In the comments section of my truncated post, “Tate Publishing Troubles,” Keith Kelly asked, “What do we do now?”
I can promise you I’m not the all-knowing queen about this, but I can share what I do know: Predator presses should never be an option. You have alternatives.
Since computers and word processing programs have made writing so much easier, big-name traditional publishers are inundated with queries. They accept so few of them that it’s almost not worth trying. You still can, through an agent and writers conferences, but just as predator publishers aren’t necessary, neither are large, traditional houses.
Here are some alternatives:
- Small- to mid-sized publishers
Several entrepreneurs have taken up the slack in the publishing industry by opening their own houses. Most don’t require an agent to query them. They’re “traditional” in the sense that you pay nothing. They may or may not buy the rights to your book, but they do pay royalties and many houses pay advances. They do all the grunt-work involved: editing, cover design, formatting, and uploading to the distribution sites. Some even help promote and market (a job that’s primarily on your shoulders even with large publishers). Because they do all this, they’re worth it, but investigate them. Check out their covers and interiors, find out where their books are distributed, see if you get to keep your rights or, in the alternative, when you can have your rights back. And, check out what percentage royalty they pay, because that’s often the rub when going traditional.
- Independent publishing services
Often, these are boutique-type shops where you can buy what you need. If, for instance, you already have your book edited by a professional and already have a great cover, you may need only formatting and uploading to the distribution sites. There are several who do this much for you.
Of course, this is also where you can get into trouble, so check up on those companies offering publication services. I noticed the Predator and Editor site is currently down, but you can find a list of predators on Charles S. Weinblatt’s “Book Publishing and Marketing.” Among those to watch out for are AuthorSolutions, XLibris, AuthorHouse, Westbow Press, and Abbott Press, but there are many others.
One of the best things about belonging to writers groups is that you find people who love doing the very things you hate. Frankly, I have absolutely no desire to learn certain aspects of this business, but I have friends who excel at them. Sometimes I pay these folks outright, sometimes I exchange my editing services for their formatting services, or whatever.
When my publisher released Give the Lady a Ride, I hired a cover designer/friend who also formatted the novel and uploaded it into CreateSpace and Kindle for me. All of that cost me around $300, and I earned it back in the first month.
If you don’t belong to a writers group—a place where favors are exchanged or discounted by people you have met and trust—the next best thing is to find a trusted source of these services. I recommend David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital. In the appendices, David has a list of several resources, from cover designers and formatters to promotion services.
I have the 2nd edition of Gaughran’s book, with a 2014 copyright, so a lot of his information is outdated, but it’s still a great tool to have. Within the covers of this book, he discusses virtually everything necessary for getting a digital book out there, so it’s a great place to start, and you can research the rest.
- Pros and cons of going traditional
What I love about having books released through a traditional publisher is that I don’t have to pay attention to all the minutia: getting the bar code and ISBN and copyright, dealing with Library of Congress stuff, etc. Editing, cover design, formatting, uploading, distribution—all this falls on the publisher’s shoulders.
What I don’t love is the small royalties; the lack of control over editing, cover design, format, and pricing; and not having access to my sales numbers so I can see how a marketing campaign is working.
- Pros and cons of going indie
What I love about being indie is the control over everything denied me in traditional publishing, and the immediate gratification of indie publishing. I can release a book much more quickly when I do it through my network than I can when I publish through a traditional publisher. And I can see within a few hours how my sales are.
What I don’t love about indie publishing is that everything is on me—all of the minutia I mentioned.
Since I’m still a beginner at all this, I’ve made a gazillion mistakes. Not being registered with the Library of Congress, for instance. That never crossed my mind. Not being with several distributors so my print book can be in libraries and stores. Not having bar codes. Just like writing itself, this end of the business is a learning process. In today’s industry, “I just want to write” is obsolete. No can do. We all have to learn the biz, even if we’re traditional, but especially if we’re independent.
Take the time and do your research. Start with learning what companies to steer clear of. Start with joining a large writers group—even if it’s online. There are several indie authors groups on Facebook, for instance. Start with studying something like David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital.
But if you’re serious about this business, start somewhere learning it. Don’t wait as long as I did to realize these are things you need to know.
Keith, I hope I answered your question.