Sorry this is a bit late, but WP was being picky this morning and not letting me in. Anyway, this is another of those posts where we get to discuss the ways some folks do their best to take money from writers instead of giving them money. So let’s start with the mantra we should all probably tattoo on ourselves somewhere. Remember, money flows to the writer and not away from her.
Yes, there are exceptions. If you don’t feel you are able to do an eye-catching cover, if you don’t have a set of beta readers who are good at catching editorial problems, you need to pay to have those things done. However, paying can mean many things and doesn’t always mean opening your wallet and making a monetary payment. It can be an exchange of services. Lots of authors do this.
What you should not do is pay someone to convert your book and upload it to various storefronts. For one, there are too many excellent programs, some free and some for purchase, that help you do that. For another, pretty much every storefront or third-party site that acts as an aggregator has their own conversion software. All you have to do is upload an edited DOC or DOCX file and let them do the work. Hells bells, some of these sites even have cover creation software that can help you put your cover together.
What you should not do is fall victim to so-called publishers who make promises that are too good to be true. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that promise to get you into bookstores, get you reviews, send you on author tours all for the “reasonable” upfront price of. . . .
We used to call those folks vanity publishers. Before the age of indie publishing, they offered to publish your book for a fee. Part of the agreement often included a commitment from the writer to purchase a set number of their own books to hand sell. Often you were talking about hundreds of copies, increasing the already high amount being paid on something that would never be delivered because they couldn’t guarantee bookstores would stock the book.
But we writers want to see our books on a shelf where readers can find it. We get desperate sometimes and make decisions with our hearts instead of with our minds.
The latest iteration of these bastards make basically the same promise. Oh, they are a bit more sophisticated about it these days. Instead of saying they will publish your book for a set fee, they let you submit your manuscript for publication. If they think it is “ready”, they’ll let you know. Then they will give you a laundry list of services you can choose from. Of course, those services cost money. Want copy edits? Be prepared to pay a minimum of several thousand dollars. Want proofing? That will be another $500 or so. Oooh, what about a cover? You can pay for that as well. Then their “staff” will work hard to get your book into bookstores, etc. They’ll make sure your e-book is in all the major online stores. Of course, that might cost a bit more. And let them tell you all about their PR services and how they can help you put together an author’s tour, all at a very reasonable cost of….
Pardon me while I go shower with a strong sanitizer.
Right now, one of those groups is cold calling authors in an attempt to sign up new “clients”. Fortunately in this day and age of the internet, a number of these authors have the smarts to go online and check author groups on FB and other social media platforms. Others have gone to Absolute Write Watercooler and similar sites. Even BBB can be checked.
When you do, look to see if the oh-so-helpful “publisher” replies to the complaints. See what they say. One of them I researched last night in prep for this post seems to have a single basic response. All they do is fill in the particulars. There are certain phrases that immediately catch the eyes, showing they neither take the time nor really give a damn about coming to a fair resolution of the problem.
This particular “press” catches a lot of writers because they promise the author will receive between 80-100% of the royalties. That’s enough for most anyone to stop and take a look. But what they don’t talk about until later is there might be the need for a payment plan–for you. Why? Because before you can collect those great royalties, you have to pay for the privilege. That investment starts at $999.
Think about that for a minute. Most of those writers who will invest in this sort of service might never (probably will never) make enough on that particular title to recover the costs of “publishing”. Oh, and as for getting into bookstores? They are talking about their own stores. If you dig through the FAQs, you’ll learn they are also a POD, which makes the possibility of going into a traditional brick and mortar store even lower.
Line editing at this particular “publisher” is $0.041/word. So, if you have a 100k word manuscript, you can expect to put out $4,100. Copy edits, which read more like proofreading, comes in at $0.0133/word. That means another $1,330 for that 100k word manuscript. Want an audiobook? That same 100k word manuscript will cost $18k. So, without looking at formatting, cover creation, indexing, etc., you are already down more than $23k.
And, yes, folks fall for that, especially when they get a call from someone saying they are with a publisher and they just saw your book and think it’s wonderful and would be a perfect fit for their “house”.
This is happening now. I’ve seen half a dozen or so different writers talk about getting that very same call in the last couple of weeks. Worse, there are grumblings out there about someone saying they are with Amazon and pulling this same sort of scam. Yes, Amazon has a publishing house. No, they don’t go trolling authors with the intent of making us pay big bucks to get published.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. If you get one of these calls, run–don’t walk–in the opposite direction. Then do all of us a favor, either drop a comment on this post about it or PM or email the information to me.
Oops, don’t forget, I have a couple of new-ish books out and another coming next week.
Jaguar Bound — coming May 17th