You are not alone

For those who don’t know, every Sunday I do a promo post. I will basically promote anyone who sends me their book. No, I don’t read them, because frankly, I wouldn’t have the time to read all of them and because although I read a lot, I read by taste, or for research, and if reading becomes a duty I’ll be out of a delightful relaxation.

Anyway, if you are interested in sending a book for promotion, just send me the Amazon link to bookpimping at outlook dot com.

I won’t say I promote every single book sent to me. Some of them are so strange or twisted that I do not think my blog readership is right for it, and even instapundit, where I put a link to the promo post every Sunday night, is not likely to find many readers. But l do promote most of them.

Now, it doesn’t mean my readers send me precisely what I asked for. Let’s be frank. If you told my readers they had to breathe air, some of them would lock themselves in an hydrogen chamber, and others would try to breathe water, and yet others would hold their breath until they turned blue.

So I often get entire manuscripts, or I get links to the author’s blog where the book is serialized, or alternately I get the name of the book, and maybe the real name of the author (but not the pen name.) I get links to other people’s books, some of whom get upset at being promoted on a blog whose opinions they don’t agree with. (Don’t blame them exactly. I remember a friend being horrified at being a finalist for the Prometheus because she was afraid it would blow her political cover.) Etc. Etc.

Most of the time I take what I’m sent, try to find the book on Amazon. If I can find it I link it there because I earn a commission, which helps pay for the time I spend on my blog. If it doesn’t exist on amazon, but is — say — being serialized on a blog, I link that.

I’ve gone to insane amounts of effort to link a book when given cryptic information.

But I’ve never been so angry as I was last Sunday, when I realized one of the books sent to me was published by a vanity publisher.

The vanity publisher is not exactly a scam. They do print your book and publish it on their website. What they don’t do is make any effort whatsoever to sell your book. Why should they? I read up on their fees and they’re bigger than some advances for beginning authors from traditional publishing. So, why would they try to sell your book?

I was so angry I put a screed on my blog, and one at instapundit. And a flood of questions came back to me “BUT,” people said “How am I to do everything I need to do to get the book published? Where do I find an editor, a copy editor, a cover artist? How do I get the book typeset? Who will guide me through the publishing process? I’ve tried traditional publishing and it didn’t work.”

Well, first, in traditional publishing you need to be very careful. Investigate the house and what they publish, etc. If you go traditional, expect to spend a great deal of time waiting on an answer. And expect to have to learn to do promotions yourself, unless you get very very lucky. (Yes, you have to be good, but you also need to get lucky.) And please, with very few exceptions don’t go with tiny publishers, because it doesn’t get you anything over going indie.

But if you prefer to go indie… well!

The word for traditional publishing is “money flows to the writer.” If they ask you to pay, they’re vanity publishers, and make their money off writers, not customers.

If you go indie, on the other hand, you will pay, either in time to learn how to do things, or in money. And it might take a while to make the money back, but you retain your rights, and your ability to promote, and to write more in the same vein. (Of course in indie, as in traditional, if money is your object, you must write more than a book. It’s a long game.)

But it’s cheaper to pay for the services you need, one at a time or all together, and to keep control of your work than to hire a vanity publisher, and lose control of your book at great expense to boot.

So, below are people I know to be reputable and give you good service and help you on your journey.

Sgt Mom, who blogs at Chicago Boyz runs a little publishing business and will guide you through the entire process if you let her, and get you on your way. I’m not sure what her rates are, but I understand they are affordable. Leave her a comment at her post and discuss it with her.

For covers, there’s the wonderful young lady who did the cover for Odd Magics for me: Caitlin Walsh. The link takes you to a page with her availability and prices.

If her style is not the kind you want, feel free to ping Cedar Sanderson at her blog Cedar writes.

For deep editing, where he will check your facts, and make sure it all makes sense, try Patrick Richardson at stoppinginflyover at gmail dot com.

For copyediting, and making sure that your punctuation is consistent, and your quotes and ellipses make perfect sense, and your capitalization is properly capitalized and correct, I can’t recommend Sarah Clithero too highly. She can also index your book and probably has hidden talents I’ve not had a need for. Her email is: sarah.clithero at protonmail dot com.

And after your book is ready to go up, contact Kortnee to make sure you have the right keywords so your book is discovered by those looking for a book like yours. She’ll also help you with ad campaigns and with analysis of the whole thing.

I’m sure I’m forgetting five or six other people who offer these services. I didn’t have time to contact Jack Wilder who does the covers for my Dyce Daring books (written under Elise Hyatt) so if you want his kind of cover, ask me and I’ll poke him. (Or look for him in Larry Correia’s books on Facebook.) His covers are magnificently suited to cozy mysteries.

Feel free to ping me if you do this stuff, and I’ll be glad to do another of these posts.

But do not, under any circumstances go to vanity presses and pay them a bunch of money. Because if they make money from you they do not need to sell your book. And they won’t.

52 comments

  1. I think people have an irrational fear of self-publishing and a good deal of bias against it. When I first started considering publishing the WiP last year (I’ll be editing forever it seems), I really didn’t know anything about self-publishing and it seemed like… a lot. After stalking MGC for a while it got to seem more doable.

    Each thing I check off the list makes me think, “Oh, it really wasn’t as difficult/stressful as I expected it to be.” I started with the small steps, registering my DBA. Realizing I misspelled my real name and redoing the DBA. Looking at KDP vs IS. Estimating my page count and finding the cover art dimensions/requirements. Getting my cover art. Then moved on to the big stress… learning to use social media–I can now do some pretty good little graphic thingies in CCExpress and Picsart, I can make some kinda funny reels with the help of Video Joiner and Trimmer. All three apps were free. It wasn’t really the huge hurdle I figured it’d be, and I’m a technology derp.

    There are so many generous people in the reading/writing community. Margaret Ball gave me a free proofread, no small task for a 400ish page book. Blown away by that and so grateful. A guy in one of my reading groups who also writes middle grade books drew me a lovely frontispiece and wouldn’t accept any payment. One of my Coworkers at the day job (which is technically a night job) made my map with the MapEffects brushes in Photoshop. He’s also helping me build an author site. That’s not to mention the beta readers. I have two in particular who’ve just been… out of this world helpful. One has essentially taught me how to write.

    It seems like a lot to do, but really all it is is making friends and keeping an eye out for people who can help with the things on the list. A little research here and there. Finding the right people/blogs to follow. The journey has actually been… fun. Unexpectedly. I still have a couple people in my life who are insisting I’m a fool for self-publishing and how no one takes self-published books seriously. It bothered me for a long while but I’ve learned to tune them out. After reading a few newer traditionally published books that were… awful, I’ve dispelled the last of my doubts. I don’t need the Tor tramp stamp on my spine to tell me my book is worthy for print.

    1. Was a time when self pub meant contracting with a printer and selling from the trunk of your car.

      1. Yeah, I feel very lucky to be born in the age of on-demand publishing. I can’t imagine trying to navigate the world of self-publishing before that. Even as it is, when you’re not familiar with all the elements that go into it, it’s intimidating. Everything seems a lot harder than it is. I have no idea why I thought it’d be so difficult to use social media or get a website made. I think one issue is that I didn’t know how much anything would cost. I had no idea if I’d be paying hundreds or thousands for editing/proofreading, cover art, advertising etc. I definitely didn’t imagine people would be out here doing those things for free lol.

    2. I have to echo the shout out to Margaret Ball. I was struggling to track down a reference and mentioned it to her. She worked out that there was a typo in the information I was trying to follow and sent me her best guess as to where I should look instead. And she was right. Amazing.

  2. “Jack Wilder” or “Jack Wylder”: Larry Correia’s webmaster? OT has anyone else found the monsterhunternation.com website down today?

    1. Yeah, they’ve got some sort of domain error right now. The new Writer’s Dojo is up, and it does seem like the site goes down whenever it goes up.

      Guess it’s more popular than their site can handle?

  3. I hope it’s okay to post this here @sarah

    I also do covers, (you might know me as Tiffanie on social media) and am in the process of getting an actual website up to make things easier, and my prices are very reasonable. I do fantasy, sci-fi, para-normal romance, and kid’s book illustration, but can do other things. Here are some of the covers I’ve done for people. And you can message me from the site, or email at immortal_moments at sbcglobal dot net.

    https://www.artstation.com/dak-imarts/albums/2998901

    1. She did the art for my Alien Brides covers and it was exactly what I wanted. The Christmas Baby is one of my favorites, I think 🙂

  4. “Some of them are so strange or twisted that I do not think my blog readership is right for it”

    So, *Debbie Does Dinosaurs* is right out? 😛

    1. Not if she’s an Eeeeeevil Mad Scientist creating replicas of Soviet dictators as part of her plan to take over the world. (Come on. Brezhnev was born a dinosaur.)

  5. Whenever we do events, we get people all the time asking us how to get published. It’s very apparent they haven’t done even the most basic research of walking over to the magazine section of the library and reading the back issues of Writer’s Digest. That doesn’t discuss indie writing much, but if you want to go trad pub, it’s an easy, free way to learn the nuts and bolts.

    Yet people don’t.

    If they aren’t willing to do that level of basic reading, I guess indie publishing is a bridge too far, yet it’s not hard if you take your time. Really, even laying out the trade paperback, page by page isn’t that hard if you go slow and use a book off the shelf that looks good as your guideline.

    Take your time, go slow, do all the self-editing you can do, learn to make eBooks, trades if you want. You can copyright if you want.

    It’s not that hard. Certainly not as hard as getting a good contract with a big house with a huge advance! Now you’re talking unicorn hunting.

    1. No. You’re judging them too harshly. The problem is that they don’t know what they don’t know. I was once one of those people. I DIDN’T KNOW Writer’s Digest EXISTED.
      Now this was in the dark ages, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. You’d think it’s easier with the internet, but again, if you don’t know what you don’t know, how to research?

      1. This. I had no idea about indie publishing until I blog-wandered to Sarah’s place, and then MGC. I knew that the Cat books were so far from standard mil-sci-fi that I’d never, ever get a publisher without massive changes. Then Sarah, Amanda, and others talked about Amazon, and how you could post stuff on Amazon, and after only a few books, income would flow. [Cue “Those Were The Days, My Friends”]

        I got lucky. The people I hired to help with my first books had commented at Sarah’s place and included their business name. They are very, very good. And so, after lurking and reading for almost a year, I pulled the trigger. That was December 2012.

      2. One of these events was at the library. The reference librarian organized it.
        But you’re right. People don’t know where to begin and they don’t want to ask and look dumb.
        Thus, I worked out a standard response about reading a year’s worth of back issues of Writer’s Digests.
        I guess I assume that everyone looks over all the magazines available at the library just like they wander the stacks looking for something interesting.
        I always have.

  6. Eons ago, I wanted so badly to be traditionally published. Like most writers, I wanted the validation of some big house saying I was good enough. Of course, I also thought that such acceptance meant a lucrative career where rejection would be a thing of the past.

    Wow, what a little bit of learning will do for a person.

    I publish indie now and don’t even bother sending to anything associated with traditional. From losing my rights to the insane schedule of royalty payments(every 6 months?!?! are you kidding me?!?!) to losing the ability, in most cases, to look at other publishers(first right of refusal), traditional seemed to be set up for everyone BUT the writer.

    Yes, it costs me a few bucks to find a good editor and cover artist. I also pay for formatting, mostly because I’m too lazy to learn it and am willing to hire out. That said, I also enjoy all the revenue and retain freedom to do with my work what I want, No, I’m not swimming in cash, or even able to do it full time, but let’s be frank – not many are. Some are able to make a living, but most uber-successful writers find a break somewhere along the line in audience reach. And that’s where most authors, traditional or indie, find themselves spending most of their time – seeking that exposure. After all, most of us just know that if we get it out there to enough folks, they’ll see how good we are, right. 😀

  7. Eons ago, I wanted so badly to be traditionally published. Like most writers, I wanted the validation of some big house saying I was good enough. Of course, I also thought that such acceptance meant a lucrative career where rejection would be a thing of the past.

    Wow, what a little bit of learning will do for a person.

    I publish indie now and don’t even bother sending to anything associated with traditional. From losing my rights to the insane schedule of royalty payments(every 6 months?!?! are you kidding me?!?!) to losing the ability, in most cases, to look at other publishers(first right of refusal), traditional seemed to be set up for everyone BUT the writer.

    Yes, it costs me a few bucks to find a good editor and cover artist. I also pay for formatting, mostly because I’m too lazy to learn it and am willing to hire out. That said, I also enjoy all the revenue and retain freedom to do with my work what I want, No, I’m not swimming in cash, or even able to do it full time, but let’s be frank – not many are. Some are able to make a living, but most uber-successful writers find a break somewhere along the line in audience reach. And that’s where most authors, traditional or indie, find themselves spending most of their time – seeking that exposure. After all, most of us just know that if we get it out there to enough folks, they’ll see how good we are, right. 😀

    1. Meh. I make enough to live, if I were single and frugal.
      And that’s one of the biggest successes you can aspire to as trad pub.
      When I went indie my income increased. Not enough yet. I have work to do.
      In indie actually productivity PAYS

    2. I got some stuff trad published. You can read in the collection *Journeys and Wizardry*, which is indie. 0:)

  8. I went indy right from the start. I’d been lurking on several author blogs for a long time (Sarah’s, Peter Grant’s, Alma Boykin’s, and Old NFO’s in particular). When I got serious about publishing my first book, I spent a LOT of time going through the FAQs here at MGC. This helped me a lot in getting things ready to publish.

    One big problem I have is that I don’t do social media at all. I’ve never had a Facebook or Twitter account, and I’m still not sure I want to start one. I tried doing an ad campaign through Amazon when I launched, but I think I got more sales / KDP page reads from being promoted on Sarah’s and Old NFO’s blogs.

    I’m still figuring a lot of this out, but it’s been interesting so far.

    1. Social media can eat up oodles of time but I don’t know if there’s enough of a return to make all that time worthwhile. I mean, you could be writing instead!

      I’d say the minimum is your Amazon author’s page, followed by a barebones website (using Wix or something similar) that gives a list of your books, their covers, buy links, a basic bio for someone who wants to know, and a place to announce new material.

      After that, it depends on your time and how much you actually enjoy it.

      I loathe Facepalm.
      I was surprised that I liked Instagram.
      Twitter is a cesspool.
      I’m on TikTok because my local bookseller asked me if I wanted to be filmed, so I did my pitches. Otherwise, I don’t.
      I recognize the names of other social media, but I don’t know what they are and have no time or interest in learning.

  9. Concur with all!!! The vanity publishing ‘houses’ need to die a quick and painful death!

    1. Vanity presses are useless for people who want to earn money from writing. However, even vanity presses (the better class of them) can be helpful “will provide reasonable book for sale” points for people whose primary business is, say, the lecture/conference circuit who just need additional collateral.in the form of business/cause books for sale and aren’t sensitive about the one-time cost, as long as they can get books made available and some (however tiny) royalties in addition to the direct sales revenue they generate themselves from their presentations.

      Even a stopped clock is useful twice a day… 🙂

      1. Eh, there are a honest-to-goodness printers who will gush about the newness of their machinery, not their paradigm, and deliver you a print-run to your spec.

        What vanity presses really are useful in is keeping the vain from pestering legitimate publishers. After a writer had gotten thrown out of a writers’ forum for responding abusively to criticism he requested, and then from a writers’ group for the same (I frequented both), he came back to gloat he had sold to PublishAmerica. And we laughed our heads off.

        1. Heh!.

          The practical difference between the sort of local printers that produce, say, church bazaar cookbooks and the vanity presses that produce, say, the words of wisdom of the latest business guru, is that the latter can actually put the books online, after a fashion, for remote sale. While they sure do cost a whole lot more, the guru can charge accordingly — it’s just collateral for his main product — the service he offers.

            1. Absolutely. Still, it never hurts to have them available online in the general book channels (not just the huckster’s website), for credibility and fulfillment, if nothing else. This is not useful for folks like us, nor cost-efficient vs going up the indie learning curve to publish several works, but there is a semi-legit market for the better-performing vanity press crowd. And it’s like party favors at a funding luncheon — nobody cares what they cost,

              I imagine many political-candidate books originate this way, for example, through specialized channels. We hear about the trad presses who back such books (and lose money), but there must also be a tier that are simply vanity press-published, somewhat obscurely, funded by party organizations.

              The general Indie Publishing discussion rightly scorns the use of vanity presses in general, as often predatory and often dysfunctional, but that shouldn’t keep us from seeing that the non-criminal ones do have a place. They don’t all exist just to prey on the unsuspecting, like cardboard villains. (Not all of them, anyway.)

  10. Hi, Sarah – thanks for the link and the good words – my Teeny Publishing Bidness is Watercress Press,
    http://watercresspress.com/
    I went into business with the then-elderly founder of the press, in and about 2009 – she was a crackerjack editor, an independent soul and a good friend, who thought I was an absolutely genius writer. She did basically local books, mostly memoirs, self-help and local history, to a high quality. Yes, a subsidy or vanity press. Some of our books go now for incredible sums on the secondary market – I wish that she had kept more of them as publisher copies – I’d make a mint.
    I talked her into doing a POD imprint, utilizing Lighting Source as a print and distribution provider. She passed away, much mourned, several years later. Quite a few of her stable of customers were so glad that the business could continue as she had no kin who wanted to carry on the business, and otherwise the business and all of their files and accounts would have died with her.
    I developed the program of assisting writers to set up as their own Teeny Publisher after being active in an on-line writers’ group. The formatting and cover design requirements are a daunting matter for most story-tellers; so I help with that at a cost. I would honestly rather help them onto their feet, and have them manage all the rest, once the book is launched.
    As for costs, I have been telling people when they have asked for the last several years that it will be about $1,200-1500 to get their book out there, at rock bottom prices and assuming that it doesn’t need massive editing assistance.

  11. For anybody who’s interested, I’m still doing free copyediting/proofreading for beginning writers, because I like to read anyway, and commercial editing charges are insanely high when you aren’t even sure anybody will buy your book. (Started out as just proofreading, but it turns out I cannot refrain from comments like “That’s a dangling modifier, why not rephrase the sentence like this?”) This post

    What Am I Trying to Do Here?


    is an intro to my methods, and this one

    Open for business, and an invitation


    explains how to contact me and get started.

    Proofreading is a little slower than usual because I’ve resumed reading up on Renaissance Italy, from which a story may or may not eventually emerge. But I’m still doing it to relax after I get tired of trying to decide whether some intriguing incident should be stashed under Street Scenes or Political Kerfuffles or A Seriously Paranoid Ruler.

  12. Couldn’t agree more. Self-publishing is definitely easier than it’s made out to be (though yeah, anyone starting from zero would definitely be intimidated and a little lost about where the beginning is hiding).

    Here’s a list of useful programs that get me through my writing (many of which I’ve been using for almost a decade, so the costs are spread out across that time):

    Scrivener – Use: Writing program that outputs different file formats like epub and mobi [note: Amazon no longer accepts their own file format. epub all the way]. Available on Mac and Windows. Cost: $49 (US), and there’s also an option of getting a Mac/Windows bundle.

    Paint.net – Use: image creation program (I get most of my images from Depositphotos.com). Easier to use than photoshop and has a lot of plugins for different effects. Helps you create lovely covers (Your mileage may vary. No guarantee of fantastic covers. Warranty expires after trying for 8 hours to get the right shading on that damn shirtless guy). Cost: Free (give the creator a tip every now and again)

    Vellum – Use: formatting program that changes a simple .docx document into a snazzy ebook. I only use the ebook formatting as the paperback wasn’t quite as customizable as I wanted. Cost: $200-250 (US)

    Microsoft Word – Use: paperback formatting. Once you get a template made it’s as easy as copy-pasta. Cost: comes with Windows, otherwise $160 (US)

      1. I remember when Atticus came out. The deal breaker for me was the use of the Creepy Cloud and having to log in and keep logged in to the software, neither of which I like to use/do. Also, it looks like the app only works on Chrome (at least for the Windows version), and while offline you can’t change between books (which I do when I’m bored or inspired, so I do that a lot). Maybe it would work on my Vivaldi browser since it’s Chrome-based, but that’s a hit-and-miss for apps.

        1. I’m not thrilled with the cloud, but it beats dealing with Apple. I simply can’t afford that, and its visual interface drives me nuts.
          And no, it works on any browser. I know.

            1. Yes. I don’t do well with the Apple interface.
              For clarification, this isn’t just “I can’t afford Apple” which is true.
              It’s also that Apple has gone INTENSELY visual in interface, and I’m visually mentally retarded. (There’s not better way to put it.)
              Like stuff that has pictograms for instructions, I have to call younger son to help me figure it out.
              And when Draft to Digital was all visual on the back panels (I don’t know now, haven’t used it in years) it would reduce me to tears and I couldn’t figure out how to navigate it.
              So, leave me alone with a Mac and in ten minutes (twenty at most) I”m threatening to give it flying lessons.

      2. I second the Atticus recommendation. I’ve really loved it and their customer support is always very helpful. It’s also the only program that hasn’t lost me chapters when my computer runs out of batteries or gets shut down. Word, Scrivener and Shxpir all lost a fair amount of my work when I was using them. And Scrivener was way too complicated. Atticus is intuitive and you don’t need to watch a tutorial for every last thing unlike Scriv.

    1. I’m interested here. I bought Scriveer this year and it has been very helpful n keeping me organized but I can’t quite figure out how to get a reasonable file out of it. My first book I did basically by hand. So should I be thinking that Vellum is the missing step? Create in Scrivener and move to Vellum for making it look like a book?

        1. I found that Vellum was the missing step in creating a nice-looking ebook, though Sarah brought up Atticus as an all-in-one (it’s not a program to my taste, but others might not be bothered by its quirks). Maybe check out both options, especially if you have a tight budget.

Comments are closed.