Self-publishing is only recently becoming a legitimate option for ordinary writers to share their works. There are many pros and cons of using a self-publishing service. Though the author gets to have more control over the entire process, this means that there are no professional agents, editors, and designers helping the book develop. It also sacrifices professional advertising and large reach to personal advertising and quick delivery. Many writers choose self-publishing because they get to publish their story quickly and exactly the way they wrote it.
At the start of my project, I considered both self-publishing and traditional publishing options. I initially decided on self-publishing because I wanted control over the whole process and to receive a physical book in time for my presentation December 2020. When the pandemic messed up my schedule and I realized I would not finish the book in 2020, I decided self-publishing would be the way to go because as an ambitious first publishing endeavor, I still wanted full control over my book and my audience. Even if this meant I won’t reach as many readers as a large publisher potentially could, my book will still be “real” and available for anyone to read.
I considered three different self-publishing platforms for this project. One was Kindle Direct Publishing from Amazon.
Though I had never self-published through Amazon, my friend C.T. Henderson had, and the children’s book I collaborated on with him is available through their service. Based on this book, I knew that their products were of a good quality, and for a cheaper price than the other self-publishing services I knew. However, Amazon had a more confusing policy on author royalties, and authors also did not make as high of a percentage on sales as competitor Lulu, so that was the service I preferred.
Previously, I published a book through Lulu, but have since taken it down because I decided it was not ready for readers when I put it up. I found it an easy service to use, and appreciated its straightforward explanation of royalties, tax, formatting, etc. From experience, though, I knew Lulu paperback covers were not too sturdy after much wear. Another issue was that selling books on Lulu (like any self-publisher) became expensive for the buyer. Lulu gives the option of putting a book on sale, but while that would make the price reasonable for buyers, I would only make pocket change off each copy sold. I ordered a copy of my draft from Lulu to see how it would turn out.
The final service I looked at was Blurb, which I used to make my graphic design portfolio.
Blurb is handy for trained designers because it has an Indesign plugin and many options for different materials and costs. I ordered both an “economy color” copy and a “standard color” copy of my book from Blurb to compare the quality. The Economy book was much cheaper than the Lulu book, but it was not recommended for graphic novels. The Standard book was recommended for graphic novels, but was the most expensive option of any of the services.
I was so excited when my three rough draft copies arrived, because even if they were full of unfinished art, they looked like real books! The first to arrive was the Blurb Economy book, which I didn’t even realize, because the quality was much higher than I ever anticipated. Even though the material was not recommended for graphic novels, every page was legible, and though the colors were muted and the pages thin, I saw no bleed-through or smudging. I ordered extra copies of this version because they were cheap and I could lend them out, write notes in them, and pretend I had a library. The Standard copy was even nicer, with bold, rich colors and thick matte pages. The Lulu book, unlike the Blurb books, came with glossy pages, which I appreciated.
Though the Blurb Standard book was the nicest bound of them all, I believed the quality of the Lulu one was more worthwhile for its lower price. As of now, I have decided to split my orders between the Blurb Economy book and the Lulu book so that readers can choose a more cost-effective option if necessary. I can’t wait to finish the next draft so I can send it out to print and examine how the final artwork looks with the two options. But in the meantime, I have my lovely rough drafts to keep me company.
Great references for other creative people who are considering the self-publication route.