Warning for “Self-Publishing” Authors

29 Jul


The reason I started this blog initially, was to warn authors of vanity publishers including most of the POD service companies who call themselves “publishers” – and are in reality often unutilized print shops.

The statistics are mind-boggling, but still too many writers fall into their traps: the average Author Solutions customers – writers – spend around $5,000 with the company, but only sell 150 books. Even their press releases tell it all: “150,000 writers have used the services of Author Solutions, but they have only published a combined total of 190,000 books.” This comes from Penguin’s press release who just bought Author Solutions including their subsidiaries Author House, Xlibris, Trafford and iUniverse.

$100 Million in annual revenue comes roughly at two-thirds from the sale of services to writers, and only one-third comes from the royalties generated by books sales. Which means that most of the money they made (and unfortenately will make in the future) comes from fleezing writers.

Read more about their schemes and a litany of complaints at  and on Let’s Get Digital. See also Mark Levines book: “Book Publishers Compared

I just wish that writers read articles like these and study the “Writer Beware” website, Emily Seuss’ blog article or Marcia Yudkins blog “how to sniff out scams”.  There is no shortage of warnings out there!  Read them BEFORE you make decisions about self-publishing.

What steps are necessary in self-publishing a paper book:

  • Marketing
  • Manuscript Editing
  • Book Layout
  • Cover Design
  • Printing & Binding
  • Distribution

Why I put Marketing on top of the list? Because it is the most important one and should start long before you finish your manuscript. When you followed this blog you realized that almost all of my marketing tips don’t need involvement of service providers and are free. They involve only time, but no money.

An example: How much time does it take to write a terrific press release and email it out? Two, five, eight hours? You just saved more than $1,500 plus tax, that’s what Author Solution and the like would have charged you for this task. Being on Goodreads, Wattpad, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, FB, LinkedIn, Tumblr etc. and creating a platform and a name as a writer doesn’t cost a dime. Listing your books on Bowker worldwide is free. The list how you can promote your book for free goes on an on.

Another example: How long would it take to write a query and approach these reviewers directly: Kirkwood, ForeWord and BlueInk? One hour, two or three?  Author Solutions sells these three reviews from Kirkus, ForeWord and BlueInk to writers for a whopping $ 1,155 (or $1,405 for expedited) to a package price including
“evaluating the possibilities” by MVP for $3,000 in total (all plus tax) “for writers to be discovered and have their works optioned for film or TV”.

There is more: To set up four accounts on social media, they charge authors $700. How long does it take to open an account on Twitter, Facebook etc.? Their pricing is just absurd!

You can become your own publisher and not fall into the trap of “self-publishers”, just find information how to obtain and evaluate quotes on these services. The internet is full of advice on how-to…, service provider listings, offers for all of these services – starting with the 500 posts I wrote on this blog. One third of these articles is about self-publishing and two thirds “How to Market your Book on a Shoestring” – which is also the title of an upcoming e-book I am publishing soon for independent authors. Really independent ones!

And to publish a digital version of your book, the same is true: It takes time and dedication and a willingness to put yourself out there, but if you want to write a book there’s absolutely no reason to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars getting it into the e-book market.
If you enjoyed this blog post, please feel free to check out all previous posts (there are almost 500 of them : ) if you haven’t already. Why not sign up to receive them regularly by email? Just click on “Follow” in the upper line on each page – and then on “Like” next to it.

Follow on Twitter: @111publishing

And don’t forget to spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr or StumbleUpon – or other social networking sites of your choice) – other writers might also enjoy this blog and find it useful.


Hyper Smash



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2 responses to “Warning for “Self-Publishing” Authors

  1. susanedits

    August 2, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    This article lists a few good things to avoid. It’s a buyer-beware world out there, whether you’re purchasing self-publishing services or anything else.

    Fortunately, no one in the world has the power to force you to pay for services you don’t need. Authors can protect themselves by doing their homework. For every service, ask:

    1. How much expertise is required to do this myself?*

    If you’re capable of doing a good job, by all means, save yourself the money. Just find out what’s really involved before you decide. You might be able to create your own cover, but if it looks DIY, it won’t help you sell your book.

    (If the service is copyediting, pay a professional for it even if you’re a professional editor yourself. Being one’s own sole editor is a very bad idea.)

    2. How much of an investment would it be (in time, effort, and money) to do this myself?

    If you pick up a copy of _HTML for Dummies_, you might be able to build a serviceable website to promote your book. The question is, will the time spent educating yourself and building the site cut into time you’d otherwise be spending on things you’re already good at?

    3. How much do various companies charge for this service?

    Find out what you get for the cost. A $2,000 book cover is a reasonable deal if it comes with multiple front cover mockups and many revisions, AND the designer is very good. A $99 book cover is a bad deal if the designer’s only qualification is owning a copy of Photoshop. You can protect yourself from being gouged, as in the examples above, if you do a little research and comparison-shop.

    4. Is that self-publishing company you’re considering an honest one?

    You can rule out certain outfits before you even comparison-shop. Tell them that you expect your book to reach the top of the New York Times bestseller list within a year, or that you expect to make a million dollars from the sales of your book. If they encourage unrealistic beliefs, run screaming. A company with integrity will gently inform you that almost nobody makes a living off of their books — not even traditionally published authors.

    Hope this helps!

    • authormjlogan

      December 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      A website is easy to put up. Buy a domain name (<15 dollars/year) that relates to your book, or to your pen name, buy hosting service for 70-100 dollars/ year. Install wordpress or other free software and spend a couple of hours learning it. You're done.


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