Today I blocked some of the prevalent self-publisher support companies from advertising on my News pages. But before I tell you about these, here’s someone else who is passionate about author independence and saving them from the clutches of uncaring ‘author support’ companies.

Michael N Marcus seems to have dedicated a good portion of his life to warning authors and informing them on how to self-publish independently. Such idiotic titles as ‘Can I really publish a decent book with Microsoft Word? Yes!’ and How to Not Get Screwed by a Self-Publishing Company (with terribly designed cover) first make you wonder at the quality of advice.

However, along with some amazing stories published there, on his How to Not Get Screwed Amazon blurb, he makes a great point:

“Self-publishing companies enable anyone who can type to quickly become a “published author” and compete for the attention of the reading public. There is no longer a need to go through the years-long process of finding an agent and publisher.

Sadly, these companies publish a lot of badly written books, and sometimes do a bad job of publishing and promoting them. Their writer/customers spend a lot of money, and many customers are greatly disappointed in the quality of their books and the limited sales and book reviews. You can minimize disappointment if you are properly prepared—and this book will prepare you!”

I Heard it through the Grapevine

The author grapevine tells me that most of the large done-for-you self-publishing (vanity press) services do a terrible job of informing the author and promoting their books.

They don’t tell authors how to target a niche.

They don’t let them know how to get a distributor to reach bookshops, and that print on demand does not work if you don’t advertise, comment in media, ring up suppliers, guest post, etc.

Most don’t even help them get the best looking cover, something which helps with first impressions.

Most painful of all (for me), many American-led self-publisher support services don’t edit the cover copy and longer sales blurb so that it reels the reader in. Many of them offer a cover copy editing service, but if you don’t elect this or they don’t provide a good service, you’re almost guaranteed to sell no books.  Basically, your book sales blurb is what sells the reader the book!

Whose Presses Should You Avoid?

The list of vanity press companies (aka self-publisher services) that you should avoid if you prefer quality and results over speed:

Balboa Press – authors are unlikely to get a deal with Hay House and I know that breaks your heart, but it would be cheaper for you to start your own imprint.

iUniverse/Xlibris – also owned by Author Solutions Inc., having serviced 200,000+ authors and been in several lawsuits as a company. Same model, with sales people who are not exactly ‘book publishing mentors’.

Outskirts Press – vanity press; known to have past terrible quality despite high pricing and beautiful looking website.

Trafford Publishing – vanity press; unknown type of quality…

Austin Macauley – call themselves a hybrid publisher, say they test every manuscript for its merits. (They offer the carrot of a traditional contract if good enough). 3 Stars at TrustPilot.

Emil Fortune, an editor, says: “Austin Macauley has a poor reputation among people whose opinion I generally trust. They recently had an altercation with Harry Bingham of Writer’s Workshop” (Quora).

Sunyi Dn says: “Austin MaCauley is a nasty, predatory vanity press with a vile reputation in the industry. They have pages and pages of entries on the Absolute Write Beware board, and many entries on Writer Beware. I am appalled to see any “writers” sticking up for them.” (The writer was likely to be a fake reviewer). (Quora).

Here is a Jericho Writers AM story to further convince you about the predatory nature of AM and these slick vanity presses (‘hybrid publishers’) in general.

How to Set up Your Own Indie Publishing Imprint

If you want to use your dollars wisely and are seeking quality, then this is the path I advise, based on 12 years of trial and error:

  • Write and self-edit the best book you can, for a specific readership
  • Create a loose plan for the marketing of it, which you’ll tighten up later
  • Get an editor for the book to do a line edit/copy edit or initial manuscript advice
  • Create an imprint name, buy 10 ISBNs in your country, and learn all about self-publishing through a coach, or at our own Book Creation Success Club (39 AUD monthly).
  • Hire a freelance book cover designer, with samples you can see are good (not mockups or templates) or use a design contest
  • Join a writers group or two on Facebook, so you can share your book, your dramas, your final cover shots to choose from, author pics, and $1.99 launch deals.
  • To learn about book marketing, form a plan, and get an Australian media list to start activity, just join Book Creation Success Club. Saves yourself lots of looking around and you’ll find out about other things that will help with returning your investment to you after being published.
  • Optionally, apply early to a book distributor who works with indie authors — before you set up print on demand and at least 4 months before launch.

Already Bought a Package?  What You Need to Protect Your Publishing Future

I know some self-publisher services have also gone out of business and taken the book design files with them. The book design files, after edits and typesetting, is what you have paid for. Not getting them is like leaving your car all pristine at the workshop, satisfied it is fixed but you cannot use it ever again.

Although not ideal, even a final PDF could help when it comes time to revise that book and re-launch it. You can reverse engineer a PDF to get a Word file using a freelancer on Fiverr, or do it with Adobe Acrobat Pro (only the Professional level does it). However, I don’t believe PDFs can be reversed into InDesign, which is the software that image or table-heavy books are compiled in. Ask me a question if unsure about PDF reversing to native files.


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