Self-Publishing (The Right Way) Is Not Free

I read a book a couple of weekends ago. I feel it has the utmost potential. To be clear, this isn’t a book from my book review service. I read this book on my own time from an author I do not know. I enjoyed the testimony; I loved the cover, and I can relate to much of the information.

Unfortunately, the book was in such terrible need of editing and formatting that it was troublesome to get through, which broke my heart. I am not usually ultra-sensitive to typos and such when reading a book for leisure. I am only irritated when the errors are so bad I can’t enjoy or understand the story.

I could tell very little money went into this book’s production just from reading it.

That is when I knew what I wanted to write to you as we enter this new month.

I know because I have been here. I have published books written in a Microsoft Word Document, turned it into a PDF, and uploaded it. I have not only removed a lot of my earlier works, but I have risked book reviews taking books down to revise them for this reason.

As many of us do when we enter Self-Publishing, I learned the hard way that authoring a book takes more than uploading a Microsoft Word Document or PDF to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Lulu. The hardest pill to swallow is that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, but it’s essential for new authors who choose to Self-Publish to be aware there are costs involved. Self-Publishing is not the easy route if pursued the right way. It requires both time and financial investment.

What Happens Traditionally:

I found it is helpful to understand what happens when someone publishes a book traditionally.

Traditionally, a publisher offers an author a contract. The author signs with the publisher who prints, publishes and sells the book through bookstores and other retailers. The publisher is buying the rights to the book and pays the author royalties from the sales.

Since this isn’t my area of expertise, I will leave it here. That’s the gist of it, but to learn more on Traditional Publishing steps, click here.

The most crucial part as it relates to this post is that the traditional publishing house “takes on the responsibilities and costs of designing, printing, distributing, and marketing the book.” (McLachlin)

Vanity Publishing

Vanity Publishing, the center of much controversy in the Indie world, is a publisher who publishes a book provided the author can pay for services. If the author doesn’t want to do everything independently and can afford to spend thousands of dollars to publish this book, a Vanity Publisher will gladly publish them.

Vanity Presses can look like Traditional Publishers to the untrained eye, but there’s a significant difference. The Vanity Press does not get paid royalties from the sale like a Traditional Publishing House. The Vanity Press gets paid money upfront from the author to publish them. The author is paying to get their book published. As you now know, this is not how traditional publishing works. After the Vanity Press publish the book, some allow the author to own the book and keep the profit from sales, but some Vanity Presses do not.

Why VP’s charge

Image Cred: Reedsy

Newbie authors get excited to be “signed” with Vanity Presses under the presumption they are like traditional publishing houses. They are not. VP’s charge authors to publish them because, without paying for services, there are no services. Vanity Presses have a bad reputation for outsourcing to mediocre editors and designers, so authors spend thousands of dollars (sometimes upwards of $5,000+) to receive poor editing and crappy formatting and graphic design.

Take Rocket Science Productions / RSP Marketing Services, for example, where “Phase One” of this publishing scheme involves a $595 payment for copyright registration and an ISBN. (ALLI)

Self-Publishing companies that promise you can keep “100% of your copyright” promise the new author something they already own because the work is under copyright from the moment of creation. If the author wants to go the extra mile and register it, they can do that for $45, according to the .gov copyright website here.

ISBN’s are expensive, but you can purchase a block of TEN from Bowker (US) for $295.

That’s TEN ISBNs for TEN separate books (or multiple versions of the same book) as opposed to paying almost six-hundred dollars for ONE.

Morgan James Publishing is another example, a vanity press that profits by selling books to their authors rather than readers. (ALLI)

Author Solutions and anything under Author Solutions and Xlibris are also Vanity Presses to watch out for.

The only people who get paid in this situation are the publisher or company offering the services. There are tons of people making six figures off green Self-Publishers. If I charged eight thousand dollars per author, I’d be a millionaire too.

The primary way to identify a Vanity Press is to understand one simple fact:

A traditional publisher pays the author, not the other way round.

But the traditional publisher also owns the rights to the book, which is why many choose to Self-Publish.

Self-Publishing 

With Self-Publishing, you pay to produce, market, distribute, and warehouse the book. This investment can get expensive, which is why I understand why writers fall for vanity presses. Suppose you pay $2,000 to get a book edited (which is not out of the ordinary for skilled, professional editing depending on the editing needed) and still need a decent cover and everything else. Why not pay $5,000 for a team of professionals to do everything for you?

The problem is that the books these “professionals” publish are low in quality, and sometimes the author doesn’t maintain the rights to their book even after paying so much to get it published. If you charge someone $5,000 to publish their book, it should look like it, and the author should own the rights to the book. There is no excuse for charging this much money to upload a poorly edited and formatted text with a generic cover to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and then call yourself a publisher.

Why Self-Publishing Can Be Free But Isn’t If You Do It Right

With Self-Publishing, you do not sign with a publisher, so there is no one to cover the cost of book editing and cover design. You are the publisher, so the financial responsibility is yours.

It will cost you nothing to upload a manuscript to Amazon’s KDP or Kobo or iTunes or whichever platform you’d like to use. You can take your Word Document or PDF and create an account with that platform and upload it. You can also go wide using Draft2Digital to make your book available on other ebook platforms like Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and iTunes.

But, if you want to produce a high-quality book, there are costs involved in getting the manuscript ready for publication.

You are not paying someone to publish your book, or I should say, upload your manuscript to KDP. You are investing in producing a quality product.

Technically, you do not have to pay anything to publish a book, but it will look like it.

You OWN your book, which places you in great authority, and with eminent authority comes greater responsibility. If you don’t want to be responsible for everything, then Self-Publishing might not be the route for you. It may be best to look into Traditional Publishing.

Again, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to publish a book. There are many great pre-made cover designs, for example, that are cheaper than custom made covers, and editors who have great deals.

This post’s purpose is not for you to think that paying a lot of money will make your book great automatically. No editor, despite how talented, can make a crappy story great again.

The purpose of this post is to inform those of you new to Self-Publishing that if you want to be an Independent Author/Publisher, you will have to invest some money in publishing your book if you want it done right. 

Click here for the Best Self-Publishing services and the worst rated by the Alliance of Independent Authors.


Looking for more Indie Author Basics?

Click Here.

Indie Author Basics with EC exists because after Self-Publishing my books, I quickly realized the lack of information available to Indie Authors. Sometimes the only way to learn is through experience, and I have discovered some ups and downs that I think will help those who are just beginning. I do not present these as concrete, guaranteed solutions, but I hope new authors can use these tips to better the Self-Publishing experience and make it less confusing.

Let each one, reach one.

Blog Book Review Registry: OPEN

Hello good people!

My book review registry is back open. I am ready to read and support the best Indie Books around. Please take the time to read through my blog book review policy below. This same policy can also be found on its own page here.

Many times authors ask for a review from book bloggers without checking to see if they have a system in place first. This negligence to be thorough and get to know the blogger almost always leads to a resounding silence. This is a hard “No,” from the reviewer so please, understand my policy before you request a review.

What is a Book Review?

A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review may be a primary source, opinion piece, summary review, or scholarly review. A book review’s length may vary from a single paragraph to a substantial essay but can also be as short as a single sentence. Book reviews help encourage readers to purchase a book, acts as social proof, helps with an author’s Amazon ranking, and increases the book’s visibility.

About Yecheilyah’s Reviews

I have reviewed over thirty books (thirty-six to be exact) by over thirty different authors spanning five years. My authors include both new and Best Selling writers from all over the world. The PBS Blog has been on Reedsy’s Best Book Review Blogs since 2017 and still holds a spot in 2020 as one of it’s vetted catalog of active book blogs and thoughtful, quality, book reviews. My reviews are honest and thorough without giving away spoilers.

“It’s not just because she reviewed my novelette, All Good Stories, and gave it 5 stars, I’m writing about her because she gives great (and helpful) reviews. In a market, so full, it’s hard to choose what to read, isn’t it? We really need reviews these days that go beyond the minimalistic, “I liked it,” to know what we’re investing our money in. Because money doesn’t grow on trees. Neither do books anymore, for that matter.” – Linda G. Hill, author, All Good Stories.

How to Apply for a Review

1). Email me the link to your book on Amazon.

Put Blog Book Review Request in the header and do not send anything  but the link to the book. I don’t need the title or description. Just the link.

If the book is not published, send me the title, description, and book cover if you have it. Email this to yecheilyah@yecheilyahysrayl.com. This is only if the books is not published.

2). Wait for approval

I will email you back and let you know if I would like to move forward and review your book. Please allow 2-3 business days before hearing back from me.

3). Upon approval pay the readers fee* through the main author website.

If I choose to review the book there is a small reader’s fee. Pay the fee through my site at this link.

*If your book is not approved for a review you will not have to pay the fee as I will not be reading/reviewing the book.

*The reader’s fee does not guarantee a positive review, nor is it payment for an Amazon review, which is against Amazon’s terms of service.

4). Gift me a copy of your book.

If your book is published:

  • Gift it through amazon to yecheilyah@yecheilyahysrayl.com.

For published books I am no longer accepting PDF documents. You must gift me the book.

You may send an epub or mobi file directly to my kindle email address at yecheilyahysrayl@kindle.com. PDF documents are acceptable if the book is not published.

If the book is in Kindle Unlimited you won’t have to gift it. I have a KU account and I can grab it for free.

  • You may ship me a paperback / hard copy but let me know this in our email correspondence.

Pro. This option will allow me to post a picture of the book on Social Media! (If I reviewed your book as an ebook and loved it, you can always send me a paperback if you want me to go the extra mile and post a pic to sm!)

Con. This option is a longer turnaround time on the review since I have to wait for it in the mail, read it, and then review it. I do not recommend this option if you are in a hurry for feedback.

Honest Reviews:

I take the “honesty” part of the honest review seriously. If you’re looking for someone to sugar coat feedback of your book, I am not the reviewer for you. I invest much time and attention to the books I review. I do not skim through your writing, skip large text, or copy and paste the book blurb from Amazon. I take my time to read.

As a professional book reviewer and Indie Author, I consider it my responsibility to promote the best, so I am not cutting corners this year. If your book is full of typos and errors, you lessen the chances of being approved for a review. Excellence is a priority.

If your book is approved, I rate on the scale of 3-5 only on this blog. If your review falls below a 3-star rating, I will email you the report and my thoughts — only scores of 3-5 qualify for a published feature and spotlight on this blog.

Rating System

Only ratings of  3 – 5 are published on this blog.

Rating meanings vary between reviewers but here are mine.

  • Plot Movement / Strength
  • Entertainment Factor
  • Characterization
  • Authenticity / Believable
  • Thought Provoking

*Poetry ratings will differ from other books:

  • Presentation
  • Thought Provoking
  • Creativity / Authenticity

Five StarsAmazing, Outstanding

This book was hard to put down and is highly recommended. It was well-written, wasn’t preachy, included fully developed characters who were relatable and realistic, masterful use of language, an engaging plot, and a satisfying ending.

Four Stars – Very Good

This book is delightful and well worth the read. Great story with only minor weaknesses that may include aspects of plot/dialogue/character development.

Three Stars – Nice

This book was lovely. The writing and storytelling are sound, but several aspects could be improved. The author may have too many editing/typo errors, too much telling, or I couldn’t get into the story as much as I’d hoped, but it was enjoyable.

In the event you receive a one or two-star personal review from me:

Two Stars – Not Recommended

This book did not fully capture the reader’s attention or interest. Admirable attempt but needs more attention to plot/dialogue/editing/formatting/character development.

One Star – Poor

This book has significant issues with text that outweigh any enjoyment by the reader. Poorly written, preachy, unprofessional editing/layout/printing; needs considerable revision to deserve the reader’s time.

My Favorite Genres to Read/Review:

  • Black History
  • Fiction (Literary/Historical/General)
  • Memoirs
  • Self-Help
  • Motivational / Inspirational
  • Poetry

Pro Tip: It is best that you try to send reviewers books they are  most interested in reading!

Genres I Don’t Review

I do not currently review the following genres. It is not intended to be discriminatory in any way. Thank you for understanding:

• LGBT Fiction / Literature
• Erotica*

*Romance is okay, but not strict erotica.

IMPORTANT:

a. I do not accept unsolicited requests for reviews. Do not email me a digital copy of your book if we have not already corresponded through email using the steps mentioned above.

b. Agreement on my part to read a book does not imply blanket authorization to send me other works of yours (including books in a series.) You must follow these steps for each book you want to be reviewed.

c. Turnaround time for receipt of the review depends on the length of the book. Naturally, shorter texts are read and reviewed quicker than longer books.


If My Books Shall Die

jez-timms-unsplash

I read James Baldwin today

and realized I was carrying his bones

in the crooks of my arms,

and that if my books shall die,

then I have labored in vain.

 

I have swam through centuries

and ran years in someone else’s shoes,

I have climbed mountains

and crawled under valleys

only to bleed death.

I have wasted my time

carving obsession into paper

with invisible ink,

Words fallen like stars

on deaf ears.

 

If my books shall die,

then let me not be born.

Take me back to the safety

of my mother’s womb,

the privacy

of not yet existing

if my works have been in vain.

 

If my books shall die,

then I do not exist.

Not on the tops of your shelves,

or faced down on kitchen counters,

or underneath your children’s beds.

Honor me

in the palms of your hands

and not standing next to Grandmother’s old picture in the living room—

Grandmother is dead

and I do not wish to die.

 

Give me my flowers today

and accept the life I offer you

in the form of metaphors

On silver platters,

For I am feeding you

with silver spoons

and all you’ve got to do is eat…

I offer you

the best of me.

 

And when I am dead,

no longer among the living

crack open a book written by me

and feel my breath on your skin.

Hear my voice resurrect

from inside an ancient pen,

Watch my tongue dance,

See my lips move

and witness passion soar from beyond the grave.

 

If my books shall die

then my words did not really contain life,

But if my books shall live…

What are you waiting for?

Go to your bookshelf,

Resurrect me

and carry

my bones.

Revising The Stella Trilogy: A Behind the Scenes Look

Tomorrow will mark five years since I released the first book in The Stella Trilogy. Wowzers! I am celebrating by introducing the new cover to book one and two. If you haven’t heard, I removed the books from amazon for some much needed polish and am re-publishing them. To learn why check out the blog post “Quality Over Quantity: Why I Pulled My Trilogy from Amazon.”

While I changed the cover to I am Soul after its release and got a new cover to The Aftermath, my first novel (2012), I’ve never wholly revised my backlist before. The Stella Trilogy is getting an entirely new makeover, which includes editing, covers, formatting, and ISBNs. Why go through all the work for an old book?

Books do not expire. Every book is new to people who have never read it which is why it benefits Indie Authors to go back and update “older” works every now and again. Here are some things I saw needed work on Stella:

Editing – It wasn’t enough to slap a new cover on the books. I knew these books had to be revamped altogether. Like most newbie Indie Authors, I had a friend to edit the first version of these books because I didn’t have the money to pay someone. This time around, I am getting the books professionally edited.

Song Lyrics – The first book had song lyrics in it—rookie mistake. You need permission to include the words to a song in your books. I promptly removed those lyrics. I can’t afford to get sued.

DIY Covers – I like the cover to book one, but it was a DIY premade from Derek Murphy’s website, offered freely to authors. I added the image of the black woman, but the rest was unoriginal. I cringed every time I saw it on his site. Book two was more original as I purchased the winter lady image, but it was still poorly applied to the cover. I did everything in Microsoft Word, and since I didn’t know that super-thin books don’t need a spine (if there aren’t enough pages to warrant one) when the books printed the spine folded over to the front. Yuck. For this reason, new covers were something I knew I needed to get done.

Free ISBN – I am done with the free ISBN game. Listen, if you don’t include the cost of the ISBN in your book budget, you are still a beginner. Have I always purchased my own ISBN? No. ISBNs are expensive, but having your own is worth it. They (ISBNs) are also cheaper if you buy them in bulk. 10 ISBNs can cover ten different books. Applying your own ISBN number to the book ensures that your imprint name will be applied to the book. In other words, you are the publisher, not KDP, and not Lulu. This time around, all books in The Stella Trilogy will have its own ISBN so I can register the books to me.

BONUS: Alternate Ending – I am excited about adding an alternate ending to excite Stella fans who have already read the books. The conclusion to book one is not the ending of the original book one. Why the change? It is to tighten the link between all the stories for a smooth transition from one book to the next.

Lessons I learned so far:

Work with what you have until you can do better.

You don’t have to know everything to start. I didn’t. Work with what you have until you can do better. (If a free ISBN is all you have to work with right now, use it until you are able to move up. I did.) I do not regret putting Stella or my first books out there, even though they weren’t properly edited, and the covers were DIY. These books gave me my start, and the courage and the freedom to step out on my own. These books gave me my beginning, and I am forever thankful to Yah for them.

Then, when you can do better, please do it. 

The other part of this, though, is doing better once I knew better. If I produce mediocrity, I will only get mediocre results. Once you’ve stepped out there, it is okay to go back and change what you see needs work. We may not be perfect, but this doesn’t mean we cannot strive to maintain a level of excellence in all we do, even if the best we can do still falls short. We don’t have to stay at the same levels in the latter part of the journey as the first. We can tweak and correct and improve with time. We have that freedom, to sharpen, and to elevate.


About The Stella Trilogy

Readers reading Stella. Circa, 2015.

Stella is a work of Historical Fiction and is distinctive in its focus on one woman’s road to self-discovery, against the backdrop of the African American fight for justice, racial equality, and freedom. We discover how three individuals living in separate periods strive to overcome the same struggle, carefully knit together by one blood. The three-part series features elements of enslavement, Jim Crow, Passing, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Your Testimony is a Bridge

Copyright©2019. Photo by Ciao Bella Photography.

The Houston Signing was excellent. It was different from my other signings. We had a small crowd but it felt more intimate and personal. What’s better than talking about self-love to a group of Black women? It reminded me of teaching and you know what they say “when you teach you learn twice.” One of the most important lessons I learned is the importance of telling our stories. I wish I had gone deeper into my background during the introduction. I think it would have added a bit more depth.

I was raised on the south side of Chicago in the Robert Taylor Projects, the largest housing project in the world and one of the poorest urban communities in the United States (second only to Cabrini Green). I’ve seen things most people only read about or watch in hood movies. I know what it’s like to grow up around drug addicts and gangs. I got my own war wounds. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been hungry. I know what it’s like to be depressed and sad. Keep Yourself Full is not a regurgitation of the latest Social Media Self-love Guru. Keep Yourself Full exist because I know what it’s like to feel empty.

This kind of vulnerability helps us to be more relatable with others and capable of helping people who are where we were to see living proof that overcoming is not just a word: it actually is possible. If we consider ourselves healed and whole, how did we get that way? What lessons have we learned? We didn’t always know what we know today and preaching and browbeating rarely works…

…but stories do.

Tell your story. Let people know how you got here. Stories help us to connect more with others. It humanizes us and makes people open to hearing our perspective.

Your testimony is a bridge.


More photos of the signing will be uploaded to my website soon. yecheilyahysrayl.com/photos

14 Things Writers Miss When Building Their Author Platforms | Christa Wojo.

Authors, this is a must-read. I’ve known Christa now for a few years. She knows her stuff. Personally, I am not a big fan of automation (#11) and I can work on #12 myself (I am pretty good being consistent on Twitter and the Blog but I need to work on Insta and Facebook) but pay special attention to #1.

It’s well worth the extra money to invest in a domain name for your website/blog. No matter how you spin it, sites with yourname.wix, yourname.wordpress, yourname.weebly, etc. will never be as professional as yourname.com. Even if you are not an author reading this, if you have a business invest in a domain name. You may have to pay a little extra a year but you’ll make that back in sales because it is easier to find your site. It also becomes easier for media personnel to find you too for other projects. An interested reader will most likely Google your author name dot com so try for that before getting a dot net.

👇🏿Click on the link Below 👇🏿

14 Things Writers Miss When Building Their Author Platforms 

 

Introduce Yourself Returns 9/2

School is back and so is Introduce Yourself! We’ll be kicking things off with the introduction of more authors on Monday, September 2, 2019. Interviews are free and publish every Monday. If you are an author or know of authors in need of more exposure and promotion, be sure to send them over! Below is a brief description of what this series is about. To learn more (including how to sign up) visit the Introduce Yourself Author Interview page here.

Introduce Yourself is a promotional opportunity for new authors I started back in 2016, hosted on The PBS Blog. It is an interview conducted by Yecheilyah (that’s me) with questions specifically tailored to helping us to get to know you better. Inspired by a song introduced in a children’s bible study class I helped coordinate, the song is meant to “break the ice.” With this feature, I hope to introduce new authors to my audience for an opportunity to learn more about them and their work. They say teamwork makes the dream work and I hope to do my part to introduce to the world little known authors and to assist in making these authors dreams come true.

 

>>Get Started Here<<