DIY – Your Book Project

by Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant. I’ve received many calls and emails from authors, mostly first time authors, who were upset because they used a vanity publisher to publish their book. The result left them with a bad taste in their mouths. They had used services like BookBaby, Lulu and Xlibris. There were several issues noted with these contracts, but the main one that I could pinpoint was that the author failed to read the contract in its entirety, including the fine print. Let’s take a brief look at BookBaby’s TOS/Agreement/Contract. You can also see the full terms by clicking here. As I read through this contract a few things stand out to me as a seasoned author that would not normally stand out to a first-time author, unless of course, you were a contracts lawyer. The agreement states that an agreement is entered into between the company and the author upon initial use of their services. Meaning, if you upload a manuscript, but then decide that you don’t want to use them, it just may be too late. This is a legal and binding agreement. Pay attention to that third paragraph written in bold. It means if you or a representative or any one acting on your behalf, utilizes any portion of the service, you are liable whether “use” was a mistake or not. It does clarify that you should read the terms carefully and in their entirety. Bookbaby may, at any time, make changes to your terms by posting a notice on their website. So if you’re not a frequent website visitor, you could miss out on pertinent information and changes. They also state that if the changes are unsatisfactory, your ONLY recourse is to terminate your contract. It states: “To terminate your Agreement, you must send a Termination Notice to books@bookbaby.com with your username and the email address associated with your account and include in the subject line of your e-mail “Termination of Digital and Print Distribution Agreement.” Your continued use of the Services, following posting of a change notice or new agreement on the Site or otherwise sending you a notice, or Your failure to submit a Termination Notice within fifteen (15) days of the date we provide such notice,, will constitute your binding acceptance of the changes.” Now let’s’ skip down to #4 which is Term and Termination. Terminations are required in the form of a 24-hour written notice. Once you’ve made the request, Bookbaby promises to begin the process of removing your titles and claim it can take up to 4-6 weeks or longer for your books to be removed from retail outlets. It also says, Until we are able to remove such title, the rights and licenses granted under this Agreement will continue to apply to such title. Sections 1, 2, 5, 7, 11, 12, 13,14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22 will survive any termination of this Agreement for any reason. I strongly urge you to go back and read those sections because it is possible that an author may lose rights to their work as well as royalties. In no way am I picking on Bookbaby, because there are other platforms and publishing entities out there that really set out to deceive authors, but Bookbaby happens to be the company that I’ve gotten the most complaints about as of lately. You must be very careful when entering into an agreement with any publisher. In many cases, companies will have their TOS published on their websites. If they do not many will send you a copy upon request. The purpose for this article is to have you, perhaps think about going about the possibility of publishing your book yourself. It’s important to know that the process is going to take a lot of work and a lot of research. Below, I list just a few tips on how to successfully publish your own book. Please keep in mind these are only suggestions and do not include all the steps it would take to publish your work. If I gave you all that information, I would have to charge you a fee, and since I’m retired, I just won’t. Keep in mind that either way, you are going to have to pay money. Whether you pay a publisher or you do it yourself. And something to keep in mind is that some of the biggest expenses incurred in publishing will be editing, book cover creation, ISBN numbers and marketing. I’ll quickly say, you must create a marketing plan and a marketing budget so that expenses do not get out of hand. Some of the steps included in the publishing process are:
  1. Creating a publishing entity – Think of a company name, obtain a business license in that name, open a business banking account, make sure you follow all IRS implications and voilà! You have yourself a publishing company. There are a few more steps but this should get you started in the right direction. 2. Editing – I cannot stress enough, that unless you are an English major and you edit for a living, I would hire an editor to edit your manuscript. Even if you are an English major or an editor, I would still have someone else, a professional editor, edit your work. 3. ISBN/Copyright/Identifiers – Purchase your OWN ISBNs, obtain your copyright, Library of Congress and any other identifiers needed for your manuscript. This information is what your social security number is to your survival. 4. Cover Design – You could find a template online, but if you really want your book to stand out and not look like others, hire a professional cover artist. If you are professional graphic designer like myself, you may be able to make your own book cover. 5. Marketing – Keep in mind that the marketing process does not start when you publish your book, it starts months before. Make sure you create a marketing plan and a budget so expenses don’t get out of control. Consider whether you will have marketing material or if you will pay someone to the marketing for you all together. Never miss the opportunity to use free resource, such as social media, to market your work. 6. Printing/Distribution – Be careful when it comes to choosing printing and distribution. I use several printing and distribution options with my work, but keep in mind that Ingram is the largest distribution in the world. Companies such as Lightning Source and Ingram Spark use Ingram because they are sister companies of Ingram. Amazon has various printing and distribution channels but there are fees associated with them.
These are just a few tips to help you get started in the DIY process of publishing your own book. I cannot stress enough how important it is to research, research, and research some more. Attend workshops, seminars, webinars, and other events that teach authors how to publish. Follow your favorite authors. Many of them give valuable information and tips on how to become an author, what not to do, and who to avoid. Do not leave your manuscript to chance by putting it in someone else’s hands.

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