GUEST BLOG: The Benefits of Being an Independent Publisher
When it came time to send my novel, Inside the Outside, into the world, I knew I wanted to publish it myself. What I didn’t know was how many choices and decisions I would have to make as soon as I decided to become my own publisher. What follows is an informal editorial based on my experiences as an independent publisher and is not meant to be regarded as a “how-to” piece. If independent publishing is something you’re considering, I highly recommend you do plenty of research and learn as much as you can about all of the options available to you.
Many authors choose to go with print on-demand (POD) publishers, such as Lulu.com, CreateSpace.com, and AuthorHouse.com. At first, I assumed a POD publisher was my only option and it was just a matter of selecting one. This didn’t sit too well with me, as it didn’t really seem like I would have as much control over my book as I would like. I worried about things, like the cover and the interior design, because I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted the book to look like—or, to be more specific, what I didn’t want the book to look like. I eventually discovered that by becoming an independent publisher—which is different than publishing through a POD publisher—I could micro-manage the publication of Inside the Outside, making every single decision, big or small.
The first thing I learned was that becoming an independent publisher costs money. One of the primary reasons that POD publishers are such an attractive option are that they cost the author little-to-no money. And, beyond that, they do all the heavy lifting, such as formatting the interior of your book and providing an ISBN number. But, on the downside, you don’t really get a say in how they do many of these things, unless you’re willing to pay for special attention. And that’s actually how the POD publishers make most of their money, by selling services—like design and editing—to authors. If you’re already willing to pay the necessary costs, but don’t want to give your money to a POD publisher, then the first thing you’ll want to do is get familiar with Lighting Source.
Lighting Source is the primary printer and distributor used by all the major POD publishers, as well as many traditional publishing houses. While Lighting Source uses POD technology, they are not a POD company. They don’t offer author services and, more importantly, they don’t even work with authors. Lighting Source works with publishers, which means, in order to work with them, you must become a publisher. The way you become a publisher is by buying the ISBN number for your book. That’s it. Once you have the ISBN number, which you can purchase at Bowker.com, you’re free to work with Lighting Source. Again, if you go with a POD publisher, they’ll provide the ISBN number for you, so you don’t have to buy it; but they’ll also own the ISBN number, which means you can’t use it anywhere else.
Once you have an ISBN number and you’ve set up an account with Lightning Source, it’s time to design your book. That means designing not only the front cover, back cover, and spine, but also designing the interior layout. Part of working with Lighting Source means you can’t simply upload your manuscript as a Word document, as you can with a POD publisher. So, unless you have the software and know-how, you’re going to have to pay somebody to design and format the book for you. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, as it gives you 100% control over how your book will look—you just have to be prepared to spend some money. There are many designers out there and most of them are capable of designing both the exterior and the interior of your book. As with every other part of this process, do a lot of research and find the designer who best fits what you’re looking for.
Once your book is designed and ready to go, you’ll set your title up with Lightning Source and within a few weeks they’ll have it plugged in to their many distribution channels, including Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Many POD publishers can also distribute your book through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, however, you’ll have to split your profit both with Lighting Source and the POD publisher. As an independent publisher, you cut out the middleman (the POD publisher), which allows you to keep the majority of your profits.
If you go with a POD publisher, you stand to earn less money, but you also save money by not having to spend as much during the publishing process. And if you become an independent publisher, you stand to make more money, but you also have to spend a lot more money upfront. So, really, in the end, it comes down to a very simple question:
How much do you believe in your book?
If you’re not confident you can get big book sales, but would still like to see your book published, then you probably want to go with a POD publisher. But if you know you have a great book, are confident that you can find a big enough audience to cover your costs, and, most importantly, you’re willing to put in the necessary work for learning the basic ins-and-outs of publishing, then I would recommend you skip the POD publishers and become an independent publisher.
Up to this point, my experience publishing Inside the Outside has been very satisfying. That’s not to say it hasn’t been frustrating and stressful at times, but, overall, it’s been a great experience. Inside the Outside is available in paperback ($9.95) and eBook (.99¢) at all major online retailers, including Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. You can check out a free preview of the book at Google Books. I’ll also be doing a book giveaway on GoodReads, which ends on September 2, 2011, so check that out and sign up for free. If you’d like to learn more about me and my writing, check out my official website, Inside Martin, at www.martinlastrapes.com.