Self-Publishing: a Worst Case Scenario

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Bill Keeth considers every self-published author’s worst nightmare.

Readers of my self-published book, Write It Self-Publish It Sell It, will know that within it I posit the case of two distinct types of writer. One of them is very quickly left to his own devices, being supremely confident in his own ability to tackle the job of self-publishing. Meanwhile, the other (the Dozy Ditherer, as I call him) is given to niggling doubts every step of the way.

Mr Supremely Confident, let’s call him for our present purpose, just gets on with the job and no harm ever comes to him. (Hey, and fair play to him for that!) But this is not the same as saying that no harm could possibly come to him. It most certainly could – and it is the Dozy Ditherer who realises this only too well. So fair play to the Dozy Ditherer too! Which is something I am bound to say because, if truth be told, the Dozy Ditherer is based on nobody other than my dozy, dithering self – as of a few years ago when I was just beginning to consider self-publishing as an option.

I mean to say, you know how these things go, even if your intention is only to tile the bathroom at home. For a month or so you have to become a tiling expert. And it’s exactly the same when it comes to self-publishing your book, apart from the fact that it will be infinitely more difficult. Just look at some of the difficulties Aneeta mentions in her review of WISP: “What font to use, how many lines to squeeze onto one page, what the cover design of my book should be . . .what words like ‘typesetting’ mean; the accounting concept of ‘sale-or-return’ . . .”

Aneeta, did I say? Heck, this was Bill Keeth, too, and not so very long ago at that!

And that’s not the end of it either. Because there are legalities to consider, the provision of an ISBN number and Barcode – and most important of all, the question of which Print-on-Demand company or local publisher you intend to commission to publish your book. Because, though some POD companies and local publishers are good to excellent, there are other some who are incompetent at best and, at worst, downright criminal.

Take, for example, complaints I have recently received about the POD company, Perdition Publications (let’s call it) from two self-published writers I know and respect. One of these writers has self-published two books with Perdition and sold stacks of them; the other has published one book, and has experienced great difficulty throughout in dealing with this company. Here’s what these two writers now tell me about Perdition Publications. Because Perdition appears to have gone bust.

Mr Two Books: ‘For the last two months they have failed to answer any emails. I received no royalties and no financial statements. I don’t know how many books I have sold or how much money I am owed. They have ceased trading, though my books are still listed on Amazon. There are seventeen cases going through the courts, citing Perdition Publications, and a further seventy complaints about them have since come to light, of which mine is one. I don’t know what to do for the best. I think court action would be a waste of time – a case of throwing good money after bad.’

Mr One Book similarly complains: ‘I don’t know how many sales they have made or what royalties are due. The M/D is being sued and the action will probably succeed. But whether there are any assets I don’t know. Speaking as someone who has some knowledge of the law, my instinct is to write the losses off and move on.’

*

‘Ooh, er,’ I hear you say. ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I!’

Ah! But would you? Because I personally would never have signed up with Perdition Publications in a month of Sundays to the tune of a Preston Guild.

‘Oh? What makes you such a clever clogs?’ I hear you ask.

Believe me, that is the last thing on earth I am laying claim to. Because, if anything, it is the fact that I am ‘nobbut a PC plonker’ (as I call it) that saved my skin. You see, Perdition Publications always had something of the “printer” rather than the “publisher” about it, in that potential customers were expected to do their own typesetting. And this was something I was quite unable to do; though sadly it presented no problem to the more ‘computerate’ Mr One Book and Mr Two. Having said which, there were always other warning signs available to be taken on board.

For example, you personally might not have cared for the quality of paper that was being used in Perdition’s books, or for the font they seemed to prefer; for the number of lines used to the page, or for the various cover designs you had seen Perdition employ. All such items are very much a matter of personal preference, of course. However, to be somewhat more specific, I myself certainly didn’t care for the fact that communication with the company seemed to be restricted to e-mail. Telephone conversations were very much frowned upon; meanwhile, personal visits to the company offices were strictly VERBOTEN DUMKOPF!

Another thing I didn’t care for very much was the fact that the company website carried an endorsement by a British member of parliament. (To my mind, MPs should be doing what they’re paid to do, not endorsing specific commercial enterprises!) Meanwhile, the same company website also boasted of business practices based upon sound religious principles. (Hell’s bells! Dr Johnson! If patriotism be the last refuge of the scoundrel, what then of those who would recruit their religion to the service Mammon?)

Nope, not for me, I’m glad to say, and for the reasons already stated. Even so, I really am truly sorry for the fix my two fellow self-publishers now find themselves in. (Given their mettle, I’m sure it’s only temporary.)

In respect of POD companies and local printers, then, ‘by their works shalt ye know them’. Have absolutely nothing to do with the “hurry-up merchant”, the snapper, the impatient, the man who’s grabbing his lunch while he’s talking to you on the phone, the man who sucks his teeth when you ask for a quotation, the publisher who is a lot more expensive than his competitors – or a lot cheaper. And never, never, never commission a publisher without first having studied at your leisure a recent example of his craft – namely, a book he has produced. Buy the thing, if he won’t give you a freebie. You’ll find it well worth the asking price. Because you must be as vigilant when self-publishing your book as you must needs be when tiling your bathroom at home, fitting new sanitary units throughout and decorating the room from top to bottom, too!

March 2009


Bill Keeth’s books, Every Street in Manchester ISBN 1859880649 & Write It Self-Publish It Sell It ISBN 97809558863 are available from Amazon and all good book shops. Bill can also be contacted via his website, http://www.novelnovella.com.

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