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Just before a trip, I went into Wally World to get some stuff, and was thinking of getting a book to read while I was on downtime. Lo and behold! There was a man in a pirate suit selling a pirate book called, wait for it, “A Pirate’s Tale”. The man with the eye-patch is Gertjan Zwiggelaar, the author. Of course, fancying myself a writer, I struck up a conversation.

“Wow, self published, eh? That’s got to be expensive. I looked into it a while back.”

“No, not really. I found a publishing house that published it for free, and just takes a portion of the sales.”

“Really? That’s awesome! Who does that?”

PublishAmerica.com. Here’s my card with the address on it.”

So I bought the book. It was awesome! Best pirate book I’ve read since Treasure Island. Okay, it’s the only pirate book I’ve read since Treasure Island, but I still recommend it.

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I walked away with dreams of publishing that one book that someone said resides in all of us. PublishAmerica, you must be too good to be true. How can it be possible to publish your own book for free? But then I went to the site.

Here’s what I found…

PublishAmerica Logo

You write your book. You e-mail or mail it in to PublishAmerica. They review it for quality and grammar and see if it will garner some sort of market. If that’s all good, they’ll talk to you about a contract. You sign the contract. They design a cover for the book. They market the book on their website and to different booksellers such as Barnes and Noble, Ingram, Borders.com and others. They also give you some advice on promoting the book yourself.

Your book sells and they send you royalty payments. No, really, that’s it! All of that and more for free,  while you retain complete control over their intellectual property and rights to it, for say, movie deals or what have you.

“But Guy, I can get my book vanity published or hire an agent to take care of that? Isn’t that easier?” you ask with smugness dripping from your disdainful face.

Well, vanity publishing costs a lot of money and unless you are a superstar marketer with a genuine bestseller on your hands, your odds of recouping what you paid to self-publish are pretty slim indeed. You have to take care of getting your own ISBN, or copyrighting the book as well as the cover design and art work. Or you can pay the vanity publisher more to do that for you.

If you choose the literary agent route, then you’re looking at trying to find an agent who will take on an unknown author, and will actually work hard to get you published. Then they take a slice of what you make on the book, on top of everyone else traditionally involved in publishing taking their slice. That might work out if you sell 4 million books, yet the odds are slim on that as well.

“Okay, Guy,” you inquire with some trepidation and eagerness, “so what’s the downside?”

Well, I don’t know exactly what the percentage is for royalties. They also do not accept manuscripts from outside Canada or the United States of America. Oh, and they don’t accept books in the genres of coffee table books, screenplays/scripts/movies, theses, text-books, gift books, or books of quotes.

While they don’t publish every manuscript that comes to them, they do take more risks than other traditional publishing houses. They have published over 40,000 authors since 1996. Some of those authors have gone on to make writing their career, have movie deals and receive some pretty significant critical praise.

Really, in the years that I’ve spent trying to find a way to publish that great Canadian novel I have in my desk drawer, this is by far the simplest and least expensive route that I have found.

Have you self-published a book? Do you know of any other publishing houses like PublishAmerica? I’d love to read about it in the comments. Put your literary skills to good use and leave us a note.

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