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The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark…

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing (edition 2011)

by Mark Levine

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579207,436 (4.42)None
Title:The Fine Print of Self-Publishing
Authors:Mark Levine
Info:Bascom Hill Publishing Group (2011), Edition: 4, Kindle Edition, 315 pages
Collections:Your library, Reviewed

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The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Fourth Edition - Everything You Need to Know About the Costs, Contracts, and Process of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine



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Levine provides a detailed list of how to evaluate a publishers contract including what to expect when you actually get paid. His ease of description provides understanding of the legal aspects of contract jargon.

His groupings of publishers show author friendly contracts.

His inclusion of Xulon Press as one of the best publishers was disappointing after I researched their website. Vanity press comes to my mind, yet his approval for them did not indicate that. I was glad that I had sought other counsel regarding this publisher before accepting his evaluation.

Overall, the list was helpful. He provides a way to compare apples to apples in a market where oranges and peaches can't be found with the apples. A difficult undertaking to warn authors of the legalities of publishing. ( )
  Sonya.Contreras | May 21, 2017 |
You gotta read this before you pick a self publishing company. (ok call it a vanity press if you want)
The lawyer reads all those online agreements that you never read because you are a writer and not a lawyer and tells you which companies will not screw you. Good info if you are a poor writer, like most of us. ( )
  kerns222 | Aug 24, 2016 |
Super-helpful if you are considering paying for a self-publishing package.
If you're intent on figuring it all out yourself and uploading ready-to-go files to Amazon/CreateSpace/wherever, it's not quite as relevant. However, it's still great to get an overview of points to consider and pitfalls to watch out for, including details like whether or not to accept a "free" ISBN number. Clearly, a tonne of work went into compiling this book. I'm glad I read it. ( )
  paulinewiles | Jan 26, 2015 |
Import 11_28_09 ( )
  opus57 | Apr 9, 2013 |
Where I got the book: an author-friend bought it for me at a conference. She said she learned a great deal from the author (who is, of course, also a speaker on the conference circuit because that sells books like nothing else) about what she should expect from a publishing company.

And she's right, in a sense. Some of the points covered in this book could be enlightening to a writer who's hoping to sign with a small press, for example, because even though said press is not actually charging you, Dear Writer, a monetary price for its services, you are paying the considerable price of giving up your rights to your work POSSIBLY TO THE END OF YOUR LIFE AND BEYOND. So this helpful illustration of how you, the writer, are the piece of meat in the grinder of the publishing world may serve as a cautionary tale for the wiser wannabes out there.

The title of this book should probably be "The Fine Print of Assisted Self-Publishing, because that's what we're talking about here. Let me explain the distinction.

- Self-publishing proper = you, the author, make every single decision about your book. You may contract with designers, formatters, editors and so on to ensure the quality you want, or you may do everything yourself. You buy the ISBNs, you upload the books, you keep track of sales and income. You decide how much you're going to spend on these third party contractors.

- Assisted self-publishing = you, the author, sign a contract with a "self-publishing" company and pay it a fee, for which it will perform the services stipulated in the contract. These definitely include publishing your book--often through printer/distributor Lightning Source--and usually but not always include the provision of an ISBN, cover and interior design, and some kind of marketing. The "self-publishing" company, in addition to its fee, takes a printing markup and often some other kind of chunk out of the profit from the book, and pays you, Dear Author, what's left as a "royalty".

Mark Levine sketches out this distinction very briefly, but comes down heavily in favor of assisted self-publishing. "The micromanagement," he declares, of the self-publishing process "can be daunting and impractical...Unless you have the time to self-manage the entire publishing process, you'll probably be sorry once it starts. Like most people, I have a full-time job. I could never spend the amount of time it would take me to manage the publication of each new edition of this book. There are simply too many moving parts, and all of them need to be in sync with each other."

Wow, self-publishing sounds pretty daunting, huh? Especially if you have a full time job. I flip to the back cover and see that Mark Levine's full time job is as CEO of Hillcrest Media Group in Minneapolis, MN, which "provides book publishing, ebook design, printing..." I note that the book is published by Bascom Hill Publishing Group. I google them. Oh lookie, they're a division of Hillcrest Media Group and based in Minneapolis, MN. I turn to the book's Introduction to find exactly which self-publisher Levine uses and find the name of Mill City Press, which by his own admission is owned by Hillcrest. And based at the same address as Bascom Hill. Levine says he doesn't review Mill City in his book "not only because it would be completely unfair, but because Mill City's model is unlike almost all I review here." And he goes on to give a plug, albeit an oblique one, for Mill City. Which may be an absolutely awesome assisted self-publishing company, for all I know. But you'd have to buy another book that reviews Mill City as well as the ones in this book to find out how it compares...

Are you beginning to see how you're the piece of meat, Dear Author? Or perhaps we should think of you as the juicy bone. Now you may have absolutely no writing talent at all, or you may be the next [insert famous name here]. Or you may not be a great writer, but you've produced something that tickles the reading public's interest - there's one almost every year. On the writing spectrum, there's an end where you can pretty sure the book won't sell (and even then there are so-bad-they're-good exceptions) and an end where a book has more than a 50% chance of doing great (celebrity biographies, for example); in between there's a vast sea of risk, where almost any book could, through some mysterious alchemy that no publisher has ever been able to completely understand, make the bestseller charts. These are the juicy bones that may just yield a really good meal.

So who takes the risk? This is where the whole assisted self-publishing industry gets really interesting.

In traditional publishing, the publisher bears all the costs and may even pay the writer an advance. It's a considerable risk per book, and justifies--to some extent--the transfer of rights. Publishers survive and even thrive (seriously, New York offices and expense accounts? It has to be a winning proposition somewhere) because they make enough good bets to keep going, but the risk is all theirs and not the author's.

In self-publishing proper, the risk is all the author's. Every truly self-published author runs the risk of not recouping the cost of producing the book.

In assisted self-publishing, the risk is also all the author's. The self-publishing company must charge a high enough fee to cover costs, or they wouldn't be in business. If the book doesn't sell, they probably just about break even; if it sells (and an author who's paid out money to publish a book generally markets like crazy to make sure it DOES sell) they make a profit. That's just my guess, of course, but somehow I imagine assisted self-publishing companies are not in it as a pro bono exercise.

Back to this book, in which Mark Levine reviews a number of assisted self-published companies that, he asserts, are NOT vanity publishers because "the author is publishing a book in a strategic, well-thought-out, and well-informed way," in other words she's marketing her book. Huh? I've read that section (starting on page 2) several times and I still can't see a difference between the companies reviewed in Levine's book and vanity publishers. In both cases the author pays a fee and receives publication services of varying extent and quality in return.

That aside, Levine IS REVIEWING HIS COMPETITORS. He does it pretty well; by the time you've plowed through his list of outstanding, pretty good, just okay, to-avoid and Worst of the Worst (a chapter that covers just one company which at one point was involved in a lawsuit against Levine - think about it), you'll have a fairly comprehensive idea of what to look out for IF you decide to hand over money for someone else to do your work for you. And plenty of writers do; they're scared they're not smart enough to figure out how to self-publish, they're too lazy to do the work of learning how to self-publish, or they figure that any publishing company that's not them is somehow more prestigious because they can legitimately talk about "my publisher."

All I could think about while I was reading this book was "why in the name of Virginia Woolf" (a self-publisher) "would anybody, after reading this, want to go the assisted route?" The fees! Oh ye gods, the fees! Anything from a few hundred to tens of thousands of $$$ to do something you could project-manage yourself and earn way, way more in royalties. IT ISN'T THAT HARD. Every day more and more writers are successfully self-published all by their widdle selves, without "help" from any kind of company whatsoever. There are endless internet resources to help you.


Oops, sorry, this is a review, isn't it?

Anyway, look. If you're really convinced that you, Dear Juicy Bone Writer, are unfit and incapable of handling the self-publishing process by yourself, this book could be of value. At least you can look up the company whose website you're on and see if it compares well to, say, Mill City, which Mark Levine has been very careful not to review but to which he has carefully drawn your attention. And I think it's great, GREAT, that someone is comparing and rating these companies. Although I would prefer that it not be a competitor. ( )
  JaneSteen | Nov 21, 2012 |
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"Offers a comprehensive guide to the self-publishing world and is a must-read for any author considering self-publishing his book." - publishers description

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