“Probably other bathroom fixture issues, too.” (the First Reader)
There is a difference, my friends, between independently or self publishing, and vanity publishing. For that matter, micro presses and small presses aren’t always that safe, either. This post isn’t about the sharks swimming in the legacy publisher’s pool, so we will leave them unchummed for the nonce. No, this post is about something else that has been on my mind for a while. Every so often I hear stories, or dig up information on an author, that makes me wince in sympathy for what they have gone through, in order to see their book in print.
First of all, a publisher (and you as a self-publisher do this by wearing two hats) sends money to the author by selling books to the reading public. A vanity press, book promotion service, these things make money from the author. See the difference?
There are things that must be done to a raw manuscript to make it presentable to the public. Editing, at least copy-editing, and possibly also the sort that takes an expert with a light hand to make the story hang together and lose the raw akwardness of a baby moose walking for the first time. That second sort of editor is very very rare, and very expensive. The first sort is common, and you should check prices before selecting one, as well as seeing samples and taking references.
Which is something you ought to do for anyone who is helping you with your ms. Note that uncategorized “author services” for $1400 is a huge red flag: run. Paying for anything without researching first is a bad idea, and will almost certainly lead to you having the kind of cover for your book that people will openly mock, and the sort of editing that will have potential readers hold their noses as they click the close button on the preview window. Yes, you will need to spend money (most likely) on getting your book ready for print and ebook publication. No, it need not be an exorbitant amount, and you should spend time on research. If you are publishing anything, and hope to make money, you are now a business. *poof* (the little fairy with the gucci shoes and powersuit appears and gestures with her sheaf of papers)
If you feel like you can’t set this all up on your own, and you must, simply must, have a publisher, look long and hard before you settle. First rule: money flows to the author. If you are paying “author services” fees, then it is not a publisher, it is a vanity press, and I’d venture to say 90% (if not more) of those are scams. You are going to want to learn where to look before you trust. Preditors and Editors, and Writer Beware, two well-respected websites, are excellent resources to start with.
But say you find a group that seems to be all enthusiastic and helpful, still keep a wary eye out. If they are asking you to promote yourself, or charging you high fees for ‘book promotion’ then beware. If the whole mass of authors and publisher feels like a cult, requiring you to like everything, review one another’s books enthusiastically, and engage in frequent blog tours where the hits on your blog are mostly from others in the group, this too is a warning sign. For one thing, using this method to get favorable reviews for your book is, well, hinky to me. Especially if you sample books from that publisher and notice a trend toward bad editing and poor writing, this may simply be a way to prey on the gullible and desperate.
It’s not an easy path. But it is very possible to do this and see your book in print. Time, learning on your part, and more time in order to do the job justice. Just be aware, check references, take the time to dig into a company or person before you ‘hire’ them to publish you. And ask questions.