You’ve polished it until it shines and you’ve given it to all your friends to read. “Tell me the truth,” you tell them. “If it’s no good, please tell me!”
“It’s wonderful,” they all say, “you should get it published.”
A year or so later you look at all the publisher’s polite rejection letters in your desk drawer and wonder whether your friends were having you on.
Then you see an advertisement. “Looking for a publisher? Send us your manuscript.” You’ve never heard of the publisher and you don’t recall ever seeing any of their books but you decide to give it a go anyway.
You send off your manuscript and a little while later you receive a glowing report – they want to publish it!
Unbeknown to you you’ve entered the murky world of self-publishing. The realisation comes when you receive their proposal.
They will edit your book, design a cover for it and print it. All for the bargain price of anything between $1,000 and $25,000!
You procrastinate for a while. You’ve listened to your friends and told them you plan to publish your book. They are expecting it soon. Here’s a way to save face. You decide to cough up the money and get it “published”.
All goes well and you receive the advance copies. They look great. You can’t get over seeing your name in print. You are well and truly hooked. You order 200 copies at a special one-off price.
Another year goes by. You’ve personally sold six copies and given a heap of signed copies away to your friends.
There are still 150 copies in the box in the wardrobe. Somehow you feel jilted. You feel like a sucker who has been taken for a ride. Never again you vow. You curse your silly and expensive pride.
In this digital age with print-on-demand technology and e-books there are reputable companies who provide a service to would-be-authors that is both upfront and honest. The above is close to a worst-case scenario.
There are also a lot of sharks whose prime interest is ripping you off. Reputable or shark they all make their money out of charging you for their services. They don’t make money out of selling books like a conventional publisher.
Self-publishing has been around for a long time. It used to be called vanity publishing. Vanity publishers prey on people’s egos. They specialise in charging to print poorly written books that no one will ever read.
Most self-publishing companies try to avoid the terminology and all its connotations.
Self-publishing companies invariably point out that many famous authors started out publishing their own books. This is true but for every successful self-published writer there are millions who never make it past that first book.
Many self-publishing companies advertise generous royalty payments, typically 25% and upwards. Trouble is, they’ve already made their money out of you and have no interest in selling your books.
One self-publishing company that I contacted while researching this article told me, “Oh yes, we publish many books by Papua New Guineans.”
That’s strange, I thought, how come I’ve never seen them in the bookshops?
You need to know what you are doing before you go down the self-publishing road. My advice would be to do some thorough research before you embark.
Most importantly find out exactly how much it is going to cost you. Self-publishing is a minefield of hidden costs.
As I said, there are reputable self-publishing companies out there. Their numbers are growing day by day. It’s a lucrative business.
Even Dymocks, the long-established Australian bookshop chain, has a self-publishing arm.
Another reputable company is Xlibris. Their parent company is Penguin/Random House, one of the biggest publishers in the world. They’ve got a reputation to protect, which may or may not be a good thing.
Another reputable company is Sid Harta Publishers. Tim Fischer, the Australian deputy prime minister in the Howard government publishes with them.
Many of these companies have print-on-demand connections, sometimes hooked up to big book marketers like Amazon. They also do e-books, the sales of which are now pretty much on a par with hard copies.
They all have websites and although it might take a while to go through their contents you’ll eventually come to the nitty-gritty page which sets out their costs. Be prepared to be shocked. Self-publishing is not cheap.
The digital age has turned the publishing world on its head and everyone is still sorting through the wreckage trying to make sense out of it all.
Without a home-grown publishing industry Papua New Guinean writers are particularly vulnerable to the sharks swimming in the self-publishing pond.
Don’t get caught because you’ll regret it.