How Independent Assisted Publishing enabled my first children’s book to become a reality
When I first started on my journey to get my children’s book published, I didn’t know that such a thing as Independent Publishing existed. I actually had written the story a few years ago, and at that time the only thing I thought to do to get published was to go to the library, and find out who handled books for kids. I came away with the names of several publishers that worked with that genre. I wrote each a letter, enclosed my manuscript, and sent the letters off with hopes high and fingers crossed. Anyone who has ever gone the traditional publishing route will understand this. I received a response from some of them, certainly not all, and each rejection letter fell into one of two categories. Either “we don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts” or “we only accept books that come to us through literary agents”. Well, since I didn’t know any agents, or how to find one, and I certainly hadn’t been asked to submit my manuscript, I took these rejections to heart. I took my manuscript and put it on the shelf, and proceeded to get on with my life. Again, Independent Publishing possibilities were out there, but I had yet to discover them.
And then something happened last winter that caused me to dust off my manuscript and read it again. I wanted to see if I even still liked the story myself. I had a friend from book club read it, as well, and she loved it! I had seen a few different ads on TV talking about getting assistance in having a book published, so I started again researching how to get into print in today’s world. Naturally, none of the TV ads were put out there by traditional publishers. They were all either Self or Indie publishers - part of the Independent Publishing industry about which I was soon to learn. And it’s those three categories – Indie, Self, and a combination of the two, that I want to talk to you about today. Because the average person has some real misconceptions about self-publishing of any kind. And it’s this type of publishing that now dominates the market, in one form or another.
While traditional publishing hasn’t changed all that much over the last several decades, what has changed is the percentage of the market that traditional publishing houses dominate today. What used to be a virtual monopoly of the market has shrunk to about 20% today! And that means that approximately 80% ! of today’s published authors have gone through some kind of non-traditional process to see their work in print! Independent Publishing has taken center stage – it has “come of age”.
Fifty years ago Independent Publishing was rather rare. For one thing, publishing something yourself was called Vanity Publishing. That moniker alone was enough to scare off many a would-be author. And the quality of this type of printed work rarely equaled what was being put out by traditional methods. But the Vanity label didn’t scare everybody off. You might be surprised at the list of authors - names like Janet Evanovich, E.L. James, and Stephen King - who are not only well known, but who also got their start in a non-traditional way. As did Edgar Allen Poe. Irma Rombauer, of The Joy of Cooking fame, is another who started out on her own. Mark Twain opened his own publishing house to print his stories. The list of those who took a “different path to print” is long, and has many more bestselling authors on it than the ones I listed here.
The biggest element, by far, in the decline of traditional houses and the corresponding rise of the independent author, has been the Internet. Social media has had a huge impact. Authors no longer need to rely exclusively on print media to get their names, and book titles, out there. The ebook business has replaced a sizeable portion of the in-print book buying market. There are a few genres (children’s books being one) that are impacted less than the others by ebooks, but the book buying public no longer buys hard and paperback books the way it used to. All kinds of tutorials are available online if an author wants to “do it all” him or herself. And the internet is also a great resource for authors looking to farm out parts of the process they don’t feel comfortable with. Professional editors, copywriters, appraisers, agents, publicists, marketers, and publishers can all be found via the internet.
Self Publishing is a route many authors take to publish their work. The TV ads I mentioned above are in this category of publishers. They sell authors a package of services, that can cost anywhere from hundreds of dollars to $6,000, and more. Most of the time the package provides the ISBN, copyright, design and formatting of the book, printing, and listing the book with retail sites. But many things are not usually included - like editing, proofreading, or expanded distribution. Marketing is usually left largely to the author. These “additional” parts of the process can also be purchased, but there are additional costs for each. Hence the price range mentioned. And the author signs a contract that may restrict their rights to their own work. By choosing this route an author can be free of the things they don’t feel comfortable doing, or don’t have the training to do themselves. But they will pay for the assistance.
Indie publishing is where you pretty much do everything yourself. You are, in fact, your own publisher. You do your own editing, proofreading, marketing, distribution, etc. If you choose this route, and are like the vast majority of Indie writers, the one thing you will probably not do yourself is the printing. So there are companies out there now that were created expressly for this purpose. Some examples of those are Smashwords; IngramSpark; and CreateSpace, which is an Amazon company. These companies provide both ebooks and print-on-demand books.
I consider my publisher a combination of Self and Indie publishing. I believe he was the first to do Independent Assisted Publishing, and may have even coined this phrase. I had sent him a copy of my manuscript and he and I emailed each other countless times over the course of a week or so. I asked many questions about his company, the publishing process. He never “didn’t answer” a question I posed – he answered each without ever asking me to sign a contract or send him a dime. His company has a menu of services that they can provide, but he made no demand that I buy a package, or any particular service. The first thing I paid for – and it was the best investment I could have made - was an Appraisal of my book. This consisted of a “systematic and objective study of the marketability of the book, as well as an assessment of the revisions, rewrites, upgrades and changes needed to assure that the book would be of the highest quality”. I paid around $300 US for my Appraisal, and it was everything I had hoped it would be. If you’re interested in more information on this, I have another blog that explains the whole Appraisal Process I went through.
I could go on and on about the Self, or Indie, or Independent Assisted Publishing processes. But I get so excited when I talk about it that I end up talking much too long. Suffice it to say I’ve enjoyed every step of my journey so far. Independent Assisted Publishing has opened up a whole new world for me.