Are you a cash cow?

You have spent time writing your book, maybe you have tried to get a publisher to take it, or maybe you always wanted to be an Indie Author – it does sound cooler than self-published writer don’t you think? Whatever your route to self-publishing, the next decision you make is an important one. Will you do everything yourself or pay a self-publishing company to do it for you? What do you need to consider and how do you know if represents good value?

It does concern me that as self-publishing increases in popularity, you as a writer are now seen as a cash cow by the same big business publishers that rejected your books. These businesses are relying on your lack of knowledge or fear of an unknown world. They may offer excellent services but armed with some knowledge you can ask them some challenging questions before you part with a big cheque.

Self-publishing may be a big learning curve for you and it’s no surprise as the traditional publishing world wanted to surround the processes with mystique to stop pesky writers like you believing you could do this for yourself. Many of them would have you believe it is so complicated that you can only be allowed into the club if we deem your work good enough. Or as is more the case today – you are a celebrity and have millions of followers on Twitter!

With many of the traditional publishers grudgingly accepting the tide is changing, is it any surprise therefore that so many have now grown new arms to embrace the self-publishing writer? These same businesses want to maintain this air of mystique and control to entice you to part with lots and lots of your cash because you can’t possibly do it yourself! This helps to justify the high price tag that you have to pay them for the privilege of publishing your book and even be grateful that they will give you 50% of the royalties earned on your book sales.

Take Balboa Press (self-publishing arm of HAY House) as an example – with prices for packages ranging from £899 to £4,999 plus 50% of your royalties (money earned from book sales). They do detail clearly all that you will get for each package, there is a big list with ticks against the prices – ISBN allocated, author volume discounts, online UK distribution, custom cover, personalised back cover, interior book design and so on. The higher the price the more ticks you get – makes sense doesn’t it – of course it will cost a lot more to add hardback formats, Google and Amazon searching, US distribution, press releases and 100 business cards and social media set up guide (it’s only a PDF!). So you now want the whole package and it’s going to cost you £4,999.

So is it worth it even if you have the money to spend? There are some questions you should ask – what exactly are they going to do for you? Read all the small print! Work out how many books will you need to sell to break even? Using their own example from their website of cost of sale (printing) and royalties rates from a retail sale of a book priced £10.99 you would earn approx £0.94 per book that means you need to sell 5,319 books before you start to make a profit. There is no marketing for you in this top of the range package – that will add another £699 although it’s not clear what this buys.

Do you know what these list of ticks really mean and what they would cost you to do yourself?  With a little research you would find:

You can buy 10 ISBNs for your own use for £120, you could learn to format your ebook yourself and upload it to Kindle and other ebook services direct, you can typeset your book, design your cover and submit it to a print on demand company (Lightning Source for example set up is £45 approx per book) and for a small fee (around £8 per title) you have your print book available through their worldwide distribution network including Amazon and all the major book sellers. You will need to give retailers/wholesalers a discount but anything that you make you keep. So even using the same price/costs/discounts you would earn twice the royalty rate £1.88 per book. If you round up your spend to £200 to allow you to buy some business cards then selling 107 books means you break even.

Sinclair and I have now self-published 10 books between us (and helped many other writers too). We didn’t know anything about the publishing world before we started self-publishing; we figured it out, learned lots and made a few mistakes along the way. We know that you can do it yourself too. At Indie Authors Scotland we are determined to be different. We have created our unique flexible Bookcamp training programme to teach you how to produce your book yourself. But we also know that some of you don’t want to learn the skills and want your ebook or print book done for you. That’s why we have created our own Pick n Mix service options at very fair prices. You can see exactly what you are paying for. We will never take royalties from you. We pride ourselves in providing good value and ongoing support for our author community.

Whatever option you choose to become a published Indie Author take time to ask questions and choose the route that offers the best support and return for your budget.

- Alasdair Currie


  • Judith Reply

    August 10, 2015 at 5:13 am.

    Thanks for that blog. I went with Balboa and was so disappointed. I am ready to have a go at redoing the book the way that I want it.

    • Rahil Reply

      February 27, 2016 at 2:51 pm.

      Virginia Woolf believed that the diary is a new art form that can bigurns in touch with our deepest roots. Most women have kept a diary at some point in their lives. I find diaries fascinating because so much material can be incorporated in them. They are a gold mine of information. I have worked on a diary called Christina’s Diary for thirty years but kept it under lock and key like so many women do. Tonight I gathered the courage to submit it for publication. So often women think their stories are just about themselves when indeed what they relate is universal to all women surely those who live in the same historical time period and culture. .

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