Diversity & Self-Publishing (ep. 5)

On this most auspicious of post-St. Patrick’s-Days, we will answer the last two questions in a series of questions (and blog posts) on the role (past, present, and future) of diversity in publishing, and particularly in self-publishing.  If you missed any of the blogs in this series, you can find them here, here, here, and here.

The first of our remaining two questions may seem deceptively simple:

  • Should we make diversity happen?

But I should like to protest against any intimations of straightforwardness.  There are very few people in this world, I think, who would openly declare “No!” in answer to such a question, but there are a great many–perhaps even the majority of our regular authors and readers–who do unconsciously, or subconsciously, respond in the negative.  How is this so?  It is so because recognizing a need, then stepping out and actively contributing to positive change and forward momentum, is incredibly difficult.  What is that quote we attribute to Edmund Burke?  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  Anything–any inaction–that allows an unjust or under-representative system to continue is a silent, but extremely resounding, “no.”  Whenever we come up against the status quo, creating change is going to take more than a little goodwill, or even a great deal of goodwill.  It takes vision, energy, resources, and endurance.  Perhaps the question we need to ask isn’t “Should we make diversity happen?” but rather, “Why aren’t we doing this already, and how can we make good on what we already know to be the right thing to do?”

Having determined that encouraging diversity in the world of books is a good thing, our next question necessarily follows:

  • How can we better foster a self-publishing community that welcomes diverse authors and readers?

I think we need to take a long and honest look at the systems we trust to install agents, editors, book buyers, illustrators, executives, and even CEOs.  This holds true for other industries apart from the world of books, of course, but when talking about the life of the mind and the imagination, we need to be especially aware of the insidious influences of a stagnating infrastructure.  In essence, we need to reevaluate what we’re already doing, and jettison the injustices actually built into publishing DNA.  We need to be honest with ourselves and with others about who holds power over who gets published, and who gets the resources to self-publish.  There are subtler, even more sinister workings behind-the-scenes that we need to reevaluate, too, such as the tendency to grandfather in unspoken assumptions and expectations when it comes to what the industry sees as risky, or the “right fit.”  If we use patterns of the past to justify the future, we had better make sure those patterns include a rich texture of voices and stories and authors.

The playing field is slightly more level in the world of self-publishing because diverse authors should not, in theory, be facing the same editorial and agent-related hurdles that a traditionally published author is.  But we need to be honest, here, too, since self-publishing companies are made up of people and packages that may, by dint of being human, possess biases or flaws in reasoning.  Many of these companies are small in terms of staff, so they may or may not have the option of setting up an ethics and diversity committee, but it is worth every company’s while to make sure they are actively promoting diversity in both the workplace and in the products and services they offer.  If you are an author seeking self-publication, it never hurts to ask if such a committee exists, or whether the company you’re working with has any strategies in place.

So, if self-publishing were a kind of building, I’ve taken a quick survey of its architecture from the top down–from its executives to its staff to its authors.  But there’s another key component I haven’t mentioned yet: the market.  That means you, dear reader.  If you read books, you’re driving the market.  Every book bought and sold shifts the flow of money toward or away from various authors and industries.  If you want to see diversity in the world of books as much as I do, then there’s no better way to effectively contribute to that change than by putting your money to good work.  Buy self-published books by diverse authors, and you’ll see more diverse authors publishing.  It’s as simple as that.  Or rather, it may not be the only avenue through which you can create change, but it’s a simple and practical one that will see important and long-term effects.  That’s the kind of action I can get behind!

And that’s all the space I have for the week.  I know that these ruminations of mine barely barely scratch the surface of these questions, much less the conversation as a whole.   Over the next week, as I attempt to pull together a coherent summary of my responses to the questions I posed four weeks ago (and what all of this has to do with self-promotion), please drop me a line in the comments section below with your own thoughts or suggestions!  And of course, check back next week as we delve into still more of the self-publishing world!

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive 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, 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.

How to Compare 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 choosing a self-publishing company and package, you should consider the following:

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.

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.

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.

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.