Friday, April 30, 2010

Lyceum's Self-Publishing Panel Recap

It was a very good night at the library's Lyceum last night. I didn't count but there must have been at least 30 people in attendance which was great and there were lots and lots of questions. I had never met Gunilla Caulfield, author of Murder on Bearskin Neck, before nor Thomas A. Hauck, author of Pistonhead. Susan Oleksiw is, of course, a friend and it is always great to see her. So, I thought I would post a little recap of some of the topics covered and questions asked.

  1. What is self-publishing and how does it work? Because of advances in digital technology and because so many commercial publishers are reluctant to sign new, unpublished authors, many authors are choosing to publish their own books through contemporary digital technology. There are numerous “author houses” all offering varying levels of services for a broad range of fees. All three of the panelists own their own ISBNs, retain full rights to their books, have their books available through major online outlets (Amaazon, B&N, etc.), and have books available for distribution through Ingram.

  2. Choosing the method that is right for you requires research. Gunilla, who publishes through Book Surge, said that she chose them because they offered professional editing services as well as complete design for the cover and the page layout. Tom chose to publish with a company (I forget the name but will ask him) that allowed him to choose fewer services. He had his books edited on his own and designed his own covers. All he needed was page layout, printing and distribution. Because I was already in the book business with Parlez-Moi Press before I published my own first book, I work directly with Lightning Source for printing and distribution. All supply all my own pre-press, from editing to design and layout, because this is a service I provide for other authors professionally.

  3. Independent authors are responsible for their own marketing. This is probably the toughest part of self- or indie-publishing. We talked about the methods that have worked for us, the difficulties of getting our books into brick and mortar stores vs. the ease of offering our books online. We touched on marketing tools from postcards, to blogs and online discussion groups.

  4. The advantages of self-publishing vs. the disadvantages. The disadvantages are that it requires up-front costs, promotion/marketing is challenging, and the unit cost for POD books is higher than for mass market books. The advantages are that the author retains all the rights to their book, they can keep their books in print as long as they want to and never have to worry about being “remaindered” and their profit margin is much higher per unit.

  5. Maintaining standards of quality. This is a critical issue for many self-publishers. There is a lot of junk being printed by authors who do not have their books well-edited for either content or for copy. How do those of us committed to quality and integrity promote our books as being different from poor quality book? This is an ongoing challenge that the market has yet to answer. For the present we have chosen to adhere to our standards anyway in the belief that the market will sort it out.
  6. What about the big “author houses”? Author houses have become a huge industry. Most of them offer a broad range of service “packages” ranging from basic to premium --- usually for big bucks. Some authors have chosen packages costing thousands of dollars in the hopes that this will better market their books but often this is not the case. Some of the big author houses require that your book carry their logo/name on the cover. This is something to be wary of because often those author house logos have stigmas attached to them which will do your book more harm than good with bookstores and reviewers.

That's just a quick summary. There was a lot more information covered. If anyone wants to contact me, please feel free to do so at kathleen at parlezmoipress dot com (you know how to format it for email but I'm trying to avoid spam by spelling it out.

Thanks to all who attended and thanks for reading.

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