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Too often, I receive queries from authors who have opted into self-publishing their first book, only to see that they have made a huge mistake in the way they have gone about it. Here’s one recent email I received that shows just how easy it is to make a decision that may adversely affect your career as an author:

“My first book was originally published through [company name withheld]. I should have done my homework. They talked me into things I never would have done, priced my book so high that no one would want to buy it, and when I asked for my high resolution files back so I could self publish my own book, they pulled my book off of Barnes and Noble and Amazon. I should have done my homework and read the reviews on them before publishing with them.”

So, what’s an author to do? If you’re thinking about self-publishing, here are three common pitfalls to avoid.

1. Know the difference between “subsidized publishing” and true “self-publishing.”

Most of the “self-publishing” companies on the Internet are actually “subsidized publishing” companies – what used to be derogatively called “vanity publishers.” They will publish any book – for a fee. These companies also own the book’s ISBN number, as well as the files – which essentially means they own your work and if you ever want your files back – good luck.

2. Don’t be fooled by low prices.

Most often, the stated price for publishing your book is low enough to entice even the most budget-restricted author. But once you’ve contracted with them you may find that certain essentials were not included in the original fee and that you may be in for quite a lot more money when all is said and done.

Additionally, these companies offer you what they deem a high “royalty rate” — the percentage of money you receive from each book sold. Trouble is, as seen with the author above, they price the book so high that you have little chance of actually making sales. Furthermore, that “generous” royalty rate is what you will get on net sales – not the stated price on the book. That means that they will deduct all sorts of fees until the actual net sale is so low as to be meaningless.

3. Understand the process of self-publishing.

True self-publishing means that you own your ISBN, you own all your book’s files, you set the price of your book, and you keep 100% of your earnings. In essence, you are the captain of your ship.

However, taking on all the tasks of publishing a book is daunting to most authors. You will need to find an experienced cover designer, interior designer, copyeditor, proofreader, e-book formatter, and then figure out how to navigate through the various print-on-demand and electronic services to get your book listed.

DIY self-publishing is an extremely time-consuming task that most authors either don’t have the expertise or the patience for. In that case you’ll need to find a production manager to handle the entire process. Ideally, your editor should have this expertise and be able to handle this service. If not, he or she should be able to recommend you to a trusted source.

After 25+ years in the publishing industry, I’ve helped many authors self-publish their books, and most recently, have published them under my imprint Station Square Media. As a selective imprint for the most accomplished authors, Station Square Media helps self-published authors enjoy the benefits of a traditional publisher while still retaining full control of their work.

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