To self-publish or pay someone else to do it, that is the question. Is it nobler to publish my own work on Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords or pay an established traditional publisher with a vanity publishing arm to do it for me?
These are the questions many debut authors are faced with because, lets face it, the slush pile just ain’t where its at nowadays. In fact, the slush pile has evolved into the ebook top 100 list, as it would appear that many authors are signing deals after proving their worth in the rough and tumble world of self-publishing.
But getting back to my original question, have you ever been tempted by vanity publishing? I recently received a reply to a submission I sent to a traditional UK publisher and needless to say, I was psyched! They liked my synopsis and wished to see the full manuscript – hurray! I was on a cloud for weeks, practising how to write my signature at top speed for all the book signings I would be hosting. Alas, the follow-up letter arrived, informing me that while they were eager to go ahead with my novel, they felt that at this time it would be better suited to one of their newer imprints. Fine, I thought, I love new imprints – some of my best friends are new imprints! But this new imprint would require financial input from yours truly – how much, they did not specify. I was completely deflated, but still had a niggling thought at the back of my mind… maybe it wouldn’t hurt to help fund the project. After all, I believe in my book and having a well known publisher on board could only help, right?
So I contacted my local writers’ centre and received one line of advice – similar to that of Chris de Burgh – ‘Don’t pay the publisher!’ Not even when they get you to the other side! Still concerned that I might be hiding behind the couch when opportunity knocked at my door, I checked out said company online for any horror stories and sure enough, there were several examples of people who had handed over thousands (yes, thousands) of pounds, only to find their novel languishing in an unseen corner of cyberworld with no PR, no marketing, no interest. Furthermore, I double-checked their website to see if there was any mention of a self-publishing arm, but there isn’t, which made me even more angry. They lure you into that ‘send us your full mss’ euphoria, then slap you with a fee when you are at your most vulnerable (i.e. inches away from seeing your work in print). Now, they’re not doing anything wrong here, but if making promises you can’t keep is illegal, then call 999!
Bottom line, take your novel and whatever few shillings you have, get a good cover designer and a decent editor (or some beta-readers), nerd up on social media and online marketing tricks and basically roll the dice. In my humble opinion, I think you have as much chance at getting your book out there yourself (as you will obviously be more enthusiastic about it) than any vanity publishing outfit.
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