Self Publishing Platforms

Discussion in 'Self publishing' started by S.J. Faerlind, Feb 17, 2016.

  1. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    So I see we have this nice new section, and so far, there's nothing in it! I thought I might kick it off with some discussion on the various self-publishing platforms that are available.

    Who have you used? Did you like them? Were they easy to use (user friendly)? etc
    I think most people who have self-published will be familiar with Createspace (Amazon), Lulu, iUniverse and some of the online self-publishing platforms like Smashwords, Wattpad, fanfiction.net and fictionpress for example. LightningSource's "Ingramspark" have been developing an impressive platform in the last few years as well.

    I've used Lulu for print books (and a few ebooks), Smashwords and Wattpad.
    Lulu I find to be very user friendly. They work with common software programs and they seem to be a very practical company. What you expect is what you get with them. I only ever had one issue with their customer service being horrendously slow when I was helping a friend publish his book, but other than that they have been great.

    Smashwords is also very user friendly and they have a vast ebook distribution network: larger than any other that I've found so far.

    Wattpad is more than just a place online to post stories and books. It's also a forum and they run writing contests and all kinds of stuff over there. It's often a nice community but it's becoming very, very large!

    Does anybody have any feedback on other publishing platforms?
     
  2. Richard Falken

    Richard Falken The Best Epic Literature Ever Written.

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    Amazon has a long reach and it is a good distribution platform, but they will try to buy you into exclusivity deals so your books are only available through them. Beware.

    Smashwords is a good way for introducing your books in the International market if you are working from a country that is not accepted by many ebook distribution sites. This is so because Smashwords will proxy your books into distributors that would not have accepted the books straight from, let's say, Spanish authors.

    The problem with self-publishing platforms is that they solve your logistics, but they are not real publishing platforms because they don't solve your marketing and sometimes don't even solve the paperwork. For a publishing solution to work, it has to offer both marketing and logistics... if it does not, your books are very likely to rot on their virtual shelves.
     
  3. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    I think that's likely to to be true unless an author gets signed by a big-name traditional publisher (like Harper Collins for example). There are very few self-published authors who break into the market in any huge way. Those who do are often approached by and lured in by traditional publishing deals in the end it seems.
     
  4. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Marketing is a big key issue - as Richard says the self publishing pathways get you logistics; you can deliver your product. But you've got to get people to notice your product exists and to want to buy it.

    I think also there's a second aspect which is that self publishing comes without a quality control. Services like Lulu will publish anything if you pay them; no matter the quality (from what I've read Lulu is closer to vanity publishing* than self publishing unless they've changed in the last few years) so often as not many people ignore them and works published by them purely because of the view that its vanity published and thus not any good.

    Amazon and other publishing setups are not as poorly seen, but still come with that angle that they have no built-in editing system to at least ensure a standard of written english let alone a standard in quality of content.

    Whilst publishers don't always get it right; whilst there is the element of choice and whilst there are many books published by big names that are considered "pretty rubbishy" - the publishers at least set a base standard that a reader knows they can trust.



    Self publishing you don't have that; in fact you might only have the first few chapters and many a reader can quickly see that some Amazon novels know this and that the opening is strong and then quickly the quality falls apart once you get into the meat of the book.

    A free first issue can work; but for that you've already got to have a body of work published to get people buying. And again the concept of a book being free again devalues its image. Whilst people scream for free and cheap they also associate free and cheap with lower quality of produce


    *You pay them and they produce your product; ergo vanity because its purely if you can pay for it. It's also different since normal publishing should have money running one way - from publisher to author - the publisher invests in the author for production and quality control.
     
  5. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    Actually Lulu is very similar to Amazon's Createspace. You CAN pay them to edit your book, format it, design a cover etc if you WANT to but you don't HAVE to. You can upload a finished project yourself and never pay them a cent. You only ever pay them if you print a book. That's fair because it costs them money to print it and it's no different than the arrangement a big-name traditional publisher has with any other printer either. They also give you the option of bringing your own ISBN so you don't have to use one of theirs if you don't want to. Lots of independents and small publishers use them, Ingramspark/Lightning Source or Createspace as a printing company only. Print on demand is unquestionably more expensive than traditional print runs, but it's the only feasible option for producing small numbers of quality printed books.

    You are right in that when used as a print-on-demand company, there is no quality control exerted over any manuscript by Lulu or Createspace. I personally don't have a problem with that. These companies are offering a printing service for hire to customers willing to pay for it. A book with questionable content quality reflects poorly on the creator of it, not on the company that prints it for them, just the same as it would on a big-name publisher that publishes poor quality stuff. I suspect we can all point to traditionally published books that probably never should have been printed at all, just as we can all point to self-published books that we felt were of lesser quality as well. You can only blame the printer if the book pages, cover etc are made of poor quality materials or if it falls apart easily. Compared to some of the flimsy, traditionally published trade paperbacks I have on my bookshelves at home, my Lulu-printed books are much better quality in many cases.

    As for "vanity publishers" who offer professional editing and design services to people for a fee, I can't fathom why anyone would have a problem with those either. Their services are horrendously expensive but if an author is willing to pay for them, that's their business. The reality is that the vast majority of self published authors will never make that money back in book sales however. To me, it just doesn't make any sense to pay for those services for that simple reason; especially when doing it all yourself costs you only your time.

    I suppose it all comes down to why any particular author wants to publish their work. If the only reason is to make a living off it, self publishing is a much tougher road to make that happen because of the marketing. If you're looking to make a serious name and a living off it, you're better to toss your own ideas out the window, cater to what traditional publishers are looking for and pitch your stuff to an agent. If you're a good enough writer, and are lucky enough to get your manuscript to the right person at the right time, you might just make a go of it.
    On the other hand, some people write (and self-publish) for other reasons: because they enjoy it, because they want to learn and practice the skills of editing, cover design, marketing and formatting, because they have something to say, because they want their book published and marketed in a way they are comfortable with, rather than dancing to the tune of a big company that wants control over everything. There are tons of good reasons to self-publish! I don't know why everybody thinks authors only do so for financial reasons. I also don't know why so many people seem to assume that self-published authors couldn't secure a deal with a publishing company and that's why they had to self publish. In many cases, that just isn't true at all.