You can’t go anywhere online right now without hearing about Simon & Schuster and their partnership with Author Solutions, a vanity publishing company with a pretty shitty reputation. This doesn’t surprise me at all. Big publishers are desperate right now to stay relevant to the modern author, and they don’t really get it. Old school publishers never do. I learned this while working for a newspaper. It’s either adapt or die, and unfortunately many publishers’ mindset is that they’re right and everyone else is wrong.
Still, the options many companies offer to self-publishers can seem too good to be true. As a rule of thumb, it probably is. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to tell. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
- Sometimes, you will get burned, no matter how careful you are. Recently, I hired a freelancer to do some work for me. She came highly recommended from a friend and fellow indie author. At first, she did a great job. She responded quickly, and her work looked fantastic. Unfortunately, she had a family emergency. Instead of telling me she couldn’t finish the project, she ignored me for a week, and when she finally did get back to me, gave me awful files. This cost me money and time, but I ended up learning how to do it myself. Sometimes, you just have to step back, take a break, and then tackle the problem.
- Avoid services provided by retailers. While Amazon, for example, is a reputable company, the services they offer to indie authors are expensive. You can more than likely find freelancers who offer the same services for smaller fees.
- Do your research. Google is your friend. Before you decide to go with a company or freelancer, search for their name plus “review” or “experience.” Using Amazon as an example again, you would Google “CreateSpace author services review” or “CreateSpace author services experience.”
- Ask an indie. Most indie authors are happy to help. The community on Twitter is pretty amazing. If you’re wondering about a service or how to find a freelancer, ask! Feel free to also directly ask authors who they hired for their editing, formatting, or cover design. This is often the best way to contract work, because you’ve already seen firsthand how well the professional performed.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Don’t wait until two weeks before your release date to get the ball rolling. Allow at least a couple months. Best case scenario, you’ll have extra time to burn—or can release your book early to eager readers. Worst case scenario, you wasted a couple weeks, but you still have plenty of time.
- Make sure what you want is clear. Whether working with a freelancer or company, make sure there is some sort of contract in place to ensure that both sides know what is expected. Most freelancers will provide this contract, but if they don’t, write up your own. At its simplest, your contract should note that you are hiring so-and-so to do X by the date of Y for Z payment. Both sides should review and sign the contract before work begins.
With indie publishing becoming so popular, there will be lots of sharks who will try to make a buck. You can’t fault ‘em for it, but you should be aware. Author Solutions isn’t the first, and they sure won’t be the last.
Have you ever been scammed? How would you do things differently, now that you know better?