Traditional or Independent
Written by: Joseph Forte
Self-publishing, to no one’s surprise, has evolved a great deal in the last ten years, and it continues to shift with no real end in sight. I’m extremely new to the business of being an author, but the learning curve I have been on is like no other experience I’ve been through. When self-publishing first came to life, companies offered their services to get words turned into books. It’s no different today as they are still very prominent in the publishing world, but so are independent platforms such as Amazon KDP and Smashwords where the writer uploads, creates, sets and implements all the pieces of the puzzle. Essentially, the middle man has been dashed and so are some of the costs.
Throughout this blog, I will focus on and share the experiences I’ve had with Friesen Press (they’re an amazing company) as they assisted me in self-publishing my first children’s book, At the Window. In addition, I will discuss Amazon KDP (which I also used to create an eBook version of my children’s book) and what I will be using for my upcoming story, Always There. Both paths have positive and negative aspects, just like anything in life, so it is ultimately up to the writer to decide which approach is the best fit.
A traditional self-publishing company such as Friesen Press offers plenty of freedom as the writer is in complete control of their work. A variety of packages are available at different costs and each level offers assorted features for the book. For example, they offer an editorial evaluation of the work, custom layouts, revision rounds, information on royalties and print distribution all over the world as well as marketing tips and online assistance when help is required. However, the downfall to this option is the final (and sometimes never ending) package cost which must be recouped via book sales. Another downfall to take into account with self-publishing companies, and it may not be visibly outlined, is the taxes and shipping costs which I found to be high. Let me try to paint a clearer picture. In my situation, an additional $1.10 (in taxes and shipping) per book was not accounted for when I set my retail price. This is huge, when for example, a $500 dollar deficit is left and five hundred personal book sales were made. It’s a break even mistake. Again, this could have been rectified with an increase in book price, but who am I to charge more than $10 dollars for my first book? It’s something to consider.
Independent or do-it-yourself publishing via Amazon KDP has its perks. First and foremost, this self-publishing avenue has essentially a zero dollar cost but this can rise to minimal as book covers, editing, ISBNs and promotion expenses can be incurred. From my limited experience, I can vouch that it is nowhere near the cost of having a company (prepaid package) do all the leg work. Downfalls are evident, however. I realize that my picture eBook, At the Window, does not resemble anything that Friesen Press created as KDP cannot support a PDF file. In conversing with authors and technology based people, I’ve heard it’s possible but very expensive to create a PDF which defeats the purpose of trying to keep costs down. My eBook, on the other hand, is a simple word document with pictures followed by text and so on. Placing text on the actual pictures is something that I am not capable of but, if in the hands of someone who can, then the possibility is there. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with my product as sales continue to grow but it doesn’t resemble a traditional children’s book by any means. Besides all of this, the freedom that comes along with KDP is excellent as prices, cover designs and newer, updated versions or editions of your eBook can occur at the click of the mouse.
Self-publishing platforms such as CreateSpace (again, which I plan to use for Always There) afford authors the opportunity to create traditional paperback or hard cover, hand held books. Many people live and die by them (I am one) so having this option is a good idea. Again, CreateSpace places the control in the hands of the writer as the author is responsible for everything from uploading images and manuscripts to setting the price and examining the format. Essentially, the middle man is eliminated once again and costs are significantly reduced making it much more feasible to publish a book and ultimately have less of a deficit once the book is released. This is based on some research I have done; but I, unfortunately, do not have concrete numbers, as I have not taken this path just yet. Platforms such as these offer many print on demand options in addition to shipping selections that meet the many needs of authors. Finally, all the hard work will pay off once the product is live and readers all across the world have access to order your book by means of internet via online distribution channels such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Publishing a book, whether through a traditional publisher or a self-publishing company, is not easy and it never will be. The time, effort and work involved is endless. Technology has provided new indie authors the opportunity to show case their work via the many self-publishing companies available at our finger tips so taking advantage of this is definitely one to consider.
If you found this guest post interesting and would like to subscribe to my newsletter, please visit Joseph Forte Writing – Where Word Come Alive. I hope the information provided assists you, in one way or another, or at the very least creates questions to ask as your publishing journey continues. With that, I can say I have learned a great deal since the release of At the Window (October 2013) and I continue to learn more and more every day. It is a rewarding path, one that I look forward to continuing for many books to come.