Self-publishing vs. "Assisted" Self Publishing/Vanity Press

Everybody, please bear in mind, I’m no self-publishing expert.  I’m not too educated on it, and that’s fine with me because self publishing looks like a hell of a lot of work.

If you want to self publish, be prepared to do that hell of a lot of work.

Or, you can spent a lot more money for ‘assisted’ self publishing and have to split the profits.  Since you’re fronting a lot of money, and since the majority of ‘assisted’ self pubs/vanity press books don’t tend to sell a lot…well, I’m thinking you’ll be better off if you do the work yourself, if you’re determined to go the self-publishing route.

One thing that seems to be in agreement is that in TRUE self publishing, YOU, the author, owns the ISBN. I use ‘agreement’ lightly because vanity publishers will tell you differently, as will likely most ‘assisted’ self-publishers.  But poke around, check out sites like Writer Beware. Do not just go by what you’re told on whatever site you’re visiting.   The ISBN is that long number you see on the back of a paperback.

If you want to sell a book, you need an ISBN.  It’s what identifies your book, how booksellers order the book.  If YOU buy the ISBN, YOU own it.  If a vanity press or ‘assisted’ self publisher owns the ISBN?  You’re not self publishing.

One handy site I found while I was poking around the net is

Now this is NOT an endorsement of their services.  At all. I’ve never used them, I’ve never talked to anybody who has used them.  But there’s some handy info on the site, including… an instant quote for their editorial services.  One thing that was really killing me over the DellArte Press/Harlequin Horizons site was the cost they wanted to charge for their editorial services.  People might not think that $0.035/word is a lot of money, but we’re talking a lot of words.  Category length books are around 55000.  Most mass markets are around 90000+.  So we’re not talking cents here.  We’re talking dollars.  A lot of them.  Into the thousands.

You cannot skip editorial services.  You need them.  You can always hire a freelance editor and that may well be cheaper, but don’t skip the step, not if you’re serious about putting out a successful book, and don’t think having a few friends read it over will suffice.  Unless of course your friends are professional editors…  ;o)

Anyway, here are some numbers.  For a ‘mechanical’ edit…basically looking for typos/wrong words ie:  die instead of did, mange instead of manage, etc, etc.

  • At Self Publishing, Inc… this will run you $0.014 per word.
  • At DellArte, it will run you more than double, at $0.035 per Word

So for a 90,000 (about standard length of the typical mass market-NOT series), you could either pay $1260.00 with Self Publishing, Inc… or you could pay an ‘assisted self publishing’ like DellArte $3150. Disclaimer, I’m not a math whiz. If the figures are wrong, I apologize. But I really do like the instant price quote feature that Self Publishing, Inc uses. Nice and transparent about the costs.

Now a line edit isn’t enough.  You really do need the content edited-is the story cohesive, is it consistent, is the story ‘organized’, etc.  You can get more comprehensive edits from both of the sites I’m looking at today.

  • At Self Publishing, Inc, a book of 90000 words can get the comprehensive edit, which includes the mechanical edit and the more involved edits, for $0.035 a word.  It will run you $3150.  (Oddly enough, that’s how much just a basic line edit will run from DelArte.)
  • At DellArte, that same service will cost you more than double, at $0.077 a word. Total cost? $6930.

So you can see that shopping around some could certainly save some cash.

Another thing that DellArte is pushing is their marketing services.  Websites.  Email campaigns.

A website is crucial.  They can set one up for you for $479.  (Hosting will run you $30 a month-check out godaddy… you can get the same for a fraction).

So $479 initial and $360 a year to maintain the site.

Here’s a better idea, in my opinion…you can come here to and get a blog.  You can set up ‘static’ pages, which won’t change like a typical blog does.  See the tabs at the top of my blog?  Static pages.  I believe you can even set up a static page to be the ‘entry’ page to your blog.  Cost?  Zero.  Zilch.  WordPress will track your visitors, where they came from, give you stats.  Definitely a better deal than the $479 + $360/yearly.

What about social media?

Dellarte offers a social media set up package.  It includes:

  • A wordpress blog.
  • A facebook profile
  • A facebook page for your book
  • A myspace page for your book
  • Adding flickr to your social network
  • A FeedBurner account to get your blog posts out across the net
  • Set you up on Shelfari, Goodreads, Librarything
  • Twitter

The cost?  $959.

Here’s the deal… wordpress, facebook, myspace, shelfari, goodreads, librarything and twitter are FREE.  I have them all…well, maybe not librarything, but other than that?  All.  Cost me nothing but time.  And even if you pay somebody to do the set up, you’ll still need to invest the time because these only benefit the people who are actually active on the various platforms.

Basically, this assisted self publishing thing looks to me like a way to get double the money for the same services offered by self publishing companies, prettied up with a lot of spin and flashy talk, with a little more polish added by offering ‘marketing’ services that you can get for free (like blogs) or a heck of a lot cheaper elsewhere.

If you really want to wade into the self publishing world, just do your homework.  Research. Call the companies and see what they have to tell you.

And speaking of calling the companies?  If they tell you such-and-such big name author got their start in self publishing?  That right there should be a warning.  The names commonly tossed out when people are talking self-publishing wonders?  Most of those big names didn’t start in self publishing.

Names like JK Rowling, John Grisham and Christopher Paolini…not self published.  Grisham’s book was picked up by a small traditional press that went out of business and he bought the remaindered quantities and handsold them.  But he didn’t self publish.  JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was published by Bloomsbury Children Books, and then by Scholastic here in the States.  Paolini’s book ERAGON was published by his parents, but they owned a commercial press.  You can argue that one either way.  But there is a far cry from Joe Somebody sending his book to a self publisher and a kid with parents who already in the publishing business, who already knew how it worked.  The above info about Grisham and Paolini was found at Jim C Hine’s blog.  The JK Rowling info came from her website.

So there’s my take on it.