Thursday, February 21, 2013

Self-Publishing Options

~ Self-Publishing Options ~
© Kathy Ide, 2012

There are many options when it comes to self-publishing a book. Which one you choose depends on your goals, needs, and available funds.

Vanity Press (a.k.a. book producer or book manufacturer). Prints and binds a book at the author’s sole expense. Costs include the publisher’s profit and overhead, so vanity publishing is usually quite expensive. Vanity publishers don’t screen for quality. They provide no editing, marketing, warehousing, or promotional services.

Subsidy Publisher. The publisher takes payment from the author to cover part or all of the costs of printing and binding a book, often offering additional services such as editing, cover design, distribution, warehousing, and some marketing at added cost. The completed books are the property of the publisher and remain in the publisher’s possession until sold. Income to the writer comes in the form of a royalty.

Print-on-demand (POD). Books are printed when they’re ordered, so the publisher doesn’t keep copies anywhere. POD publishers don’t usually screen submissions (except perhaps to exclude pornography or hate literature), so anyone who’s willing to pay will be published. Some POD publishers offer editing, proofreading, or book marketing as add-ons to the basic publishing package—at an additional cost. Income to the author comes in the form of a royalty on sales. The publisher may have an exclusive claim on the book for a set period of time.  (Check the contract carefully.)

Self-publishing. The author undertakes the entire cost of publication and all marketing, distribution, storage, etc. Since the author can put every aspect of the process out for bid to different companies, rather than accepting a preset package of services, self-publishing can be more cost effective than vanity or subsidy publishing and can result in a higher-quality product. The completed books are the writer’s sole property, and the writer keeps 100 percent of sales proceeds.

Do-it-Yourself printing. Most copy shops—like Kinko’s—and many office supply stores—like Staples—offer book-binding services. Alternately, the author could purchase binders or report covers at an office supply store and fill them with three-hole-punched sheets of paper. If clear-front covers are used, the author can design an attractive cover page using either a color printer or specialty paper.

Electronic publishing. An e-book publisher (like can take a Word or WordPerfect file, design an electronic cover for it, format it to look like a book on screen, and convert it to Amazon’s ebook format (for Kindle), and/or EPUB (which can be read on any e-reader other than the Kindle). Some subsidy publishers offer both print and e-book options; others do only one or the other.

DIY electronic publishing. You can convert your Word or WordPerfect file to a PDF document (which can be read using Adobe Acrobat, so anyone with a computer could read it) and sell it on your website, blog, e-newsletter, etc.

Co-op publishing. The publisher and the author split the publishing costs. This often means that the publisher pays all the costs but the author is required to purchase a few thousand copies of the book.

If a publisher “congratulates” you on the acceptance of your manuscript but then asks you to pay part or all of the cost of getting it published, or requires that you purchase a minimum number of books, this is a subsidy publisher trying to look like a commercial publisher. If a subsidy publisher is a division of a commercial publishing house and claims that your book will be reviewed by the parent company, don’t take that statement at face value—ask for a list of titles that have gone that route and verify it with the authors. (Check out The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine for more things to look out for.)

Here are the subsidy and POD publishers I can personally recommend:
Abbott Press, a division of Writer’s Digest (
Ampelos Press (
Believers Press (
Bethany Press (
BookLocker (
CrossBooks, division of LifeWay (
Hit The Mark Publishing (
The Honor Network (
InspiringVoices, a service of Guideposts (
Lulu (
Strong Tower (
Vision Publishing (
Xulon Press (

In your search for a subsidy publisher, consider the following:
            1. In general, you get what you pay for. You can save a lot of money if you skip having your manuscript professionally edited and proofread, or if you typeset the manuscript and design the cover yourself. But the final result won’t be near as good as if you pay a professional to do those things.
            2. When checking out a subsidy publisher, find out all the costs. Does the quote include editing, proofreading, cover design, typesetting, marketing, distribution … or are those services “extra”?
            3. Make sure you retain the rights to your work. If your book becomes the exclusive property of the subsidy publisher, you won’t be able to contract with a commercial publisher if one’s interested … or switch subsidy publishers if you aren’t happy with the first one.
            4. What sales avenues will be available for your book? I used to recommend CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing division) until I realized that books (both print and electronic) that an author creates there can only be purchased from Amazon. And competitors won’t buy books from them.
            5. If you want to pay the subsidy publisher for a marketing package, find out what you’re really getting. Will they do anything that you can’t do as well or better on your own?
            6. Does the publisher require that you purchase a minimum number of copies? If so, do you realistically believe you can sell that many at a high enough price to recover your costs?
            7. Before you sign with a publisher, check Preditors & Editors ( to see if the company you’re considering has earned a positive or negative reputation.

For more details on self-publishing options, check out Kathy's website,, under Helping Writers/Getting Published. For assistance in editing and/or proofreading your manuscript for a subsidy publisher, or for assistance with self-publishing (including typesetting, file conversion, cover design, and printing), e-mail Kathy at or go to

*Article used by permission.

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