Monday, November 30, 2009

Overcharging, Deception and Ineptness in Self-Publishing

Many writers who think they are "self-publishers" are really customers -- or victims -- of vanity presses, and they pay a lot for bad books that few will read. This new book explains how to become a real self-publisher, to publish a better book faster, make more money, and have more fun.

According to a new book, many companies that charge authors to publish their books overcharge for their services and are deceptive and careless.

One company charges $249 for copyright registration -- which can be obtained easily by anyone for $35. Another charges $1.99 for promotional postcards which are readily available for about 10 cents each. The Library of Congress charges Zero for a book's Control Number and it takes about five minutes to request one. One publisher charges $99 to get the number.

Some publishers claim to be "joint-venture," "co-op" or subsidy" publishers -- but the authors pay 100% of the cost of publishing. Others claim to publish books for free -- but no books are printed unless the publisher gets paid.

Websites and books that publicize these publishers have bad grammar, bad typography, bad spelling, and factual errors. The founder of one of these companies misspelled "misspell" and said, "We publish a huge number of really bad books."

Most of these businesses claim to be "self-publishing companies," but a newly published book explains that they are not.

According to Michael N. Marcus, author of Become A Real Self-Publisher, "Just as no one can eat lunch for you or take a bath for you, no one can self-publish for you. The companies that call themselves ‘self-publishing companies' are really vanity presses that make most of their money by selling services to misinformed and naive writers, not by selling books to readers."

Marcus has been writing professionally for over 40 years. In an effort to have more control, produce better books faster, and make more money, he formed Silver Sands Books in 2008. He initially planned to publish just one book, but this book is his fifth, and it shares what Marcus learned while publishing the first four.

Reviewers have called it "the most up-to-date, definitive book for self-publishers," "amazingly complete and detailed," and "a must-read for anyone considering self-publishing." One reviewer said, "This encyclopedic book is vital for anyone with aspirations of becoming a published author. It has detailed analyses of many companies that masquerade as self-publishing companies, and valuable tips for every writer, even those who use a traditional publisher."

There is lots of confusion about self-publishing, particularly caused by vanity presses that hide behind popular buzzwords such as "self-publishing," "print-on-demand," and "indie." This book will help writers sort out the misstatements and misunderstandings. It will guide them from first word to first sale. It can help a frustrated writer make a quick and painless transition to become a less frustrated writer and publisher.

According to Marcus, "Anyone with a few months and $600 to $1,000 can publish a book that looks as good as books published by the companies that have published books since the 19th century. For better and for worse, all creative people can now compete on a level playing field, and the ultimate judges of quality are readers — not the gatekeepers of traditional media businesses."

Writers often decide to self-publish and use a "self-publishing company," "print-on-demand company" or "subsidy publisher" with the thought that the writers will become self-published authors.

According to Marcus, "They're not self-publishing. They're really just customers --  or victims -- of vanity presses, and they give up a lot. The writers who use them will often wait longer for books to be sold, have less control over the appearance of the books, spend more money, make less money, wait longer to get their money, and have a lower quality book than if they became real self-publishers."

The new book provides detailed advice and instructions on title selection, book design, page formatting, sales, advertising, and publicity. It even includes a test to help writers decide if they are good enough to have commercial success, plus tips on forming and naming a publishing business, and publishing for others. The book discusses hiring designers and editors, compares the costs and earnings for different methods of publishing, and covers eBooks, copyrights, sources of inexpensive high-quality photographs, pricing a book, setting up a website, and getting book reviews.

According to Marcus, many books on self-publishing are out-of-date and out-of-touch. He says, "There's a lot of misinformation that can unnecessarily discourage potential self-publishers, and cause them to waste time, waste money, and have inferior books." In his book, Marcus reviews more than a dozen other books, and points out which ones have good or bad advice for prospective authors.

Although aimed at self-publishers, the book has considerable information and advice that will be valuable to every writer -- including those who use a traditional publisher or a vanity press — including publishing terminology, a discussion of various booksellers, marketing, royalties, and tips on grammar and spelling. Marcus even offers a trick for beating "writer's block."

Become A Real Self-Publisher, is subtitled, "Publish a better book, Publish it faster, Make more money, Have more fun." The 432-page book, published by Silver Sands Books, has a $19.95 cover price. It is available from, Barnes & Noble, and other online and terrestrial booksellers. The ISBN is 9780981661742.

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