• Let's distinguish three cases:

    • Do-it-yourself publishing

    • Vanity publishing

    • Independent publishing

    Do-it-yourself publishers believe they have sufficient mastery of all the craft skills necessary to turn out a great book. Few succeed, and the quality is all over the lot (as in dog turds all over the vacant lot).

    Vanity houses (which call themselves self-publishing houses) exist to extract dollars from gullible authors. They tend to provide very minimal editing for which the author overpays (because if the author didn't overpay, the vanity press would have no reason to be in business).

    Independent publishers—the real self-publishers—are authors who take off their author hat and put on their publisher hat. They then hire the best talent they can afford for editing, design, composition, and other crafts they may not be masters of. If they are savvy business people, they make rational decisions about the value of different services relative to the profit potential for the book, and they choose vendors (including editors) accordingly.

    When a discussion blurs the boundaries between these different categories and lumps them all under "self-publishing," it's easy to make generalizations that don't reflect this reality.

    • Dick, that is an excellent analysis. You are right that the "do-it-yourself'ers" believe that they can do it all themselves, not only with editing but also with graphics and layout, even though many of these "authors" don't have the foggiest idea about layout or design. So they end up with books that are full of errors, amateurish in appearance, and generally overall a botch-up. These types of "authors" give self-publishing a bad name.

      The vanity presses....well, that speaks for itself...these "publishers" are only out to take money from desperate authors, and as you say, they do not provide much editing. I have encountered "vanity houses" where the "editor" was a high school dropout with poor language skills, poor comprehension--in short, a clueless quasi-illiterate when it came to anything to do with books. It always amazes me how many authors still believe these vanity presses are great ways to publish a book.

      Then, as you say, there are the authors who become independent publishers of their own book. These are the individuals I work with. These authors know that they need good editors, skilled layout and design personnel, and marketing smarts. These are the types of authors you and I can help. These authors end up with a book that's well written, well edited, and well designed--in short a professional standard product they can legitimately market. For these types of independently publishing authors, good editors are crucial, and as good editors, we can help make their books a success. I love the satisfaction of seeing so many of these authors, who have invested in themselves and who are consummately professional in their attitude, go on to market their books successfully and to know that I had a hand in getting them there.

    • Where are these people self-publishing. I would like to know where your clients have had the best success. Thank you for your responses. 

    • Deborah,

      Sharon's response is a good one, and I could give similar examples from among my clients. But I have an inkling that Sharon answered a different question from the one you were trying to ask. When you ask, "Where are these people self-publishing," it almost sounds as if you want us to say they're publishing at CreateSpace or Xlibris or Lulu or something like that. If so, I think you're not apprehending what we're saying.

      The "where" is the independent imprint that each author–publisher sets up. That's the point. The author–publisher is the publisher of the book, not some rapacious vanity press in sheep's clothing. If you mean how or where is the book printed, that is going to vary from case to case, just as it does for HarperCollins. I help my clients find the right printers for their books and arrange for either warehousing and fulfillment (if that's appropriate) or print-on-demand fulfillment (if that's appropriate), or whatever else meets the publisher's needs.

      Does that help?

    • Here are a couple of examples from among my clients. I've got lots of client success stories, but for now will give these two as examples:

      One is a corporate trainer with a very unique experiential training program. He wrote a book about the principles upon which his program is based. He does corporate training gigs and at every seminar/experiential training event he conducts, a copy of his book is included in the price as the participants always want a "take-away." HR departments are also buying up his book for distribution throughout their companies.This is translating into thousands of sales for him because his corporate calendar is full. He has no interest in trade publishers because he likes the fact that the bulk of the profits from his sales goes directly to him, not just the percentage pittance he would receive if he had trade-published. His book has been through numerous print-runs, all presold so that he is in a profit position even before a print-run goes to press..

      Another client, an oceanographer, wrote a book that combined ocean ecology with the fascinating history of naval intelligence (including the work of Ian Fleming whose "Jame Bond" novels were based on Fleming's naval career). When his book was finished, he marketed it to universities and colleges with oceanography programs, to societies and associations interested either in the sea or in naval history (past and current), to military readers both serving and retired, to the coast guards of several nations, and to sea-related museums around the world. The result? Excellent sales and a widely distributed book.

      Both of these authors knew exactly the audiences they were targeting and devoted their marketing efforts to reaching those audiences. The first step in doing that, however, was to have an excellently written book, well-edited, well-designed, very professional.

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