I often wonder: who really benefits from self-publishing?
Yes, self-publishing can be a good option for those writers who are tired of constant rejection from publishers and agents. In fact, why would anyone use the traditional method of publishing when you can do it yourself, and still get in to the big retail chains.
The main draw of big publishers like Random House and Penguin, besides being able to edit, design, and market the author’s book, is that they are able to get their authors in to Barnes and Noble, Chapters, Borders, and Amazon.com.
However, writers no longer need to wait at publishing’s pearly-gates. Chapters offers a self-publishing service through iuniverse.com. For a modest fee of… ahem… 600 to 4200 dollars anyone can be an author, and listed next to the Dan Browns and John Grishams of the publishing industry, in-store and online. Chapters guarantees it.
But, who has that money? Definitely not writers, at least none of the writers I know. (for them, rent money comes second to beer and the latest iPhone app. Who doesn’t love angry birds?)
Amazon has tried to do Chapters one better. Through createspace.com, authors can design, layout, and create a cover for their books, all for free. Though, unlike iuniverse, this means the author is doing it all themself. Nonetheless, it does allow authors to be sold on the web’s largest online retailer.
But who is actually benefitting? Not the authors. Either way they are spending money. In Chapter’s case, the author is paying for the service. In amazon’s case, the author does not have to pay for the service, but if the author wants their work to be properly edited they will have to pay a freelance editor – and the fees for a good editor would fall in to the same range as iunivere’s fees.
I haven’t been able to see the author’s royalty rates from these sites, but I know there is no way the author would be getting more than a dollar a book*. It is unlikely that a new author will sell the 600 to 4200 copies necessary to cover iuniverse’s fees. A new author selling more than 500 to 1000 copies is a phenomenal success, especially when you consider that in Canada a book is considered a bestseller when it sells 5000 copies.
Besides, from what I saw, there is no mention of a marketing campaign for your book, on either website*. So, it’s great that you’re now a published author, but who is going to know about it? Essentially, these services are publishing’s equivalent of having a party and nobody showing.
In the end, Amazon and Chapters are the big winners. Sure, an author can get their title on the book shelf, but these retail chains don’t offer the support required in order to sell a book.
If I were to give you any advice: continue to shop your book around at the small publishing houses. (Look online, there will be lots in your area – it is a cottage industry after all.) They will take the time to work with you, edit your book, design it, and market it. And the best part is, in the end you both benefit.
*If I’m wrong, I would be happy for you to correct me.