As a counterpoint to US indie novelist Kathryn Guare's thoughtful post before Christmas explaining why she moved from assisted publishing to DIY, English thriller writer Alison Morton explains why she's sticking with the full-service option, even though she has the technical know-how to do it all herself if she wanted to.
Self-publishing and being an indie authoris a state of mind, not a statement of technical abilities. The decision to take control and exercise the freedom this publishing route offers is sometimes made in the blink of an eye; it fits the temperament, philosophy and pocket of many. Others, like me came along a slower route.
I’m a mixture of impulse and prudence, decisive yet a long-term planner.
I’m also old enough to know what my core, secondary and tertiary competences are.
I learnt the basics of touch-typing as a young graduate civil servant; all high-flyers had to do a two-week course, much to the disgust of the male graduates! And I have never stopped using this skill from manual typewriters, golfball electronic through to my Mac keyboard.
A Writer of Many Parts
In the interim, I’ve been a policy drafter, underwriter, translator, editor, image editor, project manager, executive search consultant, reserve army officer and run my own translation company for 20 years so I have the business, technical, HR and language skills for being an author entrepreneur.
So, with 90K of my first novel Inceptio written and polished into shape, decision made to self-publish with the support of a research project that would not disgrace the UN, I considered the options.
Considering the Assisted Publishing Options
First, whilst I admired the fiery independence of full-on DIY publishers, I knew I was not amongst them. I’m long-term computer literate; I started on a Viglen+ in 1989 and had one of the first websites in Kent, England. Driving a computer on DOS commands really enhanced my memory and patience. I’d completed countless accredited courses and used a computer most of my working day; I was perfectly able to learn all this stuff. In 2012, I self-published a history book (a reworked version of my masters’ dissertation) with 200 academic references, aka hyperlinks, via KDP. I could do it. (I did it again in 2014 with my little writing book The 500 Word Writing Buddy.)
Indie Horses for Indie Courses
But my first Roma Nova novel, Inceptio, was a different game; it had to be perfect. I’m with Adam Smith on division of labour; I did not want to spend my time learning a whole new skillset which may or may not be up to the highest possible industry standards when others, professionals, could do it for me. All I wanted to do was write. Well, I knew that whatever route I chose, I would also need to spend a significant chunk of time on promotion both before and after launch.
I researched designers, editors, formatters, ISBN providers, registrations, both individual services and full-service providers. It was then I came across Mick Rooney of The Independent Publishing Magazine, who gave me some excellent advice, and of course, ALLi. I weighed up all the information, advice and research and decided I wanted a complete package: a single point of contact, a coordinated service and one which had the expertise and knowledge of the publishing industry.
Shooting Down the Cowboys
Oh, boy, were there a lot of cowboys out there! Vanity and subsidy ‘publishers’ hovered, ready to pick the dosh from enthusiastic but innocent writers’ hands; garage-loads of books of varying quality produced at horrendous prices, and writers’ rights stripped away from them for all time. Rights are extremely important and often not given the attention they need, as I discussed on my blog here.
However, my research and analysis system sifted out the undesirables pretty quickly and left me with three serious contenders with long track records. I grilled each of them during a two-hour phone call and scrutinised their contractual arrangements. One stood out well above the others: ethical, book-oriented, realistic as well as happy to answer all my intrusive questions in a professional and business-like way. The key thing to bear in mind is that you are the client in the same way as when you engage a lawyer or accountant. And, like any professional service, you pay the bill.
Getting My Money's Worth
Now, what do I gain from using in a full-service provider? Why should I pay a fee and what do I get back?
On the practical side, I send them a copy-edited MS Word file which they turn into a beautiful paperback and ebook: formatting/typesetting and interior design, compilation of front and back matter, bespoke cover to my specification, all filing/registration fees, ISBN allocation, Nielsen Enhanced listing, pre-order and look inside on Amazon, PDF ARC, proofs, POD set up, digital archive fee, ebook formatting for different retailers, legal deposit, bookseller information sheet, print ordering, quality control checks and project management
Also, a lot of advice, handholding and 24-hour or less response, an author book promotion toolbox, author community and events, plus links into the publishing industry, e.g. representation/exhibiting at the London Book Fair.
Apart from the confidence of having a competent services provider, I also gain time – time to write. I’m sure this is one reason why I've been able to turn out a substantial series of top quality, full-length books in a relatively short space of time is due to contracting a publishing services provider to do the production work for me.
In my opinion, there is no one way better than any other. ALLi is there to offer information, especially via its guides – take advantage of them!
Whether you go DIY, buy in services on an ‘as and when’ basis or buy a full-service package, the choice really is yours. And isn’t that what independent publishing is all about?
FREE ADVICE ON HOW TO MAKE YOUR CHOICE
Alison Morton's account relates to her experience with SilverWood Books, after conducting her own meticulous research into the available suppliers. ALLi's guidebook Choosing a Self-Publishing Service cuts to the chase and provides an invaluable analysis of the services offered by the most popular providers, as well as a detailed guide on how to make your decision. The guidebook is free to ALLi members (one of many benefits of belonging to our organisation) and may be purchased by non-members – here are the buying links.
OVER TO YOU
What has your experience been of using assisted publishing services? Do you have any top tips to share with other authors considering that route? Please share via the comments box!
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