Today I counselled a young author (both in years and publications) as to how to go about self-publishing.
He has exactly the same issues I had the first time round.
He is afraid someone will steal his work. So afraid that he doesn't even dare hand a file to me for consideration. Not even if I offer to co-publish him - one of the ways in which P'kaboo, who is not currently accepting full submissions, can still support new authors and get them going. Co-publishing is gentler than self-publishing in that the publisher does take responsibility for part of the cost, and of course for the process (quality control & the works).
He talks of selling his car so he can print a big run of 2000 books. O my hat! And that without having any idea where to start with marketing and distribution? Without knowing whom to approach for printing - and what it means to police the quality of printers in South Africa? And he would have possibly run with us co-publishing his work... if we could get it done in a month.
If I wait for a proof for six weeks from the printer that gives me the best prices by a margin, just to discover the proof is still seriously flawed... how can I promise an author to deliver his print run in a month? And that would include the editing - which is a highly interactive process with our expert editor, who is set apart from other editors by the fact that he works closely with the authors; and it would also include the process of generating a cover graphic.
Which he had - of sorts. The colours: Striking. But the whole effect was confusing, and needs streamlining. This is generally what happens when people try to do it themselves instead of leaving it to those who earn their bread and butter with that art. A cover is an advertisement. It has to have an immediate, strong message and must still make sense if it's the size of a thumbnail graphic online.
And then the layout... I've seen this in many self-published ebooks, they are basically manuscripts. Formatting = Zero. One should think that the authors have never yet read a shop-bought book in their lives... one needs paragraphs, margins, indents etc etc. Tricks such as font size, margin size, gutter... how to make a book easier on the eye.
It got me thinking that I ought to put a brochure on P'kaboo, with tips for self-publishing authors on how the process works, what to watch out for, where the short-cuts are... but for wailing, the most difficult part of self-publishing is the actual publicity!
Can I call myself a veteran yet? With the third and fourth books in the Solar Wind series ready for publishing, one in the proofing phase and one at the cover graphic stage, and with five other authors aboard (ok that includes my own hubby but it also includes a high-profile musician in Cali and a poetess in Scotland) and two waiting in the wings (once again, one is a person close to me; the other a previously published and self-published author!) can I say that my P'kaboo initiative has been growing, quietly but steadily? With our books in around 50 music shops around the country and a couple of dozen bookshops, can I say we have distribution? With reviews in the local Rekord, in the Your Family and online, can I say we have (some) publicity?
Not enough, not enough, not enough!!!
What is missing? The big money, the big distribution. Only one of our books so far is in CNA; only one in Top Books. Exclusive's remain elusive. The trouble is the pricing. Just too much to leave a decent margin for distribution agents. But we shall persevere, and we shall prevail.
Anyway our website is much cuter than any of those other online sites for publishing/self-publishing. But it's not yet very interactive.
It has been suggested that I write out writing competitions for P'kaboo... I'm trying to figure out how to do this legally.