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FAQs 4: On co-publishing…

So you’re a writer. You recently discovered a passion for words and you want to share those words with the world. You are even willing to invest money and labor into this, if only so someone hears your voice.

I have taken on the role of a consultant to these early writers. Four years ago I was the one weighing my options, trolling for the cheapest way to print my books, hoping to get spotted by a publisher, and blind to the dangerous pitfalls specifically designed to entrap idealist writers like me. Now I try to help these idealists. So if you’re one, listen up.

Do not be entrapped by co-publishers. If a publisher requires money and says they’ll give you royalties, no matter how nice they sound, stay away! If you are willing to give up your immediate cash and a large chunk of future profits, then go ahead and utilize these ‘publishers’. But recognize that if they say they’ll sell you an ISBN, they mean ‘You take the financial risk; we take control; we share the profits.’ ISBNs can only come from Bowker, a government enabled website. They can only be sold to publishers, who have control of the books. So protect yourself: incorporate and get your own ISBN. It may cost more time and money, but it is worth it.

These co-publishers (or whatever name they use) may provide you with sub-par editing and designing services, but in the end it is your financial risk that gets the book afloat. You are much better off doing the work yourself of finding an illustrator (use someone local–whom you can see, communicate with, and keep on track) and a printer (I strongly recommend Instant Publishing) then letting a ‘publisher’ do the work for you.

We are writers. We often do not want to be business people who self-publish. And as getting truly published grows harder and harder , we are tempted to give up our rights to our work. Yet if you go with a co-publisher, when a real publisher wants your book, you won’t be able to sign with them. Or when profits start rolling in, it will take three times as long to pay off your initial costs and you will gain less in the long run.

Getting your work out to the world may sound easier than ever because of the changing technology and market, but there are still plenty of barriers between you and fame. So take several big steps back, run away from anyone who wants your money until you have done the research, and decide how tough your skin is. Mine was fragile at first, but I have put on my battle armor. Now I find the game of publishing fun. It may be harder at first to do the work yourself with the support of those co-publishers, but your chances for success go way up! So get tough as nails. Determine for yourself if you are are a good writer, ignore what critics say, and get your words out to the world. If that’s through a co-publisher, as long as you’ve thought it through, that’s fine. But know what you’re getting yourself into.

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