Dave McChesney (vespican) wrote,
Dave McChesney

Thoughts on Self-Publishing

I keep promising myself (and you) that I will get back to posting here on a regular basis.  Contrary to that, I seem to have become more delinquent.  And so to get back on track (I hope) I offer these thoughts, originally gathered over seven years ago, not long after I published my first book.

When a writer is looking to get his or her book published, he doesn’t think much about the myriad decisions that must be made before it is released.  Who decides if it will be issued in hardcopy, trade paper, mass market paperback, or a combination of the three?  Who determines the trim size, or the physical dimensions of the book?  How about the interior design, the font used, its size, and the color and type of paper the book is printed on?  Someone has to design the exterior and figure out appropriate cover art.  Which entity decides what the title of the book will be upon publication?
           The answer to all the above is the publisher.  If one gets published in the traditional way, the publisher makes these decisions, and quite possibly the author isn’t even consulted.  Many of the choices are made with regards to marketing.  What is going to help this book sell a little better?  Yes, the publisher can and often does change the title of a book before it comes out.  They might also advocate different titles for different markets.  Thus C. S. Forester’s first Hornblower novel is known as Beat to Quarters in the United States and The Happy Return in The United Kingdom.  Beyond that, publishers can pretty well insist upon editing and revisions that an author may not wish to make.  Having signed a publishing contract, the writer is basically obligated to do so.  Various rights regarding the book also enter into this discussion.  Depending upon how the contract was negotiated, certain rights nearly always remain with the author, while others generally go to the publisher.  Thus a writer may be restricted or prohibited from doing various things with his or her book, unless he has the rights or reclaims them from the publisher.
           When self-publishing, the author is also the publisher and is the one to make all the choices mentioned above.  Depending upon who one works with, a writer may find that he retains all rights and creative control, while with others he may not.
           With the company I chose to help me self-publish, I was fortunate to work with one that lets the author retain all rights and control.  All choices regarding the appearance and format of Beyond the Ocean’s Edge are mine, although in many cases I went with what I was told was standard.  Such choices would include the trim size and the choice of interior font.  I provided the cover art and had the company design a custom cover around that.  At this point it was matter of having something compatible with the printing process.  Rather than investing in specialized software and taking the chance that I still might get it wrong, I simply let them do it.
           With this particular company I was also able to help determine the final price of the book.  I had a choice of various pricing plans, and once the book was formatted and the production price determined, I was able to vary the cover price a bit to balance customer appeal and my profit or royalty per book.
           To me, it would seem that the self-publishing author has a great deal more creative and marketing control with regards to his or her book.

"Hotchkiss' Paradox" cover art for Beyond the Ocean's Edge: A Stone Island Sea Story

Current read: Willow by the late Al-Jack Dymand a one time member of SASP.
Tags: cover art, self-publishing, thoughts on self-publishing
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