Saturday, July 21, 2012

Self Publishing From New Zealand - Research and Scams

So, I'm about two or three weeks away from self publishing my first title. I've really enjoyed the process so far (except designing the cover, since I don't enjoy design work) and I thought I would do a few posts detailing the steps I've taken to get to where I am at the moment.
Why should you listen to me? Well, because I'm a lazy, procrastinating no-good wannabe and I've somehow managed to complete a next-to-final draft and a handful of people have said I made them laugh and they enjoyed my work. I also have a cover. That's a really nice place to be.

So here is the most important step I've taken so far in my "self publishing journey". This post is going to be about the baby steps anyone should take when they are thinking about publishing (whether it's self publishing or not).

Research. I cannot emphasize this enough. In fact most of the other steps are going to be subheadings under this ultimate commandment.
And it should be easy. In fact it can be too easy to get sucked into reading only about how to get published, rather than about how to write, or even writing in your chosen genre. 

Research is what will keep you from making the disastrous mistake of allowing yourself to be published by a vanity or scam press. I'll get you started right now by linking Writer Beware. This is a resource sponsored by a Science Fiction and Fantasy writers' organisation, but it was set up for all writers, including non-fiction and poets. The Alerts For Writers page is particularly important.
Because publishing is difficult.
Self pubbing might seem like the easy route, particularly if you've researched what it takes to get published by trade publishers (some people call them traditional publishers, but that's kind of a loaded word).
But doing it all yourself is hard work and you have to expect it to continue to be hard work. From what I can see, there isn't going to be a point where you sit back and bask in the glow of your online bank statement. At least, not for more than a few minutes. Then you'll be back to writing more, publishing more, and promoting more.

And in the midst of all this hard work, you might stumble upon a website by a publisher who seems nice enough, so you send them your stuff. Lo and behold, they give you an answer almost immediately- they love your writing! They want to take over all this pesky work and publish your book for you!
At this point they might ask for money in order to do that.
Do not give anyone money to publish your book. Real publishers will only give money to you.
They might not ask for money. They might only take your book, slap a cheap cover on it and throw it out there, telling you that if you want it to sell, you'd better buy a midden-heap load of copies in order to promote it. Then they'll lose your royalties in the mail.
More terrifying, for an author, a publisher will have the rights to your book. They can do whatever they like with it, including not edit it, or add errors to it, or not publish it at all (depending on the contract, of course.  A legitimate publisher will have given you a decent contract which would prohibit all of this).

Self publishing is a gamble, but it's a gamble where you at least get to roll your own dice. If you fall in with the wrong people they will take the dice off you and it could be years before you get them back.

With that said, there are a handful of companies out there that will do all the work of self publishing for you. They will get you a cover and editing and formatting and so forth, and with that kind of company you can decide for yourself whether they are worth using or not. Generally they are expensive and won't do anything for you that you can't do yourself.

I originally started this post thinking I would talk about research in general, and it turned into a warning about scams. Really, they can be very sophisticated and your best bet is to just check everyone. In the age of the internet it's OK to be cautious and cynical, and it's easy as well. Google that sucker and make sure you look past the first page of hits.
So, next post, I think I will talk more about researching in general. 

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