GailGaymerMartinWelcome to the CAN Blog on this wintering morning in Michigan. Hi from Gail Gaymer Martin @

This excellent article by James N. Watkins appeared a while ago in his newsletter. I asked him if I could share it with you, and he had no problem with that. I’m glad because every writer who considers self-publishing needs to be aware of the scams and poor choices they can make. Since this is a long article I will beginning and continue with a link so you can read it all. The next article will continue with Jim’s thoughts on the Realities of “Marketing.” Feel free to visit Jim’s site at to gain more of his wisdom, and I thank him again for allowing me to share this with you.

Self-publishers and Piranhas

by James N. Watkins

This month, I received this letter from one of our readers:

“I had two books published with [a well-known self-publisher] and was impressed by their quality look (I designed the covers) but disappointed in their zero lack of editing for one of the books–they actually introduced errors into the text which I had to catch and change. And I had to rewrite all the copy for both books. I found out one reason the summary of the plot of one book was poorly written and inaccurate–the editor writing it hadn’t read the book! And talk about hidden charges–lots of them. They did arrange lots of phone interviews for me but overall, being self-published killed most of my chances with people who would normally push a book–bookstores, libraries, etc.”

With fewer and fewer publishers publishing fewer and fewer titles by fewer and fewer authors, more and more people are turning to self-publishing. And more and more self-publishers are making more and more promises to get more and more business.

Here are some important questions to ask to separate the publishers from the piranhas and pariahs:

Is the Price Unbelievably Low?
Some publishers, such as offer free publishing of your book and you pay a low price per copy. It’s a great deal if—and only if—you have a friend who is a professional graphic designer who can create the cover and typeset the interior. Otherwise, you’re stuck with tacky templates and a book interior that SCREAMS “self-published.”

Other publishers offer unbelievably low prices, then say, “Oh, you want editing? That will be another $1,000.” “And you want a custom-cover design? That will be another $1,000.” “Oh, you want an ISBN and barcode so you can sell to book stores? That will be another . . .” Well, you get the idea. That low price quickly escalates with all the additional charges.

Many self-publishers offer complicated discount programs or refuse to post their prices. Those are red flags!

Does the Publisher Own the Rights to *Your* Work?
That’s fine if you’re working with a royalty publisher who is taking all the risks and wants exclusive use of the material (and will have the rights revert back to you once it goes out of print). But some self-publishers want YOUR rights when you’re taking all the risks. One company wants exclusive rights for seven years, which means you can’t go with another publisher during that period of time. Piranha!

Is the Publisher Offering “Co-op” Publishing?
Some self-publishing piranhas will promise that they have a market for, say, 2,500 books, but need the author to pay the cost of the first one thousand copies. The one thousand copies are printed for the author—often at inflated prices—but it’s unlikely the publisher will print the other 1,500.

Does the Publisher Offer the Authors “Royalties” on the Book the *Author* Paid For?
Why shouldn’t the author keep all the profit for the book they have paid for? Potential piranha!

(And, you can’t be too careful with so called “royalty” publishers. One well-advertised “royalty” publishers requires a 2,500 copy “royalty holiday.” You don’t get paid until your book sells 2,500 copies. Piranha!)

Does the Publisher Offer Marketing? Worldwide Distribution?
Some self-publishers will make big promises of marketing and distribution, but let’s be very clear. Marketing sells VERY FEW books. It’s word of mouth. For instance, The Shack’s publisher spent $300 on marketing, but word of mouth sold nearly 4 million copies!

“Marketing” is often an empty promise. The AUTHOR is the marketer! Do you have a speaking ministry? A TV or radio show? A blog with tons of visits? If you don’t have some way for you to market the book, all the publishers’ marketing won’t move books.

“Distribution” is another empty promise. Yes, book stores obtain books through distributors such as Ingrams, but distributors only provide AVAILABILITY. The author must provide the DESIRABILITY. Distributors, as the name implies only “distribute” to the desire created by the author. One self-publisher charges its authors $4,000 to make the book available to “thousands” of online book stores. (And that price doesn’t include one single book!). Finally, distributors are going to want a 65 percent discount on your book.

It’s an illusion that authors sit in their home offices and simply write. The vast majority of self-published books are going to sell from the back of the room. So spend that 65 percent on arranging speaking engagements. And set up a free online “shopping cart” such as to become your own distributor.

Don’t forget, the next blog will continue with Jim’s thoughts on the Realities of “Marketing”



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