The New Model of Free Self-Publishing.
For many years the only way to get a book published was to keep sending it to Agents and Publishers in the hope that somebody, one day, would like it enough to invest. Mostly this process was incredibly time consuming, costly and resulted in large-scale rejections. But the industry ran that way for centuries.
Then along came Self-Publishing. In the early days, this was disparagingly referred to as Vanity Publishing and was seen as something in which no reputable author would dare engage. And with generally very high costs, it certainly wasn’t anything resembling free self publishing.
Times changed however and Self-Publishing became not only accepted but often the first choice for authors. Now, with even Big Name authors deserting the restrictive practices and low royalty payments of the Traditional sector in favor of Self-Publishing, the tide has truly turned.
In the early days of self-publishing, the author often had to pay out huge sums of money to finance the initial production and setup costs but this has changed in recent years and it is now possible to find a Publisher who will offer free self publishing. Admittedly, these are usually very small presses and often ebook only but a few companies are now offering truly free self-publishing options.
The most notable of these companies is, of course, Amazon, where it is now possible to prepare a paperback for sale on their virtual shelves for zero cost. Now, whether this really constitutes publishing or not is a moot point as Amazon does not actually publish your book until somebody orders it.
But is it really free self publishing? Granted, one can list a book for sale with no upfront costs but listing a book which is possibly never actually going to be printed, is not quite the same as publishing a nicely produced finished copy. So where do Amazon make their money if the book is never printed or sold? Well, it’s not from selling these self-published books to readers as around 80% of these books have never sold a single copy. However, that question is easily answered as soon as one looks into their Create Space Publishing Platform a little more closely. Amazon are selling services to authors. Do you want your text laid out properly? That will cost you around $100. Want a cover producing? That’s another $250. How about proofreading? $1,000. And the list goes on. This is not really free self publishing, just a shift in where the costs come. Where the original Self Publishing companies used to charge thousands of dollars to publish a book, that cost is still there, it’s just being paid for a bit at a time.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with this approach and in essence, it’s a very sensible development. If an author is perfectly capable of proof reading their own book but needs help with typesetting, what is the point of paying a big Self Publisher to do both jobs as part of a single big fee? This pick and mix approach allows the author to do the bits they can do well and contract out those they can’t. It’s a sound business model and as long as the author understands the model into which they are buying, then it’s a good one.
However, Amazon aren’t the only game in town when it comes to this new model. In fact, they weren’t even the first and they certainly aren’t the most cost-effective. Companies such as Gainsborough Publishing, Hansards or Bloomingtons all offer a wide range of services for authors at far lower costs and these smaller companies usually have the advantage of personal contact, which is something with which Amazon has always struggled when it comes to author support. They all offer free self publishing to an author who arrives with a well-constructed package but they are ready with help when it’s needed.
Without doubt, the move is away from the Traditional Giant publishing companies as authors begin to realize that the massive disparity between book cover price and author royalty levels is no longer justifiable when authors are now expected to do much of the work which publishers once undertook. Increasingly, when publishers are expecting authors to do all of the editing and marketing themselves, royalty rates of 8% or less are no longer attractive.
The new generation of authors are now shopping around for the services they need to produce and promote their book and just leaving the physical end production to Amazon. After all, that’s what they’re good at and that bit’s the free self publishing they offer!