Thursday, 6 March 2014

When to buy in professional help

As mentioned in my past post, I have decided to buy professional publishing services from Merrimack Media together with Crowdpublishr. In some ways this goes against all my training and the advice that I have often heard: you should never be asked to hand over any money to a publisher. Self publishing is traditionally frowned upon in the publishing industry and is given the term 'vanity publishing'. Moreover the sums involved are not to be sniffed at: I have just agreed to pay what I would normally only spend on a car once in three years, probably the biggest expense I will ever make, short of buying a house or sending my children to University (or selling them as slaves).

Self- publishing is very 'big' these days now that everyone has Windows and Open Office at their fingertips, and any attempt to control quality in the industry is pretty futile. It has been said that there are more people writing books than there are reading them, hence the title of this blog: "of the making of books there is no end" - Ecclesiastes 12v12. It seems unwise to rush to join this herd of shabby lemmings as they foolhardily propel themselves headlong towards the book market void.

Despite all this, I am remarkably happy about the transaction and have seldom felt more sure about anything. The Times, they are a Changing, as Dylan would remind us. Indeed, I have quite deliberately chosen to follow the self-publishing route rather than have to negotiate some dubious deal with a mercurial publisher whom I might never have heard from again and who would own rights over my pride and joy that has taken me ten years to craft. A publisher and an agent have rights to a cut of all future earnings, whereas if you pay a set amount in advance for each service at least you know where you stand and the expense is paid and although crowdpublishr do take a cut of the profits it is less than that taken by publishers. I was advised on this by some friends who published a best-selling children's book and only made them £20,000 which they considered a derisory sum (!) They published the next book themselves. I must remember to ask them how it did.

Coming from the UK I really know absolutely nothing about the American book market, although I fondly imagine that I know quite a lot about the English and Irish markets. Moreover, publishing a book alone is quite an isolating business and one needs wise mentors and battle scarred generals to proffer advice and designing expertise. What is more, if you are going to publish a book in America, legally you have to have an address in America to whom the tax bill can be sent.

Once you have decided you need  some advice - how to market a book in the States, what to send to whom, and when, how to present yourself, whether or not to set up a pre-order system, and unknown unknowns- how do you identify a trustworthy company who have the necessary qualities you seek, but charge a price that you can afford?

I was very fortunate here in that I managed to stumble across Merrimack Media and Crowdpublishr whilst trying to identify an artist for my cover, and through this connection I trusted them. Merrimack have a good track record with scores of books in their list which are listed on Amazon and on the  Library of Congress website. I have so far found them to be knowledgeable, attentive, fast and just nice people do do business with. I am very happy about my decision and look forward to discovering what the future months hold for my book and myself.

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