This week I heard a story that broke my heart. In my line of work I meet a lot of aspiring authors. Sometimes, the desire to get published is so strong that it’s palpable. Some people will do anything to get published – including pay a lot of money to seemingly credible “publishers” who promise a runaway best-seller, fame and fortune.
Sound too good to be true? Generally, it is. Let’s take the story of a woman I met this week. We’ll call her Laura. After hearing a spiel from a “publisher”, she forked over a significant amount of cash for them to print 2000 copies of her book.
If a publisher is asking you to pay them money, you’re not dealing with a mainstream publisher.
When you get a book deal with a mainstream publisher, you do not pay a cent. They pay YOU.
In fact, they pay you an advance. Then, after your book hits the stores and starts selling, they pay you a royalty (which is a percentage of the selling price of the book).
If a “publisher” asks you to pay money, they are essentially acting as a project manager for the book that you are effectively self-publishing.
Complete lack of expertise and integrity
Now back to Laura. When you’re paying someone to project manage the production of your book, you actually want them to take responsibility for it! Unfortunately, for Laura, this didn’t seem to be the case. They helped her edit the book, annotating the manuscript with comments on how certain sections could be improved. She revised it based on their suggestions and they sent it off to the printer.
The trouble was that the “publisher” – or rather, project manager – didn’t bother deleting the “editor’s comments” which were annotated throughout the manuscript. These comments were messages from the editor to Laura on how to improve the text.
So 2000 copies landed in Laura’s loungeroom. When Laura opened the boxes to hold a copy of her book in her hands, she flicked through the pages and recognised that this was the culmination of months and months of research and writing. She was thrilled to finally have her book in front of her.
However, her joy soon turned to horror. As she read through her precious new book, she realised that the “publisher” had made a grave error. They had sent the wrong file to the printer – they hadn’t bothered to delete the editor’s comments and so the book was littered with nonsensical messages on how sentences could be improved. Laura heart sank. She was devastated.
All 2000 books were completely unusable. They had to be thrown away. To make matters worse, when Laura contacted the publisher to tell them what happened, they blamed her. However, they told her that if she printed another batch of books through them, they would contribute 50 per cent of the cost. I asked Laura about the cost and was horrified at what I heard. The amount they were charging her was at least three times more than what it should have been.
This was a nightmare that actually made me feel sick. And I’m disgusted that there are people in Australia calling themselves “publishers” and behaving in this way.
I want to qualify here that I’m NOT referring to the big mainstream publishers (like Penguin, Allen & Unwin, HarperCollins, Wiley, and so on – these are bona fide publishers. None of these publishing houses make you pay for the privilege of being published with them. They pay YOU remember?)
The dubious “publishers” who take advantage of people like Laura promise you best-sellers but you often end up with 2000 copies of a book which languish in your garage, unless you have an aggressive sales and marketing plan to move them.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with self-publishing. In fact, I think it’s wonderful to explore this path if you think it suits your goals. I truly believe that self publishing can be very lucrative and beneficial – if you have a good plan in place. But if you want to self-publish, then I beg you to find an experienced project manager (ideally with a background from the mainstream publishing industry) who can help you produce a quality book at a reasonable price.
Do not sign up with a pseudo-publisher who sells you into a “package” after a seminar, charges you an arm and a leg and guarantees you success. It may sound like an easy path to success but remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Few authors ever make the bestseller lists this way. And if you do go down this route, remember that it’s unlikely that you’re dealing with people with true publishing expertise.
Just ask Laura.