It’s Day three thousand and sixty-four in the #AtoZChallenge and … okay, maybe I exaggerate. The good news is, we’re on the home run now, and the end is in sight. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with myself every morning when this is over. I might even have to, you know, actually write a book or something. Yikes! But let’s not worry about that just yet. Today is Saturday and we’ve reached the letter V. V is for:
So we’ll start today’s post with quite a thorny issue. Vanity publishing. Ugh! Now, some people get quite confused about what, exactly, vanity publishing is. When it’s explained to them that it means the author will pay to have their book published, instead of being paid by a publisher, they get even more confused. Isn’t that, then, self-publishing? No!
When you self-publish a book you do have to pay out some money. It can’t really be avoided if you want a professional looking product. I’ve talked before about the cost of editing and proofreading and cover design. There are some things you can do to keep costs as low as possible, but you’ll still have to pay something. But when you actually publish your book, it is possible to do so for free. You can upload it to Amazon’s KDP and there’s no charge for doing so. If you choose a different service, instead of, or as well as, such as IngramSpark, then yes, there’s a small upfront charge. But I mean small. I don’t mean thousands of pounds. And that’s what a vanity publisher may well ask from you.
You think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. There are plenty of cases where this has happened. Vanity publishers advertise in various papers and journals, and unless you’re very careful it’s easy to believe that they’re traditional publishers. So you send off your manuscript and you get the letter or email, or whatever, that you’ve been dreaming of. Someone wants to publish your book! Except, when you start to read the details, you’ll discover that it comes at a cost. You’ll need to pay a “contribution”, and that contribution could cost you an arm and a leg.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, you’ll get very little for your money. Yes, you may get copies of your book which may or may not be of a decent standard. But that’s it. There’ll be no marketing involved, no distribution to shops, nothing to help you get your book “out there”. That’s because the vanity publisher has no interest in selling your book. They’ve already made their cash from your upfront “contribution”, so why should they care what happens to your product now?
With self-publishing, you’re in charge. Yes, it’s down to you to arrange distribution and marketing, but it hasn’t cost you thousands of pounds to create your precious book, has it?
Now, just to muddy the waters a little, there are reputable self-publishing companies that can charge quite large sums of money to produce your book. I know, I know. Sounds tricky. But there are huge differences between these companies and vanity publishers. You’ll be able to select from a wide range of services, such as cover design and distribution, and you’ll know upfront how much each individual service will cost you. You’ll know exactly what you’re paying for, and you’ll be the one making the decisions, including whether to have a print run, or use a print-on-demand service.
These companies can be an excellent choice for those authors who want to self-publish but would rather have someone holding their hand all the way through. The quality of the books produced is often on a par with traditional publishers, and many of the companies are also able to distribute your books to book shops. So, to be clear, these self-publishing services are NOT vanity presses!
Well-known and reputable examples of this sort of service are Matador and SilverWood Books, but there are many others. I have never used one, so can’t comment on them or recommend any of them. What I would say is to do your research, read independent reviews, speak to people who have used them. And be clear, these “author service” or self-publishing companies won’t charge you anywhere near as much as a vanity publisher will, and you’ll always know exactly where the money’s going and why, but it’s still much cheaper to learn to do all this stuff yourself. Please choose carefully and don’t fall for the scams. Author beware!
If you’re an indie author, whether new or established, you’ll more than likely have heard of Vellum. Vellum is a piece of software that makes formatting ebooks and paperbacks easy-peasy. Apparently. Now, I’ve never actually used it, but more and more I’m hearing that Vellum is THE software to use if you want beautifully formatted books without the headaches and angry tears that usually come with such tasks.
There is, of course, one fly in the ointment. Well, two if you’re a PC user. Vellum comes at a cost. $199.99 or, if you want to produce paperbacks as well as eBooks, $249.99. Yep, not cheap, is it? Second fly is, it’s only available for Macs. I know! I hate Macs. With huge apologies to all Mac users out there, I really do.
I tried. I bought myself a MacBook Air last year, when my laptop started playing up. It was a thing of beauty, it really was. All neat and cute and gold. Gold! I loved it. But when I tried to use it … aarrgghh! I just couldn’t get on with it at all, and I speak as one who currently has an iPhone and an iPad. I sold the MacBook Air earlier this year and bought myself a trusty HP laptop (although most of my work is done on a desktop computer, which I much prefer).
So, I sold the MacBook Air, and then I started hearing more and more about Vellum, and I thought, “That could be the answer to my problems!” and then I heard, “But it’s only for Mac users,” and I thought, “Well, isn’t that just flipping typical?” I might not have said flipping, but let’s not go into that.
But, if you’re like me, devoted to your PC, you needn’t despair. Why not, I hear you ask? Well, because there is – and I can’t believe this myself, but it’s true – such a thing as Macincloud. I know! Who’d have thought it? You download this programme and basically, your PC becomes a Mac. Which means you can run Vellum on it! And the best part about it is, once you’ve finished working on Vellum, you can switch back to your lovely PC again and stroke it lovingly and tell it that you never really left it, and the beastly Macincloud meant nothing to you. Nothing.
Vellum is the piece of formatting software that I’ve heard talked about and recommended more than any other. I’ve watched some demos and, I must admit, it looks really good. The finished products look beautiful and, most importantly, it seems fairly straightforward. I haven’t taken the plunge yet because I want to investigate this whole Macincloud thing a bit more first. If any of you have used either Macincloud or Vellum, I’d love to know what your experience of this has been, so do please leave a comment or, if you’d prefer, just message me. There’s more information about Vellum here and about Macincloud here, plus a post about using Vellum on a PC here.
Having said that, not everyone’s a convert, and there are alternatives, which is particularly important if you’re on a tight budget. I mentioned Jutoh in a previous post, and Draft2Digital here, but there are others, such as Book Design Templates, or Scrivener (I write my first drafts in Scrivener but I’ve never attempted to format in it). Alternatively you can seek help on Fiverr or (and I’m going to try this first myself before I spend any more money) use this free book formatting resource on Reedsy!
Or, you could just do what I do at the moment, which is fathom out how to make a basic template on Word and use that for free! It takes a lot of practice, but it does the job, and it costs nothing, which is particularly important when you’re making nothing from your writing so can’t justify investing too much money in it. There’s also help and information on KDP Select about formatting your paperback and resources to help you create your ebook. So, there are free methods to get your book out there. It really does depend how much money you have to spend, if any, and how much of your budget you want to invest in formatting. It’s good to know you have options!
Okay, that’s me done for today. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend. Please stay safe and I’ll see you all again on Monday, when we’ll have reached the letter W. Wow! (No, I haven’t started already, I was just saying “wow” because … oh never mind.) See you then!