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Silver Spring, MD
United States


Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

5 Questions You Should Ask Your Publisher

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

5 Questions You Should Ask Your Publisher

Biff Barnes

If you are an independent author who wants to self-publish a book there are plenty of companies out there to help you. The problem is how to decide which one you should choose. There are two important areas to explore:

  1. Who will own the rights to your book?
  2. Which arrangement will allow you to earn the maximum return on your book?

Here are five questions to guide you in this exploration.

  • Is the ISBN in your name? If you are truly self-publishing you can purchase a single ISBN for $125 or a block of 10 for $295 in your name. Many companies catering to self-publishers offer a “free” ISBN, however, the ISBN they provide identifies them as your publisher. One important feature of self-publishing is owning your own ISBN.
  • Who owns the files for your book? When many authgors sign up with a “self-publishing” company they pay for interior book design and cover design services. However, if they become dissatisfied with the company’s services and decide to take their book elsewhere they find that despite having paid to create the design files, they don’t own them. They learn that there is a clause in their contract like this one from the Xlibris Author Agreement which reads, “In addition to Your Manuscript … Your finished Work may include content that We, Our employees, Our Affiliates or Our Contractors create as a part of the Services that We offer… You will retain rights to the Manuscript, but not the final Work…” In some cases the author may be able to purchase the files for an additional fee, but if you are truly self-publishing you should own the rights to your book files.
  • Who sets the price for your book? This is a critical question. The retail price of your book determines what you will earn per copy after you pay the costs of printing and distribution. It must also be set to fit the market price of comparable books if it is going to have a chance to sell. You can reach a broader audience with promotional prices, particularly during the books launch. You would think that the self-publishing author would set his or her own retail price, but with many companies you will find that they can’t. Let’s again refer to the Xlibris Author Agreement as an example. It says, “We shall determine the price at which to sell the various formats of your work…” The author has no say in this decision which can make or break a book’s success. Make sure that whoever you work with gives you the final word on price.
  • What will it cost you to purchase author copies of your book? When you want to send out promotional or review copies of your book or hand sell copies at appearance before groups, book signings, or other events you should be able purchase them at a deeply discounted price reflecting the publisher’s cost of production. However, the author price may vary dramatically. Helen Sedgwick, author of The Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook, provides some illustrations in a blog post Overcharging Authors for Their Own Books. When purchasing 25 author copies of a 6 x 9 paperback, 250 pages, black and white interior with a color cover, matte finish perfect binding the author pays a per book cost which is very different with different companies.

CreateSpace      $3.84

IngramSpark      $4.08

iUniverse             $10.36

Book Baby           $10.72

It’s not hard to see which are set up to allow the author to make a profit and which help the company make money at the author’s expense.

  • How much will you earn per book? That can vary significantly depending on who prints your book. Let’s again look at a 6 x 9 paperback, 250 pages, black and white interior with a color cover, matte finish perfect binding priced at $10.95. Some publishers offer an online royalty calculator. Using the one on CreateSpace you would earn $2.72. IngramSpark offers $2.37. Outskirts Press $1.69. Others like Xlibris provide only percentages. 10% or $1.10 on sales through its distribution channels and 30% or $3.30 on sales in its online store. Of course, you must also weigh the value of the extent of distribution through a particular channel against the per copy return.

Clearly taking the time to carefully compare what companies you might choose will help you make a good decision.

A truly independent self-publisher has an ISBN in his name, owns all the files use to create his book, sets his own retail price, and works with a printer who offers him the best financial opportunity. That’s what we believe in at Stories To Tell. Contact us to see how we can help you publish your book.