to Not Get Eaten By Sharks
Don’t be someone else’s lunch.
been been around since 1997, warning writers away from unscrupulous agents and
editors, and Writers Beware has been maintaining an
“extensive database of questionable literary agents, publishers,
independent editors, writer’s services, contests, publicity services, and
others” since 1998.
work “in print,” have their own page on Writers Beware, due to the
enormous cost and outrageous (unfulfilled) promises of vanity publishers, not
to mention outright fraud and unethical practices.
souls who got taken in by a Vanity Press at a local class on publishing. She
zoomed in on me because I was the only one in the class with a published (small
press) novel. She had mortgaged her house to pay $10,000 to publish her memoir,
only to be saddled with boxes of typo-ridden, over-priced hardcovers. She shook
one of them at me, Exhibit A in the trial she wanted to put the vanity publisher
through. She was angry. And she had every right to be – they hadn’t
just stolen her money, they had soiled her dream.
Rush for Sharks
went mainstream – i.e. when people started making money at it – the sharks
multiplied. Many became sharks in tuna clothing, with all kinds of
“respected” writerly establishments starting
“self-publishing” divisions that were really Vanity Publishers.
- Writer’s Digest owns vanity press, Abbott Press
- Thomas Nelson has vanity West Bow Press
- Harlequin owns vanity DellArte Press
little sharks were part of one larger shark. They were “white
label” versions of the King of Vanity Publishers, Author Solutions (i.e.
Author Solutions is behind the scenes, providing the services).
swallowing the King of Vanity Publishers whole? I agree
with Jane Friedman’s insightful analysis of what
sad to say I’ve heard publishing executives talk about the opportunity to
“monetize unpublished manuscripts” and it’s why I left commercial publishing.
Is this where the industry is headed? If so, I want no part of its
David Gaughran details on his blog, this isn’t Big Six Publishers making a
“progressive” move into indie publishing; this is Big Six Publishers
trying to monetize the slush pile and make money off writers (Penguin Random House Merger Helps Author Solutions Exploit
Writers). (Also: Author Solutions is now in a class-action suit for “deceptive
practices” among other things).
tremendously helpful post The Author Exploitation Business)
constantly changing their names! This is not an exhaustive list.)
- Author House
- Publish in the USA,
- Abbott Press (Writers Digest)
- Balboa Press (Hay House)
- WestBow (Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins)
- Partridge (Penguin India)
- Archway (Simon&Schuster)
- Inspiring Voices (Guideposts Magazine)
- Legacy Keepers
- Fuse Fram (previously Author Solutions Films)
- Author Learning Center
companies” that are sharks. Authors should also be wary of:
- agents who “self-publish” their authors’
manuscripts that they cannot sell (for a cut, not a flat fee)
- fake contests and awards focused on
- sites selling “ads” but have no statistics to
back-up the rates they charge
- companies offering to get self-published authors’ books
into various book fairs around the world
- all manner of “awards” and “seals of
approval” offered to self-published authors (for a fee)
authors traditionally have had to accept lousy contracts and low royalty
rates just to be in the game, getting taken advantage of may seem the price of
sharks were in a feeding frenzy, a thriving marketplace of freelancers sprung
up to supply indie publishers with much-needed and valuable services (see Appendix A – List of Freelance Providers).
These legit freelancers and artists and formatters will make your life
easier; in fact, these amazing, talented people will be a key part of your
self-publishing team. But the first step in surviving as an indie author is
getting street-savvy about who are the legit business people and who are the
- Flat rate vs. percentage: legit business people are not asking for a
percentage of your business forever. They know they are providing a
- Know the going rate: the indie author world is fantastically open about
prices and thrives on a culture of information sharing. Ask for
recommendations. Educate yourself with ebooks like this. The information
is out there, you just have to look.
- There Are No Industry Experts: If someone has been “in the publishing
business for decades” and they use this as a credential for their
expertise in self-publishing, they are probably a shark. I love Grandma,
but I don’t go to her if I need my iTunes playlist updated – for that, I
go to my twelve-year-old. Because he’s got the skillz for realz. The
grandmothers of publishing are wonderful, but digital publishing is
(still) not in their wheelhouse. One could almost say it’s their
kryptonite. In any event, if someone has been around forever in
publishing, they are likely not the ones to help you
understand publishing in the digital era. (However, they may make an
excellent freelance editor.)
you’ll want to DIY (Do It Yourself), and times you’ll want to outsource (to a
freelancer or business offering services). Sometimes it’s faster to outsource,
even if you have the skills to do it yourself, and sometimes you could learn the
skills, but you’d rather spend that time writing.
to know the range of reasonable rates, so you can avoid the sharks.
design skills; otherwise not recommended)
digital design covers) to $500+ (original art)
cost of stock photos
depending on type of formatting)
more for full-sized novel
you kidding me??)
basic part of your business
Royalties (on a $3.99 ebook)
DIY: typically 70% of $3.99 = $2.79
Distributors: (legit ones like Smashwords and D2D) typically 10% after retailer cut = 90% of $2.79 = $2.51
Sharks: 50% royalty after retailer cut = 50% of $2.79 = $1.39
Note: DIY your author copies are free (which is important for giveaways and reviewers) but the sharks charge you for copies of your own book.
For indie authors, ebook royalties are your bread and butter. Don’t give all your royalties (forever!) to a vanity publisher for the simple, one-time act of putting your book up for sale.
Making back your initial up-front costs is important, but royalties is where you will make money month after month. If you do end up going with an ebook packager of any kind (including vanity publishers), please make sure they are not taking half of your profits forever. (I prefer uploading direct, but we’ll talk more about distributors in Where to Publish?)
But I Don’t Know Any Cover Artists or Editors!
find cover artists, or the idea of formatting ebooks makes your eyes cross, or
you don’t know the first place to start to upload your ebook… don’t
panic. Now that you have this
little ebook in your hands, you will know how to do all this and more. Plus I’ve provided a list of freelance service providers (see Appendix A – Freelance Service Providers) of this book. There are a few that I can personally recommend, but for any editor/cover designer you need to do your due diligence in making sure they’re the right fit for you and your work (see Choosing an Editor and Creating Covers That Sell).
I’m Afraid to Do It Myself
knowledge about these fundamentals of your ebook-publishing-business make you
dive into a tank of sharks. Don’t let the sharks eat all your royalties before
you earn them just because you think they have specialized knowledge you can’t
fundamental to your new business. Be brave and learn them. It’s not rocket
science (believe me, I know the difference). Then you’ll be on your way to
being a savvy indie author who side-steps the Sharks to find the talented
Angelfish freelancers who will make your business thrive and your life easier.