Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Defining My Own Experience. The Differences Between Self-Publishing, Print-on-Demand, and Independent Publishing Explained

Last month, I went to Powell's City of Books.  Its an entire city block of prime real estate devoted entirely to books, authors, and the cute stuff bookstores sell, like cards.  Its a treat, in my city, to go to Powell's and its never a let down to the shoppers inside.

I went to a reading, but, I did not think I was going to a reading.  The event description read: Independent Publishers' Forum - or something to that effect.  It ended up to be a reading by many different authors whose books were Independently Published.  Its an annual event.  Once I was settled in and actually listening to the first, very humorous author, I remembered that I had gone to that same forum the year before.  I remembered this because the author was actually reading from the same book he'd read from the year before. Although very funny, it woke me from my 'horse back to the barn' type stupor, and I thought to myself - that's it! This year, I do not look down upon myself as though the very, very fine line between self-published and Indie published is going to:
  1. hurt my feelings, anymore
  2. lower my prices, authenticity, or cause me to make excuse-sort-of-talk about my being an author
  3. I AM going to begin defining myself as Independently Published, period.
Up until the repeat author readings and the absence of any Q&A about Independent Publishing (also noted in the year before) I had called myself a self-published author.  Occassionally, I even muttered, Print-
on-Demand, as though a closet full of expensive, hardback books was keeping me apart from Self-Published Authors who had one of those, stocked, at home.  Like my vampire books for middle readers, the publishing arena had become a dark Underworld Castle with Traditional Publishers in the Conservatory, Indie Publishers in the Foyer, regular Self-Published in the Basement, and Print-on-Demand in the Dungeon. STOP!! I became an author to release myself from dungeons - dark and light. 

So dears, here, I have decided to actually utilize this blog to define - in my opinion - the differences between the publishing magic doors - which lead to selling books - and get on with the business of doing so.

Traditional publishing needs few words from me other than these.
I AM a traditionally published author.  When my first son took naps, I wrote a simple children's rhyme.  I sent it to publishers.  It was accepted for two reasons: it was adorable, and it gave the publisher reason to hire one of the many illustrators 'on file' who had probably sent great promo cards - at the very least- as reminders he still needed actual work.  Being a traditionally published author - and author of an adorable book at libraries and in book stores - has yet to feed me, or my sons, or my cat, and I don't have a dog.

The book's accounts payable department has never actually 'found' me - their paychecks - though quite nice, have never arrived into my hand.  It was Penguin (those bastards!), but whenever I complain, they try to tell me Little Brown and Co. divided off - so and so and blah, blah, blah - never the same excuse twice....  It ends up becoming mail theft about every other year and after this last year when only my son and I made up the entire World's possibilities I couldn't believe in it, anymore at all.  I mean if it had skipped me to him it wouldn't have made much difference, since he's starting college and I intend to help pay for it, I couldn't have done much with the money but by myself a fern and some flip flops before giving him the rest for school, anyway. I gave up hope for the paychecks all in all.  Instead, I worked harder and harder at my self-publishing in hopes to sue the bejessus out of them, someday, for making me wait.  Long story short, I have six novels out now - one self-published, one in draft for improvements, and four novels Independently Published with a company I own and often mistakenly call a 'label'.

Now, the big question: "Isn't owning the label under which one publishes just the same as self-publishing or print-on-demand?"  No.  Not with Kindle or e-books of any kind.  You see, Bowker Links is where one enters the big, big, worldwide database of printed books.  They don't quite know what to do about e-books, so the rules are these: if it looks like a publisher, acts like a publisher, publishes titles like a publisher - it IS a publisher.  Bowker boasts that the process is free, but it isn't.  To register with them (look and act like a publisher) you have to have certain numbers - which are not free to obtain.  One is an EIN number - which is now free but when I registered it cost $35.  Another is the publisher number; like an IBSN or ASIN for books, this one's for publishers.  Anyway, as you register your titles you add all these into the database. You also have to have a name and the company must have a physical address - not just a mailbox somewhere, They won't solely accept a P.O. Box number on the list.  I guess displeased authors must have a door to knock on (or their lawyers) should some discrepancy arise.

I did all this.  I filed here and there; I bought my numbers online and I registered my name - Fae-tality Publishing - back many, many moons ago.  Another thing I did was remove all the paperback/print-on-demand books from my title list - except one, Leadville: 300 Days Away.  It was not removed from Amazon.com's choices of print-on-demand books from Createspace, but I am still considering taking that drastic step.

Independent Publishing is its own world compared to the much different world of Independent Booksellers. The two worlds however - at least online - are often confused. Independent Booksellers listing loads of Big 5 published books, in my opinion, are often the culprit of the Indie or Self-Published's dark rooms in the dark castle.  Although Createspace and Lulu both encourage wide distribution once you pay them their extra $35-115, their plan for getting your book 'out there' doesn't include Independent Booksellers - not even online.  I found that world as fiesty as the traditional publishing world is snobby, and heck, I had penetrated that world once before, I didn't much like its younger sister demanding the same workload from me without a line of blue bloods' wayward sons and daughters heading up their respected names and Manhattan board rooms.  I ditched print books and became an Independent Publisher whose one spoiled author is ME!! Self-published doesn't mean self-indulgent but Indie is supposed to lean that way.

One more difference between Print-on-Demand Publishing and Independent Publishing is that you must buy your own IBSN numbers.  If you paid $35 to Createspace, however, you bought your IBSN numbers and little more.  If you paid $115 to Createspace, you bought the number a publisher's buy to register their books in the big, big database of printed books.  That's the database libraries buy from, Walmart, and the Independent Booksellers, too.  Do NOT get me wrong - I love Independent Booksellers!  I can't imagine walking around beach towns or resorts being near as memorable without finding a great little bookstore to shop.  I wouldn't like airports near as much, and I already told you about Powell's City of Books.  Its just that I've come to the realization that either way I have to stand my ground with some energy left to protect it.

One great thing about the big 5 and their snobby agencies, or any traditional publishing route is that they sell books while authors write them.  I am blogging now, up late, and fixing another site after this.  Yesterday, I had to correct mix-ups at my kdp.  I've consulted with Fiverr.com for my press release to be in AP style and placed where AP press releases are read by newspeople (which aren't going to be seen on my blog or my pinboards, ya know?).  Big publishers have these things done.  There's a press release about every movement, sale or event - and they have Events.  Publishers also get an author reviews, and they know who gives great reviews.  They probably even have basketball tickets for those people, or open bar holiday parties, you know?

I did research Kirkus Reviews - and another big name - to find an Indie or Selfie can buy their reviews; $500 for the package deal, and its not bad, really, but too rich for me unless your sister stops drinking Diet Coke and buys me one.  I doubt an author gets to the New York Times Bestseller's list without a big name review, though.

I hope I have defined, for you, the subtle differences between selling your book from a pack on your donkey and having it sent to the airport in boxes, displayed in shiny stacks for the tourists.  Now go out and have a good day.

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