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Self-publishing Your Book
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An old adage says, "The devil is in the details." A similar saying, however, is that "God is in the details." One self-published book may be so riddled with fiendish grammatical errors that a reader throws it down in disgust. Yet another self-published book will be a pleasure to read, resulting in a transcendent mind-to-mind communication between author and reader. Sometimes the difference really does come down to good editing. Once the details are taken care of, the entire book snaps into shape.
If you self-publish, your book needs a professional edit because you won't have access to a publisher's copy editor and proofreader. Even the most accomplished authors must go through the editing process when they sign with a publishing house. Too much is at stake, financially, for the publisher to send a flawed book out into the market. As a self-publishing author, you face the same economic risks. If your written words don't connect with readers, the book won't sell, and the money you invested in printing will simply become a tax write-off.
You may decide to self-publish for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you've written a book aimed at a niche market, rather than targeting a mass audience. Maybe you tried to find an agent and/or a publisher but were rejected enough times to consider other options. Or you might be inspired by self-publishing success stories about authors who were subsequently picked up by Random House or Simon & Schuster, and their books became best-sellers.
Most of the books I've edited were subsequently printed by established publishers, but I've also edited a few manuscripts for authors who self-published. In their choice of self-publishing companies, some authors were happy with the experience, while others felt angry and "ripped off" by predatory clauses in the publishing contracts.
It's important to thoroughly research the self-publishing company you choose and to have a lawyer read the contract. Some companies are very laid back and don't ask their clients to do anything except pay for the printing. They say that the author is the publisher, and they are simply the printer. They do not provide editing, and they will print the book exactly as the author gives it to them, with misspellings, syntax errors, and atrocious grammar. The author supplies a jpeg or a photo for the book cover and writes the jacket copy. The rates per copy may be quite reasonable, even cheap, but authors need to have their books professionally edited first. Otherwise, they'll be stuck with 500 copies of a book that immortalizes their mistakes and probably will never be sold.
Other self-publishing firms seem to exist solely to trick the author into spending a king's ransom for their services. Sometimes the contract demands that the author use the company's editors, even if the author has already paid a professional editor out of pocket to refine the manuscript. Many companies also offer book cover and jacket design, and the cost per copy may ultimately be so expensive that the book ends up pricing itself out of the market.
Spend time analyzing the contract. Try to negotiate better terms before you sign it. The company may be so desperate to get you as a customer that it will eliminate certain clauses that do not favor the author. Once you've signed and paid a deposit, however, you have very little control over your fate. If you later decide you don't like the company's policies, your only option is to walk away and lose your deposit.
As with any business venture, try to compare companies and their services before you sign on the dotted line.
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