We received this awesome comment in regards to one of our blog posts. We felt the questions were so important, we wanted to answer them so everyone could see our response. Thank you, Kris, for your timely questions!
Kris Orkin said:
“Okay, I'll be honest and say what a lot of writers are wondering. I'm just plain scared of self-publishing. I know that authors who self-publish have more control over the entire process of getting their books out. I know it's a faster process, though often costly. Nevertheless, I've considered this route and have spent a great deal of time reading books that have been independently published. And I'm sad to say I've not been happy with 90% of the stories I've read. Overall topic ideas seem wonderful, but the actual writing often has disappointed me--not only grammar and punctuation errors, but also blatant weaknesses in sentence structure, transitions, and basic language. It makes me wonder if editors are involved and if author rewrites are required. Every writer wants his/her story published quickly, including me. Do self-publishing companies take advantage of authors like us by printing things that are not yet ready, for their financial gain and our egos? I worry about my reputation as a skilled writer. I worry about handing over my manuscript to someone who will not care enough to edit it and make me improve it. How qualified are the editors of these publishing companies? Book sale numbers really don't mean much. People don't know a story is going to be a bad read unless they first purchase the book, then read it. Meanwhile, records show a documented book sale (of an unread book). And once read, you can't return something that was ill-written. HELP ME UNDERSTAND MORE about this type of publishing. The costs involved in self-publishing need to assure me of a spotlessly clean end product. What say you? (Sorry people, don't judge my curiosity as negativity. I'm trying to be helpful in highlighting concerns that many of us have but are afraid to ask of a self-publishing company, for fear of sounding disrespectful. Please know that I respect 40DayPublishing and trust they will address my concerns in the spirit they were asked.)”
I’m so glad you asked!!! I understand your fears. And they are legitimate. I think first off we need to differentiate between independently self-published authors and subsidy house published authors. There is a difference. And yes, I too have read some books coming out of subsidy house publishers that are horrendous. My first book was published with one such house (which will remain nameless). When I ended the contract with the subsidy house, I was so embarrassed to be associated with them in any way that I destroyed every bit of promotional material I had with their name on it. So, I get that. I really do.
For those readers who don’t know…I want to explain the difference between a subsidy publisher and self-publishing. Subsidy publishing houses (also commonly called vanity publishers) accept most manuscripts that pass through their doors. It does not matter what the quality is, if you have the money, they will publish you. Not only do you pay them to do all the work for you (and no, I don’t think we should all work for free) but they also take most of your royalty from your book. Often they control the price of your book as well. The author is usually given creative control BUT I have seen many cases where the author is bullied into doing the will of the publisher when it comes to cover design, back matter etc. The independently self-published author either has to learn to format paperback and ebooks…or they have to hire someone to do it for them. They also must have a cover, either designed by themselves or someone else. They must have an editor. Or not. It’s truly up to the author what they want and what they don’t want. You get the idea.
Now, for truly independent self-publishing. If you are willing to learn how to self-publish, you can do it for free. Seriously. Self-publishing does not have to cost thousands of dollars. Knowledge can be costly. You must either spend the time to learn, or pay someone to teach you. This is why so many pay others to do the work for them. They simply do not want to put in the time.
I’m going to say something that may step on a few toes. But, that is okay. Truth is truth. For self-published authors, the responsibility for having a well edited book is the responsibility of the author. If you want your cover to be awesome, it is your responsibility. If you want your interior to look like it just came off the press of a traditional publisher’s press…then it is your responsibility. It really comes down to you.
Do subsidy houses take advantage of authors? You bet they do! They prey on the emotions of authors who dream of publishing. They send a lovely contract that has a gold seal. They make you feel special. Like you survived the cut when so many others didn’t. In fact, most everyone survives the cut. They also provide a service that many authors are looking for. Someone to at least appear as if they believe in them.
I received a letter from an author who was amazed that her manuscript was accepted by a Christian Subsidy Publisher. Now, everyone has the right to publish what he/she wants to publish. But if you say you only accept 5% of submitted manuscripts and you only publish clean Christian work, then why did this company accept a story line that not only has two lesbians raising a child together, but also endorses such activity? Did they really read the manuscript before accepting it? One must wonder.
I cannot speak for editors everywhere. I do know that some editors are trained. Some are good at what they do. Some are terrible (although they are usually nice). I can say that one of the last traditionally published books I read had more errors then then last self-published book I read. It is becoming more and more common (no matter who the publisher is) to see errors in books. And of course, things change. For instance, do you place two spaces after each period or one? Do you use ellipsis, n dashes, m dashes, or nothing? I’m reading a Love Inspired book right now that actually put quotation marks inside the punctuation. That happens to be traditionally published. It just made me smile.
My books are not perfect. I make no claims to such. I never will. No matter how many editors have gone through them because some hard and fast rules have changed and others are up for interpretation. Besides, I have found true typos in my books. Like I find in every other published book. I do love the fact that when I find an error I can have it fixed in a matter of hours on Amazon. Paying big money will not guarantee you a spotlessly clean book. That does not exist.
As for returns…yes, the reader can return e-books to Amazon within a two week window. And they do return books. I rarely have a return. And all my books have excellent reviews. Between the full length novels and the novellas, the lowest ranked book has 4.5 out 5 stars and over 250 reviews. Not too shabby for a self-published author.
It comes down to this. Do you believe in the message you have to share? Are you willing to wait and take the chance to see that message reach people who are desperately waiting for it (if waiting to be accepted by a traditional publisher)? Or do you believe the message/content is important enough to make a difference in lives around the world sooner rather than later? I honestly forget about the “errors” that have been found when I receive an email from a reader across the world telling me how my books helped her find hope in Jesus Christ. I’m more concerned with the reader who found my book and then found the strength to forgive a wandering husband. I know that family is now saved and living for Jesus. Stories like these make a couple of errors seem petty. I refuse to hide my talent in the sand. I want to use them and multiply them for the Lord. He does not expect us to be perfect. He does expect us to be obedient.
Would you like to wait nine months to one year before seeing your book for sale on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBookstore? Or would you like to see your book for sale in eight weeks or less?
Most traditionally or subsidy published authors wait almost a year before seeing their work reach their intended market. In fact, some authors won’t ever see their work published if they wait on a traditional publisher to deem their work worthy. Do you want to be lumped in with most authors? Or do you want to self-publish your work and reach those who need to hear what you have to say in a timelier manner? Just one thing to consider when making your publishing choices.
Do you want someone else deciding what your book should look like? Or would you like your book cover to represent your story the way you, the author, envision it?
Traditionally published authors almost never have a say on what their book(s) look like. Even though subsidy publishers often say you have complete control over your cover design, they sometimes bully authors into thinking they know what is best in regards to your cover, even though they have not read the book. As a self-published author, you know your story best. Your book’s cover is totally dependent upon your vision. You truly make the final decision when it comes to your book cover.
Have you ever handed your manuscript over to someone only to have them practically rewrite you entire story? Do you really want your book rewritten? Or would you rather have someone fix the grammatical errors and point out inconsistencies so the heart of your work remains the same while the manuscript gets cleaned up?
When you sign over intellectual rights, you lose the right to said work. You no longer get the final say on what your characters look like or whether or not the family in your book has a dog. Your work in essence is no longer your work. You may have created it. It may be your baby. But when you sign your baby over to the publisher, you have decided to put your baby up for adoption. When you self-publish, you decide which twists and turns are to be included and which ones are to be removed. You are the boss. You maintain creative control.
How often do you want to be paid? Once a quarter? Twice a year? Once a year? Or would you rather see money being deposited in your account monthly?
Amazon, the world’s largest book seller, deposits royalty payments directly into your account monthly. That’s right. When you self-publish there is no waiting on a publisher to be paid months before you see a dime from your work. Self-published authors have no middle man who decides when the author gets their money.
Do you want someone else to take the bulk of your pay? Or would you rather earn up to 70% from your book sales?
Traditional publishers would go out of business if they did not earn a portion of your royalty. That is just how it goes. Subsidy publishers want money up front and a good portion of your royalty earnings. And plenty of people hand their money over willingly in order to be published. When you self-publish, you are the direct link between the book seller and your bank account. When you price your book between 2.99 and 9.99 on Amazon, you will receive 70% of that sale on a monthly basis. Considering that Amazon sells the most books of any venue, your income can add up to quite a bit. Who is holding on to your money, you or a publisher?
Do you like playing the guessing game in regards to book sales? Or would you rather know how many books you are selling on a daily basis?
When you are your own publisher, you do not have to wait for a quarterly or semi-annual report to let you know how many books you are selling. You can track those figures daily. Every day you can see how many books you are selling and how much you are earning. It really pays to be your own publisher.
Do you like your book price to be so high no one buys it? Or would you rather be able to lower and raise your book’s price to match the market?
Let’s face it, when we first start out as authors, who is going to pay $12.99 for our ebook? We are virtually unknowns. We need to build a reader base. One of the best ways to do that is to price our books affordably. When a publisher is controlling your selling price, affordability is often not a possibility. But, when you determine the sale price, you can price your book exactly how you want to. You can run a sale, you can lower the price for marketing purposes. You can do what you want because you are in control of your own book!
Do you like to pay retail price when you order a copy of your own book? Or would you rather purchase copies of your book at that low publisher price?
Let’s face it, one way publishers make money is by selling you your own book at an inflated price. Of course, if you order copies by the hundreds, you get a discount. How would you like to pay that same low price even if you order only one copy of your book? That is just one of the ways being your own publisher saves you money.
Do you like paying a subsidy publisher thousands of dollars to perform the technical work of publishing only to turn around and pay most of your royalty amount to them as well? Or would you rather publish yourself completely for free?
If you are willing to invest the time it takes to learn the trade, you can publish yourself for free. Yes, you read that right. You can publish your book for free. I admit, learning to format is tough. Creating covers that will compete in today’s market is tough. But, it can be done. The question becomes, what are you willing to do? To Learn? And if there are some parts to the publishing process that is just not your cup of tea, you can hire out those specific skills to get the job done right.
Do you want to only publish one book per year? Or would you rather release your stories faster, creating a reader base that much quicker?
It takes anywhere from nine months to a year and a half for a publisher to publish a book. That is a long time. If you know what you are doing, you can publish your book in a week or two. Let’s face it, time is money. As our books are waiting in a publisher’s computer queue for its turn to be noticed, as self-published authors we could have two or more books published on our own. That means, more readers are seeing our work. Our readers are not growing impatient. And more money is being deposited in our bank accounts.
Do you like errors in your reading material? Or would you rather read something that has as few mistakes as possible?
One thing I hear the most complaints about is the unwillingness of publishers to fix errors after a book has been published. Subsidy publishers want to charge you upwards of $100 to fix errors on one page of your manuscript. When you self-publish, you can make changes to your manuscript at any time and have those changes go into effect within 24 hours, usually less.
Do you like to blame people for your lack of success? Or do you realize that your success is wholly dependent upon you?
If you are willing to work hard, learn from your mistakes, keep pushing on no matter what gets in your way, then self-publishing is for you. Self-publishing is not the easy way out. It is not the last resort. It is for authors who do not want to place their success in the hands of someone else. Self-publishing can be the best thing you ever do after writing your book.