Assisted or Unassisted…That is the Question

assisted self publishing

Writing a quality book is a monumental task. Nobody can deny that.

By James A. Rose

Perhaps an even tougher challenge is getting that book to not only sell but sell well. An independent author must wear even more hats than Queen Elizabeth II.

After writing the manuscript comes design, sales, marketing, distribution, customer relations, etc. Oh yeah, and writing the next book. This insane workload is the reason assisted self-publishing exists.

However, as with almost every aspect of publishing, there are conflicting terms and opinions as to what constitutes assisted self-publishing and which route is best to take.

Assisted self publishing options

The most common definition of assisted self-publishing is comprised of two options an author can choose. One option being the purchase of services, usually in package form, from a company and the other is the hiring of a book coach.

Even the term “book coach” can be confusing as I have also heard it referred to as “book shepherd”. I would submit that there is a third choice for assisted self-publishing that involves an author hiring experts without the help of an intermediary.

Unless you have very deep pockets, this third path is likely your best choice.

Assisted self-publishing companies have received a lot of bad press referencing them as scams, and to some extent this reputation is deserved but there are some reputable operations out there.

The problem with buying a service package from a company is that you will not have contact with any of the actual service providers. The company will handle all the hiring.

I know that this reduced responsibility is the main reason for going the assisted route but I’m the type of person that likes a little more control over the process. A good company will have good staff on retainer but it still makes me a little nervous.

Then there is also the fact that a company will be the most expensive option. And I know that good assisted publishing companies should allow you to pick and choose the services you need but if you only need one or two things, then what’s the point? You might as well handle it yourself.

Some of these companies, even the reputable ones, will require fifteen percent of royalties. First, let me say that if this royalty agreement is permanent, run for the hills.

A temporary royalty agreement may be acceptable if you have hired the best and have peace of mind knowing that your book will be on par with those produced by traditional publishers.

One situation where an assisted self-publishing company may be the best option is when the author knows he will be cranking out a lot of books. In this instance it may behoove the author to find a great company and begin establishing a long term relationship.

The author will be essentially creating a similar arrangement to traditional publishing. Every time the author finishes a manuscript, he just hands it over to the company and after a well-deserved break can get right back in to writing the next book.

Somewhat cheaper but just as effective in my opinion as an assisted publishing company is a book coach.

This is a professional, many of whom have worked previously for traditional publishers, and know exactly what is needed to self-publish a professional level book. Book coaches will work closely with you so you can be more “hands on” in the birth of your baby.

A good book coach should already have industry contacts in place for production and promotion. They can save you the time of having to vet contractors. While typically cheaper than a company, they are still somewhat expensive.

I have heard of book coaches that do require royalties and some that don’t. The ones that don’t will likely have higher fees. Similarly to contracting with a company, only sign a royalty agreement if this person has a stellar reputation and time is way more important to you than money, and even then it should only be a temporary agreement.

For those of us on a budget, the classic definition of assisted self-publishing is most likely out of the question. However, I feel that DIY self-publishing is actually assisted if you hire contractors to handle certain aspects of the publishing process.

All the ins, outs and legalities involved with bringing a book to market are things every author should be familiar with anyway so if you go completely hands off then you will be depriving yourself of much needed knowledge and experience.

With a little legwork you can find excellent freelancers and save a ton of money over assisted. If your book is a hit you will be able to afford assisted on your next book and if you don’t make it big, you’ll be glad you didn’t spend ten grand or more bringing your book to market.

Keep in mind that the two areas to absolutely not go cheap on are editing and cover design.

Marketing is what authors need assistance with above all else and ironically, marketing will be the one task an assisted publishing service will not do, or at least won’t do well. Marketing is not just the establishment of a few social accounts and blog. True book marketing is a long term and time intensive effort.

There are three ways that companies and coaches handle marketing. Affordable and honest assisted services won’t offer it. Liars will offer it for a seemingly reasonable (but still expensive) price and won’t do anything worthwhile. Top quality assisted self-publishing services will do a great job and charge the heck out of you. The reality is that most indie authors will be doing their own marketing.

Conclusion

You have probably surmised by now that I am not the biggest fan of assisted self-publishing. That is not to say I am against the basic concept but more that I am against assisted publishing on a budget. I just don’t believe it really exists.

The author either pays a premium for the best of the best or they get ripped off. If you have found otherwise, please share in the comments. If you are intent on going the assisted route, here is a great article on what to look for in a company or coach.

James RoseJames A. Rose is a writer for InstantPublisher.com, a self-publishing company that specializes in transforming author dreams into reality. We have been providing exceptional and affordable service to writers for the past 15 years. No matter what type of book you want to create, Instant Publisher will be with you every step of the way to ensure the process is efficient and painless. We’re not happy until you’re happy.

Facebook.com/InstantPublisher
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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

One thought on “Assisted or Unassisted…That is the Question

  • I’ve just gone through the entire process on my own, from sitting down to write my first word of my first book (summer 2014) all the way to hitting the “publish” button on Kindle (December 2015). Along the way I’ve read everything I could about how to avoid the pitfalls of being totally on my own on this journey. If I didn’t care about the quality of my product and was only publishing for myself it would be easy to just be done with it. To some extent I was OK publishing my e-version of my book, because I could update the file at any point from now until infinity. If I found a spelling error for instance, I could fix it. The problem for me was the print version. When I was sitting here with my proof I realized the version I approved for print would be eternal. Not to be dramatic about it, but it gave me pause that I was attaching my name to something that might not be absolutely perfect. Worse, I was asking for people to pay good money for it.

    But at the end of the day it comes down to money. If I had the money to pay for editing and other services perhaps I would. At the same time, I’m a much better writer now than I was last year. My skills at self-pub will grow as well. So maybe the investment in time is the payoff for us indies.

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