My client was almost in tears.
It was five days before her book launch party and she still didn’t have a single copy of her book.
She handled the challenges with grace, but she was frustrated. She’d bought this done for you book publishing package and really thought it was the best approach, but it didn’t work out as well as she’d hoped.
Should You Buy a Done-For-You Book Publishing Package or Do-It-Yourself?
Self-publishing is an excellent option for authors to get their message out when traditional publishing isn’t available or doesn’t make sense.
There are a lot of limitations and requirements put on authors by publishers, and for many, even if they can land a book deal, they may choose to publish themselves. Guy Kawasaki, author of APE – Author Publisher Entrepreneur has published traditionally as well as self-published. He says the speed of self-publishing makes sense for a lot of authors talking about cutting edge topics. There are also a lot fewer limitations or restrictions on a self-published book. You control the layout, length and design. You can also freely make revisions.
In exchange for full control and full profit potential you, as a self-publisher, must take on a lot of the hassles the publishing houses would normally handle. This includes editing, layout, design and distribution. It’s not easy, but it might be worth it.
If you haven’t already, you should think about why you want to self-publish, which I talk about in this video if you click here. Knowing that, will drive the rest of the decisions you need to make and help you decide if you should do the work yourself or hire someone else. It is also important to know who your target audience is, and where you’re most likely to reach them.
Do you want a physical book or just an e-book?
An e-book can be sold on your website, through ClickBank, or you can set up a KDP account and sell through Kindle. You can also set up to sell through iBooks or Kobo. If you sell through iBooks, KDP or Kobo, you’ll need to get an ISBN number for the e-version of your book.
You also may need to get a special ITN tax number if you’re not in the US and you’re going to sell through Kindle. I read somewhere that is no longer necessary, but when I set the account up in 2013 it was a requirement.
You won’t be able to upload the same e-pub file to Kobo, Kindle and iBooks either. So another consideration is how much you plan to spend on layout. My layout editor charged $400 per format. I make about $4/book sold so every additional layout means I need to sell another 100 copies to make that back.
If you want a physical book – where do you want distribution?
It’s super easy to get your book on Amazon.com through CreateSpace. It’s a publishing service that is owned by Amazon and it’s really simple and supportive for an author to use. Within about three days of uploading to the site you’ll see your book listed for sale on Amazon.com.
You can also order copies for yourself in bulk; so if you also want to sell it from your website and ship them out yourself, you can get pretty cheap copies from CreateSpace.
If all you want a good soft cover printed book, with black and white content inside, for a reasonable price and you’re happy with a listing on Amazon.com – CreateSpace is likely the best option for you.
If you’re Canadian, however, you probably want a listing on Amazon.ca. It is very difficult to make that happen via CreateSpace.
You may not think it’s a big deal BUT you are limiting your sales dramatically as many Canadians will not want to buy from Amazon.com because there’s possible duty and additional shipping charges. My client’s ‘done for you publishing package’ is all set up through CreateSpace. I ordered my clients book which was listed for $19.99. With shipping charges I had to pay $28.97 total. I have Amazon Prime, (which gets me free shipping normally) but that only applies when I order from Amazon.ca. If she wasn’t a client or I wasn’t SUPER excited to read the book, I would not order it because of that extra shipping charge. She’s missing out on sales but the company told her there’s no way for them to get it in Amazon.ca for her.
The biggest issue if you want distribution offline is that bookstores typically won’t stock books from CreateSpace because there’s not enough profit margin in it for them. To understand the numbers behind the options for self publishing – read this excellent post and comparison.
If you want bookstore distribution, a much better option is Lightning Source or Ingram Spark. Chapters/Indigo in Canada order from them, as do many independent bookstores. Bookstores in the US are commonly ordering from Ingram as well.
Generating the marketing buzz that makes a store want to carry your independent book takes work, but at least if you create the demand, the stores will order your book and put it on the shelf. Two years after my book launch you can still find my book on the shelves of many Chapters stores.
However, as I sought listings across Canada in Chapters Stores I found a snag in the whole plan. You will want to make sure your books are returnable in the US in order for the stores to order your books. Here’s why:
Who Controls Your Book?
One last consideration is control. Remember, one of the key advantages of self-publishing versus trying to get a traditional book publishing house to print your book is that you will have more control.
After my client realized there wouldn’t be a shipment of books in time for her launch party I suggested she get a local printing place to print a few copies. It would be way more expensive, but then she would at least have a few copies on hand for the event. When she took the file to the local printing company they refused to print any copies without a written letter of permission from her publisher (the company she paid for this book package).
Because she’d hired them to handle everything for her, she didn’t have control.
This also means to change the price, update the marketing description, or find out how many copies has sold, she has to contact them.
She often waits several days to get a response from anyone at the company. It’s not ideal for her as she tries to figure out what is working in her marketing efforts.
At the end of the day, she has a great business card book. She’s been asked to teach workshops in Toronto and in Florida. The book is opening doors for her, but it’s not quite the experience she expected.
If she still ends up where she wants to be, it’s not a bad choice for her. I just want to make sure that you get the results you want before you choose to hire a company to publish your book.
Before you venture down the self-publishing route or get sold on one of these done-for-you book publishing packages that are becoming so popular, here are some questions to ask of the company before you spend a penny:
- Do you provide a timeline to help me know what needs to happen when?
- Do you have a content editor AND a copy editor? How many times will each editor review the final product and how much time should be allowed for each edit?
- Who designs the cover? Are other people allowed to choose from the same covers as I am? Can I submit my own cover design? Is there an extra fee if I give you the cover design?
- Do you have someone that helps with title selection?
- Will you provide any marketing and sales support? (This can include book endorsements, newsletter promotions or forwards).
- How many layouts are included with the package (i.e. can you get it on Kindle, iBooks and a physical printing)?
- What company are you publishing through?
- Will you help me get distribution outside of Amazon.com?
- What is my cost per copy I order?
- What is my profit per copy that is sold?
- How much does it cost for changes in the future?
- If I want to control the book going forward, can I do that? In other words, if you set it up on CreateSpace for me, can I then take that account over?
These questions will help you decide if this is the right move for you!