Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Free publishing" is only free if you don't want any books to be printed.

In Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll, Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.”

Some publishing companies tout free publishing programs that are not really free.

The Amazon subsidiary CreateSpace has run a Google ad with the headline, “Self Publish for Free.” The only free things I could find on its website are “free tools to prepare your content for publication” and an ISBN number that identifies CreateSpace as the publisher. The company apparently has two publishing programs. The standard program is sort-of free. The $39 “Pro” program can provide so much more profit per book that you’d have to be an idiot or a pessimist not to go for the Pro.

Now about the “free” standard plan: apparently you don’t have to pay a penny to upload your book’s files into the CreateSpace computer and make it available for printing when orders are received. HOWEVER, each time a book is printed, you do pay a fee, and you have to order at least one book.

It seems to me that until mental telepathy becomes widespread, the actually printing of books will be an intrinsic part of publishing books. Therefore, I have to conclude that the claim, “Self Publish for Free” is bullshit.

It reminds me of radio commercials that AT&T ran back in the 20th century promising FREE INSTALLATION for their Merlin phone systems. The fine print of the deal revealed that they had a unique definition of “installation,” because it did not include installing any wire — which could cost thousands of dollars.

Lulu has run online ads with the headlines “Publish Your Book – Free” and “Free Self Publishing.” Their website promises “free book publishing,” but their publishing is only free if you don’t want any books to be published!

A 250-pager with decent paper will cost $9.50 in quantities from one to 24, and shipping is additional. That doesn’t seem like free to me.

Lulu offers three publishing services. The default free service does not provide an ISBN for your work (which is necessary for most book selling) but you can use as the sole retail site. “Published by You” is a distribution option where you are the publisher of your work and sell it both on and other retail sites. “Published by Lulu” is a distribution option in which Lulu handles publishing and distribution outside of on online retail sites.

The price of a Lulu book is often higher than from other services, so to make an adequate profit you’ll probably set a higher retail price than you would otherwise, and this may cost you some sales, unless your book is unique and important. Keep in mind that unless you choose one of the more expensive plans, your book will be sold only on Lulu’s website. People can buy the book if you send them there, but it’s less likely that people will find the book through normal online searches. It ain’t Amazon.

Wordclay says, “You can sign up and start publishing your book for free. There is no cost to register with our Web site and create your account. There is no cost to use our publishing wizard to turn your work into a published book. Once your book is published, you can purchase it if you wish, but there is no obligation. We have additional goods and services that you can also purchase through our Services Store, but again, there is no obligation. The basic publishing experience of getting your manuscript into a finished book is entirely free.” Here too, the “free” publishing doesn’t actually include publishing any books.

Every package deal that I’ve seen from vanity publishers, regardless of what they may call themselves, includes some number of allegedly free or complimentary books.

Here’s what Vantage Press says: “You do get a certain number of books, free of charge, on publication.”

With Outskirts Press, the initial charge for a publishing package can range from $199 to $1099. You’ll get as many as 10 “free” books that you actually paid for as part of the package.

Wasteland Press calls itself a self publishing company. It doesn’t promise free books, but it does promise “FREE shipping” of from 5 to 500 books, and FREE ISBNs and FREE booksellers return plan.

However, since you’ll have to pay the company from $195 to $3,100 to publish a 250-page book, the alleged freebies are being paid for with YOUR money.

Lulu says, “After publishing and once you approve the work, we will send you a complimentary copy of your finished book for you to review and enjoy.”

That “complimentary” copy may have cost you hundreds of dollars.

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