Ladies and gentlemen, Today I have an old friend as my guest-Jeff Mehalic, esq. As you can surmise from the title he will be discussing self publishing.
So without further ado I give you Jeff Mehalic
Lindsay, thank you very much for inviting me to guest-blog today on Murders and Mysteries. I’m very happy to be here.
My name is Jeff Mehalic, and I have a law practice in Charleston, West Virginia. I will also be opening an office in New York soon.
In addition to my litigation practice, I negotiate on behalf of writers and authors, and also represent them in disputes and litigation arising from their contracts.
Before I talk about what you should pay particular attention to in a publishing contract, let me add a disclaimer here. My opinions here are general in nature and should not be interpreted as legal advice for any particular situation. Any recommendations or advice necessarily depends on the specific facts.
Today, I want to talk about some things to watch out for in self-publishing. (And let me mention an excellent article by David Carnoy entitled Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know. He doesn’t focus on legal issues, but offers practical advice borne of his own experience as a self-published author.)
Self-publishing used to be synonymous with vanity publishing, which carried a negative connotation. But while vanity publishing still exists — and is still usually a bad deal for the author– self-publishing has become an accepted means to get your book into the market, particularly since e-books have proven to be so popular.
The difference is that with vanity publishing, you pay the publisher to publish your book, which can be very expensive and may result in your ending up with a garage full of books and no means to distribute or sell them.
But with self-publishing, the upfront costs may be minimal because you, as the author and now as the publisher, are doing the work typically performed by a traditional publisher.
Thus, you may be responsible for vetting your manuscript, securing the services of a content and copy editor, getting cover art, obtaining the copyright for your work, and marketing and promoting your work. Let me talk about each of these individually.
- Vet your manuscript. By this I mean that you — because you don’t have a legal department to do it for you — have to ensure that you haven’t infringed any copyrights and that you have obtained permission to use any material(s), such as song lyrics or other quoted material, that may be contained in your work.
- Secure the services of a content and copy editor who will edit your manuscript as to its content but also as to the copy, and correct grammatical and typographical errors.
- Get cover art for your book. Even though your book may not be on the shelf at your local bookstore, you still want it to have an appealing and attractive cover.
- Obtain the copyright for your work so that your rights are protected against any infringement.
- Market and promote your work. As with the functions I’ve described above and depending on the vendor or third party you choose to print your book, such as Lulu or Book Surge (which I mention by name only for illustration and not as an endorsement), it may have a distribution or sales network in place. But you shouldn’t count on it, and should assume that you are responsible for promoting your book and getting it sold.
Keep in mind that for all these functions, there are free-lance professionals available to help you, but you pay for their services out of your own pocket, as opposed to having a publisher incur those costs as part of its contract with you to publish your work. Thus, their costs may eat into whatever profits you would make from sales.
Self-publishing has a distinct advantage over traditional publishing in that you can guarantee that your work is published and available for sale in a short period of time. However, as I’ve described above, self-publishing requires significant additional work once you’ve finished your manuscript in order to maximize the chances of your work’s success.
Once again, my thanks to Lindsay for allowing to post, and I will be happy to answer your questions or comments.
Jeff, thank you for taking time from your busy day to answer my readers questions.