There's no doubt that a good book deserves a professional service but most new authors - many with works of potential excellence - will know that their precious title is littering the floors of traditional publishing houses and will never see the light of day.
More and more often, with staff and cost cuts in the publishing industry, typos and errors are creeping into professionally-published manuscripts and many companies are reluctant to fork-out a percentage of their ever-decreasing marketing budget on their authors. Some of the smaller organisations have no marketing budget at all. The burden of promotion and proofing are therefore left almost exclusively to the author.
DIY publishing has been made easy and cost-free by the likes of Amazon and Smashwords but, with so much choice on the market, books are judged by their cover. A bad cover design can let an author down as can a poorly edited manuscript.
Then there's the marketing and publicity of a book to get it seen. This, to most authors I have spoken to (conventionally and self-published), is where the real work begins. Months of endless networking, press releases and author interviews doesn't necessarily equate to sales, unless you're an established author with a strong fan base. I've also heard a lot of traditionally published authors complain that they have been forced to take responsibility for the promotion of their own works as publishing houses invest time and expense on other services and their better-established authors.
So, if a book's worth publishing and an author is prepared to put in vast amounts of time and effort, why do we shudder at the thought of paying out cash for professional services?
I know a good few traditionally published authors who are finding the DIY publishing model far more lucrative. I don't know any of them who do not pay for a professional editing service. Similarly, most of them fork out for a good cover designer. They do this to maintain the standard of excellent quality that readers expect from them and will continue to buy into. Some of those authors pay for the services of a publicist to professionally market their product.
Unscrupulous vanity publishers (and that's not a syllogistic statement) have ruined perceptions on paying for publishing. The stigma attached to vanity and the warnings against them are a good reason to stay well clear. Jonathon Clifford, on his excellent site Vanity Publishing: A Campaign for Truth and Honesty makes it very clear what a good vanity publisher will NOT do: http://vanitypublishing.info/agoodvpwillnot.htm
So what's the alternative? Is there a middle road to publishing between conventional and DIY?
I've been speaking to Matthew Smith (pictured right), director of Urbane Publications, a Kent-based company that calls itself a 'collaborative' publishing house: an organisation of professional book people who share the costs of publishing a book with the author in a mutually beneficial contract. He calls it The Third Way.
I'm not advocating their services but am curious as to the effectiveness of their delivery. Are they a brand new business model for the industry or just another vanity publisher under a different guise? If they are what they say on the tin, then this is indeed an exciting time for publishing.
Matthew Smith certainly puts up a compelling argument that his Third Way approach is the way forward. He says: '[There is a Third Way] that combines all the benefits of traditional publishing (an engaged editor, script development, knowledge, design, route to market, promotion etc) but gives the author creative and commercial engagement during every part of the process. Every aspect of the project is a shared experience with shared goals, a genuine partnership. And that includes the sharing of the revenue, because every author deserves a fair return on their words.'
If you're interested in learning more, pop over to my Ivy Moon Press site and decide for yourself.