Self-Publish Without Being Scammed
It's a Saturday afternoon and a couple of weeks have passed since my last log in. Finally, I check my Writing.Com account. I see the customary emails from the Writing.Com Newsletter for Authors with their customary word from their sponsor, InstantPublisher.com then I see there is an email from the Writing.Com Staff. I open it to find a competition advertising a prize of a $500 credit with InstantPublisher.com for the best query letter for publication!
Oh gee, oh wow, oh whoopee! $500 credit with a Vanity Publisher, for writing the best query letter, which usually ends up in the 'slush pile' of a Traditional Publisher? Oh be still my beating heart, it can't take the excitement! Sadly, this is what some aspiring writers hope for. There are those who are still waiting for the 'Cinderella Scenario', of their talent being discovered with a glass slipper fitting their impoverished foot.
It appears Writing.Com is up to its' neck in Vanity Publishers. InstantPublisher sponsors Newsletter for Authors, Writing.Com competitions and regularly advertises on the site. So what's my problem with this? My argument is, why isn't Writing.Com making available non-Vanity Publishing options? Why isn't it letting writers know that they can publish without paying a cent? Why aren't they letting writers know that they don't have to 'cough up' to publish paperbacks and that there are also ebooks? Why aren't they letting writers know that it's possible to publish paperbacks and ebooks without paying for it?
OK, let's lay down some facts, so you can make up your own mind. To find out why I call InstantPublisher a Vanity Publisher, check out the Writer's Beware article here: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/vanity/ and while you're checking out this site, I strongly recommend you read http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/alerts/#Literary which warns about the Writers Literary Agency, which is also advertised regularly on Writing.Com.
I'll also share my own self-publishing experience. In this field we prefer to call ourselves Indie Authors aka Independent Authors. Joe Konrath, John Locke, Dean Wesley Smith, David Gaughran, Amanda Hocking were (and some still are) Indie Authors. That is to say, they didn't publish via Vanity Publishers or Traditional Publishers, they were successful in selling ebooks via Amazon or other ebook retailers like Barnes&Noble. More and more Indie Authors make a living from their writing, while others do it purely for the passion.
In the beginning I published my first paperback 'Circulate' with the small publisher Eclectica Press. No, they're not a Vanity Publisher and I wasn't charged anything to publish with them. On good terms, they graciously released the copyright and I later published the paperback with Lulu, as well as my second novel 'Scent'.
With Lulu, it's possible to publish a paperback without costing a cent with their Print-On-Demand service. POD means a copy is printed when one is ordered, instead of you paying for bulk and then not knowing what to do with a hundred copies. Lulu offers free ISBN's and a free Cover Wizard program. But I paid a friend who's a graphic artist to do my cover and I paid $50 for an ISBN through Bowker, so I'd be listed as the publisher. This way, it's also listed in the Catalogue-in-Publication and protected under Australian Copyright Law 1968.
A few months later, I paid for Lulu's Global Distribution, but I'll never do that again. Sales have shown people are less likely to pay $38 for a paperback from an unknown author than they will for a $2.99 ebook. The few paperbacks I sell today are to fans who loved the ebooks so much, they want a hardcopy.
However, back in 2010 Lulu didn't have a helpful ebook program and I saw a market I was missing out on. Lulu referred its authors to several different sites to download free epub programs (a popular ebook format) but none of the epub conversions worked. I rediscovered Smashwords which I'd vaguely looked at back in 2008, before I published my paperbacks.
Smashwords was a godsend! You upload a Word.doc and its "meatgrinder" converts it into epub, mobi, rtf, pdf etc etc. It's free to download their Style Manual and if your ebook is formatted correctly, it's distributed to Barnes&Noble, Apple, Sony, Diesel and Kobo. When your ebook is approved for Premium Distribution, Smashwords also gives you a free ISBN. Let me confirm that it's FREE to join Smashwords, their Style Manual how to format your Word.doc is FREE, the "meatgrinder" converts your book for FREE and they distribute your ebook to the online stores for FREE. Then authors earn between 60 - 80% royalties on sales. Check out http://www.smashwords.com/ for more information.
It's also FREE to upload your ebook into Amazon's Kindle program. You can't make your ebook free on Amazon, the lowest price you can select is $0.99. However, if your ebook is free everywhere else, they do price match and you do this by clicking on "report a lower price" once it's published. There are two royalty options an author can choose, if your book is under $2.99 then you earn 35% royalties. But if your book is $2.99 or more, the author can earn 70% royalties. You don't need to purchase an ISBN for your Kindle ebooks, rather Amazon applies their own ASIN instead. Check out Amazon Kindle for more information https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin
However, here's a heads-up, when you publish with Amazon Kindle, it will invite you to enrol your ebook in the Kindle Select program. It offers the juicy carrot that when a member of Amazon Prime 'borrows' your ebook in their lending program, you earn extra royalties. But the catch is, your ebook can only be available on Amazon and no other sites. They'll have a hissy-fit if you post a certain amount of excerpts of the ebook on your blog or other writing websites, like Writing.Com or Storywrite or Wattpad. To read another author's experience with Kindle Select, visit http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/01/02/my-kdp-debacle/ You can publish on Amazon Kindle and not be part of the Select program, as I have. I believe in competition and not giving Amazon all the power. I've also seen how important it is for a new author to get their name and work out there as much as possible, by having your work on all selling channels such as Barnes&Noble, Apple, Kobo, Sony, Diesel etc. Also, this doesn't alienate any of your readers, who may prefer to buy your ebook on Apple iBookstore to read on their iPhone or iPad for example.
Authors who publish on Lulu, Smashwords and Amazon retain the copyright to their work and can choose to remove them from the sites at any time. Oh and I saw on InstantPublisher that one of their ebook plans, they charge writers $50 per year to be listed on Amazon and Apple http://www.instantpublisher.com/how-to-Write-and-Publish-your-own-eBook-in-As-Li... These sites DON'T CHARGE authors annual fees to sell their ebooks, IT'S ALL INSTANTPUBLISHER! Amazon and Apple make money by having your ebook up and taking a percentage of the copies you sell.
Authors don't have to pay for marketing either, it's FREE to create a Facebook Fanpage, a Twitter account and a Blogspot page, to post excerpts, reviews, pictures and links to buy your books. It's FREE to create an Author Profile on Goodreads. It's FREE for the author to update their bio on their Amazon Author pages. You can do all of this yourself and it makes me laugh when I see Vanity Publishers charge for this.
To learn more about Indie Publishing, check out David Gaughran's site "Let's Get Digital, How To Self-Publish and Why You Should" http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/ . You can read how Indie Publishing has advantages over Traditional Publishing on Joe Konrath's site "A Newbie's Guide To Publishing" http://jakonrath.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/do-legacy-publishers-treat-authors.html... . Another helpful site is D.D. Scott's "The Writer's Guide To Publishing" and you should read her startling article why she turned down an Agent, http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com/why-i-turned-down-a-new-yorkhollywood-ag...
Once your ebook/paperback is published...now what? To market, to market, jiggety-jig. I warn you now, nobody likes spam or junk mail, recall your annoyance tugging out those catalogues that clutter your mailbox and guess what, people feel the same with finding your spam in their inbox. What do you do? You research. Use Google or whatever search engine you prefer to look up reviewers in your book's genre. It's no good sending a novel on World War Two to a Paranormal Romance reviewer. When you find the right reviewer's blog, look at their submission criteria. Are they currently closed to submissions? Do they prefer a polite query before having an ebook shoved down their throats? The etiquette is the same when you set up your Author Profile on Goodreads and look for relevant reading groups in your novel's genre. Don't just join a group and spam it, "Buy my book! Buy my book!" Contribute to discussion. "Yes, I did see the last 'True Blood' episode and I'm on team Eric instead of team Bill". Or it could be, "yes, I agree Hitler had a blonde fetish". "No, I disagree that Stalin's hobby was pressing flowers, which he sent in letters to his dear old aunt". If there's a thread for new releases then put the link to your book on it. It's the same when you join writing groups on Facebook, advertise when it's permitted otherwise you and your spam will be deleted.
A free ebook which offers helpful advice for Indie Authors starting out, is called 'Where's the Money' by Ruth Ann Nordin, a successful Indie Romance Writer. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/27297 She's also written the free ebook, 'They Stole Your Book! Now What?' http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/78789 which deals with piracy. Sadly, it's not just successful Trad Authors who are haunted by this phenomenon, but so are Indie Authors. There are ongoing debates whether the extra exposure for your work by popping up on pirate sites, helps or hinders. But it's certainly not nice if someone posts your book on Amazon and collects royalties on YOUR work. Ruth Ann Nordin's book chronicle's her experience with this and how to tackle it.
So come on Writing.Com... how about getting rid of advertisements for Vanity Publishers? You should be helping your members instead of hindering them. By Writing.Com endorsing Vanity Publishers, they're becoming part of the scam.
- Addendum 22 July 2012 -
I just logged in again after another while away and saw the Writing.Com Newsletter for Authors with the topic of “1st WDC Anthology”. The opening sentence says, “I am so excited! Wynwidyn Press in conjunction with WDC is putting out the 1st ever Writing.Com Anthology!!! No other writing site has one.” Sorry to burst your bubble, but I can confirm at least one other writing site which has done this previously, a couple of years ago in fact on Storywrite, http://storywrite.com/story/7845769-The_History_of_Page_Dancers__A_Storywrite_An...
Wynwidyn Press is another Vanity Publisher with exorbitant prices for publishing plans http://www.wynwidynpress.com/package_a_8.html But it gets better… to have the privilege of having your story published in the ‘1st WDC Anthololgy’, the author has to pay in Gift Points to submit their piece, it goes through a panel of judges then does the author who ‘wins entry’ get a complimentary copy? No, they have to buy one. The explanation given, is to raise Gift Points (which people pay for on Writing.Com) for ‘RAOK’. “This is an awesome opportunity for us at WDC to have what no other writing site has and to be a part of this first of its kind. Yes, I hope this raises tons of gps for RAOK.”
The explanation for Vanity Publishers on Writer’s Beware http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/vanity/ has:
A vanity or subsidy publisher charges a fee to produce a book, yet still presents itself as a publisher. There’s a wide variety of models for vanity/subsidy publishing, from companies that do little more than produce a print run that’s shipped to the author, to companies that provide a menu of design, editing, distribution, and marketing services in addition to book production. Vanity/subsidy publishers may or may not be selective (if they are selective, it’s not likely that their gatekeeping processes are comparable to those of commercial publishers), and may or may not make a claim on authors’ rights. Marketing and distribution, if provided, are usually limited; as a result, most of the burden of promoting and selling falls on the author. Costs for vanity/subsidy publishing can rise into the five-figure range.
(Some fee-based publishers will try to convince you that there’s a difference between vanity and subsidy publishing (with subsidy publishing being more respectable). Others style themselves “joint venture” or “co-op” or “partner” or “equity” publishers in order to suggest that they’re contributing their own resources to the relationship. Don’t be fooled. Fee-based publishing is fee-based publishing, and whatever you’re paying, it covers 100% of the cost and then some.)
Quote end quote. Sound familiar in relation to the ‘1st WDC Anthololgy’?
- Addendum 16 December 2012 -
It's come to my attention that Simon & Schuster is joining Vanity Publisher scam. They're offering vanity publishing packages starting from $1,999 and up and guess who they have running their Vanity Publishing arm they've called Archway Publishing - Author Solutions.
Also, I've read that employees from Author Solutions have been contacting new writers and asking if they'd like to be "published by Penguin." Instead of the new writer receiving an advance, they're expected to pay for this 'priviledge'. For more information you can check out David Gaughran's article on this disturbing scam here http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/simon-schuster-joins-forces-with-a... And Writer Beware has written an article about Author Solutions shady practices, including 'sock puppets' and trolling here http://accrispin.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/oh-that-author-solutions.html
- Addendum 23 March 2013 -
It's a Saturday morning and before I hunker down and either write my incomplete book or edit my completed book; I check my emails and Facebook notifications. I follow Writer Beware's blog as well as their page on 'Book of Faces'. They've posted two really helpful articles I just have to share. You should read, '5 Industry Trends Requiring Every Writer's Attention' http://writerunboxed.com/2013/03/18/5-industry-trends-requiring-every-writers-at... which offers helpful advice about the changing role of Literary Agents. Also, it appears that Random House is getting as muddy (and downright dirty) as Penguin and Simon & Schuster involving themselves in Vanity Publishing (by the way, did you know Author Solutions has a legal case being built against it by a lawfirm and the many disgruntled/ripped-off writers?). But how Random House is getting money out of the unsuspecting writer is "no advance; authors are charged for ‘set up’ costs; and the contract wants all rights for the length of the copyright." Read more here: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/hydra-is-appropriately-named/
- Addendum 5 May 2013 -
Traditional Publishers and Vanity Publishers are getting dirtier and downright muddier with their monopoly on how to shed you from a few shillings. I've recently learned that now Lulu has joined up with the corrupt (and currently being sued) Author Solutions which you can read here: http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2013/03/08/lulu-signs-deal-with-the-devil-now-... I've been unhappy with Lulu for quite some months now due to the fact that it charges Australian customers more. My $30 paperback is charged at $33 and when I contacted Lulu about it, they gave the unsatisfactory and vague answer of printing costs. It's not printed in Australia, it's shipped from overseas so why is it only Australia being charged more? So when I publish my next paperback, I'll be moving across to Amazon's CreateSpace and see how things go there. I found out this disturbing information about Lulu 'signing a deal with the devil' Author Solutions on David Gaughran's blog here: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/the-author-exploitation-business/#... titled 'The Author Exploitation Business' and I insist you READ IT. It's an eye-opening piece how many Traditional Publishers are now involved in scammy Vanity Publishing and how Author Solutions can suck in the unwary.