The leaves were changing, the barbecue was spicy, the air was nippy. It was the perfect October day for an outdoor literary festival up in the mountains. Whenever I attend or present at a writers conference or book festival, I always leave with a smile on my face at having met so many awesome writers and readers (the gas that makes us go!) Last weekend was no different. But what was different, was more than one author talking, unhappily, about their publisher. What was different about it, was that almost all of these disgruntled writers were referring to their indie publishers.
Most of us Indies know the drill of publishing to Amazon or Smashwords. It can be a pain in the ass and often takes forever to get it perfect, but it is NOT, as I’m always reading all over the net and can personally attest to, rocket science. So when I heard author after author complain about three and four month time lags before they could get up on Amazon, I was astonished. Furthermore, every one of these authors was giving 50% or more of their e-book royalties to their publishers—their indie publishers. What the heck is going on?
Every one of these Indie authors were selling paperback books for well over $12. For a paperback!! When I gave a local bookstore owner a few copies of my book, Toujours Dead, to sell on consignment, she couldn’t believe I was selling them at the literary festival for $5 a piece. I shrugged. “I make a profit on them,” I said. How? Easy. My Indie publisher (who happens to be ME) does not charge me $10 a book after paying for full production on a print on demand book. These authors had shelled out over $1,000, some of them, to get a print on demand book made—and that didn’t even include the cover design! (Which will bring up another blog topic down the road. The covers were generally pretty awful, about what you’d expect from a writer who’s an expert at writing but less so with the whole design thing. I quake to imagine what they would’ve paid to have their publisher create a decent cover for them!) Then they bought copies of their own book at prices that made it prohibitive to re-sell!
In more than a couple cases, I was told by happy authors (at least they were happy until they talked to me!) that putting their books up on any of the online distributor sites like Smashwords or Amazon cost extra! I told at least five writers that it was free to publish a book to Amazon. One of them actually blurted out: “You lie!”
The ones who had gone totally the other way with a free or bone-cheap digital content provider, like CreateSpace, were happy with their results. Me, I like Create Space for a proof copy or to hand out for reviews before a launch, but have been less than impressed with the quality of their books as compared to a product from Lightning Source. But even there, the few writers who were canny enough to ferret out CreateSpace to publish their books were computer literate enough to design and create their own pdfs. One of them, however, got a little over his head and admitted he had to “upgrade” to get the help he needed. The price shot up like the Titan 1 booster rocket on a clear day....