Is Self-Publishing For Real or is it a Scam?

Self-publishing is very “real” in the sense that if you work with a reputable company you can have your book self-published and made available for sale online, and possibly in brick-and-mortar book stores as well.

You can even self-publish without any initial set up costs at Amazon.com’s CreateSpace – although you do have to pay for any copies of your book that you want for yourself.

Other self-publishers require an initial set-up or package fee, which can be as low as several hundred dollars, or run into the thousands, depending on which firm you use and which of their publishing packages and services you select.

There are two major issues with self-publishing…

They are unrealistic expectations and over-hyped promises.

    • Unrealistic expectations – Whether you self-publish or have your book released by a major New York publisher, you must remember that most books do not earn millions of dollars in royalties, and most authors do not make the rounds of the major television programs talking about their books.

Yes, self-publishing firms can list your book on Amazon.com, perform various publicity services, make your book available to Hollywood scouts and otherwise do the same things standard publishers do.

However, there is no guarantee that any book will succeed – not matter who publishes it.

    • Over-hyped promises – Some self-publishing firms have been charged with ripping off their clients by over-promising their services, and/or selling vastly over-priced services.

There are bad apples in every industry: protect yourself by conducting the same kind of due diligence you would before hiring any firm or person.

Ask plenty of questions and pay close attention to the answers, read the contract carefully, and research the company’s reputation in depth.

Watch out for promises…

…whether clearly stated or implied, that your book will be a best seller, make you famous, earn a lot of money or anything similar.

Book publishing is an iffy business and it’s impossible to guarantee any particular book will be a winner. Indeed, be aware of vague promises of any sort. For example, the phrase “up to” – as in “we will contact up to 1,000 media outlets on behalf of your book” – only guarantees a maximum number, not a minimum. They might contact 1,000 outlets, or they may only contact 900, 800 or even fewer. And there’s no guarantee that the media outlets they contact will be interested in your book.

Self-publishing firms can point to numerous successes. Author Solutions, the parent company of AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris and other self-publishing firms, notes in it’s “Facts and Figures” release that AuthorHouse books such as Legally Blonde, Proof of Life and September Dawn became films, while Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, originally published via iUniverse, was picked up and republished by Simon & Schuster for a six-figure advance. The book was on the New York Times bestseller list for 14 weeks. And some famous people have published through AuthorHouse imprints, including U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), actor Alan Thicke and “Long Island Lolita” Amy Fisher.

Self-publishing is definitely real. But it is a business venture that should be approached realistically.

Always remember that:

  • You’re acting as your own publisher, which means you bear the costs.
  • It’s up to you to get people to buy your book.
  • If you can’t generate enough sales, you lose money.
  • If anything said, written, suggested or implied by your self-publisher sounds too good to be true, be very suspicious.

Keep reading the “Self-Publishing 101” blog entries to learn about individual self-publishing firms, contracts, POD, DYI self-publishing and more.

(The undated “Facts and Figures” PR release was sent to me by AuthorSolutions in February, 2011.)

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