author services companies

Comparing Apples to Apples: Four Tips for Choosing a Self-Publishing Company

916602_83133825 If you’ve been in the market for a book publishing service, you know that there are about a thousand different options, all offering varied templates, packages, offerings, and pricing structures.

It can be difficult to choose the right self-publishing company for you and your book when faced with a number of unequal factors. One package may break out all of the services and show the specific cost for each in an À la carte fashion, while others may bundle all of the services with the cost of production to give you a unit cost for each book that you’re producing.

It can make your head spin.

But there are general guidelines for comparing your various packages and quotes, and we’ve curated our own experiences with clients (and competitors) here to help you out.

1. Make sure you know exactly which services bundled packages include, so that you can accurately compare them to an À la carte list. We’ve had clients come in before with the list of services provided in a package from CreateSpace, Lulu, iUniverse, Xlibris, etc., and we can very quickly assure that all of these production services are included in our quote as well. Library of Congress, barcode, ISBN, “worldwide distribution” (read: Amazon listing), etc., are all standard services, but check with all of the potential companies to make absolutely certain that this is the case.

2. Calculate the unit cost of each book. Once you’ve determined comparable services, you’ll have to do some math to make a good decision. Determine how many books you are getting in each package, and break down how much you are paying per book. Then determine how many books you would have to sell (and at what price you could sell it) to break even (in each package).

3. Don’t let lofty marketing promises be a deciding factor. Some companies inflate marketing promises to lure authors. “Hollywood” packages are the worst offender. These packages will promise to send your manuscript to a special screenwriting consultant to determine whether or not your book could become a movie. The odds that this is a legitimate and reputable consultant are slim, and the odds that your manuscript will get a full and comprehensive review are slimmer. Only pay for what a company can actually give you, and that is a book.

4. Make sure your potential companies have a clean record and a solid reputation. There are a number of companies out there that continually find themselves in legal trouble for unconscionable practices, but unfortunately authors never seek out this information until they’ve experienced the worst. Look for reviews about the company online, see if they’re owned by a larger company, and if so, what the reputation of the parent company looks like. For example, Author Solutions owns a number of other companies, including Xlibris, iUniverse, and AuthorHouse, so while at first glance the lawsuit concerning Author Solutions may not seem relevant to you when you’re looking for feedback about Xlibris, you’ll discover once you follow the money that you’re actually looking at the same company. Be as informed as possible. To read more about common concerns with these companies, you can check out my post on the topic here.

Perhaps the hardest truth for an author in the publishing or self-publishing industry is that there is NO option that will allow him/her to avoid the hard work of marketing. In today’s industry, even authors picked up by traditional publishers do most (or all) of the marketing legwork, so unless you hire a PR company or a marketing guru, you shouldn’t expect a publishing company (traditional or self-publishing), to do this work for you. For more about the question of marketing in the self-publishing (or custom publishing) industry, you can read my post on the topic here.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to comparing packages, quotes, and even your own goals and budget. If you live in the Cincinnati area and would like to learn more, you can attend my session at the Power of Stories: Personal History and Self-Publishing Expo. I will be exploring this same topic in greater depth and will be answering any and all questions.