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.

Top 10 Posts from 2013

Is self-publishing a book on your 2014 to-do list? If so, I’ve gathered the top self-publishing advice and news from 2013 to help you get started on your 2014 writing projects. These articles proved to be helpful to writers publishing in the past year, and I’m sure they will be helpful to you too. Here are the top 10 self-publishing posts from 2013.

1. Top 5 Customer Service Characteristics of High Quality Self-Publishing Companies

Choosing a self-publishing company is an important decision. This article discusses five characteristics to look for to ensure that you choose a high quality self-publishing company.

2. Quick Start Guide to Marketing Your Kindle eBooks Like a Pro!

This must read article discusses the differences between marketing an ebook and marketing a print book as well the mistakes that some authors make when marketing their Kindle ebooks.

3. How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make Per Year?

How much income self-publishing authors earn is always a common question among those considering self-publishing. This article provides an honest answer about the income you can expect as a self-published author.

4. Espresso Book Machines Offer Self-Publishing Authors a Jolt in Sales

It is amazing how much the publishing industry as changed over the past few years. Espresso book machines are book vending machines that produce a paperback copy of your selection on the spot. The way they work and how they are changing the way people get books is fascinating.

5. Should You Pay for a Book Review

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to market their book and increase their credibility. This article discusses why paying for book reviews is actually a great idea.

6. Self Publishing Authors Beware: Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Many self-publishing authors are looking for ways to publish their books while sticking to a budget. While there are ways to cut costs and save money, this article explains why cheaper isn’t always better.

7. Top 5 Considerations for Effectively Pricing Your Self-Publishing Book

Book pricing is always a hot topic among self-publishing authors. This article helps you determine a pricing strategy that is appropriate for your book.

8. Color Printing vs. Black and White Printing…What is the Difference?

This article discusses the difference between color printing and black and white printing. It also explains how these options compare to those offered by traditional publishers and what options are available to authors of long manuscripts.

9. Compare CreateSpace and Outskirts Press Self Publishing Packages

Choosing a self-publishing company can seem like a daunting task because it is difficult to make an apple-to-apple comparison. Each company offers different services and packages. This article provides an honest comparison between two popular publishing packages available through CreateSpace and Outskirts Press.

10. Copyright and Copywrite in Self-Publishing

Copyright is a confusing topic for many authors. This article explains basic copyright laws and what you need to do to protect your work.

I’d love to know, what is your favorite self-publishing post from 2013?

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.

Top Self-Publishing Companies of 2013

Choosing the right self-publishing company is an important part of the self-publishing process. There are many self-publishing companies available, and they all offer different types of packages and services. When choosing a self-publishing company, it is important for authors to do their research to help them decide which company is best for them.

One of the best ways to learn about self-publishing companies is consumer reviews. Unlike the materials available on company websites, consumer reviews aren’t trying to sell you a certain product; they are honest reviews by people who have used the services. They can tell you the good and the bad about the company. One great place to find reviews is TopConsumerReviews.com.

TopConsumerReviews.com recently announced the top self-publishing companies of 2013. The list includes Llumina Press, Trafford Publishing, iUniverse, Books Just Books, Virtual Bookworm, and Outskirts Press. Out of the companies reviews, Outskirts Press was ranked number one and received five stars.

To read the full reviews, visit http://www.topconsumerreviews.com/self-publishing/.

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.

Top Four Reasons to Self-Publish: Part 4 – Rights

Last month, I did a series on the most popular questions self-publishing authors ask. The posts were such a hit, I’ve decided to do another series this month. Each week in August, I will discuss one of the top four reasons why you should self-publish your book.

This week, I’ll discuss book rights. (In case you missed the last three reasons, be sure to go back and view those posts: Control, Money, and Trade and Distribution.)

As a self-publishing author, you maintain all rights to your book. This gives authors the freedom to sell or keep the rights as they see fit. However, it is important to note that self-published books will be considered “previously published” if the author later chooses to sell the book to a traditional publisher.

Owning book rights such as translation rights and film rights can have a significant impact on an author’s profitability.

Authors who use traditional publishing firms often give up most of the book rights but are usually entitled to a small percentage of the profit if the firm sells the rights to someone else. Self-publishing authors have the opportunity to choose if and how to sell their book rights to ensure they are getting the best deal possible.

I’d love to know, how has owning the rights to your book influenced your publishing decisions?

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.

Top Four Reasons to Self-Publish: Part 3 – Trade Discounts and Distribution

Last month, I did a series on the most popular questions self-publishing authors ask. The posts were such a hit, I’ve decided to do another series this month. Each week in August, I will discuss one of the top four reasons why you should self-publish your book.

This week, I’ll discuss trade discounts and distribution. Unlike traditional publishing, self-publishing allows authors to choose the type of distribution that is appropriate for their material and marketing goals.

When thinking about distribution, it is important for authors to understand how the process works. For starters, “trade discount” is an industry term for profit margin. This rate impacts who buys and sells your books as well as the profits you will make off of your book.

For instance, shelf space in a brick and mortar chain bookstore has very specific requirements: the books must have a very high trade discount (50% to 55%). Therefore, if you buy a book at one of these bookstores  for $14.95, 55% of the retail price ($8.22) is divided between the store and the wholesale distributor for their profit. When you subtract the $8.22 from the $14.95, you are left with $6.73. This remainder covers the cost of the actual book. The balance that is left after the price of the book is the author royalty. Typically, authors receive very low royalties in these scenarios.

In addition to needing a high trade discount, authors also need to provide the bookstore with a “Retail Returns Program.” This program allows the bookstores to return books to the wholesaler and get their money back if the books do not sell. You must provide this program to the retailers, but having it is no guarantee that they will agree to stock your book.

Conversely, authors that elect to focus on internet sales may select a much lower trade discount as the internet book sites do not require as large of a profit margin. So that same $14.95 retail priced book under a 25% trade discount would look like this mathematically: $14.95 – $3.74 (25% of the retail price) = $11.21 – the actual cost of your book = your royalty. Obviously, $11.21 is a larger number than $6.73. Therefore, your royalty will be greater if sold by an online distributor, assuming the cost of your book remains the same in each equation.

Freedom to choose your trade discount and distribution center is just one of the many perks of self-publishing. To learn more about trade discounts, check out Cheri’s post titled Trade Discounts 101. It provides a great overview of industry standards and questions to ask yourself before setting your discount.

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.

Top Four Reasons to Self-Publish: Part 2 – Money

Last month, I did a series on the most popular questions self-publishing authors ask. The posts were such a hit, I’ve decided to do another series this month. Each week in August, I will discuss one of the top four reasons why you should self-publish your book.

This week, I’ll discuss one of the most popular reasons authors choose to self-publish: money. (Check out last week’s post on control.) There are two things that are unique about self-publishing in relation to money.

1) The author sets the price.

The price of your book influences the profit you make and how well your book sells. Different authors have different pricing strategies, and you need to give this decision a lot of thought. Rather than a publisher deciding the value of your book, you set the price based on your goals and personal situation.

2) The author earns100% royalties.

If you talk to authors who use traditional publishing firms, royalties are a hot topic. Many authors are unhappy with the royalty rate (which is often in the single digits). Self-publishing authors enjoy 100% royalties. Yes, 100%. Whatever you earn from your book is yours to keep. This reason alone is why many writers choose to self-publish their work.

I’d love to know, how has price and royalty influenced your publishing decisions?

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.

Top Four Reasons to Self-Publish: Part 1 – Control

Last month, I did a series on the most popular questions self-publishing authors ask. The posts were such a hit, I’ve decided to do another series this month. Each week in August, I will discuss one of the top four reasons why you should self-publish your book.

The first reason I’ll discuss is my personal favorite: control. Self-publishing allows the author to control the entire process: the manuscript’s content, the cover design and copy, even the selling price. This is a completely different experience than if you  use a traditional publisher.

With traditional publishing, the editor or publishing firm calls all the shots. They decide how your book should read. They choose what it will look, when it will be released, how much it will sell for, etc.

While there is nothing “wrong” with the traditional publishing route, many authors cherish their work so much they can’t stand the thought of someone else being in control of their project. Others want the creative freedom to express themselves and to take chances.

Control is the number one reason why famous authors who have previously published with traditional publishing companies are choosing to self-publish their books.

The Huffington Post recently interviewed six popular authors who switched to self-publishing because they wanted control. You can read the interview at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/why-traditionally-publish_n_2487464.html.

I’d love to know, how has the need for control influenced your publishing decisions?

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.