This is a 6 part series called What I Hate About Self Publishing. Part One: The Overview. This is Part Two: Scams. Part Three: The Education Challenge. Part Four: Time. Part Five: Quality Assurance. Part Six: Lack of Marketing. The conclusion.
If you read the first one, you’ll remember that I defined five areas that I wanted to expound on: Scams, Education, Time, Quality, and Lack of Marketing. I feel like these are key challenges for all of us who serve authors who self publish.
Hokey smokes, there are so many publishing scams out there. They range from out-right (take your money and deliver nothing) to bait-and-switch (take your money and deliver something less than you thought you were getting) to preying on naivete (take your money, cause you don’t know what you’re paying for anyway).
They all make me mad. Obviously, the “take your money and run” scams can’t exist for very long, but it is shocking to see the same crooks popping up with new business names in order to steal more money from unsuspecting authors. I wish it wasn’t so, but it happens all the time.
But, the ones that are more dangerous are the ones that take your money and deliver lousy product. This happens a number of different ways:
The “It’s super cost effective, but it stinks” version of the scam:
I have seen more crappy books with lousy editing, lousy covers, lousy formatting, lousy… well, lousy. The rationale, of course, is “Well, it doesn’t cost that much.” It’s a lie. It costs everything.
Now look, every one’s going to misfire from time to time. I’ve read poorly edited books from big five publishers. I’ve seen covers that were objectively bad and typesetting that turned my stomach, too. But if you’re doing this yourself — if you are the brand, you can’t afford to misfire so you can save money. There are services out there whose websites are riddled with terrible looking books. They keep on selling. They sell services because they’re cheap. You can (and should) shop for tremendous value — but the end product is the thing. If it looks bad, reads bad, feels bad… well, you’re short-circuiting any chance the book has to sell.
The “It costs so much and still stinks” version of the scam:
‘Course, it’d be a mistake to think that just because you paid a lot, it’s going to be good. I see authors make that mistake though. “I paid $3000 for my cover,” they say. “Oh, that’s sad,” I think. Not because $3000 is necessarily too much to pay for a cover, but it’s definitely too much to pay for a bad cover. While it is often true that you get what you pay for, you need to keep the end result in mind. If the book doesn’t have a great edit, design, and cover, if you don’t have a great marketing plan that you’re executing, if you don’t have all the pieces working together, then no matter what you paid, you paid too much.
(Aside: I see this around Indie publishing lately — “If you pay more than $200 for a cover, you’re an idiot” is one of the stupidest lies I’ve heard in the Indie publishing world. There’s not a right price — there’s a right result. I’ve seen awful $3000 covers. I’ve seen great $350 covers. But, I see more great $700 covers than i do $300 covers.)
And most commonly and sadly of all,
The “Flattery will separate you from caution” version of the scam:
Man. There is a supremely high number of authors who will fall for a call center employee telling them, “Your book has a lot of potential.” It’s amazing. I mean, I get that it’s a human psychology thing, but my goodness… ask them to tell you their favorite part or something. It’ll quickly become apparent that they haven’t read your work. But none of that should be a factor in your decision to publish independently. It has to be a decision you make to accomplish goals you’ve set to reach an audience that you’re connecting with.
Here’s the truth
When you independently publish, you are the one paying to get the book published. That means you have to take on all the responsibilities of the author, the editor, the marketer, and … well, whatever else you can think of. It’s tremendously hard work. But when you fall for a scam, it becomes impossible. I hate that scams are even a thing. But they are. Don’t fall for them. Make a business plan. Make conservative estimates of how many books you’ll sell. Find people that are good to work with. Find people who provide a good value for the cost. Work with them. Make it work. But don’t fall for the scams.