I often receive emails from people asking me to call them and teach them how to get started with eBay or publishing. While I’m not quite sure why these people think I would want to call a random stranger, I always try to reply to these queries in some form. My answer is always the same: I won’t call you but if you want to email your questions over, I will answer them in a blog post so that everyone benefits.

I actually have no problem answering questions. I love helping people with what I know. I just don’t have the time to individually call every random person so I would rather answer in a way that benefits more than one person hence the request to answer on my blog.

Usually the response I get to this is a whining, “But why can’t you just call me?” or no answer at all but this time someone actually replied with the questions so, dutifully, I will answer them below.

Let’s talk about self-publishing with a first time author from Canada.

I am a first time Canadian author looking to self publish. From all the research done on the Internet, most of the big time POD publishers like iUniverse, Outskirts or for that Lightning Source, are American. The packages are attractive and you get listed on all the big ones like Amazon, B&N, etc. However my target audience is very Canadian. The book deals with the current Canadian Social-Political scene and hence would not benefit from exposure online other than Amazon.ca and Chapters.ca. So, would it make sense to stick to a local Canadian publisher? It would help in saving on costs (shipping, taxes, etc)

OK, time out. iUniverse and Outskirts are both vanity presses. You’ll find that a lot of vanity presses call themselves “self-publishing companies” because it fools a lot of people and let’s them charge you out the nose. When self-publishing, if you are paying for anything other than printing or additional things you specifically decided to purchase (such as cover design or editing), you are getting hosed. If you are paying to have your book “self-published” you aren’t self-publishing, that’s a vanity press.

Your best option for your case is CreateSpace. This will get you right onto Amazon.ca (as well as all the international Amazons which is not a bad thing) and there is no cost for this as they just take the printing cost of your book out of the sale price when it sells. There is the option to enter into their program which lowers the cost of your book which does cost a fee but, unless you have a ton of faith in your marketing plan and are certain you will make enough to cover this fee, I wouldn’t bother with this for a first book.

This also gets you the freedom to, if the book does well, opt for more extended distribution later with something like Lightning Source Inc. (LSI is biggest POD distributor and is worldwide, not US only. All those other self-publishing companies and vanity presses are actually just using LSI so cut out the middle man and deal with LSI directly for the least costs). Frankly, it will actually be easier for you with a niche market book like yours is if you can focus all your marketing efforts on one bookstore (in this case Amazon.ca). Since placement in other stores isn’t important to you, this allows you to take the least expensive path.

Also, because there are no costs with publishing on CreateSpace, you aren’t risking anything if the book doesn’t sell well so it’s a great way to learn without wasting money.

Being a first time self-publisher, is it advisable to go with someone like iUniverse who would do all the ground work (layout, design, ISBN, Barcode, printing, etc)? This, as compared to the option of doing everything myself, registering as a publishing company and going to a large POD printer like Lightning source?

Again, iUniverse is a middle man so even if the price for their service looks attractive, you are paying on the back end as they mark up the shipping, printing and commission on your book so you will make less on every single book going with any self-publishing company or vanity press not to mention that some of them have the audacity to charge you a fee for the “advantage” of making less for having to use their service. It is never better to go with a middle man company like that.

The best option is to always opt for true self-publishing: setting up your own publisher company, getting your ISBNs etc. That said, as a first time author, I wouldn’t recommend going that route yet. Using a site like CreateSpace lets you dip your toe into the water without having to go through the expense and hassle of registering a business, paying for ISBNs, etc until you know if this is worth the time and money. If you find that you are very good at marketing your titles and are making enough to warrant spending money on building your company, then you should go for it. But I would not recommend jumping into that process until you have done a test book first and seen whether sales are good enough to warrant the leap. It’s a great way to learn about the process without wasting time and money.

I do strongly recommend a few things, however. You may want to secure the services of: an editor, a cover designer and someone to help with the layout. Unless you are 100% certain that you are highly skilled with design, it is inadvisable to design your own cover or layout your own book. And, even if you are the best writer in the world, you still need another set of eyes on your work to make sure it is free of errors.

Instead of wasting your money on a middle man company or vanity press, use that money on services like editing and design that will help your book even more in the long run by making it the best possible product.

Just make sure that when you select your layout person or designer that they are familiar with the company you are going to use for your printer. If you opt for CreateSpace, for instance, make sure the designer is familiar with the needs of CreateSpace and get set up the book properly for use with that company. That will ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Any other advise for this author? Share it in the comments.

Do you have a question about e-commerce, eBay, self-publishing or anything else related to this blog that you’d like to hear my answer on? Send it to me and I would be happy to answer it on the blog. I’d love for this to become a regular features.