The second most important thing to becoming an independent author is to research your options. (The first is, of course, to write, but that is an entry for another time.) I spent a lot of time doing google searches for the “right” publishing company, trying to decide whether to stick with a traditional publisher or strike out on my own with a print-on-demand company.
Although I wouldn’t call my writing “niche writing,” I had to acknowledge the fact that most traditional publishing houses (what many Indie Authors now call Dead-Tree Houses) only publish a small percentage of the manuscripts they receive based almost solely on what they believe to be the marketability of said manuscript. By going that route I would spend a lot of wasted time and money submitting manuscripts and waiting (not to mention getting enough rejection slips to paper my office). That sounded less than enjoyable, especially considering most writers harbor enough anxious energy about their manuscripts to power a small town.
That left print-on-demand, which also didn’t please me. After all, didn’t self-published equal poor quality? As I soon discovered through an even longer search on the subjects of independent authors and print-on-demand that wasn’t necessarily true. The quality of the product depends entirely on the energy the author/publisher puts into it. I was surprised and elated to find that print-on-demand has been quickly racing toward respectability due to an effort of independent authors like myself who refuse to sacrifice quality just to get into print.
The next issue I needed to resolve before making a decision was the difference between print-on-demand companies and vanity presses. Vanity presses require money up front and leave you with boxes of books in your garage you have to sell on your own. Print-on-demand companies don’t require money up front and only print your book when someone orders one, so you don’t have to warehouse them. The print-on-demand company takes a percentage of each book sold to cover their costs. In both cases, though, the author is responsible for marketing the book to the public. For me, I decided a print-on-demand company was the better deal because I don’t have money to spend on a large run of books, nor do I have the space to warehouse them.
From there it was narrowing the choice from a variety of companies with different offerings to one that best suited my current needs. After another long round of research, I settled on a company called Lulu.com. Most indie authors that had used them liked them because their site is user-friendly and they print quality items.
I finished writing (and editing, and revising, and editing, etc. etc.) my first book, formatted it to Lulu’s specifications, designed my cover and finally went through the process of uploading it all to their site. After going over the author’s copy they sent to me (for a low price of $6.07) and approving it for print, I now have a book I’m happy with. The process of uploading and approving the book wasn’t as user-friendly as I’d hoped, but it wasn’t a week-long nightmarish struggle, either.
As I continue to blog, I’ll fill in the details of my experiences with using a print-on-demand company, as well as giving some links to resources I’ve found very helpful along the way.