Smart Tips to Create a Self-Publishing Imprint

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Source: Google Images

For those who may not know, an imprint is defined as, per Wikipedia“An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which it publishes a work.” As a writer, if you self-publish, then you are technically a business owner so it’s a good idea to have an imprint or trade name under which you bundle your works. You might even use different names “as brands to market works to various demographic consumer segments.” (Wikipedia) You must be a jack-of-many-trades as you take on the roles of writer, editor, publisher, project manager, funding specialist (if you’re looking into crowdfunding your publication), and more. It’s a huge undertaking and there are pros and cons to be weighed before making the commitment.

The following tips are from an article written by Amy Collins for the November/December 2019 issue of Writer’s Digest:

NO SHORTCUTS

Remember, there are NO SHORTCUTS in self-publishing. Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. Unless you want to put out a poorly written and edited manuscript with a cheesy book cover that doesn’t sell well …if at all. Self-publishers may have a smaller budget so they will want to skimp on the important parts: editing, layout, proofreading, cover design, etc. My advice is DON’T SKIMP. Nothing wrong with looking for affordable options – just know that you WILL get what you pay for, which may or may not end well for you and your book. Remember that this part of the process is for your readers, not you (your part was writing the story, whatever your inspiration), so do your best to put out a worthwhile product. And this step is vital if you want bookstores and libraries to consider purchasing copies of your book. It needs to look and read as professional as possible. Do your research and do your best to choose wisely.

Amy’s Pro Tip: “Budget for every element of book publishing: development editing, copy editing, layout of the interior, cover design, marketing, sales, distribution, and printing as well as every element of starting a small business.” (My tip: include accounting and taxes in this list, since this is a business and will likely be separate from your other work.)

“While self-publishing is a viable option if done well, the marketplace is flooded with sub-par, poorly written, self-edited, book-shaped objects that have not gone through the proper care every book needs before being published.” ~ Amy Collins

Caveat Emptor: WATCH OUT for Those Vanity Publishers!

I wrote on this very topic in a previous post. Luckily, our watchdogs at Writer Beware® keep the writing community up-to-date with the who’s who of fraudulent or questionable “publishing houses.” (And if you’re not subscribed to that blog, accrispin.blogspot.com, shame on you.) There have been and continue to be issues with royalty payments, fees padding, and unscrupulous owners offering restrictive contracts that may or may not take away your copyrights. READ every line of every contract and don’t be afraid to ask QUESTIONS. 

Amy’s Pro Tip: How do you know whom to trust if you want to avoid a nightmare situation in partnering with a self-publishing company? Sites such as Writer Beware highlight offending companies. Other resources that offer a guide to the hundreds of author services out there include The Alliance of Independent Authors self-publishing service guide and the Independent Book Publishers Association Advocacy Committee’s list of nine criteria on what it means to be a professional hybrid publisher.

CREDIBILITY ISSUES?

Even though self-publishing has been around for more than ten years, indie publishers continue to have difficulty building their reputations, thereby making it harder to garner attention from readers and retailers (not Amazon but the brick-and-mortar businesses). There can be issues with accepting returns (for example, do you have a way for retailers to return unwanted books?) and a lack of trust in the quality of your product (so go back to Tip #1).

Amy’s Pro Tip: “Build your credibility and reader base with consistent outreach. Approach established book reviewers, but don’t forget to keep asking for reviews from your readers as well. Researching book reviewers and requesting reader reviews is a practice that should continue for the life of a book.”

Fellow Authors are Your Friends, Not Your Enemies

I admit to feeling a bit competitive and unwilling to read some books in the same genre (Chinese medicine) as my nutrition book. Somehow, I believed, my information was superior. That is just not true. There are so many wonderful options out there; it would actually behoove you to read a few books within your genre. Get to know the authors who write stories like yours; connect with them on FB and other SM; see who’s following them and leave comments. Who knows where these connections could lead you (and your stories).

Amy’s Pro Tip: “Find the bestselling authors in your genre and follow them on social media. Read their books and help where you can. Enjoy getting to know their readers. Authors can do so much for each other if they put aside the crazy idea that “it’s either them or me.

Write reviews and post in your author newsletter about the authors you truly admire; start building friendships. Soon, you will have a large, supportive group of authors ready to do the same for you because they genuinely want to help a fellow author. Offer to be a beta reader and cross-post for your favorite authors on their launch days.”

In the end, how our books do out there in the digital world/global community depends solely on our commitment to their success. There are many steps to take in publishing your own works but the rewards are greater if you adhere to the above advice. Like any other business, it’s best to have a plan so you can leave your imprint on the world. 

Will Illegitimate Books Tip the Scale Back to Traditional Publishing?

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Source: Google Images/eff.org

Counterfeit Books on The Rise

An article on Twitter by Publishing Perspectives caught my eye today while reading posts from Writer Beware®. Written by Porter Anderson, the article outlined and discussed illegitimate online book sales and Amazon’s response (since so many of these deceitful sales take place in their bookstore). It all started when journalist David Streitfeld of the New York Times wrote in June that “Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore” in reference to the surge in counterfeit books on Amazon.   

In his article, David recounts his purchase of “numerous fake and illegitimate Orwell books from Amazon.” I’m not surprised; the advent of the Internet brought with it a host of ne’er-do-wells intent on making money off the backs of legitimate authors. The global marketplace is vast, to say the least; tracking a counterfeit copy of one of your books (or by someone famous like George Orwell) can be time-consuming and expensive, and many authors simply don’t have the resources. It’s a Digital Wild West – every man (or woman) for himself (or herself). The digital gold rush is ON.

After reading this article, one question that concerns me is, how can we be sure that what we’re buying is the real deal?

Make the Old New Again?

In trots the old workhorse: traditional publishing. I believe that at some point, authors and their readers will tire of the con jobs, counterfeits, price gouging, and other deceptive practices running rampant online. Perhaps going back to the way things were with traditional publishing, at least to some extent, can possibly protect authors from the shady side of self-publishing in a digital world.

“While Amazon is the company that has, he’s right, made it possible for even the most marginal books to be suddenly available to everyone everywhere from the most earnest but artless authors (self-published or from the trade), it can also enable the chicanery of ruthless forgers.”

I personally have had my first fiction novel illegally downloaded and offered for free (not illegitimate but definitely illegal) and it was difficult to get the cons to stop, especially since they know there’s not much we can do about it other than request a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) takedown. To my knowledge, my book was not forged in any way. However, deceit is deceit and authors can lose royalties and fan bases as a result of these illegal acts, especially if the thieves are halfway around the world.

The integrity of the written word is under attack and we must diligently protect our works.

 

Copyright Issues

Amazon responded by stating there’s an issue with the “differing copyright timing between countries and sometimes even different titles within the same country.” They also wrote that “there is no single source of truth for the copyright status of every book in every country that retailers could use to check copyright status.”

Should there be a central body where authors can list copyrights for their intellectual property (IP)? What do you think? Amazon is at the forefront of this issue because they created it to begin with – they gave access to everyone (too much of good thing, perhaps), including liars, cheats and counterfeit thieves looking to make a quick buck.

As written in the article, perhaps there is a need for a “central international registry of published works’ copyright status that can support the burgeoning book publishing industry with a reliable test of copyright status.” Would that mean they’d catch all the illegitimate books? Maybe some, maybe not. It would be naïve to expect that every book thief/forger intent on making money from our work would be caught. Part of the problem is the absolute explosion in book inventory. Once a manageable almost one million titles in 1998, according to Bowker’s, there are now more than 40 million titles to track.

We’re needles in a global haystack.

The Bungling of Bundling Book Reviews

Another problem is that Amazon bundles its book reviews together, David writes, “regardless of which edition (legal or not) they were written for. That means an unauthorized edition … can have thousands of positive reviews, signaling to a customer it is a valid edition.”

I can’t help but think that this illegitimacy issue might work in favor of traditional publishing, that it might strengthen their stance in the global and online publishing worlds. It might even help cull the aforementioned “earnest but artless authors” inundating self-publishing book sites. Perhaps traditional publishing will once again become the vanguard and the proverbial measuring stick.

Someone needs to be.

 

To read the Publishing Perspectives article in full, click here.

Beating the Heat, Posting Book Ads & The Dark Side of Writing

Source: Google Images

The Heat Is On

OMG…summer is definitely HERE. Mid-90s to high 90s, then on up to triple digits (108 the other day), then back down to 90-ish today. No better time to catch up on some summer reading (indoors where the A/C is, of course). I’m currently digging into a Steve Berry spy novel and just finished devouring the latest in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series (one of my all-time faves). Summer reading is a nice respite from both work (if you have a day job) and writing. The heat can sometimes ‘gunk up the works,’ leaving imaginations stalled. Summertime reading can reignite that engine. So pick up a few good books at your local library or bookstore, grab a large lemonade with ice, a nice lawn chair, and you’re good to go.

What are you reading right now? Some people like to save certain books for summer reading – are you one of those? I’d love to hear what titles people are reading; who knows, you might hook me on one of your fave authors.

Posting On Book Ad Sites – Are They Worth It?

I got this idea from an email newsletter I subscribe to and decided to check out the four options they listed. You know how you ‘just know’ when a website, due to its layout style (too busy, not busy enough, asymmetrical, etc.) turns you off? That’s how I felt when I visited the some of the sites. Nothing impressive and they seemed already full of a lot of books I’ve not heard of – then again, I’m not exactly worldly when it comes to global writers and authors. They just didn’t feel right to me. Suggestions on some good sites for posting book ads are welcome.

Bookswifi.com and creativedesignwriters.com are two paid sites that seem decent enough. Books Wifi offers four options: Premium, Featured, Standard, and Basic and the prices are reasonable. How many hits you’ll get on your book, I have no idea. You can decide whether it’s a worthy expense.

Source: bookswifi.com

Creative Design Writers (.com) is definitely international; there are classifieds, company ads (realty) and fan pages (do people really look at these?); one even reads like a resume/dating site ad. There are ads in other languages, too. Something for everyone, I suppose.

Source: creativedesignerswriters.com

Also offered are SM marketing ($100 USD/month) and SEO ($150 USD/month) but I prefer to work with people I know and who live in my area. Not sure how safe some of these international sites are or who’s running them.

The Dark Side of Writing

A good place to learn about the shadowy world of writing is Writer Beware®, a brilliant website where writing and literary scams are tracked by a team of writers. The current article is on vanity publishers – you know, the companies that make you pay up front for marketing, printing, and other expenditures, only to not receive royalty payments, inaccurate accounting of sales, refusal to print more books, etc. The complaints have been rolling in on these vanity publishers and you should do your due diligence in checking out the site on a regular basis. This is one of the recent articles on vanity publishers that is a MUST-READ:

https://accrispin.blogspot.com/2019/07/from-writer-bewares-files-seven-most.html

Once upon a time, back in the early days of self-publishing, I almost fell for a vanity publisher called Tate Publishing (a Christian-based company, which I was unaware of until I read the heavy Christian verbiage in the publishing contract and changed my mind), now touting itself as Christian Faith Publishing , and is connected to another vanity publisher, Page Publishing. Lots of five-star BBB ratings to go with the numerous complaints, but the good does not outweigh the bad in these cases.

Basically, these vanity publishers take your money because that’s how they make theirs. They don’t follow through on their promises of sales, royalties and book exposure. If you’re new to self-publishing, DO YOUR RESEARCH and AVOID VANITY PUBLISHERS. These days, it’s fairly easy to get your book out there as long as you spend some money on a professional editor, book layout, and book cover design.

“The secret of these vanities is that they present themselves as publishers. Their target customer doesn’t want to self-publish…what they see is the validation of being chosen by a publisher, and because they don’t realize that reputable publishers don’t charge fees, they are vulnerable to this kind of deceptive advertising.” Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware®

Summer is a busy time for writers, readers, and booksellers. Take the time to enjoy a good read and don’t fall for literary predators!