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On The Up-and-Up

Authors are creators. They want to write. What they don’t want to do is publish or market their books and this unfortunately leads to them being prime candidates for falling victim to the scams rife in the publishing industry. My heart breaks each time I receive a book which has been through a publishing process but there is no copyright page or there are more than three spelling / grammar errors on page one. I know they have paid thousands of rands to see their dream become a reality, but when they try to sell their books, they can’t because of the terrible quality of the product. They are never going to get that money back and are probably frightened away from the industry altogether.

Being an author is hard, hard work, but we do it because it is a passion. We need to tell our stories and we want others to enjoy and learn from them. So how are you, as a creative, going to ensure that your product is the best it can be and then avoid those awful scammers trying to steal not only your money (and sometimes even your manuscript), but also the months of hard work you have put into your creation?

In order to publish a book (physical or electronic) you need a manuscript (your words in a document); an editor to critically review your words and check your facts and time to make the necessary corrections; a professional book cover designer and formatter (NO! you cannot use any old designer as dimensions and colour set up are very important); a proofreader (who is not your Mom or a friend you think has a good vocabulary) to check the manuscript to make sure that there are no silly errors left behind after you have done the editors recommended changes and that the wording on the cover is correct; and a way of producing the final product – the ebook and /or the printed version. After you have done all of that, you need to sell the book…..more about that in future articles.

Now you have an idea of what is required, we can chat about what we call ‘vanity’ publishers. These are the scam artists mentioned earlier. They will charge you money, probably significant amounts of money, to publish your book. Think for a moment about the word ‘vanity’ – what does it mean? says ‘excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.; character or quality of being vain; conceit’ Does this sound appealing? I think not! These publishers are playing on YOUR vanity so that you will pay whatever amount they ask to publish your book. How are you going to avoid them?

First step is to check if they are on a blacklist such as this one from Writer Beware. There are many websites listing companies claiming to be publishing houses, who actually are not – Google is your friend, ASK. Carrying on with Google, do a search on the company / contractor you are planning to use. Do they have a website? Is there a proper email address (not gmail, yahoo or any other provider not linked to the name of the web site) associated with the site for inquiries? See what they have done. Pick an author or two, find them and ask them questions about the service they received from that publisher. You are an author, so you should know that in general, authors are happy to share this type of information with other authors. Did the publisher deliver everything they promised within the timeline stipulated? What was the quality of the final product? What is the feedback they are receiving from their readers on the quality of the publication (not the content, the final product). Join some author groups and check out the lay of the land. Ask for advice or recommendations – but ALWAYS do your research.

If you are going to pay someone for a service, make sure that they are great at what they do. Don’t be pulled into ‘vanity’ by promises from companies you don’t know; don’t hand over your hard earned cash before you are sure you are working with the right people. And MOST IMPORTANT, ensure there is some kind of non-disclosure agreement between you and whoever you choose to work with. You don’t want to find your words under someone else’s name…….

Indie Authors Networking meets once a month at Skoobs Theatre of Books, Montecasino, Fourways, Johannesburg.

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