors trying to decide which publishing route to go.

Self-Publish Like a Pro: Finding an Audience

This author recommends using various sites to connect with readers and share your book. She shares her own personal experiences with the sites and how her marketing approach has helped her build a loyal fan base. This is an interesting read for all writers.

Smashwords Releases 2014 Indie E-book Sales Survey

Smashwords recently released an insightful e-book sales survey that can help authors plan their next books and marketing approach. Key findings include: readers want longer e-books; series books outsell standalone titles; and series that offer the initial title for free earn more money.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Cheaper isn’t Always Better, Self-Publishing Authors

When choosing a self-publishing company, remember the adage, “Cheaper isn’t always better” and ask yourself these two questions:

1. What are the upfront costs, the per book cost and royalties?

You may find a company that has incredibly low per book author costs, but don’t let that govern your decision.  Just because a company promotes a low per book cost doesn’t mean they are the best bargain — they may have high upfront costs and low royalties.  And just because a company offers low upfront costs doesn’t mean they are the best bargain — they may have high per book costs, low royalties and even requirements for you to purchase hundreds of books yourself.  You must find a good balance of upfront costs, per book cost and royalties.  Consider all of this when self-publishing.

2. What services are available?

The cliché “you get what you pay for” is often true when it comes to self-publishing. Not all self-publishing companies are created equal, and you need to consider your professional goals and needs when choosing a company. A cheaper company often does not offer all the services and support needed to create a quality book, and if you want to be respected as an author and sell books, you need to offer your readers a quality product.

Ultimately, the self-publishing company you choose depends on your goals and needs as an author. Some people can go with the cheapest option and be completely satisfied, but many serious authors find that spending a little more is worth the extra expense.  You want to find a company that will produce a top-quality product, offer you plenty of options such as professional editing,  custom covers, and marketing and promotion services.  As you research self-publishing companies, be sure to consider all the costs as well as the value of the services offered. You may just find that “cheaper isn’t always better.”

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Help! There are so many self-publishing companies!

So you’ve decided to self-publish, congratulations! Now it’s time to pick a self-publishing company. As you’ve probably already realized, this can be a stressful task since comparing self-publishing companies is like comparing apples to oranges. At first glance, you might think it is simple to compare packages from different companies, but once you dig deeper, you’ll realize that each company’s packages feature different services.

When researching and comparing self-publishing companies, be sure to ask yourself these questions:

1) What services do you want and need?

Before you start researching companies, make a list of the services you want and need. Reference this list when you are comparing packages as some packages may include services you don’t need, and thus don’t want to pay for, or may not include the services you want. This will help you narrow down your options.

2) Consider add-on options.

In addition to publishing packages, self-publishing companies offer add-on services, such as custom cover design or editing. In some cases, it is more cost effective to purchase a cheaper package and add-on options than purchasing a more expensive package.

3) Get a true comparison.

To get a true comparison, you need to determine the per author cost for books after publication and the per book royalty you will earn . (See an example here.) You may find it is better to spend a little more upfront to reap the benefits of higher royalties on the back end. Remember, cheaper isn’t always better.

4) Think about your after publication needs.

The work doesn’t end once your book is printed. To be successful, you will need to market and promote your book. Self-publishing companies offer a variety of marketing options, so be sure to consider the after publication services when choosing a self-publishing company.

5) What are the upfront costs, the per book cost and royalties?

You may find a company that has incredibly low per book author costs, but don’t let that govern your decision.  Just because a company promotes a low per book cost doesn’t mean they are the best bargain — they may have high upfront costs and low royalties.  And just because a company offers low upfront costs doesn’t mean they are the best bargain — they may have high per book costs, low royalties and even require you to purchase hundreds of books yourself.  You must find a good balance of upfront costs, per book cost and royalties.

Ultimately, the self-publishing company you choose depends on your goals and needs as an author. Some people can go with the cheapest option and be completely satisfied, but many serious authors find that spending a little more is worth the extra expense.  You want to find a company that will produce a top-quality product, offer you plenty of options such as professional editing and custom covers, and a variety of options for marketing and promoting your book.  As you research self publishing companies, be sure to consider all the costs as well as the value of the services offered. You may just find that “cheaper isn’t always better.”

Choosing a self-publishing company is like any important decision in life; you can analyze and analyze and analyze, but eventually you have to make a decision, and sometimes that decision is based on something other than logic. Trust your instincts.

If this seems a little overwhelming, don’t worry. Self-publishing companies have great teams of professionals to help you pick the best options for you.

 

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 3/25/14

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

Nook Press self-publishing platform is now available to authors in the UK and parts of Europe

Barnes and Noble, the bookseller behind the Nook e-reader devices and e-reader store, has announced that the Nook Press self-publishing platform is now available to authors and publishers in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. As part of the move, Nook Press now supports multiple languages including French, Italian, German, Spanish and Dutch. This is great news for ebook authors because they know have access to even more readers.

Steven Berkoff makes self-publishing debut

After rejection by conventional imprints (despite having previously published), actor and director Steven Berkoff has decided to self-publish two books. This is an interesting read for authors considering self-publishing.

Next Time, I’ll Self-publish

This is an honest look at traditional publishing from a professional writer. It explains why next time, she’ll self-publish. This is a must read for all writers.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 3/18/14

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

Advice to the Self-Publisher

This author shares excellent advice for anyone considering self-publishing. The article discusses the different types of editing and also addresses when to self-publish your manuscript. It is a must read.

8 Rejuvenating Books To Read In The Spring

One of the best ways to improve your writing is reading. This article recommends eight books worth reading this spring.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Self-Publishing an eBook

Choosing a publisher is an important decision. This article raises six questions every writer should answer before self-publishing.

Self-Published eBooks Dominate Bestseller Lists

Indie titles are dominating bestseller lists every month. This article looks at some interesting statistics on how self-published titles are starting to dominate the bestseller lists.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.