Whenever I hear about the latest self-publishing con, I’m shocked. And then, I’m shocked that I’m shocked — confidence tricksters have been par for the course in publishing for decades, possibly centuries.
As with any con, the victim seduces himself:
“So oftentimes people say, ‘if it’s too good to be true, it is, get out.’ But that’s very easy to say about other people, it’s really hard to say about ourselves because nothing’s too good for me, I’m a person who really deserves this.”
Nine times out of ten, the targeted authors could save themselves frustration and money, by learning a little more about self-publishing… and then, by taking the word SELF-publishing at face value, and doing it themselves.
Self-publishing is MUCH easier than you think
At least once a month — occasionally, once a week — I receive a message from a student about something or other. I scan the message, fire up Dragon, and say:
Dear Student, wonderful to hear from you, hope all’s well. Thank you for your message. I hate to be negative, but this is a con…
Listen up, please. The publishing swamp has been filled with alligators forever. Prospective authors pay confidence tricksters thousands of dollars for empty promises.
You can do it yourself.
Amazon offers plentiful Help files. Read them. Make your ebook as perfect as you can at this stage of your career, then dive into Amazon’s KDP Jumpstart. Use KDP’s own Cover Creator to whip up a quick cover. (Yes, publish an ebook first. If it succeeds, you can worry about a paperback then. One step at a time.)
Hit the Publish button.
Alternatively post your project on one of the freelance marketplaces like Upwork, and hire someone to do the grunt work for you.
Now let’s look at our “beware con artists” tips.
1. Publishers pay you… if you’re paying for services, beware
Traditional publishing works like this:
- A publisher “buys” your book and pays you an advance for specific rights for a specific time period. Licenses, rather than buys, in effect — your rights remain with you, if you’re wise) ;
- The publisher publishes your book, and pays you royalties — maybe. Most books never “earn out”, that is, they never earn any money beyond the advance. So, unless you write a bestseller, the advance money is all the money you’ll ever get.
In summary… You write a book. A publisher pays you money.
If you’re the one who’s paying money, don’t.
If you decide to pay anyway, be very careful.
Of course there are many times you’ll pay money to someone like an editor, or a designer, but again, be careful.
2. Research everything: you don’t know what you don’t know
“Hybrid” publishing seems to have become a thing. (Sigh.)
FWIW, I think hybrid publishing is rubbish. After long experience with literary agents and traditional publishers, I’m a cynic.
As far as I’m concerned, the author wrote the book; the author profits. There’s always someone aiming to skim a little money from wide-eyed authors however. From Nine Criteria for Hybrid Publishing from the Independent Book Publishers Association:
… the rise of hybrid or partner publishing has bedeviled the sector. The self-publishing industry today is besieged by offers of “services,” some of which are authentic and effective, some of which are rip-offs. The industry’s message must continue to be “buyer beware.”
3. Learn how to do it yourself, then you’ll know what you’re paying for
I’m all for doing it yourself, when it comes to publishing.
Hey — why not? You can. It’s not difficult, and you get to keep all the money.
Moreover, once you know HOW to do it yourself, you can hire people to do whatever you need to get done. The chance that you’ll get conned goes way down, because you know what you’re paying for.
4. Quick and dirty beats long and complicated: SHIP, already
The challenge with DIY is that authors procrastinate. They put things off. They imagine that their book has to be perfect, because they’re Cinderella, and they’re about to be discovered.
Sorry for the negativity, but anyone who’s been publishing for a while has long since accepted that their prince won’t come. It’s all work. You need to love writing and publishing, otherwise it’s just too hard.
When someone offers to “save” you — you shouldn’t have to deal with all these details, because you’re an artiste… That’s your cue to run, or laugh. Or slap them, if you’re having a bad day.
Accept imperfection. Publish the book. Keep writing the next one, and publish that. Real entrepreneurs (and writers) ship.
5. Grow your own audience (build your platform)
“If I’m good enough…” is a dangerous belief some writers have about their writing.
… these charmingly innocent writers believe that somehow, magically, they’ll be “discovered” and that the writing they produce will sell. They won’t have to do anything at all — they’ll just write, and their words will sell…
When Lady Fortune doesn’t shower them with gold, they’re sad and disappointed. They decide that they’re just not good enough to succeed as a writer…
Did you fall for a self-publishing con? It’s not your fault
What if you’ve fallen for a con? Recognize that others have been conned too. You’re not alone, and you’re not at fault.
Believe in yourself and in your writing. Turn on your computer, and start writing. The writing matters. Everything else is more than manageable. You can handle it. Write. And beware… The alligators and sharks have big teeth, and they’ll always be with us.
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