Friday, October 28, 2011

What do you get for $195, or for nothing?

Self-publishing companies sell their services in packages priced from under $200 to over $50,000. A few companies even advertise FREE publishing. It’s very important to know what you need, what you’ll get, and what you won’t get.

Can you really get a book published for less than $200, or for free? Yes—and no.
The $199 Emerald publishing package from Outskirts Press actually provides what looks like a “real” book. The package is notable not for what it includes, but for what it excludes.

Most notable is the lack of an ISBN, which means that the book won’t be sold by booksellers. An Emerald book is not even available on the Outskirts online bookstore.

For $199 you are limited to one book size (5.5 by 8.5 inches) and a choice of two cover designs. You get exactly one book which you can read, give away, sell or display on your mantelpiece. You can order more books if you want to. They won’t be pretty, but they are books.

The top package from Outskirts costs $1099. Some other publishers may charge over $50,000. Be careful. A big investment won’t guarantee a great book, and may kill any chance of making a profit. Be sure of your goals and your budget, and act accordingly.

Strangely named Aachanon Publishing beats the $199 Outskirts Emerald deal by $4, and provides THREE “free” books—not just one. With its Budget package, you are limited to a maximum of ten black and white illustrations or photos in the text, the book size is 5 by 8 inches (a bit smaller than the Outskirts competitor), and you can have up to 300 pages. The color cover is preformatted and can include two author-provided photos or illustrations. As with the Outskirts Emerald package, there is no ISBN. You must provide distribution—booksellers won’t sell the book.

Strangely named Wasteland Press calls itself, “the cheapest full service press on the internet.” Its Basic package matches the Aachanon $195 price but provides FIVE books in either 5.5 by 8.5-inch or 6 by 9-inch size. Maximum book length is 275 pages. There is no limit to the number of photos or illustrations. The company offers faster publishing than most competitors, and its covers are “designed from scratch and are uniquely individual.” The samples I saw are quite nice. Books are sold on Wasteland’s website, and provide a 15% royalty. That’s very low for sales on a publisher’s own website..

Any day now, some company may offer a publishing package for $179, or $99.

Some of the websites for self-publishing companies tout “free” publishing programs. What you get for free is hot air. If you want real books, you pay real money.

CreateSpace, Lulu, Wordclay, UniBook and others who advertise free publishing will not charge you to upload your book’s files. They assume you will do all of the design, editing and promotional work yourself or hire others to do it.

How can they publish a book for free?

  • They can’t. They’re lying.
Their publishing is free as long as you don’t expect any books to be produced. Every book they print, or distribute as an e-book, is paid for. Their notion of publishing does not include the final product—a book.

CreateSpace (which I sometimes use for printing and distribution) is an Amazon subsidiary that lets you “Self-Publish a Book-Free.” The only free things I saw on its website are “free tools to prepare your content for publication” and an ISBN that identifies CreateSpace (not you) as the publisher.

The company has two low-cost 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.

With 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.

If you want CreateSpace to do more of the work in designing, producing, promoting and distributing your books, you can pay up to $4,999 for a publishing package.

Lulu says it is “the only publisher that offers you all that it does for free.” The company has run online ads touting “Publish Your Book—Free,” “Free publishing,” and “Free Self Publishing.” Its website promises, “free book publishing,” but the publishing is free only if you don’t want any books to be printed!

A 250-pager with decent paper will cost $9.50 in quantities up to 24. Shipping is additional. That doesn’t seem like free.

If you want Lulu to do more of the work in producing, promoting and distributing your books, and to send you a batch of books, you can pay up to $4,499 for a package.

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 . . . . 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 printing any books.

UniBook advertises “Free Self Publishing.” It says, “Getting your book self-published is easy. All you need to do is take a few minutes to upload your files and choose your publishing options—that’s it. Your book is instantly available for purchase worldwide in the UniBook online bookstore.” UniBook apparently has no mechanism for getting your books into stores or online booksellers. On a 300-page paperback selling for $18.95 you’ll get a royalty of about three bucks, which must be paid to you through PayPal.


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