Some simple things to keep in mind:
If the publisher is putting its money at risk to produce and distribute the book, then that is a traditional publisher, regardless of medium (print, eBook, POD). Thus Who Dares Wins Publisher is a traditional publisher.
If the author is putting her money at risk to produce and distribute the book, then that is self-publishing, whether they do all the work themselves or hire someone else to do it. The author keeps copyright and use their own ISBN.
If the author is putting her money at risk by paying someone else to produce and distribute the book and that other party also takes a percentage of royalties, then that’s vanity or subsidy publishing. The publisher uses their ISBN.
The average self and subsidy published book sells around 50 copies. TOTAL. Most are purchased by the author and go to family and friends.
Vanity publishing houses that market to authors work on a basic rule of income: their revenue stream comes from the authors, not readers. That’s the bottom line. For example, Lulu’s own CEO said they wanted a million authors selling 100 books each, rather than 100 authors selling a million books each.
These businesses prey on people’s dreams. Every new author believes they will be the ‘one’ to break out. And when it doesn’t happen, they rarely make any noise about it, because no one likes advertising failures. Thus all we hear about are the few successes and not the vastly greater numbers of failures.
If you use Print on Demand, remember it’s a technology. It produces a trade paperback book, pretty much indistinguishable from a traditional publishers trade book. It has an advantage in that you can produce one book at a time if need be, keeping your ‘print run’ low. At Who Dares Wins Publishing we have 100% sell through, because we keep our inventory at a level to anticipate sales based on Internet sales and upcoming speaking engagements.
POD is done through Lightning Source, Inc. (LSI). They do ‘distribute’ the book. However, it’s a pull rather than pull system. In 2007, 4 million books were produced via LSI.
Some things to consider if you hire someone to produce your book:
-Make sure you keep copyright and all rights to the book. On the flip side, I heard a self-publishing company rep at a conference warn authors a danger of going with a “New York” traditional publisher is they take your copyright forever. No. Be careful of all the ‘experts’ especially those who have a vested interest in slanting their information a certain way.
-Make sure there isn’t a clause where that publisher gets a percentage of your advance if you subsequently sell it to a traditional publisher.
-Check out the quality of their production. At WDWPUB we recently did a book that took almost a week to format correctly. This also holds true for those who think they can format and upload their books to the various outlets (Kindle, iBookstore, Smashwords, etc etc.) on their own. To do the formatting, cover, photos, etc, correctly requires the proper equipment, expensive programs, expertise, and time. Be careful in your contract that there aren’t hidden fees for all that. This is the reason we don’t charge our authors, but we don’t take books on that we don’t think will sell. We make money when the author makes money.
-ISBNs have gotten cheaper but they still cost.
-Once more, self-published, vanity-published books RARELY sell more than 100 copies.
-Less than ½ of 1 percent sell more than 500. The CEO of iUniverse a few years back admitted that 84 titles out of the 17,000 they produced one year sold more than 500. That’s almost exactly .5%.
-Some companies may not charge you. Apparently. But some have clauses requiring you to do other things to make money off you: make you buy X numbers of copies. Even take a ‘marketing’ course for a large fee.
-Most companies take on anyone with a checkbook. At WDWPUB so far we’ve taken on only 2 authors this year. Both had what was needed: a great book (both non-fiction) and the ability to market. Kristen Lamb’s: We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media has been out a few weeks now. And in production is Amy Shojai’s Caring for Your Aging Cat which is a reprint of a book originally published in 2003 by Penguin.
-Much of what most of these self-publishing companies offer you is boilerplate you can do yourself or things that sound great but are really nothing. Getting you onto Amazon—anyone can do that. A marketing package that are some boilerplate announcement sent to the usual suspects and immediately trashed, since they’re sending out thousands of the same thing and there’s nothing different about it.
That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate self-publishing companies out there who will do a quality job on your book. But even then, the onus of marketing and promotion is on you.