Zaccmedia provides self-publishing book production services and professional video & photography for a range of business and personal applications. Based in Preston, Lancashire, UK.

Can you make a success out of self-publishing?

Can you make a success out of self-publishing

I just received an email from a lady who was receiving conflicting information about how best to approach a self-publishing option and wanted advice. The thrust of it was a suspicion amongst writer groups that self-publishing is something akin to placing a bell around an author’s neck, so we all know to keep away. It’s a sad picture, when we know that independent publishing has created a wealth of fascinating material that would never have seen the light of day otherwise. It has also helped talented authors up the stairway to larger commercial publishers. I often come across writers, especially amongst the social networks, that have a deep prejudice against self-publishing, when really, it should be seen as a liberating opportunity.

Self-publishing offers a great way into publishing that
is otherwise not possible if a manuscript has been
on the unfortunate end of a rejection letter
Let’s take a look at this prejudice against self-publishing and set it in the context of most writers sphere of reality. Zaccmedia is a self/bridge publishing company that offers a great way into publishing that is otherwise not possible if a manuscript has been on the unfortunate end of a rejection letter, received by a now dejected author seeking a commercial publishing contract with a big publisher.

Self-publishing has sometimes been criticised, because unlike commercial publishing companies, the author has to pay to have their book published. The onus is also mainly on the author to promote their own book to garner sales. But the criticism is unfair in many cases – mainly because self-publishing companies are merely charging for a service – for instance, preparing and formatting a manuscript for typesetting (page layout), editing, then designing the interior and creating page PDFs, developing a professional cover design that looks at home in a retail environment, adding ISBNs, and providing a print and distribution platform, together with eBook conversions and digital distribution. Zaccmedia provides these and other services on top, including A5 brochures, trade information sheets and more. One cannot expect these services to be given to an author for free. That said, in the past there have been certain companies that sought to put unsuspecting authors out of pocket by charging hidden costs and fees, or by making the publication process seem something of the dark arts and charge a small fortune for it.

The truth is, anybody can learn the process of publishing and do it entirely themselves. But as someone in the trade once said to me, publishing is like ice skating. It looks easy until you try it! Whilst there will be those that have the gifting and technical prowess to learn how to edit, typeset, source designers and convert to eBook, as well as put it on a platform to sell and print – for many, they just don’t have the time or even the inclination to get involved. Not everybody wants to figure out what 240% ink density means for cover designs. But there will always be those that do – but don’t necessarily let them convince you that you should. It isn’t everybody’s passion to work out the nuts and bolts of publishing. Zaccmedia does, which is why publishing companies, like us, offer our experience and professional services.

Some authors have grown accustomed to receiving publishing services for free if they happen to be exceptional and highly researched writers. Today, in publishing, only very talented or informed authors receive publishing services FREE, because they will have developed a publishing contract with a commercial publisher (not self-publisher). This commercial publisher will publish for free, and possibly pay a financial advance royalty payment (rare these days) because they know they have a fantastic writing talent – or they are famous and have huge audiences that will almost guarantee sales – hence why this is seen as a traditional commercial contract.

The truth is, for most authors writing today,
commercial publishing just isn’t going to be the reality
Commercial publishing companies will measure the financial risks, knowing that investing £3000-£10,000 and more in production, editorial and marketing will generate thousands of book sales, which will create a profitable return on the book. The truth is, for most authors writing today, this just isn’t going to be the reality. As with commercial football, just because you can kick a ball very well and play for a decent local team, doesn’t mean you will play for Barcelona, let alone lower league clubs that still may pay. It’s a poor analogy for writers, but it illustrates a hard reality that many writers don’t often accept – that they are just not of that premier level to compete in the higher league. Yet there remains this suspicion of self-publishing companies that exist to give authors the tools and the option to publish where higher end commercial options are not a possibility.

If authors still believe in their book when commercial publishers have rejected their manuscripts, then many authors have gone the self-publishing route and been very successful. But many have also tried it and barely sold more than a handful of books, which rather proves the point of why manuscripts were turned down in the first place. Self-publishing can be a high risk financial venture – especially if you don’t have the funds to comfortably experiment with. There has to be a certain reality check to the process.

Self-publishing is your main option if commercial publishers don’t take on your book. Even commercial publishers won’t actually publish for free. They will often give a tiny author royalty return, and lock an author down to a contract that runs perpetually and which authors will find hard to get out of if they are unhappy with sales. Small royalties earn big if volume sales are big. But the batting average isn’t great.

Many books have come through my hands
which have great value and should be published
Commercial publishers are increasingly asking author’s to buy 500-1000 copies of the book to help mitigate their own financial risk – which further highlights the fact that not all commercial publishing is free. It isn’t always best to go the commercial route. Just like self-publishing companies, you will also find that most commercial companies have huge flops on certain books, making authors upset in the process. But I can tell you from experience – it really hurts the publisher’s bottom line when a commercial publishing project fails to find sales. It’s for this reason why they are so selective on which books they publish. It’s this high level of selectivity that explains why many commercial publishing companies don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts – from experience, 99% of these are not nearly the quality necessary to make high volume sales. It is hugely time-consuming working through reams of manuscripts, hence the regrettable, derogatory term, slush pile.

Not all of it is slush though. Many books have come through my hands which have great value and should be published – they aren’t all necessarily of commercial value, but some books are not about their commercial value. “value” has other interpretations, especially within a Christian context. There are authors out there that have made a highly successful strategy self-publishing. The multi-million dollar grossing “The Shack” is famously one of the self-publishing success stories. Financial success can and does happen… sometimes. Like commercial publishing, there is no guarantee of success. Life is like that, and it’s the same with books.

Self-publishing is most effective when an author
has a large network of people to sell books through
Of the self-publishing companies out there that provide an honest service, Zaccmedia is a Christian self/bridge publishing company that offers a great set of professional publishing services and provides royalties to authors who manage to achieve sales on Amazon and through bookshops etc. Our most popular package is £1250. See the website for details. Self-publishing is most effective when an author has a large network of people to sell books through and can almost guarantee sales through buying their own author copies and selling them to those people. A conference where the author is a speaker and can sell books in immediate volume to the audience is an excellent example.

Nevertheless, many authors still insist on pursuing commercial publishing opportunities where you don’t have to pay anything. But my view is, that this is highly unlikely to be achievable, and I recommend you look at whether you have the people networks to create sales via self-publishing. Like other self-publishing companies, Zaccmedia doesn’t guarantee sales. Sales are essentially down to the work and activity of the author. But we do try to help, and offer a high quality service to maximise opportunities, cataloguing our titles. Specialising particularly in Christian titles, we are due to send a catalogue out to all UK Christian bookshops this September 2014, for instance.

it should be seen as a liberating opportunity
As Self-publishing companies go, Zaccmedia offers just about everything authors could need to set themselves up for publishing. But as explained above, publishing is much more than producing and distributing a book. It’s about sales. So, be ready to push that vision of yours out there. See promotion not as an obstacle, but a huge opportunity to share your message with the world. Your book will be a personal lasting legacy of that dream to connect your passion with the lives of others. And you don’t have to rely on a commercial publisher to do it for you. Can you make a success out of self-publishing? You will never know until you put your book out there.

Paul Stanier

www.zaccmedia.com

 
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