What Are Self-Publishing Companies Really Selling?

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This is an excerpt from Your Book, Your Way: How to Choose the Best Publishing Option for Your Book, Your Wallet and Yourself. You can purchase a copy of this book through Amazon.com.

According to R.R. Bowker, the company responsible for publishing Books in Print and for assigning ISBNs in the U.S., the number of self-published titles in 2012 topped 850,000. By contrast, the number of titles published through traditional companies fell to 289,729.

In that same year, Lulu.com produced 10,386 titles while two divisions of Author Solutions—XLibris and Author House—brought out 19,606 titles between them while Amazon’s Create Space division published another 21,819 titles. (Author Solutions, by the way, is the self-publishing company owned by Random House and includes iUniverse and Trafford as well.)

Another company, BiblioBazaar, put out an astounding 272,930 titles, all works in the public domain. (In other words, no living authors need apply to BiblioBazaar.)

As jaw dropping as these numbers are, there’s nothing in them to tell you how many copies their individual authors sold. As far as I know, there is no reliable public source for this information.

The lesson I’m trying to teach you by flinging these statistics in your direction is that it’s always a good idea to dig beneath the surface when presented with any numbers in the self-publishing business. The questions to always ask yourself when dealing with these companies are: What are the odds you will recoup the money you spend on publishing services through book sales, and how important is that to you?

Self-publishing companies function something like traditional publishers in that they are one-stop shops for everything a book project needs from editing to text design to distribution and printing. You tell them what you want, and they provide it for a fee. (And the fee will be far higher than what you will pay if you find the book production services you need on your own.)

For folks who feel overwhelmed by the idea of independently publishing their own work, a self-publishing company feels safe. And that’s fine. What works for Author A will not necessarily work for Author B. My job in this chapter is to make sure you know exactly what a self-publishing company offers so that you know exactly what you are getting for your money.

In other words, this chapter is a translation of the marketing hype on the self-publishing company websites.

The following list of author services was compiled from the packages commonly offered by the bigger self-publishing companies. Accompanying each item is a brief description of what the marketing term really means, and what the service actually entails.

By the way, if you want an up-to-date list of companies to watch out for, please visit Writer Beware or Predators and Editors.

Download this chapter,What Are Self-Publishing Companies Really Selling from Your Book, Your Way.

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