I’ve been getting a lot of spam email from a handful of companies offering to publish my books, let me keep 100% of my royalties, and pay for their services in monthly installments – usually $99 a month for 24 months.
To make it worse, I had to go check this thing out (really? monthly payments to publish my book?), now the advert trackers that are everywhere are convinced I really want this service and it’s about the only adverts I see… well, those and dog toys.
I get it. Publishing a book is expensive. Most of us are paying around $1500 per book. Paying that $2300 a month at a time is a very attractive offer, but there are some serious drawbacks that go unnoticed.
You’re limited on how fast you can publish. I admit, I was curious enough to make some inquiries for this post. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about. So, I asked, how long from the time I send my book until it hits the shelves of Amazon. The average, six months. So, you’ve paid $600 before the ebook becomes available. That’s less than what most indies pay before their ebook becomes available, but that’s a long turn around time, especially if you write as fast as a lot of us indies do… If I work at it, I can go from no novel to finished and ready to sell in 2 months and that includes sending it to the beta readers. This means I can effectively publish a book every 2 months if I want. I do not have to wait six months and since I have a following established now, I can recoup all my expenses in the two months after it releases. I admit, this is not true for a lot of indies, but it could be.
They do offer discounts for multiple books. This is a positive, how much of a discount, well, that wasn’t really answered. It depended on how many I sent in at one time. So, using this system, let’s say I write six books in six months. I send them in, it takes six months per book to hit shelves, but I’m paying for all six of them the moment I send them in… Unless this discount is a buy one get one free offer, I can’t justify this. The math just doesn’t work out. I’ll have all of them paid off before book 5 hits the shelves. And how many books have I written in the meantime? Because I’ve been paying $300 a month for 2 years, book 5 is just now releasing, and I’ve had 2 years to write more books. Or let me put it this way, in the last two years (2014 & 2015), I published 7 novels and 1 novella. It cost me around $10,000. However, I made far more than that in those two years. Using the system above and a 50% discount rate, I’d also have spent $10,000, but I’d only have 4 books published. Since my monthly income average increases every time I release a book, that’s 3 books I am not making profits on yet, but I’ve spent the same amount on money. And as I said, I’m not sitting there with finger up my nose just waiting, I’ve been writing more books during this time, books that might not see the light of day for 5 or 6 years using this system, but will be published this year and next, if I do it all on my own.
I have less control. I can’t fire their cover artists for not making it exactly what I want it to be. And I asked how many drafts of the cover am I going to be able to get? Sometimes, this is very important. My first vision is rarely the one that works, because while the first idea is cool, it’s never been great. Angela works with me on this issue. Sometimes, her first idea is a whole lot different than mine and I’ve used several of those first offs from her. But Angela and I have done 16 covers together now. Not only that, but if we can’t find some kind of common ground on a cover, we just scrape it and start over. She’s brought me six or seven very different drafts because I was feeling vague on what I wanted (enter The Dysfunctional Chronicles). I was told that probably wouldn’t be happening with any of the services I talked to… four was the most common number, three was the second most common number… Uh, yeah, sometimes 1 draft gets it, sometimes it isn’t until the 10th draft that we stumble upon something. And if my cover gets more complicated than the standard they offer? Well there could be an extra fee for it. I pay Angela a flat fee for those 10 drafts (occasionally, I toss in extra just because I know she goes above and beyond for me).
They give one edit. My current editor does two passes. She goes through it the first time in a line-by-line and even though she doesn’t do an in depth substantive edit, she does like to point out when I go completely off the rails, lose a thread, or lose myself in my own ramblings. I fix those things as I wish and send it back to her. She goes through it a second time, line-by-line, and makes sure the stuff that got added isn’t totally weird or adopted the spelling habits of a five year old. Most of the services offers one edit and then a copyedit before they publish it. Um, what if during the edits you add a paragraph and it doesn’t really work with the rest of the chapter? Or worse, it contradicts something you wrote 7 chapters earlier (this does happen)? Noticing those things are not in the job description of a copyeditor.
They do write the jacket copy, which is nice since I hate those. However, I don’t need that service so much that I’m willing to spend more money than I already spend over a prolonged period of time. If I searched Fiverr, I could probably find someone to do it for $20. (Hmm, maybe I need to go search Fiverr)
They format your ebook and print book. But again, a search of Fiverr will find you the same thing. I have a Smashwords formatter that I refuse to give the name of because I don’t want him to get busy and not be able to format my books (in an odd twist, when I did tell someone who it was, it turned out she uses him too and she has been hoarding the secret close to her chest, for the same reason). Although, if you know how to use Word, the only formatters you really need are for Epubs and Smashwords (I only use a smashwords formatter because for $10 he’ll do it in a day and I’ll drive myself crazy during that same time period trying to figure out why only half of the stupid table of contents works). I use Calibre to convert my Word Docxs to Epubs.
My advice, think long and hard before using any program that works on an installment plan to publish your book. And you can always try soliciting small publishing houses, which are becoming big business (oh the irony) if you can’t do everything up front. Several offer nice packages at a much cheaper rate (I have actually considered one solely for the audiobooks they were going to create).