I need a publisher! Do you?
If you are a nonfiction or fiction writer, be wary of small publishers offering you more than they can deliver.
I have received a lot of messages and emails from authors who have run into disagreement, problems, or are having serious doubts about their book publishers.
It is no surprise really because the benefits of having a publisher can be difficult to justify nowadays. The basic self-publishing tools are readily available for authors and they are mostly all free.
In a recent blog post, I listed 10 questions to ask a potential publisher. It is a good place to start if you are thinking about how you can publish your book.
But in the end, no matter what your answers to these questions are, most authors who finally decide to sign with a small independent publisher do so for two distinct, and if I may say so, quite understandable reasons.
One is because you believe it is easier to rely on someone else for editing your book. Also, to do all the manuscript formatting and uploading to Amazon, Draft2Digital or Smashwords for ebooks and print on demand books. On top of that, you do not wish to spend the time learning how to do it all yourself.
And secondly, because you believe a publisher will do a better job of promoting your book.
The results can vary from quite good to very disappointing.
To be perfectly frank, there are a handful of new small independent publishers who are trying very hard to change the self-publishing world for the better.
But many who advertise their services on Twitter and Facebook or by unsolicited email are themselves self-published authors and are looking for another way to make a buck on top of their own book sales.
Well, fair enough, why waste an acquired skill?
I have checked a number of these types of small publishers and there are warning signals that you should check before considering using their services.
One is that they usually have small social media followings, which bodes badly for achieving successful book promotion for their authors.
However, a few have huge numbers of followers on Twitter, but a quick scan of their followers reveals that they are mostly bots, and have probably been recently purchased to give the appearance of popularity.
Secondly, these accounts are very often quite new, which is a telltale hint of inexperience.
Very often, these small publishers also have a number of easily recognisable linked Twitter accounts that have been set up to help earn Amazon Associates income.
In addition, if they do have a website, which many don’t, there is rarely a mailing list to subscribe to. This is a big alarm bell.
Pay for the services that you need, and keep your book rights.
If my assumptions are correct, in that some authors really want a publisher because they would prefer that someone else does all the grunt publishing work and book promotion for them is true, then perhaps signing away the rights to their books is what they will decide to do.
But with one minute of logical thinking, wouldn’t it be far better to pay someone to format the manuscript and upload to Amazon and Smashwords for you, and still keep the rights to your book?
This service is not expensive.
You can also buy book promotion on a number of established sites. Sure, it’s not always cheap, but you are in control of what you invest in promoting your book.
Do you really need a publisher, when you can so easily self-publish?
No matter what a publisher may say, no one can promise you success. No matter how much money you pay.
Don’t rush into signing a publishing contract before considering what you can easily do yourself, or pay for yourself to achieve the same, if not better results.
It is not difficult to write and self-publish nonfiction and fiction books today.
And even more important, keep the rights to your book.
It’s worth repeating that by signing over your book rights to a publisher, you have in fact sold your book and stand next to no chance of ever getting your book rights back.
Keep in mind too that the main motivation of some of these new publishers is not necessarily to make your book a success.
It is a lottery for them, which can reap rich rewards.
Of say 500 books they can attract, and that they gain the rights to, only a few titles need to sell well for them to make money.
500 titles can earn very good Amazon Associates income as well for the publisher, which the author will never see a cent of as it will probably not be mentioned in a publishing contract.
Even better, they might get lucky in the lottery and attract the next hot book to emulate 50 Shades.
For a publisher, it’s about getting the few winners in their stable that will make them money.
This is exactly the same logic as traditional publishers. Publishing a new book is always a gamble, as only a very few titles ever achieve reasonable sales.
So why give them this chance for free by granting these new opportunistic publishers your book rights?
If you are an author and you really want a fair and legitimate publishing contract, take the traditional route and find a literary agent, whose job it will be to look after your interests with publishing houses. Send out your query letter and sample chapters and hope you get lucky. Sure, it’s tough, it’s hard, but it works.
As for the many new publishers that are appearing almost daily on Twitter, Facebook on in your email inbox, beware. If you receive an unsolicited book proposal, be doubly cautious.
Signing away the rights to your book is a serious decision, especially when there is nothing at all guaranteed for you in return for the money you will have to outlay.
My advice is to either find an agent and go the traditional route, which isn’t easy. Or become a true self-publisher and pay for the services you need. It’s a tough route as well.
But don’t be lazy and think that just because you pay a lot of money to someone who calls themselves a publisher that they can make all your dreams come true.
As the messages I have received from many authors confirm – it can very often turn out to be a very expensive nightmare.
More reading: Is This Publisher Legit? How You Can Make Your Decision