Authors have a lot of people hawking services to them from the minute they start to the minute they finish. There are people out there that will do everything from sitting with you step by step, to marketing your book, to rewriting the damn thing for you. And probably wiping your nose while they do it.
The cause of this, in my estimation, is the dramatic turnover in the publishing industry. Whereas before in order to be published authors almost had to go the traditional publishing route in order to be considered a “real” book these days the DIY trend is pervasive. This, of course, means that there is a huge influx of writers looking for professional help while they engage in the various stages and flavors of publishing.
In this market there are many people looking to prey on authors that are new, inexperienced, or ignorant of what goes on. There are “editors” that can’t edit, “reviewers” that charge an arm and a leg for reviews, “self publishing” companies that are no better than Publish America, and “cover artists” that steal copyrighted material to make covers with.
How can an author protect themselves in this environment? The best way is to educate yourself. Read, watch, and think about everything you encounter. There are certain things that an author (specifically a self publishing author) needs, but there are a lot of “services” that you can forego. And even more that you may be getting scalped on.
Many writers reference the Freelance Editing Association as the paragon of freelance editing. I don’t know how good their skills are, but I can tell you that their prices are outrageous. If you want to pay that much money to receive editing I won’t stop you, but I can say that there are a lot of very good editors out there that won’t scalp you. I’m one. Also, just because they are in the FEA doesn’t mean that they’re good – anyone can pay the membership fee and join. Unless you have worked with an editor before or have been referred to them by happy clients don’t trust anyone’s abilities until you see them in action. Also, don’t judge us by their blog posts – we write these at midnight while furious at injustice and having drunk too much caffeine.
Another thing I’ve seen with editors is that there are a lot of sub-par editors that charge a lot because they think those are the going rates. These editors miss important and large issues with works, and I don’t mean missing the occasional typo or something; I mean big, sweeping problems. Make sure you see if you can find any reviews of the editor or company before you decide to have them pick up your book, and see if they offer a sample edit. Remember, an editor is like any other service: you are paying them to perform a service. Don’t be cowed by their expertise (whether real or imagined).
2) Cover Design
Cover design can be a HUGE money pit for authors doing freelance work. There are a lot of people out there offering photomanipulated covers for prices in the hundreds, and the work isn’t… bad, but it isn’t amazing. Unfortunately, many of these people are using brushes, photos, fonts, and resources from stock that they didn’t pay for, aren’t crediting properly, or aren’t permitted to use. It’s a common problem. They then sell these covers without licenses to do so, and the author using the cover becomes culpable for the copyright infringement.
Save yourself the trouble and make SURE that the cover artist doing your work (or you, if you’re doing it) have the proper licensing to use everything you are using on your cover.
I won’t comment on the cost of handpainted covers because they are a huge amount of work, and the artist has to speak for themselves since you will have seen their art before commissioning them to design a cover for you.
3) Ebook Conversions
This one I just heard of. Apparently people are charging hundreds of dollars to have their finished manuscripts converted into ebooks. And I don’t mean typesetting – that’s worth hundreds of dollars or more. I just mean strict conversion to ebook format without the typesetting. That made my jaw hit the floor.
The best method I was given was to export your manuscript as an unfiltered HTML document, load it into Calibre (a free, open source program) and format it that way. There is a learning curve, but it won’t cost you anything other than some cursing and effort.
ALL reputable review sources (magazines, newspapers, etc.) make their money off of sales of their product and advertising, not off of selling reviews. They do not charge authors for them. Unfortunately, some of the larger venues only accept requests for reviews by reputable publishers, and are thus inaccessible to self published authors. However with that being the case you should never, ever, under any circumstances pay for a review. Anyone who is charging you is scalping you. Just don’t do it.
Also, Amazon will remove reviews they discover are paid for, and Amazon doesn’t typically remove reviews for many reasons. I can’t underscore this enough – you are being scammed. You will not make back that money, and the people doing it are not providing you with a serious service.
5) Self Publishing Companies
These aren’t all bad. Some of them can be a huge resource to authors. Others are nightmares waiting to happen a la Publish America. Again, as with all others (except reviewers) read the reviews seriously. Look for people that have used their services, and examine the books that they have helped put out. If they’re full of errors, have ugly covers, and the typesetting looks like a fifth grade paper you have your answer.
Since I offer self publishing services I won’t tell you that we’re all crooks and highwaymen, but just be cautious, and stick with reputable people where you can.
Overall, you just want to pay attention. Look for reviews on the people and services that you think you might be interested in, ask for samples, and don’t part with your money readily just because someone says, “Oh, yeah, you need this for your book!”
The reality is that there are a few things you need. Most of them you don’t have to pay for. As in my previous blog, self publishing comes with unavoidable costs that traditional publishing doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean that all costs associated with self publishing are unavoidable. Or need to be egregious.
- Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know (reviews.cnet.com)
- Rachel Abbott: ‘Self-publishing means the success of my books is entirely down to me’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Guest Post: What Type of Publisher Best Suits You and Your Book? (backwoodsauthor.com)
- You need an editor – yes, even for your ebook (cindydejager.wordpress.com)
- The Truth About Ebooks That Publishers Don’t Want You To Know (cindydejager.wordpress.com)
- Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: How Do You Choose? (laraschase.com)