It used to be that self-published authors and publishing houses had a bad name, and I’m so glad that it’s changing. Part of that reason is the influx of technology that allows people to easily and cheaply publish their work. I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. I think most self-published authors do. But my love or hate of Amazon is not why I am writing this post. I am writing it because I am so tired of vanity publishers ripping off self-published writers. We’ll cover in other posts about self-publishing options.
A brief history of self-publishing
Back in the day, when you self-published, it meant that you went to what I call a vanity publisher and paid them lots of money to publish your book. There was literally nothing else you could do. The only other option you had was to go to a place like Kinko’s and have them print it out for you. These publishers looked and operated quite similarly to a traditional publisher, which plays into the vanity of the author. Hence why I call them vanity publishers. The author felt and was treated like a traditionally published author … if they had the money. The financial gamble was enormous.
Now we have lots of other options that cost nothing up front. Yet these vanity publishers, which have re-branded themselves as self-publishing companies, persist. There are a few benefits to these publishers, but they generally aren't worth the money you have to pay them.
Canadians in American clothing
I have lots of clients who come to me because they have already bought a “publishing package.” I ask where they got it from, and they respond with any variety of vanity publishers, to which I tell them that Amazon or Smashwords would have published it for free.
“Oh.” They stop and think for a minute. “But what about all this other stuff that’s included?”
The list of things included in their “package” is long and seems pretty impressive, especially the “Hollywood” packages that promise you’ll be a screen star. Another brightly colored bauble that gets my clients’ attention is the proclamation that such-and-such a big star published with us. No they didn’t. They published with your traditional publisher counterpart. It’s like saying you’re an American, but you live in Canada. I mean, technically, you are a North American because you live on that continent, but everyone just refers to people from the United States of America as Americans and to those from Canada as Canadians. It’s deliberately misleading.
Now, this doesn’t mean that people from the United States of America should be the only ones called Americans, but that’s a topic for a political blog and not one on writing and self-publishing.
What I am going to do in this blog post series is try to walk you through exactly what these publishers have to offer. This will be a four-part series, so stay tuned for the next few posts as well. Today we will just be covering the basics. The other three will be about the cheapest publishing package, the most expensive publishing package, and then a conclusion.
Our plan for this experiment is to pretend like we're a regular author looking for self-publishing options. To start, I'll just type "self-publishing companies" in the Google search bar, and then click on the first link that isn’t an ad. For the sake of anonymity (and to keep me from getting sued), I’m going to call this place Scambucket, well, because I think they are a big scam for writers. Scambucket tries to appear legit, but they fail my Norton security scan, so my explorer won’t open the page without me jumping through some hoops. I’ve been here before, so I know it’s fine. I continue and am brought to a very fancy-looking page, touting that it is part of a larger publishing group, which means this is a Canadian Scambucket company.
Two red flags: security fail and Canadians (my apology to Canadians!), and I’ve only been on the search 10 seconds.
I hit the packages button up in the corner and am brought to a flashy chart that offers me 7 different publishing packages ranging from $900 to $13,000. The chart is beyond impressive looking, and I’m immediately dreaming about what I can do with my awesome book! I have to stop myself from getting excited because I do all these on a regular basis. For Freeeee!
The packages and copyright
I start scrolling to see the differences between the packages. I’ve had several clients buy from here, but no one has ever done the cheapest package, and I immediately see why. It doesn’t come with any copyright.
I’m not going to take time to talk about the finer points of copyright law, so look here: http://writersrelief.com/blog/2012/06/copyright-law-for-your-book-novel-story-or-poems/
Though I would like you to know that the moment you put your book into a readable form, its copyright belongs to you, so you don’t have to officially get a copyright. However, if you are publishing, it’s a nice idea to have the extra protection associated with applying for a US copyright.
DIY Cost: $50
The only other thing the $900 package doesn’t have that the $1300 package does is a Library of Congress Control Number.
DIY Cost: $0
So, the difference between the two is an optional $50 copyright. You’re paying an extra $400 for that copyright.
Since there is really no difference between the cheapest and the next one up other than charging you $400 more, we’ll skip over the cheapest package in our rundown. I think I’ll just go over what you get for the $1300 package and the $13,000.
I will give you the individual services that come with each package, the a la carte price at Scumbucket, what it is, and how much it costs them to give you that service. And also where else you can find these services for much less.
Next week I will cover the $1300 package. If you feel that you need some help navigating a vanity publisher, please email. I’ll talk you down from the ledge and get you what you need for less, even if you don’t use our services. How often does a company’s CEO offer you free advice? Hardly ever. But this is how much I dislike these companies and how strongly I feel that authors need to stick together.
I live in Athens, Georgia, with my son, my husband, and an ever-revolving list of exchange students, who are a never-ending source of entertainment and writing material.