The Struggle to Get Noticed

A philosopher I know noticed my book and mentioned it on his blog where other philosophers often prowl. I visit there myself on occasion and offer comments, generally touching on questions concerning moral philosophy which, of course, is the subject matter of my new book.

Because self-publishing philosophy can be very problematic (where is the professional vetting, the peer review, the confidence of a university or other academic publisher in what you have to say?), there's a negative stain attached at once to any such effort. Of course, this is true for all of self-published material. But the academic world is an especially problematic place for self-publishers. Getting noticed is tough. Getting academic street cred even tougher. But at least this gentleman, a Wittgensteinian philosopher who writes on ethics himself and teaches at an American university, has elected to give me a small opening, presumably on the basis of our past exchanges since I didn't send him a copy of the new book in advance or even ask his help with it.

I am, however, immensely grateful for this small assist though clearly more will be needed if my new book is to make any kind of a splash in the contemporary philosophical pond.

Meanwhile the Lulu edition, which has, in my opinion, the better cover, is still not out. But perhaps the Amazon CreateSpace edition can smooth the way for it when it finally becomes available. (Alternatively, of course, the Lulu version may come too late, in the wake of a failed effort to gain traction . . . but this is the challenge I set myself when I decided to self-publish a work of philosophy!)

Here's the man's blog with his very kind reference to my book at the top (for now, though it will gradually slip down as time passes and he posts new items to his site):

 http://languagegoesonholiday.blogspot.com/
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Comments

  • It is really tough for every one. It's like you got this candle lit, in a jar, at the bottom of the sea. I work my fingers to the bone and I just can't seem to grow beyond a certain point which, I have to admit, is about 100 times better compared to where I used to be years ago.

    One thing that I have noticed is that word of mouth seems to sell books. I might have a book that doesn't sell at all. Then, months down the line it suddenly sells one, then two, then three copies. I think this is down to people telling each other about a book. I also have the situation where a book might sell three or four dozen copies a month and then it just goes over a cliff and sells nothing. And then, for some inexplicable reason, it picks up again a few months later.

    Make no mistake about it: selling books is the most frustrating, heart-breaking thing in the world, but also the most rewarding.


  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited September 2018
    Yes, there is a surfeit of writers today because POD makes it so easy. That overabundance tilts the supply-demand equation against us to begin with. Add to that the fact that self-published works are very hit or miss (we don't have a strong vetting system for self published works, we can do it all ourselves and, as some here have frequently reminded me, that creates lots of potential pitfalls). We aren't all great editors or proofers nor do we all possess a sensibility that can assure our product has the right professional look. Yet places like Lulu make it so easy and inexpensive to self-publish that we literally bombard the marketplace with unvetted or insufficiently vetted books.

    And, as some here have accused me of being (though I dispute it!), we are often too stubborn to recognize our own limitations and need for help or too unwilling to pay for it. Some POD sites are full service and you pay them for a lot of what we do ourselves at places like Lulu and some of us probably really do need that sort of help. But my experience with the full service outfits is that they really aren't all that good at the most important stuff. They can do a decent job of giving a book a professional look but unless one shells out big bucks to them, they neither edit nor proof the files we send them (and if you pay them to do it, they are not necessarily going to do it in a way that suits the material you send them).

    I once suggested here that a few of us band together for mutual help in moving our books towards a more professional look (editing, proofing, layout, blurb content, that sort of thing). But my suggestion only elicited a lot of negative feedback and one person suggested that I was disingenuously looking for free help from him and others here. So I dropped the suggestion since it obviously fell on most unwilling ears. I'd still be up for it by the way though, at this point, I have no book of my own ready to go since I have pretty much finalized my latest and now only await the last proof from Lulu before releasing it here. (As noted above, I have already released it through Amazon's CreateSpace system, decoupling the two editions because the Lulu version was proving much harder to finalize.)

    Selling books is tough even in the traditional publishing world but in the world of self-publishers it is harder still because we lack the resources to achieve a truly professional look in many cases and to discover and utilize the best forms of promotion for the types of books we produce. When I first embarked on self-publication back in 1998 I worried a lot about getting my book into bookstores and I did a lot of that by going around to stores and bookstore chains, offering volumes on consignment. I placed books with the now defunct Borders, with a specialty book store at New York's South Street Seaport, with a university bookstore in North Carolina where I had gone one summer on vacation, among others. But that was a lot of work for a very small return. The growth of online bookselling thanks to Amazon (it accounted for only about 5% of book sales when I started but now, though I have no current statistics, I'm sure it's way more than that given the collapse of real life bookstores everywhere) has made selling this way much more lucrative if one can do it. Borders is gone, of course, and Barnes & Noble is in trouble and you can hardly find bookstores anymore but Amazon persists and is international!

    The real key to book sales is online and the key to that, since Amazon is the elephant in the proverbial room (we all go there nowadays), is promotion. But different types of books demand different promotional strategies. For my new one, a work of philosophy, I have concluded that I need to achieve some presence in the community of academic philosophers to get anywhere with it and so I am hoping some in that field who know me through various Internet postings and conversations will be interested enough to take a look and will find the book useful. But other types of books require other strategies which could include campaigns to hit media book reviewers, or niche commentators who address the book's subject matter, etc. Another way to go (which I once suggested to my old POD service provider, Xlibris, and which they eventually did) is to band together to develop and place group ads in key media. That's expensive but if done in a group and well designed and placed, it can be done more economically and could yield real sales dividends.

    Perhaps there are other ways, too, which I haven't thought of. But certainly it seems to me that we can help each other if we are open minded and approach this kind of thing with energy and goodwill.          
  • “I once suggested here that a few of us band together for mutual help in moving our books towards a more professional look (editing, proofing, layout, blurb content, that sort of thing). But my suggestion only elicited a lot of negative feedback and one person suggested that I was disingenuously looking for free help from him and others here.“ 

    This service already exists in the form of these forums. Beyond that, if anyone needs their books edited, designed, etc. they should be prepared to reimburse for the time and effort. The time-worn adage that “you get what you pay for” holds true here. If you expect help that is of professional level you should expect to treat the person providing it as a professional. I think that what you were suggesting is that someone would, say, spend the several days required to thoroughly copy edit a book in the hope that someone might return the favor...and at an equivalent level of expertise. This might happen...but since you are also hoping for “professional” results for everyone, I think that this scheme is wholly impractical...if for no other reason than that there is very scant guarantee that there are enough people here are at that level of experience or ability. For instance, I certainly have no intention of editing or designing anyone’s book in the hope—or even expectation—that I will get a return favor of equal quality. Your suggestion sounds very egalitarian, but I think that at bottom it is fundamentally unworkable.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited September 2018
    Actually, these forums are only a starting point, a place to "meet" like-minded people and if possible find ways to work together. My suggestion is thus a feeler making use of the networking possibility this forum offers. I don't understand the negativity a suggestion like this elicits but it's true that no cooperative effort, at any level, is possible if there's no one interested in cooperating in some fashion. This is where the conversation starts, but not necessarily where it has to end.

    As to getting paid, I have never said one should do anything for free if one doesn't want to. People are always free to make contact with one another and arrange to work together on whatever terms. Offering support for a fee is not against the law nor is it necessarily a crass commercial enterprise. As you note, there is a lot of work involved in some of this stuff and people with expertise may not want to contribute it for free. That's up to the parties involved. Construing my suggestion as an attempt to suppress fee-for-service arrangements or to seek free help for myself (as someone said on one of the other forums) is wrong in both cases.

    I'm not sure that my proposal of a few like-minded souls working together to mutually improve their books, thus making them more competitive in a tough marketplace, is feasible. But it is, I believe, a fair and potentially useful approach. And no, I don't need anyone's help but I do believe that if we can find ways to improve others' POD offerings it will be beneficial to the credibility of our own. Right now POD self-publication has a bad rap in some quarters. Why not try to find ways to change that? 
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited September 2018
    On a related note, I see that someone posted, on that blog, a link to a site engaged in publishing academic work for inexpensive sales to readers. This makes some sense because there is great pressure in the academic world to publish and yet traditional publishing by academic publishers itends to lead to very high prices for the published works, thus limiting potential readership

    I haven't looked into it myself yet but it seems to have editorial acquisition and vetting mechanisms just like a traditional publisher while relying on POD printing and distribution capabilities. A direction for Lulu to pursue, too?

    Maybe.

    https://openhumanitiespress.org/
  • place group ads in key media. That's expensive but if done in a group and well designed and placed, it can be done more economically and could yield real sales dividends.

    Do you mean individual self-publishers get together to do that? You do realise that they are in fact in competition with each other for sales?

    Do Macmillan aid Simon and Schuster with their marketing? I would not expect so ...

    One of the points you keep ignoring (as you do will all of them we try to put across to you) is the word SELF in Self-publishing.

  • Yes, there is a surfeit of writers today because POD makes it so easy.

    There have always been many people writing, but not getting published. It is POD (via free places like Lulu, unlike Vanity Publishers, who one has to pay, as you know) that makes it "so easy." But it's not as easy as some assume to create a book that actually looks like a professionally created book!

  • Incidentally. Does anyone else get that feeling of deja vu while reading this thread?
  • I knew a guy who got sick twice in the same winter. It was deja flu.
    I had the same soup two days in a row. It was deja stew.
    I went to the hardware store and got wallpaper in a repeating pattern called "Deja Blue."
  • Yes, there is a surfeit of writers today because POD makes it so easy.

    There have always been many people writing, but not getting published. It is POD (via free places like Lulu, unlike Vanity Publishers, who one has to pay, as you know) that makes it "so easy." But it's not as easy as some assume to create a book that actually looks like a professionally created book!

    ...And to do that, an author has to swallow hard and get professional help. Which, of course, makes what they are doing no different than vanity publishing where, as you say, the author has to pay out of pocket for services such as editing, design, etc.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirsky said:
    On a related note, I see that someone posted, on that blog, a link to a site engaged in publishing academic work for inexpensive sales to readers. This makes some sense because there is great pressure in the academic world to publish and yet traditional publishing by academic publishers itends to lead to very high prices for the published works, thus limiting potential readership

    I haven't looked into it myself yet but it seems to have editorial acquisition and vetting mechanisms just like a traditional publisher while relying on POD printing and distribution capabilities. A direction for Lulu to pursue, too?

    Maybe.

    https://openhumanitiespress.org/
    I can hardly imagine how Lulu could do anything like what Open Humanities Press is undertaking.

    Besides, having an editorial/acquisition board would make Lulu become more like a publisher...which it decidedly is not. I could certainly see Lulu perhaps creating a subsidiary publishing company some day in the future, but it would have to be a general, not specialty, publisher. OHP, as it describes itself, "is an international community of scholars, editors and readers with a focus on critical and cultural theory." So it has a narrow, specialized area of interest, which is practical for an academic publisher.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • place group ads in key media. That's expensive but if done in a group and well designed and placed, it can be done more economically and could yield real sales dividends.

    Do you mean individual self-publishers get together to do that? You do realise that they are in fact in competition with each other for sales?

    Do Macmillan aid Simon and Schuster with their marketing? I would not expect so ...

    One of the points you keep ignoring (as you do will all of them we try to put across to you) is the word SELF in Self-publishing.

    Kevin really underscores one of the key stumbling blocks for the self-published author: advertising and marketing. A traditional publisher can easily afford to take out space ads in magazines, journals and newspapers---that sort of thing is built into a book's budget---and a certain number of books or bound proofs are always earmarked for reviewers and promotion. It's almost impossible for most self-published authors to give away copies of their books.

    For instance, a book that I worked on last year is listed at $28. The publisher sent free copies to dozens of reviewers, newspapers, magazines, etc. This would have been nearly impossible for a self-published author to do.

    (One of the things that makes this especially difficult lies at a core difference between POD and traditional printing. The unit price of a POD book does not go down very much no matter how many copies are ordered at one time. On the other hand, the unit cost of a traditionally printed book drops dramatically the larger the print run is. Since a publisher may order 1000 copies or more of a book, the individual unit cost of each copy makes it easy to give away a certain number for promotion. For instance, the unit cost of 3000 copies of a 6x9-inch POD book would be $4-$8, depending on the source. If the book is traditionally printed, the unit cost for 3000 copies would be between $1 and $2, again depending on the source. For a major traditional publisher, the cost would probably be much less.

    (To take the example of the book I mentioned earlier, it is an 8.5x9.5-inch 200-page full-color book. The lowest estimate I can get from Lulu for something of comparable size would be $38 each for 1200 copies. The unit cost from a traditional printer would be about $8. But 1200 copies would be a pretty unrealistic first printing for a full-color book from a major publisher. A 5000-copy first printing would bring the unit cost down to about $4.)
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron, this just proves the impracticality of the advice that you dish out. If I sell an ebook I get $0.35. I would have to sell a huge amount to recoup what I would have to spend on paying for cover design, editing, proofreading, etc. This is totally impractical. I know what you will say: that if I spend money on professional services I will sell more. There is no proof of this. Many a book has been published by commercial publishers which don't make back the outlay of the first print run.

    This is a forum for self publishing authors who wish to, or have to, do everything themselves. It is not a forum for people with loads of cash, who just happen not to have a publisher, and who are about to break into the big time. You can repeat your advice until you are blue in the face: I, for one, will not take it, and those that don't wish to be out of pocket probably won't either.


  • I am quite convinced that those who don't wish to spend money on professional or even semi-professional editing and other services have no desire to follow my advice.

    I should, however, mention that, over the many years I have contributed these forums, I have pointed out many, many different ways in which an author can get decent, objective editing and design done at little or even no cost. Others here have done exactly the same. 

    You are right in that traditional publishers come up with many books that wind up on remainder tables. Not every book winds up even making back the author's advance. Of course, these same publishers are able to take chances on some books---for instance, books by new, untried authors---because they can afford to: best-sellers, books by known names and celebrities, etc. etc. all help to pay for this. But this does not mean that the publishers stint on the editing or design. They try to give every book the best chance it can get.

    The bottom line is, as I have often said, that you are offering a product in direct competition with one that is professionally created...and are charging an equal amount of money. I think it behooves you to offer equal quality. If you are unable or unwilling to do this, I think it is unfair to ask readers to make special allowances. Would you buy a chair from a woodworker who said, "I know my chair is made from poor materials, has drippy glue, loose joints, sticky paint and uneven legs but I still expect you to pay just as much as you would for a chair made by an experienced professional."

    (I have no idea what you mean by "people with loads of cash, who just happen not to have a publisher, and who are about to break into the big time.")


    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Gosh, when I clicked on that OHP link I got this >>   If this error persists, it is possible that this site uses an unsupported protocol or cipher suite such as RC4 (link for the details), which is not considered secure. Please contact your site administrator
  • Kevin really underscores one of the key stumbling blocks for the self-published author: advertising and marketing. A traditional publisher can easily afford to take out space ads in magazines, journals and newspapers

    There are of course many places on line offering such marketing services for 'modest' fees to self-publishers, and their success is doubtful, because even 10 grand is nothing in the world of marketing.

    ---that sort of thing is built into a book's budget

    Indeed it is, and they can afford to when a $9.99 retail price book possibly only costs 50 cents or less to print. Around 30% of the retail price of a lot of branded goods is spent on marketing, hence why even a branded tin of beans is dearer than a superstore own brand. Usually for the same beans!

    I have recently communicated with the publisher of a 76 page colour childrens' book retailing on Lulu for £32.44. Apart from them saying it had to be full colour in that shape (square) in order to get Dist (which is not true) but the high profit margin is to get their costs back ASAP. 99.999% of products do not work that way. Imagine Ford wanting to recoup design and production set up costs on the sale of just 100 cars, or even 500, in fact even on just 5,000. (Toyota make around 15,000 a day!) It's a mistake quite a few self-publishers make.

    ---and a certain number of books or bound proofs are always earmarked for reviewers and promotion. It's almost impossible for most self-published authors to give away copies of their books.

    Some seem unable to even afford a Proof.

    For instance, a book that I worked on last year is listed at $28. The publisher sent free copies to dozens of reviewers, newspapers, magazines, etc. This would have been nearly impossible for a self-published author to do.

    (One of the things that makes this especially difficult lies at a core difference between POD and traditional printing. The unit price of a POD book does not go down very much no matter how many copies are ordered at one time.

    POD machines are still comparatively slow, but that is changing.

     On the other hand, the unit cost of a traditionally printed book drops dramatically the larger the print run is. Since a publisher may order 1000 copies or more of a book, the individual unit cost of each copy makes it easy to give away a certain number for promotion. For instance, the unit cost of 3000 copies of a 6x9-inch POD book would be $4-$8, depending on the source. If the book is traditionally printed, the unit cost for 3000 copies would be between $1 and $2, again depending on the source. For a major traditional publisher, the cost would probably be much less.

    Depressing is it not?

    (To take the example of the book I mentioned earlier, it is an 8.5x9.5-inch 200-page full-color book. The lowest estimate I can get from Lulu for something of comparable size would be $38 each for 1200 copies. The unit cost from a traditional printer would be about $8. But 1200 copies would be a pretty unrealistic first printing for a full-color book from a major publisher. A 5000-copy first printing would bring the unit cost down to about $4.)

  • Ron, this just proves the impracticality of the advice that you dish out.

    It may be impractical to those who cannot afford what Ron suggests, but it does not make it any the less true.

     If I sell an ebook I get $0.35. I would have to sell a huge amount to recoup what I would have to spend on paying for cover design, editing, proofreading, etc.

    Spend more on marketing and sell many more then :)

     This is totally impractical. I know what you will say: that if I spend money on professional services I will sell more. There is no proof of this.

    Is there not? How about the American 'Lemon' law? Which was brought about due to some car maker cutting corners to save costs. When I was in Production Design and Management, I often said to the workers, would YOU pay your own money for this product? They got the point.

     Many a book has been published by commercial publishers which don't make back the outlay of the first print run.

    Because they often give it away as part of Marketing. But their printing costs are nothing like POD's. Their wage costs are also often spread out across a few books at a time, not just one.

    This is a forum for self publishing authors who wish to, or have to, do everything themselves.

    Not all of them do. It is often also a portal for those who just wish to use Lulu for printing, if not printing and dist. Their files have already been worked on by professionals. I would also assume that quite a few people actually pay Lulu to do it all for them, too. Lulu will not tell us how many, though.

     It is not a forum for people with loads of cash,

    Who says it is not? You are in fact replying in a thread who once paid a Vanity Publisher to get it all done for him.

     who just happen not to have a publisher,

    Some who use Lulu are publishers of other people's work.

     and who are about to break into the big time.

    Very few writers "break in to the big time" regardless of if taken on by a traditional publisher or not. The only recent example I can think of is 50 Shades, originally self-published on Lulu Australia, apparently.

    Very few writers even manage to earn a living from writing, even via a traditional publisher.

     You can repeat your advice until you are blue in the face: I, for one, will not take it,

    Well don't then. It's your choice, but it does not mean that many do not do what Ron suggests, and he's not the only one suggesting it, many sites give the same advice, who do not earn money from design.

     and those that don't wish to be out of pocket probably won't either.

    What's that they say? You have to speculate to accumulate. If I had a spare $500,000 knocking around I may spend it on marketing. One thing not to forget is that a first book may gain the writer a reputation, and if it is a good one, a fan base also. People waiting for their next book to come out. Many famous writers have websites that send out news of upcoming books, and the fan base will then buy it. See, the first and perhaps second book accumulated a fan base, which lowers the further need to advertise drastically.

    You have still not provided a link to your own book, oncewas.

  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited September 2018
    Oncewas, I think your point is well taken. Self-publishing means we are on our own. My suggestion, and I have never seen it implemented so I don't know if it can overcome all the obstacles Ron describes so effectively, is to work more cooperatively with other self-publishers to beat the odds of succeeding by working strictly alone. That COULD include paying others for services rendered as Ron keeps insisting is the only way OR it could include some kind of consortium of like-minded authors determined to make the best of the self-publishing opportunities afforded by our modern digital world, the way that site I mentioned above (https://openhumanitiespress.org/) seems to be doing. Lulu as a self-service self-publishing outfit COULD provide a platform for something like that.

    But all this requires a positive attitude and neither Ron nor "Just Kevin" seem to me to have that. Both have concluded that the only way forward when self-publishing is to spend lots of money (or be "geniuses" like some may be). Only then can you compete in the marketplace for books, only then can you sell your wares or make a splash in the book world. I happen to think a little differently on this issue. I have seen that one can achieve a small modicum of success by going it alone and so I have thought a lot about what could be done if we could leverage that by banding together. As I've said, I've never seen it done successfully but surely that's the thinking behind openhumanitiespress.org!

    I really don't know if the idea has legs or is just another dopey notion but as they used to say in the campaign slogan for the New York Lottery, ya gotta be in it to win it. Put another way, you don't know until you've tried. Kevin has accused me of wanting help from him or others for free! Utter nonsense, particularly now that my current book is done and already released in one form and soon, I hope, in the Lulu edition, too. Ron thinks nothing's gonna work unless you are paying professionals. But what is a professional? It's someone who knows what he or she is doing, usually measured, of course, by that person's track record of getting paid for his or her work. But one can be quite professional and still not be in the business of selling one's services. So I say again, the heavy dose of negativity in these forums aside, why not?

    As to how one would proceed, well I don't have the details because these would need to be worked out depending on who was involved and what sorts of things we wanted to do. More, it would be important that whoever wanted to get involved with such an effort be sufficiently capable of producing decent work him or herself. And in the POD world, not everyone is. Perhaps most of us aren't though I suspect many of us could do a lot better than we may currently be doing. Frankly, not every writer who elects to use a POD service like Lulu is up to the job of producing quality work. In the world of traditional publishers, the acquisitions editing staff provides a useful filter against the unsaleable (and, indeed, against much that might be but just doesn't strike the right chord with the acquiring editor or his/her staff). A publisher's inhouse editorial staff provides further capacity to guide authors to refine their own work (and sometimes does some of that for them). In POD, on the other hand, none of that is readily available to us and paying for it a la carte, sight unseen (based on Internet ads, say), is not only expensive but hit or miss. You are rarely going to be in a position to dispassionately and effectively assess the skills of those you want to hire (and if you could, why hire them?) So my notion was that a select few of like-minded authors could try working together to plug some of the gaps in their existing areas of expertise. This does not preclude paying for help in some cases. But it doesn't have to start there or be solely that.

    But this only works if there are others with an interest in trying an approach like this. From what I've seen so far here, there aren't. As for me, I have a few weeks right now to try to get this kind of thing off the ground before I get started on my next project (trying to reconstruct a lost manuscript of historical fiction which I had been close to completing but ended up losing due to the flood created by Hurricane Sandy in 2012). So if you or anyone else reading this is interested in this kind of consortium approach, using Lulu as our POD platform, I'd be willing to talk the idea through some more to see if it's even feasible. But unlike Ron and Kevin, I don't reject the possibility out of hand (how could I, after all, since I proposed it!).

    By the way, I think we all need to be realistic and recognize that most of us are never going to be the next Stephen King or any other famously successful writer. But some of us might actually be able to carve out a serious second career (or even a first one) in the writing game. And a very, very few could just get lucky.
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited September 2018
    By the way Oncewas, I think we should all adopt a rule that aims at keeping our POD books shorter than we might otherwise want them to be.

    My first ran 637 pages. I was new to the game and really had no idea how POD worked in terms of pricing (plus the company I used back in 1998 promised much lower and more competitive retail pricing than proved adequate for them and so ended up raising the price into the stratosphere -- I had to fight with management to bring the pricing down and even then I couldn't get it low enough to really be competitive). Since then I have set myself a limit and try to keep my books under around 200-250 pages, still expensive at retail to be sure, but not outlandishly so, at least thus far as book prices have tended to rise over the years.

    My latest though clocks in here on Lulu at about 145 pages (with 134 of those pages allocated to the substantive part of the book). I actually had it down to 106 pages at one point but CreateSpace, where I was also doing a version, dropped my name from the spine because the book was too thin, making it look more like a pamphlet than a book, so I returned to it and added back some of what I had removed as well as some new stuff that I thought helped make the book better.

    In works of philosophy a range of around 145 pages seems effective for pricing purposes because most philosophy books by contemporary authors (not the classical writers whose works are in the public domain) are published by academic presses whose interest is in producing material for course work (to be bought by students obliged to buy those works) where price is not as big a deal and for libraries where price definitely isn't. Thus my current book, priced for now at $10.95, actually looks like something of a bargain compared to its traditionally published competitors.

    Now it only remains for it to find an appreciative audience willing to comment on it, debate its content and make it part of the academic conversation. I'm still testing that premise. 
  • Let me try to clarify myself a little.

    A book published at a professional level of quality implies that a professional level of work went into its production: the editing, copy-editing, design, marketing, advertising, etc.

    It is entirely possible to obtain professional quality work for free. I myself have more than once created a book cover gratis for my colleagues here in the Lulu forums. Kevin, myself and others have also made many suggestions as to where low-cost or free editing and other services might be found. There is always the caveat, of course, that you get what you pay for...so great care needs to be taken when accepting donated services.

    The bottom line is, of course, something I have pointed out too many times to count: The cost to a reader for a self-published POD book is not much different than that of a traditionally published book (and if there is any color involved, the cost is a good deal greater). This means that if you expect a reader to pay a price for your book equal to that of a traditionally published book, it behooves you to offer a product of equal quality. This is the foundation for me urging self-published authors to obtain professional help whenever possible. I don't really accept the excuse that affording this might be difficult. If an author does not have the wherewithal or experience to publish a book at a professional level of quality, they should think twice about offering their book for sale. It's no different than, say, someone deciding they want to become a plumber but haven't the experience or training let alone being able afford to obtain the proper tools and equipment. Hanging up a shingle saying "Plumber for Hire" doesn't make them one. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't hire them.

    So...Do not try to edit your book yourself. Get outside help. Get the best, objective, most knowledgeable help you can find. If you can afford a professional, by all means engage one. If you can't, there are other viable options.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited September 2018
    ". . . if you expect a reader to pay a price for your book equal to that of a traditionally published book, it behooves you to offer a product of equal quality. This is the foundation for me urging self-published authors to obtain professional help whenever possible. I don't really accept the excuse that affording this might be difficult."

    Sound advice but it's not up to any of us to "accept" excuses. The people who come to Lulu do so on their own recognizance, some more experienced and sophisticated in their capabilities than others. That's a lot of the reason POD self-published books are such an uneven affair with so much poorly written and poorly designed stuff in the mix. The nature of POD self publishing makes it so, of course. Companies like Lulu and AuthorHouse and Amazon's KindleDirect et al are in the business of providing a service that people want and will avail themselves of regardless of the level of talent or knowledge they have. Most of us think more of ourselves, in any case, than perhaps we should.

    Some of us, of course, want the full service approach (such as those who choose one of the AuthorHouse imprints) while others want to do it themselves. The do-it-yourself model is the one Lulu has chosen to follow and, since they have been around since the early 2000s, I assume it has been somewhat profitable for them. (Xlibris had to sell itself to AuthorHouse as iUniverse and several others did and GreatUnPublished.com sold out to BookSurge which was then acquired by Amazon as CreateSpace.)

    These Lulu forums, however, offer a place where some of us can put our heads together and try to figure out ways to leverage the do-it-yourself platform. They are also a useful marketing tool for those with services to sell. Such forums serve a purpose, the sale of services being only one. I admit that my notion that maybe a few like-minded self publishing authors can put their heads together and come up with ways to cooperate in making their books better is a bit of a long shot. I've proposed it elsewhere before and it's never caught on. Maybe it won't catch on here either. But contrary to the insinuations of one of our number elsewhere, I am not in it to get anyone's help gratis. I am quite capable of writing, editing and publishing a credible book myself. I just think that all of us using a POD self-pub platform would benefit if some of the stigma of that could be removed and one way of doing that is encouraging and fostering a better quality of output than we now have.

    That, by the way, is why I suggested that, if such a consortium of like-minded writers could be formed, using Lulu's platform, they could leverage the advantages of producing more professional quality material by creating a shared imprint within the Lulu family which could command a kind of respect generic POD self-published books cannot. It would be a sort of branding exercise as well as an alliance of cooperating authors. But thus far no one here has expressed any interest in this notion and that's okay. In a couple of weeks I will be embarking on my next project (taking a break for now) and after that I probably won't have as much time to play around with this concept. For me the time is now. If that's not the case for anyone else, I get it and that's okay.  
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Let me try to clarify myself a little.

    I think you/us, are wasting our replies.

    A book published at a professional level of quality implies that a professional level of work went into its production: the editing, copy-editing, design, marketing, advertising, etc.

    Indeed, and it's rare to find all those qualities in one person. Publishing houses use teams.

    It is entirely possible to obtain professional quality work for free.

    Indeed it is. Some just starting off in the business may at first offer it for free, or even students at uni. Or if not for free, there are a few sites where people offer many services for as little as $5. Just make sure they show examples.

     I myself have more than once created a book cover gratis for my colleagues here in the Lulu forums.

    Yes, me also. Not that I know the links to them now! And in fact also complete illustrations, for a book that never got published as far as I know!

     Kevin, myself and others have also made many suggestions as to where low-cost or free editing and other services might be found.

    And it's not always easy to pick out the decent ones in a Search. But one still goes to the effort to find links.

     There is always the caveat, of course, that you get what you pay for...so great care needs to be taken when accepting donated services.

    Yup, always, always prefer people or sites that can show examples. But I  also have to say that there's been the occasional people plugging their (usually art)services here that were frankly, not very good.

    The bottom line is, of course, something I have pointed out too many times to count: The cost to a reader for a self-published POD book is not much different than that of a traditionally published book (and if there is any color involved, the cost is a good deal greater).

    I assume you mean the cost of pro services?

    This means that if you expect a reader to pay a price for your book equal to that of a traditionally published book, it behooves you to offer a product of equal quality.

    How many times have we heard? "but all that matters is the story!" and very often even that is not very good! Using cars as a comparison (which I often do) it's like saying "who cares if the brakes don't work?! It has seats!"

     This is the foundation for me urging self-published authors to obtain professional help whenever possible.

    I would say, those who need to, but there are quite a few that do not know or care that they need to.

     I don't really accept the excuse that affording this might be difficult. If an author does not have the wherewithal or experience to publish a book at a professional level of quality, they should think twice about offering their book for sale.

    I have to agree.

     It's no different than, say, someone deciding they want to become a plumber but haven't the experience or training let alone being able afford to obtain the proper tools and equipment. Hanging up a shingle saying "Plumber for Hire" doesn't make them one. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't hire them.

    Apparently some do though, because until they start or even finish a job, you have no idea if they are trained!

    So...Do not try to edit your book yourself. Get outside help. Get the best, objective, most knowledgeable help you can find. If you can afford a professional, by all means engage one. If you can't, there are other viable options.

    Yes there are. Be cheeky. But please do not expect competing writers to help you out, much. Although I have to admit that I have done, but it eats up a lot of time, and as some say, time = money. Or to be a potentially selfish time = other things I want to do.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    The nature of POD self publishing makes it so, of course. Companies like Lulu and AuthorHouse and Amazon's KindleDirect et al are in the business of providing a service that people want and will avail themselves of regardless of the level of talent or knowledge they have.

    Thankfully, they also allow people to leave Reviews.

     Most of us think more of ourselves, in any case, than perhaps we should.

    I like the way you include yourself in the 'us'. Well, it is said that the new pandemic is narcissism. However, confidence also plays a big part in if people bother to self-publish or not, and not every hobbyist writer has that, even if they may believe they are mostly great.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Some of us, of course, want the full service approach (such as those who choose one of the AuthorHouse imprints) while others want to do it themselves. The do-it-yourself model is the one Lulu has chosen to follow and, since they have been around since the early 2000s, I assume it has been somewhat profitable for them. (Xlibris had to sell itself to AuthorHouse as iUniverse and several others did and GreatUnPublished.com sold out to BookSurge which was then acquired by Amazon as CreateSpace.)

    Have you not noticed that on almost every page on Lulu, even within Project Wizards, are them suggesting their paid for services? Those links were not always there, but since more and more appeared, fewer and fewer people ask for help in the forums. Coincidence? I doubt it.

    Oh, and companies do not always sell out because they are in trouble. When the directors of them are offered wads of cash, shares, and to keep their job as CEO on a big wage, it's very tempting. Just as it is when someone offers to buy PLC shares for more than they are worth.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    These Lulu forums, however, offer a place where some of us can put our heads together and try to figure out ways to leverage the do-it-yourself platform.

    It always helps when people take notice, and don't just have a bee in their bonnet.

     They are also a useful marketing tool for those with services to sell.

    Hardly, because few use it now, when at one time, 100s used it. At one time the forums also had sections where people could and did offer their many services. Perhaps Lulu eventually realised that's cutting their own throats?

     Such forums serve a purpose, the sale of services being only one.

    Most forums I know of are people asking questions, and users, and staff, replying to them. Once they got their answer they never returned.

     I admit that my notion that maybe a few like-minded self publishing authors can put their heads together and come up with ways to cooperate in making their books better is a bit of a long shot.

    I shall repeat. We are competing with other writers for sales. I write SF. Should I aid other SF writers to be as good  or better than mine? Perhaps when I have made my first million, I may do ...

     I've proposed it elsewhere before and it's never caught on.

    Have you not caught on why yet? And very possibly, those with a good product, have paid to have it made good. I know of many SP success stories on line, and when you look further in to them, almost all of them hired pros to do it for them, and at a great total cost + marketing. They were not so much SPs but 'Independents,' which is not really the same thing.

     Maybe it won't catch on here either. But contrary to the insinuations of one of our number elsewhere, I am not in it to get anyone's help gratis.

    It certainly sound so, because what you keep suggesting is already available, for a fee. Not the mention the 1000s of websites giving free advice on all subjects to do with SP.

     I am quite capable of writing, editing and publishing a credible book myself. I just think that all of us using a POD self-pub platform would benefit if some of the stigma of that could be removed and one way of doing that is encouraging and fostering a better quality of output than we now have.

    The stigma will always remain in the heads that think "oh, self published huh? Not good enough to be taken on by a real publisher then?"

  • Kevin is absolutely right.

    I think that perhaps one of the stumbling blocks in the way of the idea you have suggested about a kind of consortium of mutually cooperating authors might be self-interest. While an author may be glad to have someone vet their book for them, they may prefer to spend the time writing rather than returning the favor. After all, to read every page of a book carefully, taking detailed notes of any errors or questions, is immensely time-consuming...and something that would have to be done in the hope that the return favor would be of equal quality. I, for one, would rather spend time writing my own books than vetting other people's.

    (The alternative would be to get input on your book from a large number of authors, each contributing their own small part to commenting on your work, but then you wind up with editing by committee.)
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • I am quite capable of writing, editing and publishing a credible book myself. I just think that all of us using a POD self-pub platform would benefit if some of the stigma of that could be removed and one way of doing that is encouraging and fostering a better quality of output than we now have.

    Any author can write and self-publish their own book but, as most of my colleagues here know already, I do not think that any author is capable of effective self-editing. No one, even the most experience author, can be that objective. Every book benefits from having an independent, objective editor.

    As for removing the stigma of self-publishing, I'm not sure how having a book edited en masse by a committee of other self-published authors will help alleviate that. I agree that "some of the stigma...could be removed and one way of doing that is encouraging and fostering a better quality of output than we now have," but I am not convinced that what you suggest is the way to accomplish this.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    In response to this from Oncewas, "It is not a forum for people with loads of cash," Just Kevin wrote:

    Who says it is not? You are in fact replying in a thread who once paid a Vanity Publisher to get it all done for him.

    Aaagh, I get so tired of having to correct these misstatements of yours, Kevin. Either you don't read what I write or you don't pay attention.

    Since I started this thread, I assume you are referring to me in the above. Presumably you have in mind my statement to you and others on another thread that I published my first book through Xlibris, one of the first full service POD publishing services back in 1998. But as usual, you get what I wrote there wrong.

    It's true that Xlibris was (and probably still is) a full service operation and it's true that they can be characterized as a "vanity" publisher, just as Lulu can be. And it's true that I paid Xlibris $730 for their Tier II service at the time (their higher echelon package -- the lower echelon was $500). For that price they took my file, set it up in book format ( something I now do myself using Word) land distributed it in hard and soft cover versions (indeed, it's STILL available today in THOSE forms) via amazon, Baker & Taylor and Ingram (also BN.com, Borders.com, Powells, etc),  I selected a plain generic cover from among their then limited options.

    I supplied all the copy for the interior file to them myself, laid out as I wanted it to be, as well as added copy for the book descriptions and blurbs for the cover and inside flaps (for the book jacket for the hard cover).

    Note that they did NOT edit or proof the material I sent them (except for one mistaken change they made on the dedication page . . . to my chagrin). So when you write, Kevin, that Oncewas is "replying in a thread [to someone] who once paid a Vanity Publisher to get it all done for him," you're misrepresenting the facts. Xlibris did not edit, proof or design a customized cover, which are the kinds of things Oncewas was referring to.

    Nor did what I paid at the time indicate "loads of cash" (referred to by Oncewas as something not to do) unless $730 amounts to great wealth. In fact, I promised my wife, who was against my self-publishing, that I would limit what I spent to no more than I earned back in royalties. And I kept my word.

    What I can't figure out is why you persistently misrepresent things I've said here. Or why the concern raised by Oncewas about the frequent recommendations to him to hire a professional editor, proofer and cover designer should warrant an answer claiming that I had done so?

    How is THAT even relevant to his concerns,  even if it had been true?

    As to the statement by Ron that no one can be objective enough to be his or her own editor or proofer, that is probably generally true and a good rule of thumb because we're all prone to miss stuff and outside checking is a very useful tool. But it is not true in every case and any decent author ought to be able to edit him or herself. If they can't, then they are in the wrong field.

    However, on the larger question I had raised, given the responses so far I gather there isn't any real interest in what I've proposed. I should point out that, Ron's remarks to the contrary, I was not proposing editing by committee. The how of things would have to be worked out, of course, with various options to be considered, but the committee assumption isn't correct. As to the idea, mentioned by Kevin and seconded by Ron, that this is a dog eat dog (or writer eat writer) business which presents an insurmountable obstacle to cooperative efforts . . . well, that's simply wrong. Your success is not my failure and vice versa. We write different things and are not all in competition for the same readers. Imagining we are is -- not to put too fine a point on it -- kind of nuts.

    But I've said enough. Oncewas, your concerns about keeping costs down are quite legitimate and I share them and did so back in 1998 when I brought out my first book. For self-publishers,  the more we can do on our own, the lower our costs and the lower our costs the better the chance of turning a profit which is another way of saying not frittering away large sums of our hard earned cash on vanity projects.

    Let's face it, most of us aren't going to hit the big time this way and if we do it'll be because a commercial publisher sees a potential return in our work and decides to pick us up, or if something we write gets a movie or similar deal. It's not going to happen via self-publishing alone though. So the best thing any of us can do is focus on writing the best stuff we can and on letting the world know about it. If you have gobs of money to spend on professional services it could help hook the big one, of course. But the odds are very, very strong that it won't. So don't spend more than you can afford on dreams of hitting it big! Keep costs down which means do as much as you can yourself. But if you can't do it well enough then sure, Ron's advice and Kevin's makes some sense.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    In response to this from Oncewas, "It is not a forum for people with loads of cash," Just Kevin wrote:

    Who says it is not? You are in fact replying in a thread who once paid a Vanity Publisher to get it all done for him.

    Aaagh, I get so tired of having to correct these misstatements of yours, Kevin. Either you don't read what I write or you don't pay attention.

    Or you forget what you posted. You told me how much it cost you, and how much you eventually made.

    Since I started this thread, I assume you are referring to me in the above. Presumably you have in mind my statement to you and others on another thread that I published my first book through Xlibris, one of the first full service POD publishing services back in 1998. But as usual, you get what I wrote there wrong.

    Who were a Vanity Publisher who charge money. In fact they still are https://www.xlibris.com/ServiceStore/ServiceHome.aspx

    It's true that Xlibris was (and probably still is) a full service operation and it's true that they can be characterized as a "vanity" publisher, just as Lulu can be. And it's true that I paid Xlibris $730 for their Tier II service at the time (their higher echelon package -- the lower echelon was $500). For that price they took my file, set it up in book format ( something I now do myself using Word) land distributed it in hard and soft cover versions (indeed, it's STILL available today in THOSE forms) via amazon, Baker & Taylor and Ingram (also BN.com, Borders.com, Powells, etc),  I selected a plain generic cover from among their then limited options.

    What on earth are you arguing about then?!

    I supplied all the copy for the interior file to them myself, laid out as I wanted it to be, as well as added copy for the book descriptions and blurbs for the cover and inside flaps (for the book jacket for the hard cover).

    So? You still paid to have it processed and then published.

    Note that they did NOT edit or proof the material I sent them (except for one mistaken change they made on the dedication page . . . to my chagrin). So when you write, Kevin, that Oncewas is "replying in a thread [to someone] who once paid a Vanity Publisher to get it all done for him," you're misrepresenting the facts. Xlibris did not edit, proof or design a customized cover, which are the kinds of things Oncewas was referring to.

    I go off what you previously said, which at least I can remember.

    Nor did what I paid at the time indicate "loads of cash" (referred to by Oncewas as something not to do) unless $730 amounts to great wealth.

    To many it is. And that was back in 1998 was it not? Or thereabouts. What would inflation make that now?

     In fact, I promised my wife, who was against my self-publishing, that I would limit what I spent to no more than I earned back in royalties. And I kept my word.

    I wonder how many others promised that, who did not sell any?

    What I can't figure out is why you persistently misrepresent things I've said here.

    It seems I have a better memory than you?  It could explain why you keep going over and over the same subject, regardless of the replies you get. But all the same, you did pay a substantial amount to get published.

     Or why the concern raised by Oncewas about the frequent recommendations to him to hire a professional editor, proofer and cover designer should warrant an answer claiming that I had done so?

    Is Oncewas a male? Anyway, does anyone mention he/she by name when recommending such services? The recommendation is in general. He/she is always trolling Ron about 'pushing' his services, when in fact he does not even have a link to his own website in his postings. And I am sure Ron only does graphics, anyway.

    How is THAT even relevant to his concerns,  even if it had been true?

    Er, you paid a Vanity Publisher to be published. Oncewas was insisting no one who uses Lulu can afford to. Which is far from the truth.

    As to the statement by Ron that no one can be objective enough to be his or her own editor or proofer, that is probably generally true and a good rule of thumb because we're all prone to miss stuff and outside checking is a very useful tool. But it is not true in every case and any decent author ought to be able to edit him or herself. If they can't, then they are in the wrong field.

    That any "decent author" can is nonsense.

    However, on the larger question I had raised, given the responses so far I gather there isn't any real interest in what I've proposed.

    Gosh, you realised that at last!

     I should point out that, Ron's remarks to the contrary, I was not proposing editing by committee. The how of things would have to be worked out, of course, with various options to be considered, but the committee assumption isn't correct. As to the idea, mentioned by Kevin and seconded by Ron, that this is a dog eat dog (or writer eat writer) business which presents an insurmountable obstacle to cooperative efforts . . . well, that's simply wrong.

    No it's not. We will and we do help people out who post in the forums, but that takes up very little time. To fully assist someone can take up months.

     Your success is not my failure and vice versa.

    Huh?

    We write different things and are not all in competition for the same readers.

    Readers do not stick to exactly the same thing. They often browse around Amazon and think, "oh that cookery book looks interesting. Oh hang on, that one about a love affair between goblins looks even more interesting!"

     Imagining we are is -- not to put too fine a point on it -- kind of nuts.

    You have no idea what I write or what I have written and what they comprise of, even before arriving at Lulu. Whereas you keep telling us what you have. In fact there is a lot of philosophy within fiction, too.)

    But I've said enough. Oncewas, your concerns about keeping costs down are quite legitimate

    Of course they are! But that's not what he/she said.

     and I share them and did so back in 1998 when I brought out my first book. For self-publishers,  the more we can do on our own,

    "Can do ..." is the key phrase there. And regardless of many requests, oncewas has still not posted a link to theirs in the forums.

    the lower our costs and the lower our costs the better the chance of turning a profit which is another way of saying not frittering away large sums of our hard earned cash on vanity projects.

    So you are saying that a person who cannot do a decent cover, layout a book as a book should be and very often cannot even spell, should go ahead and charge money for their book? That is indeed what we have witnessed over the years on Lulu. Many used to ask for advice in here, but they do not now, one has to wonder what their books look like now? Or as I have said before, are they now paying Lulu for their Pro services?

    Let's face it, most of us aren't going to hit the big time this way and if we do it'll be because a commercial publisher sees a potential return in our work and decides to pick us up,

    Not always true. But I have already said why.

     or if something we write gets a movie or similar deal. It's not going to happen via self-publishing alone though.

    Or most other types of publishing in fact. The riches do indeed come from TV or film contracts.

    So the best thing any of us can do is focus on writing the best stuff we can and on letting the world know about it. If you have gobs of money to spend on professional services it could help hook the big one, of course. But the odds are very, very strong that it won't. So don't spend more than you can afford on dreams of hitting it big! Keep costs down which means do as much as you can yourself. But if you can't do it well enough then sure, Ron's advice and Kevin's makes some sense.

    Gosh! Thank you!
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    Kevin wrote: "It seems I have a better memory than you?"

    How so, since you seem to get everything I say wrong? Not to mention repeatedly  missing the points I have made here in your responses! For example:

    I said: "We write different things and are not all in competition for the same readers."

    To which you responded:

    "Readers do not stick to exactly the same thing. They often browse around Amazon and think, 'oh that cookery book looks interesting. Oh hang on, that one about a love affair between goblins looks even more interesting!'"

    What's THAT got to do with anything? Indeed, your response actually makes MY point, namely that we're not all competing against all other writers in a zero sum game of winner take all here. There are many genres, many types of readers with many varied interests. Thus, we can afford to help each other without compromising our efforts on our own behalf.

    These forums may indeed be a good place to let others know of the services you can offer and make a deal with interested aspiring writers. I respect that and think it's a good use to put these forums to (if Lulu is okay with it). But that doesn't preclude using the forums for other purposes, too, like reaching out to like-minded writers to try to leverage Lulu's POD platform for mutual benefit in ways I've described.

    My latest book, a work of philosophy, is not in competition with your science fiction or someone else's memoir or book of humor, etc. It does compete with other works of philosophy, of course (though they aren't likely to be found here). But competition in philosophy is a good thing since it creates the audience for new works in the field as those who are interested in philosophical issues continue to delve into and debate the ideas that interest them.

    In fact, I'd say that the broader the offerings in general the more chance our books will find a larger audience to attract a readership.

    I still don't get why you and Ron are so adamantly hostile to the idea of forming cooperative groups of authors interested in using one another's energies and talents to improve their own products and possibly create a premium imprint within the Lulu family to secure a better branding than we can achieve with generic self-publishing. But since no one else here has indicated any interest I'll drop it.

    In another week or so I hope to have redirected my energies in any event and will likely not have the time to participate in anything like I've been proposing here in an intense way (and, if I do end up being seduced into it, it will likely distract me and thus harm my effort to restart my next project). 
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