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.
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. ♣︎
|ABOUT 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.|