Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Would You Let Me Cut Your Hair? Be Your Attorney? Fix Your Car?

In 2004, when I started my business helping people open their own micropublishing houses and publishing books, I had already assisted in the publishing of well over 150 books, audio books, and videos for trade distribution, corporate and non-profit publishers. To this day, 33 years into my publishing career, I strive to learn something new every day -- and my staff does as well.  Publishing changes daily, and there are many options -- one of which is right for a specific author and book. Today, we have advised, published or fixed hundreds and hundreds of books in a myriad of different ways.

Experience, continuous research, connections, respect for the industry and respect for the profession are important to me, and they should be important to you.  Experience and wisdom matter. 

Why am I concerned? I'm hearing and seeing more and more potential for trouble every day...
  • I read an article a while ago that contained publishing advice from one-time authors on how to publish. A library had the authors on a panel to talk to would-be authors. 
  • An illustrator who had never done anything other than illustrate a book stepped in to help a first time author.
  • I found a publishing blog where a first time author was dispensing advice on how to publish before their first book was even on the market. 
  • In a course catalog for a community college, I saw another first time author giving a whole class after uploading one poorly designed and edited ebook, offering it on Kindle's KDP Select free promo where they had 20,000 downloads -- and 500 scathing reviews as a result. 
  • I found another piece where a young professional and recent first-time author himself actually charged thousands of dollars posing as a publishing expert to publish another person's book (very poorly and with dangerous mistakes).  He was eventually sued by the author for incompetence.
The problem: None of these people had actually ever performed the massive number of tasks publishing requires -- they had all used a "self publishing company" or an author services company similar to my firm to get published.

It's like...
I get my hair cut and colored by a trained specialist. 
Doesn't mean I am going to open my own salon.

Or even...
I buy suits, dresses, slacks and tops at a department store. 
Doesn't mean I'm a fashion designer that could whip you up an outfit any time soon.

Or better yet...
I have contracts drawn up for me.
Doesn't mean I am qualified to open up my own law firm.

OK, one more...
I own a car, which I drive every day. 
Doesn't mean I'm qualified to overhaul your engine.

So, what should you do?
There are plenty of experts out there, folks. Do your due diligence when researching publishing and make sure the people you are listening to actually have first hand experience and real knowledge -- and that they have actually published more than just their own book through some POD house (and btw, make sure it is well edited and designed and doesn't look like it was done by their 19 year old first year design student).

And if you are an author dispensing advice, be aware that people may actually be spending real money -- actual hard-earned dollars -- based on what you tell them. Be honest with people and share your own story, but make sure they know that is just your own story and that you had assistance performing the actual publishing part.

Finally...Don't assume that "self publishing" means you have to do everything all by yourself. You don't.  You can hire experts for work you don't know how to do yourself (hint: owning design programs does not make you an expert in them, nor does it make you a designer).  Do your research, and be prepared to pay a fair price for the services. 

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