I would like this to be the start of an ongoing post on the perils of publishing. This business is fraught with minefields that cost thousands of dollars, take your rights, and/or rip you off by not delivering what is promised or what we thought was promised.
This forum has a wealth of experience that can help others avoid many of these pitfalls. I don't think that most of these companies are dishonest, but they may not be the best way to get your book out. Remember, when you are talking to one of these companies, you are talking to a salesman. Let me repeat, a salesman. They want to please and some will say anything to get the business.
So lets help each other by collecting our experiences, good and bad, in one place.
Let me start with my own experience. I did a lot of research up front. I was very discouraged until I found ebooks on Amazon and Createspace. These folks are straight up and I'm pleased with the process so far. Book will be out first of December.
I'm also having a wonderful experience with Circle of Seven Productions who are doing my publicity.
I did run into one big pitfall. It's the number of people who will give you honest help, but when added together the cost goes far beyond any expected sales. For instance, cover designers $1500, editors $4000, compilers $699, and publicists $2500. All of these folks are honest business people and do good work but you can spend $10G before you know it. My warning is only use those services you can't do yourself. For me, it the publicist.
What are your experiences with the publishing business?
Here's my advice - Yog's Law: Money flows to the writer. Do not pay for anything. Legitimate Publishers pay you.
Yes, I agree. My experience has been unless you are getting a large advance you have to really consider your options/
I found an excellent resource from the Science Fiction Writers of America that can help us all avoid scams. Of course, it applies to all genres. Here it is: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/.
I've had one Golden Rule and it's never failed me:
"Never pay for anything."
The only exception being if you need professional editing services.
I've been thinking about your post (above) and, given my personality, I disagree. I disagree because "never pay for anything" isn't an option.
If you publish with a traditional press you will get 17.5% or about $1.70 per paper back book sold. If I go for independent publishing like Amazon, Smashmouth, Etc. I get 70% which on a $3.99 book is $2.79 but have to be responsible for the pesky details like cover, publicity,etc.
That difference in percentage means the artwork, production, and advertising of my book is upfront and I get to chose the vendor, those same costs are coming out of your cut(without your input). It certainly does not come out of the profit margin of some Manhattan publisher who puts your manuscript in a "slush-pile", won't answer your calls, won't share sales data, asks you to travel bookstore to bookstore (on your own dime) to talk to eleven people and sell three books, and won't even publish your book unless it fits some changing template that they won't tell you about.
I had one of these folks look at a previous novel and respond "I'll puke if I have to read another serial-killer book." Funny, the book only had one murder in it. She should have rejected it because it sucked.
Personally, I will minimize what I pay for. For instance, I've learned to create covers. Now I'm learning how to make book trailers. I may turn those into a business called Covers and Trailers once I get good at it.
Anyway, that's just me. I may be wrong, you may be right, I may be crazy.
I'm referring to explicit X-amount costs. There's always a split to grease the gears, like the cuts Amazon or PayPal take from transactions. That's minimizing risk, is all I'm saying. Paying upfront to service a book that hasn't even sold yet is maximizing risk.
I've been touring the Midwest for my latest John Santana police procedural, Bad Weeds Never Die––Chicago, St. Louis, KC, Milwaukee, etc. It's my dime, but I've found that it builds readership and creates connections with both independents and Barnes & Noble stores. If you sell well, they'll invite you back when the next book is released. I think it's worth it if you're willing to put in the time, effort and expense. Plus, I happened to be in St. Louis the night they won the World Series. Good time:)
You've summarized well the view for traditional publishing. The argument for ebooks is that you build the relationships directly with the reader. My personal bias against traditional publishing is that agents and editors pick winners and losers on what seems to be an arbitrary system. In the ebook world, the reader does the picking. People J.A. Konrath has sold 80k, 90k, even 100k books rejected by agents and publishers even people he'd worked with before!
I'm not saying you're wrong, it just isn't right for me.
Konrath is in the top 1 percent of self-pubbers who make money. The vast majority don't approach his sales. It doesn't matter if a novel is the best thing ever written if it doesn't have an audience upfront. That's what publishers offer, an audience. With millions of ebooks to choose from, readers aren't going to care to sift through titles they know nothing about. They'll go for familiarity every time.
This doesn't mean self-pubbing can't work. It certainly can. It's extremely difficult, though. But don't flock to it only because the big houses turned you down. Small presses offer better control over what's produced, an audience and (usually) a better percentage. If you've exhausted your options, self-pub it. Those are some tough waters to paddle through, though.