Authors who want to self-publish a book, especially those self-publishing for the first time, usually find they need some help in getting their books ready for and into the hands of their audience. Who should they turn to?
Let’s look at two very different paths into print to see which is best for you.
A Google search will probably lead you to a company offering “supported self-publishing.” A number of large, well-financed companies led by Author Solutions, a Penguin Random House Company (publishing as Author House, iUniverse, XLibris, Tafford, and Word Clay, among others), Outskirts Press, America Star Books (formerly Publish America) and Balboa Press bill themselves as a “one stop shop for everything you need to publish, promote and distribute your book.” Authors who publish under one of their imprints purchase a package of services including editing, interior layout, cover design, printing, publicity, marketing and distribution. These slick, heavily marketed operations tend to be pricey and often produce disappointing results for authors.
A variety of smaller firms, like Stories To Tell, often referred to as “author services” companies offer self-publishing authors an alternative. These freelance editors, book designers, publicists and marketers offer a la carte menus of services. Authors can chose only the specific services they need rather than locking into “packages.” When an author employs an author services provider her book appears under her own imprint. She is truly self-publishing.
When deciding which approach is best for you, here are some things to consider:
Supported-Self Publishing: When authors purchase a self-publishing package the price tag can be substantial. Most importantly authors should understand that as the Author Solutions website admits “…packages may include services you don’t want or need…”
Author Services: You are free to purchase only the specific services you need.
RIGHTS TO THE BOOK
Supported Self-Publishing: When you are “given” an ISBN as part of your publishing package the number is assigned to the publisher rather than the author.
You own the copyright, but will find that the supported self-publishing company “owns” the files used to create the book. If you decide to publish your book elsewhere and ask for your files, the supported self-publishing company will charge you a hefty fee to release the files or refuse to do so at all. (This is even though you paid to create the files.) The only alternative for you is to recreate the book files, often at a substantial cost, making significant changes and publishing the book as a new edition.
Author Services: Author services companies provide “work for hire.” The author pays for a specific editing, design, printing, publicity, marketing or distribution service. Once that service is completed the provider steps aside. The provider has no ownership interest in the book. The author owns all rights to the book and files.
Supported Self-Publishing: The publishing company takes part of the royalty beyond the cost of printing for each book you sell, including the author copies you purchase to sell yourself at speaking appearances and other events.
Author Services: Since author service companies work for hire and have no ownership interest in your book you receive 100% of any royalties beyond the cost of printing.
Supported-Self Publishing: Most supported self-publishing companies like Author House offer “…a wide array of marketing services to help your book get the attention it deserves.” That sounds great, but author dissatisfaction with the services actually provided has been widespread.
Two class action lawsuits have been filed against Author Solutions. Focusing largely on Author Solutions sales and marketing tactics the suits allege “fraud, unjust enrichment, and violation of various statutes and consumer protection acts…”
Author Services: You can chose specialists in book publicity and marketing to provide specific services. You may choose to pay a few dollars for consulting services while carrying out the day-to-day work of things like social media campaigns yourself. There is no guarantee that anyone will make your book a success, but companies or individuals providing these services stay in business by maintaining a track record of success in helping authors sell books.