In The Public Eye

Self-publishing is becoming an increasingly popular option for many authors. And, in recent years, the industry has seen a flood of self-publishing companies hit the market—CreateSpace and Lightning Source chief among them.

In her latest article, PR expert Julie Schoerke discusses the pros and cons of self-publishing, and how companies like CreateSpace or Lightning Source simultaneously help and hurt writers, readers, and bookstores alike.

The #1 Novice Mistake in Self-Publishing

By Julie Schoerke

You may be, no you are, brilliant with what you’ve chosen to do with your life up to this point. However, nothing prepares you for book publishing and the myriad of ways that you can get screwed.

Because there are so many books being published today—some estimates based on ISBN purchases, put the number at more than 3 million in the United States alone each year. And 2.2 million of those are self or “indie” published books.

There is a whole industry that has emerged to “help” authors publish their books for the first time. But, a number of these are predatory or are not the right fit, and it’s tough for an author to know that unless they’ve been down the publishing path before.

Here’s what you need to do if you’re going to self-publish, while going for the “traditionally published” look of your book:

  1. Hire a professional book editor. Not a journalist, not a former teacher, a book editor. At JKS, we require the book to be edited by a book editor that has either worked for a major publishing house (a lot of them freelance now) or has edited a book that has won a major national award. They know how a book is supposed to be packaged so that the reader has an enjoyable experience. This is developmental editing with copy editing coming at the very end.
  2. Hire an amazing book cover designer. While there are lots of über-talented and creative graphic artists, a book cover is very specific and if you don’t do it correctly, it will look shoddy. Unless you’re coming from a publishing background, you really need to have a pro to create and evaluate the cover. A book is, sadly, judged on its covers oftentimes.
  3. Find a book designer who has laid out interior books for a publishing house in the past. There are all kinds of amateurish mistakes that can be made here that will make your book look unprofessional. Trust me. I shudder when I see these, as I know that, no matter how good the writing is, it’s just not going to get the respect it deserves if it isn’t done well and to industry standards.
  4. Hire a book publicity firm that you feel like you click with, understands what your goals are, and is enthusiastic about your particular book. There are various ways to find out if a book publicity firm is legitimate. Talk to friends. Research them online. Research the mid-list books that they represented 6 to 18 months ago to see if you can find plenty of things online about the book. Talk to the publicity firm and see if the personality fit is comfortable for you. Find out how they are held accountable for what they say they will do for you (there are no guarantees of specific media in book publicity, but reporting and transparency are paramount).

There are many questions about self/indie publishing through CreateSpace (Amazon) vs. Lightning Source or Spark (Ingram). If you are publishing through CreateSpace, and have that name inside of your book, then know that it will be looked upon favorably by Amazon when “optimizing” it’s viewability on the book buying site, but will be a total buzzkill for bookstores who want nothing to do with Amazon and consider the company to be ruthlessly setting out to ruin their business. CreateSpace indicates in it’s promotional materials that your book is available for order by any bookstore—just understand that no bookstore will order your book whether it’s available or not since it’s been produced by their toughest competitor.

If you publishing through an Ingram subsidiary, that is very friendly for bookstores and makes it easy for them to order your book—it’s always “in stock” because Ingram can produce a beautiful print-on-demand copy (they’ve come a long way, baby!) within an hour of the request and it will be mailed the same day. What’s more, if you publish through an Ingram subsidiary, the largest distributor of books in the U.S. is producing your book across all distribution chains. The best feature is that a bookstore can order your book and see it in the Ingram catalog without having to set up a new payment system to get your book. Indie bookstores would like to be able to keep track of all orders in one place and Ingram or Baker & Taylor are the top choices. Your book won’t be highly “optimized” on Amazon, but it’s not penalized either.

Many of our indie authors publish on CreateSpace for Amazon and Ingram Spark for bookstores—it takes two ISBNs, but is well worth it. Anyone who is going to publish a book, an ebook, or audio book, and will potentially write more books in the future, should buy a set of 10 ISBNs (cheaper in a bundle) from Bowker (www.bowker.com), rather than through CreateSpace (again, you will be tagged as an affiliate of Amazon if you use one of their ISBNs, which bookstores can see in their computer systems).

While both CreateSpace and Ingram subsidiaries have their benefits, you’re most likely to experience positive results if you eschew the Amazon self-publishing option. Whichever route you take, one thing remains constant: you will need professional help in order to turn your manuscript into a well-polished, marketable reality—or else risk undermining the book you worked so hard to create.

Happy writing in 2016!

Julie SchoerkeJulie Schoerke founded JKS Communications, a Literary Publicity Firm, 15 years ago, and the firm has gone on to represent more than 600 authors, as well as publishers and literary organizations. Personalizing creative campaigns for each author, having an accountability system in place throughout the authors’ campaigns and including former journalists on the publicity team are hallmarks of her vision for the firm. Julie speaks at writers’ conferences, universities, and book festivals across the United States. She also writes book- marketing and book-promotion columns for trade publications and is a featured guest frequently on radio. JKS Communications is headquartered in Nashville, TN with operations in New Orleans and New York as well. For more information please visit www.jkscommunications.com