In the past year since my own self-published book, The Victor, was released, I have met many authors who have gone the self-publishing route and have learned many important things that they should have given thought to but didn’t even know to ask and are now kind of “stuck” after having spent A LOT of money. There are good companies to self-publish with and some horrible ones, so “buyer beware”! There are quite a few important things you need to ask and consider before deciding on which company to go with to publish your book. Of course, it goes without being said but should be stressed again: READ YOUR TERMS AND CONDITIONS WORD FOR WORD and with your spouse or trusted friend before signing anything. Here are some other questions to ask:
1) Who owns the rights to the final edited AND unedited manuscript versions of your book? Who owns the cover art? Who owns the copyright? You or the company that published you? Does it cost extra? Does it expire? Who owns the copyright to your book’s characters? If you cancel your agreement and you don’t own the cover image of your book, you will have to remove it from every place it has been posted.
2) Price control of your finished product. Who controls the pricing of your book? Are you unknowingly granting exclusivity on price? See if you can find out ahead of time what they would price your book at to sell before you sign anything. If a book is priced too high it isn’t going to sell and if your cost isn’t much lower than the retail price you don’t have much discount room even if you sell it yourself. Who controls the price – you or the publisher?
3) Can the company edit your book without your permission? Again, read your terms and conditions carefully. If you aren’t sure, then take it to an attorney and have him/her go over it; it will be worth every penny!
4) Does the company charge for editing? If so, how much per hour? Get all the details ahead of time. Someone I know paid $900 to have her book edited. The going rate is anywhere between $25 an hour to $45 an hour, or you can negotiate a flat rate. Be sure to proofread the entire manuscript BEFORE it goes to the printer, too. It is your responsibility.
5) Is the book discounted to bookstores? Many bookstores will refuse to carry a book they can’t get at a significant discount (40%).
6) Is the book returnable? This one is VERY important. Bookstores will not carry books that are not returnable. Sometimes the publisher will make the books returnable if you pay them a small ransom (several hundred dollars). If the book is returned, can Amazon then turn around and make money off the resale without paying you the author? You best be sure.
7) Is your book available through a major distribution channel? Like Ingram/Spring Arbor? Will it be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.? Does that service cost extra?
8) Marketing Services: What does the publisher charge for its marketing services and what types of services are offered? Ad campaigns, mass mailings, etc., are a big waste of money, so don’t go there. Does the publisher offer book trailers? If so, how much does a trailer cost and who owns the rights to it … you or the company? Same thing for a building you a website. Get a few examples of trailers/websites the publisher has produced before signing on the dotted line.
9) Kindle: Is there a charge to have the book made available on Kindle format? If so, how much $$$?
10) Review Copies: Will your publisher send out free review copies or do you have to do it yourself or pay for them?
11) How will the books be sold and distributed?
Publishing your book is only 1/3 the battle. The next thing you have to think about is how you are going to market your book. How are you going to get the word out? Did you know that 5,000+ new books are released every month? How are you going to let the reading public know about yours?
Too many authors think that if they can only get their book into print that a miracle will occur and it will fly off the shelves. Not so. Even if you publish traditionally you still have to do a lot of the networking and marketing yourself or you will only end up selling perhaps 100-200 books to family and friends. Chances are you won’t come close to breaking even on the money you have spent.
You need to find a good book marketing company – one that doesn’t promise the world and make grandiose claims. Again: BUYER BEWARE. Word of mouth is still the best way to sell books but how do you create “word of mouth?” Answer: Social media! Facebook, MySpace, Shelfari, Goodreads, Blog reviews. It takes A LOT of work. My book has been out for little over a year and I still have new opportunities coming my way because I am constantly working at it; networking on social media has become my second job. It didn’t hurt either that I also found a great book promo company (www.bookcandystudios.com) that helped me to build a large audience base on the social media sites. The rest was up to me and I can honestly tell you that I have 700 more “friends” than I did a year ago; at least 100 of which I am VERY good friends with and who have been telling their friends about MY book, The Victor. Word of mouth at its best!