Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

Insecure Writers: Self-publish Woes and Wows

Alex is at it again: another month, another post for his hugely supportive (and supported) Insecure Writers’ Support Group. And a bloghop –226 other blogs to visit, at time of writing!

I wanted to write about a couple more personal insecurities, but the idea got knocked sideways by a post from the prolific David Gaughran, a 34-year old Irish writer, living from time to time in Sweden, but spending a lot of his working life traveling the world, collecting stories, and writing about his adventures! How fortunate, you say. His advice behind the scenes comes with a punch, too. So it’s not all dancing in the tropical moonlight and storming into Valparaiso (although he does that).

His books are — like Amanda Hocking’s — all published in e-format. So he is an expert in the self-publish world.

While many of us continue to dream of being picked up by the ‘majors’, while we’re waiting, there is no harm whatsoever in self-publishing a few e-books.

Or is there?

CAVEAT EMPTOR

Book Country overhead costs do not amuse

There are pitfalls. And David (along with several other authors, like Joe Konrath, Katie Salidas, and Linda Welch), have picked up one of the real BAD GUYS. Ahem, yes, it’s Book Country — an arm of Penguin.

According to David, Penguin’s self-publish arm is ‘actively targeting inexperienced writers’. They say they are offering the lure, oops opportunity, for young writers to ‘make a name for themselves.’

Book Country began last April as a place for authors to post their work for critique. Then in the fall they announced a program to turn manuscripts posted on their website into e-books and paper books.

Warner Bros 'Happy Feet' penguins would not be happy

“A new kind of self-publishing that offers a more professional product and provides guidance that currently isn’t available to players.”

‘Our self-publishing process has been designed by a team of book industry professionals to make the experience as accessible, convenient, and affordable as possible’

Their ‘basic package’ is $99 for ‘user-formatted’ books. ‘User-formatted’ means you, the author do your own formatting.

But for $549 they will ‘help the writer’ format both e-book and print book, and then upload it to retailers.

Or for $299 they will let you do your own formatting, and then upload the book to retailers for you.

This is ‘affordable’????? Does it not sound a little like Vanity press?

Questions are now being asked about such huge fees; and about the massive royalty cut they take on top of that (after charges taken by retailers such as Amazon). If you are a newbie, it all sounds a bit much.

Let’s say you are a budding writer who has entered their site simply to share your new flow with other writers, to get some feedback, to know if what you thought you had written was good…and you saw their ‘suggestion’ to ‘share your work with a larger audience’; ‘signed in’ to their new offerings (small print: you have to agree to ALL their terms and conditions before entering — i.e. no backing out. It’s a contract.) It rather dents the newbie writerly ego a little to find that in the end, you have spent all that money and can be almost certain your royalties, if any, will be minimal.

There’s more. Penguin — because they have you ‘signed’ — keep 30% of your royalties. And although the beauty of royalties is that they keep on coming in when your book sells, in this ‘contract’ you keep on paying Penguin.

Here’s how it breaks down. For sales on the Book Country site itself, writers receive 70% royalties. This part, at least, is justifiable. Book Country are providing a retail platform, they are processing the sales, and dealing with the customers. And it’s a comparable percentage to the major retailers. Plus their name is a biggie.

However, through Book Country, you can also sell your book on those major retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This is where the real trouble starts.

On pages such as this one, they claim that writers will “earn 70% on your sales when priced at $2.99 or higher on all channels.” This is an extremely disingenuous claim, as it is not 70% of your cover price, but 70% of the money Book Country receive from retailers.

How do new writers figure this out without testing the waters themselves?

There is a simpler way.

It takes a little time and application to learn the format process, but I’ve done it with my aging braincells, so if I can do it, you can do it.

After formatting, you should upload your books to Createspace, Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords on your own (takes about an hour) for FREE and you’re done. You’re published. That’s all there is to it. There seems to be no added reason why — after you’ve learned how to format and done all that hard work — you should pay Penguin to upload it for you. Now, does there?

Helping others up the thorny ladder to publishing success: Marian Youngblood

All that said — thank you Alex for allowing a rather irritable insecurity to be voiced — I need to encourage all new/young writers at least to TRY the self-publish method.

I published my ‘Phantom’s Child’ (sidebar right) that way and its historical/suspense theme seems to be catching on. It is beginning to take off. Last week author Pat Bertram kindly interviewed me on the process.

She, like our Ninja host, is an author who holds out her hand to help others up this thorny ladder we’ve placed in front of ourselves.

In the daunting milieu of what the publishing world is becoming, every little bit helps.

So, as we wend our way into the depths of winter — shortest day is only two weeks away and then it’s all going to look better –solar flares, radiation storms, power blackouts notwithstanding (next blog down on this page)– we do have much to look forward to when the light returns: this publishing business is gradually, slowly, finally, starting to give a little back to the hard-working author… fingers crossed.
©2011 Marian Youngblood

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December 7, 2011 - Posted by | authors, blogging, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Your book’s in the iBookstore as well? Must go check!
    Writers need to be aware of what they are doing and check all options in depth. The Penguin option doesn’t sound like a good deal at all.

    Comment by Alex J. Cavanaugh | December 7, 2011 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the heads up. There are so many “opportunites” out there that it can be dizzying to try to sort out what’s good and what’s not. The less than good ones often have the best hype behind them that make them sound the best, but we often don’t really know until we start digging up the research like what you’ve offered here.

    It’s best to heed the old “If it sounds too good to be true then it probably isn’t” rule. Everybody wants our money and some will promise anything to get it.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

    Comment by Arlee Bird | December 7, 2011 | Reply

  3. Although I’m not quite ready to dive into the publishing process yet, it’s helpful to understand the process. I have no doubt there are numerous options available, the key is knowing which one to choose. Thank you for the information about Penguin. I hope it is okay, but I printed and filed your post for future reference. Take care.

    Comment by Andrea Franco-Cook | December 9, 2011 | Reply


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