The two types of self-publishing websites for indie authors: those that support you, and those that screw you

Websites for self-publishing authors can be divided into two camps.

1) Those offering authors services

They write posts to get you to buy their book formatting, book conversion, book covers, author websites, book marketing, etc.

2) Blogs run by indie authors themselves

These are full of tips and tricks and useful content. They teach you how to do things, inspire you towards greater confidence and success.

But which one is more useful for self-publishing authors?

551449_399810190047215_304253229_nIt depends what kind of person you are, and how you want to do your book publishing.

I used to think author website services were a scam or a rip-off.

Instead of buying all the services one by one, they charge authors inflated rates for a big package.

As an indie author and service provider, I used to feel saving money and doing things more efficiently (taking control, so that you could learn about book publishing and make smart choices) was the only way to go.

But it’s still expensive, and slow, and you’re doing rounds of revision with all the providers. You’ll need (at least) some good copy-editing, which usually costs around .02 per word (so a 50K novel is $1000).

You’ll need book formatting and ebook conversion (at least $500) and a good cover (another $500).

You can do these yourself, or find someone cheaper, but you really need to give your book its best chance, and there are a lot of providers who will take your money and make you an ugly book.

There’s also a VERY good chance that, the more control you have, the less professional your book will look (because you’ll make design choices based on gut and emotion, rather than market knowledge and experience in design).

So I’m not sure if the old quote, “Give a man to fish vs. Teach a man to fish” really applies to self-publishing.

Doing it all yourself, even if you learn valuable skills and save thousands of dollars, will probably not bring you the success you’re hoping for.

Do you love spending money?

I learned something else this year, as my income rapidly exploded (from about 20K to 100K per year).

I used to work very little so I could focus on my writing. So I didn’t have money to throw around. I learned to do everything myself (which is how I became a book designer!) But now that I make more money, spending time doing things when I could be working feels like a waste.

Learning the tools to publish your book could easily take you 100 hours. If I make $50 an hour, why not spend $5000 and have some one else do everything for you? The advantage of working with one company, even if they are overcharging, is that I can pay one big fee, have one person to contact, and get everything done for me.

If you already have money, or if you want the book out quickly and well, I can understand the appeal of one of those “we publish your book for you” presses. They’ll help you distribute your book, give you some free copies, and if you pay for an upgrade, make your Twitter or Facebook background, even hire an editor.

It’s easy. You pay and give them the book and then go watch TV. It’s stress free. It’s even sounding pretty good to me right now.

The disadvantages

What I don’t like, however, is that very few of these sites show you many samples in their portfolio.

Even the big boys like Lulu, Amazon or give you a small handful of samples for book covers and interior formatting. Maybe they have six example covers. Maybe those six are really good. But they’ve helped thousands of authors, what about all the others?

The book cover is the “face” of your book. Nothing else that you pay for will be as important as the book cover. These companies hire out designers, which probably means the designer is getting less of the overall package price. They usually give 2 options to choose from. It might look fine. Personally I wouldn’t risk it.

So you might go the true indie route and do everything piecemeal, by yourself.

Unfortunately, (I’ve been noticing), a lot of the big self-publishing blogs that were so cool a couple years ago, now mostly publish guest posts by other authors, marketers or service providers. So everything you hear is aimed to make you click over and buy something. Yuck.

They all support you. And they all want money from you

Things are getting faster, more automated. There are so many providers offering pretty good packages that it won’t take long to finish your self-published book. Get as much advice as you can, but don’t trust everything they say.

The most important things, like building online relationships, writing articles for your blog and guest posts, you’re going to need to do.

Pay for what matters, and try to do everything else yourself.

(Things you should pay for and not try to find cheap alternatives: an amazing editor, an amazing book cover, a pretty darn good book formatter and ebook conversionista, and – once you have all this in place – smart, targeted advertising).

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me

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