The Myth of Free Publishing

Despite what you may have heard, there’s no such thing as free publishing. A quick Google search will show that there are many options to publish your book, and while some boast of being free options, that’s simply not true. Although these services might allow you to set up your book, select a template for a cover and the interior design, this inherently limited design process will always result in a lower-quality final product. In the end your book sales will suffer because nobody wants to pay upwards of $15 for a book that looks like it was designed at home with a template.

Let’s just say for argument’s sake that you’re a designer. You can design a beautiful cover for your book, and you’re also able to create a professional-looking interior. That still takes time. It took you time to learn how to use those programs, to develop your design skills, and it will take you time to figure out the best design to reach your target audience. If you are a professional designer, you need to consider your hourly rate and the time you have spent and then determine whether or not you are truly saving money. 

Additionally, books published in this manner have a higher per-book printing cost. This is where these “free” publishers get their money. So while you may not have to spend anything to set your book up, you will end up paying for those services in the end when you order books through that service.

You might be thinking, “I get it, there’s no free publishing, so I need to go with a traditional publisher. Then not only will it cost me nothing, but I will get paid for my work.” Sadly this is no longer the case with traditional publishers. Often traditional publishers require authors to use their own money to pay for a writing coach, to help pay for the cover design, and other expenses. While this is not always the case, it is becoming increasingly more common especially for new or aspiring authors to have to contribute to the cost of the publishing process.

In addition to the possibility of having to pay part of your advance back into the publishing process, you will almost certainly have to pay an agent. Literary agents are the main way authors connect with traditional publishers, and traditional publishers will not sign an author who does not have representation. So even if you get paid in advance, your agent immediately gets paid up to twenty percent (sometimes even more) of your advance in royalties. As soon as you get paid, you are paying out of your earnings to the person who coordinated that relationship.

The advances given by traditional publishers can be deceiving. It feels like you are getting paid, but really an advance is more like a loan or a mortgage. Your publisher is giving you the resources to produce the book—resources you will have to pay back once your book actually sells, meaning far less royalties later on.

Perhaps the biggest cost of signing with a traditional publisher is that you are selling away the rights to your book, and while you might have some input, you lose creative control. That is the hidden fee nobody wants you to know about, and while it might seem appealing in the beginning, losing creative leadership of your work could be the most costly price of all

To be fair, some authors have signed great publishing deals, which were mutually beneficial and led to successful careers. Unfortunately, the traditional publishing model is struggling to keep up with our changing market culture. Bookstores are going out of business, and fewer and fewer books are becoming bestsellers through traditional publishing.

No matter how you look at it, there is no such thing as free publishing. The question is: what value do you place on your project? What potential impact do you see your book having on the lives of others? How will your book help boost speaking career, or your consulting career, or your business career?

These are questions new authors will ask themselves when they understand the paradigm that in order to see growth, you have to make an initial investment. The next question is where you will leverage that money to invest it for the maximum impact. And that’s what we do at Lucid Books.