Marchbooks' Blog

October 30, 2009

Do You Need A Full Service Publisher Or A Printer?

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 2:48 pm
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Many writers are confused by the plethora of choices available to them when it comes to publishing today. Having gone through the decision-making process not so very long ago, I know it is not an easy one. Like most major decisions, this one is far from cut and dried.

To begin with, it is essential to know what you want out of publication and what your goals are. Do you want to publish the next great American classic, a N.Y. Times Bestseller or do you just want to have your name in print for your family and friends to see? Once you have honed in on your objective, you can proceed to the next step and that is learning the basics of the industry.

Novices continue to refer to POD as a package deal. POD is a technology, nothing more, nothing less. There are companies that utilize this printing technology, combining it with a totally turn-key product (or package deal) which can provide everything from editing, formatting and marketing to book covers and other design features. Then there are companies like Lightningsource and Createspace who are essentially just printers that offer POD technology. Although CS is now beginning to offer an expanded service, when I signed on with them both companies were only interested in receiving print-ready files. You would submit your completed files, check the proof and you were off to the races.

Sounds great, but this avenue is not for the faint of heart. Most people, especially those who only have one title to publish, are not interested in going through the learning curve that is required for the proper publication of a book. Believe me, it is much more complex than just uploading your Word file, at least if you intend to do it properly, so that your title can be competitive with traditional trade paperbacks.

Self publishers have a choice; they can either front load their cost by putting the time and labor into designing and editing their books themselves or they can pay someone to do it for them. Keep in mind that many of these service companies will get their money in more than one way. Many of these custom publishing companies, like Outskirts Press – which is the company that I considered before signing on with CS and LS, will collect money up front (usually in the form of a flat fee for different book design and marketing packages). Then, they will also collect money by inflating the cost of the book (thus reducing the author’s share). Outskirts Press charges almost twice as much, for author copies, as CS or LS. This can add up quickly, especially if you are planning on mailing out large numbers of review copies as part of your marketing plan.

Again, if you are only planning to publish one title, it may not be worth it to go to the effort of learning all of the intricacies of publication or to invest in a block of ISBN numbers. If your intent is to continue to write and publish, it WILL be worth your effort to go through the learning curve because it will mean significant savings for you in the long run.

Just keep in mind that if you do decide to wear the hats of publisher, editor, copyeditor, proofreader, book designer and marketer, don’t plan on being able to get back to the business of writing any time soon. Publication efforts can absorb most, if not all, of you time and can suck the life out of the creative process.

Consider yourself warned, weigh all the factors and then make a decision. Exercise due diligence before you open your check book, you’ll be glad you did. I think that there are many people who signed on with Publish America who wish that they had taken more time to research the facts before making a commitment. Don’t be one of those people.

Good luck,

August 24, 2009

The Downside to POD

I always enjoy being devil’s advocate, even when the devil is me. Therefore, this entry is devoted to a counter argument to a previous post –  ‘POD – The Greener Side of Publishing’.

Many authors burn with the desire to see their words in print. Surprisingly though, not enough of those authors are willing to polish those words to a perfect sheen before sending them out into the world.

Editing is a lot of work. It is tedious, boring and worst of all, it keeps you from doing what you were born to do — write. You have already written the story. Now it’s time to move on to your next literary masterpiece, n’est pas? Proofreading is even worse. If an author does make an effort, beyond the cursory running of spell-check in their word processor, they will soon find their brain atrophying from the proofreading process. Their eyes will eventually begin to glaze over, sabotaging the author’s efforts by skimming over their undeniably perfect prose.

News flash – editing and proofreading are not optional if you desire to put your writing out there for public consumption. Unfortunately, authors do it every day. The evidence is everywhere. Go to any community writing site. and WritersCafe are my favorites. These communities are wonderful and an absolute must for any author who is trying to guage how the public will receive their writing, but throughout these sites, you will find an abundance of poorly written prose.

Admittedly, posting a short piece online is quite different from arduously preparing a book for print, especially when one purpose of that post is to garner constructive criticism of the piece. And, it is not my intent to be cruel, but let’s call a spade a spade. It is no secret when a writer is merely posting their words as quickly as they fall off of their pen. This is hugely inconsiderate to the potential reader. Sadly, this phenomenon, all too often, carries over into a writer’s self-publishing efforts. And, how unfair is that to the unwitting buyer of the product of this slovenly effort? Excuse me for saying so, but if I have laid out my hard-earned money to buy a book, which I do often and with enthusiasm, the very least I can expect is that I not have to stumble through a minefield of typographical and grammatical errors. I have no right to expect that this author be the next Hemingway, but I can expect that they have made every reasonable effort to produce a text free of obvious spelling and grammatical errors.

There seems to be an all too pervasive misconception, among new authors, that publishing is easy. Second news flash – not if you do it right. There is a reason why publishing houses are uber selective about which submissions they will accept. Publishing and promoting a book is a long, arduous and expensive undertaking (if it wasn’t there would be no reason not to publish everything that came across their desk). Publishing a book the right way is more than simply uploading a raw text file and encasing it in a generic cover. And, when that book does finally roll off of the presses, the lion’s share of the work is just beginning.

And there, my friends, is what I consider to be the downside of POD. This new technology has made it all too easy for anyone, with only a small initial investment and minimal effort, to publish their writing – thereby flooding the market with numerous substandard books. The result is a stigma that a diligent self-publisher must now overcome.

As with most new technology, with the good comes the bad. This is the downside of a wonderful, new, groundbreaking technology. It is surmountable, it just makes the job of the serious small publisher that much more difficult.

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