Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, June 29, 2009

Self-Publish Your Book: Guide To The Best Self-Publishing Services

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When working with a traditional book publisher, you, the book author, give up a large degree of editorial control, and many times you have little to no input into the design and layout of your book, its distribution, and its marketing approach. Self-publishing allows you, the writer and author of a new book, to publish, print and distribute at a very low cost physical books on your own, bypassing at once the traditional, established publishing houses.

Photo credit: Tom Perkins

As a matter of fact, the key distinguishing characteristic of self-publishing is the absence of a traditional publisher. Instead, it is you, the book author who fulfill this role, taking editorial control of the content, and leveraging one of the many self-publishing solutions available online to produce, print, ship, distribute and make a profit out of your writing / publishing skills.

Self-publishers are not anymore those individuals who would go down to their trusted typographic shop and actually paid for the printing of their own writings. Successful self-publishers today leverage the benefits provided by print-on-demand services, where they need not to waste money on printing costs or on inventory and stocking fees.

When customers order their books, self-publishing outlets like Cafepress, Lulu, Createspace and others will print on-demand as many book as needed and they will also ship them and get payments for them from those ordering. You, the book author, do not have to worry about anything but collecting your profits which are simply based on your chosen extra margin on top of the printing and shipping cost. As you, the book author, make the final price, you can decide how much to charge for each of your publications.

These self-publishing services are a mix of print-on-demand (POD) companies and marketing and distribution venues, providing key opportunities for distributing your book on major book selling platforms, like Amazon and others.

Typically these self-publishing services accept uploaded digital content as Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, text files or RTF files and book authors choose the type of format, size and design of their own publication. There is no money to be spent upfront, as the self-publishing company prints your book only when an order comes in. At that point, the self-publishing service charges you a base price for printing on demand your book but you decide what is the final price charged to a buyer, before shipping. That extra margin, on top of the self-publisher charges to you, is your book profit. This is how, without any upfront investment you can use one of these companies to bootstrap yourself into the independent book publishing universe.

For an additional cost, a self-publishing service may offer additional services such as doing your cover design, review and proofread content, do indexing, proofreading and even promotion and marketing. Some, provide also the option to output your book optionally to an ebook format in addition to your hardcover and paperback editions, as some others will offer you the opportunity to get an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), which allows for your book title to acquire official "book" status and to become more easily found online.

Key advantages of self publishing are:

  1. Retain the rights to your book.
  2. Take home a bigger royalty than you would normally get from a traditional publisher.
  3. Have complete control over your book. You decide format, paper quality, cover image and, most importantly, you set the price.

In this guide to the best self-publishing companies you can find a selection of the most interesting services as well as a comparative table facilitating your task of reviewing these key players and their offerings.


Best Online Services To Sell And Promote Your Book Comparison Table


Best Online Services To Sell And Promote Your Book

  1. Lulu

    Lulu allows you to create, publish, sell and promote your books, completely on your own. The service also helps you digitalize your existing books and take care of publication and sale only. Other than books, you can also create digital products like photos, music tracks, calendars, and ringtones. Lulu provides collaboration features like group blogs and forums where you can meet other people and receive feedback about your work. All books published with Lulu are labeled with an ISBN, a unique number that identifies your book inside bibliographic databases. Books submitted are automatically converted to PDF file, so you may want to check that formatting is perfectly preserved after uploading your book or, better off, directly upload a PDF file. When your book is ready for publication, you can set the price and sell it in ebook or print version. Purchasing one of the premium plan (starting at $369) you can also customize: binding type, paper quality, templates and book cover and have other extra features like the inclusion inside Amazon listings and advanced formatting capabilities. You can promote your books with a personal storefront, using Google Book Search (which also makes your book content indexed inside Google search results), or distributing your creations via Amazon (requires a premium plan). For each book sold using Lulu, you retain the 80% of the retail price.

  2. CreateSpace

    CreateSpace is an on-demand commerce company owned by Amazon. You can take advantage of Amazon distribution service to sell your books and also convert your books into Kindle format. Other products you can sell via CreateSpace include CDs, DVDs, videos and ebooks. If you prefer to set a customized store to sell your books, you can create an eShop on your own website. CreateSpace assigns automatically to every book a unique identification number (ISBN). Customization options for your book include: binding type, cover images, internal images, and paper quality. Books must be submitted in PDF format. You can also join a community of other publishers to receive feedback on your book and perfect your creation. Your earnings depend on the solution you choose to sell your books: you can opt for a Standard (free) plan or a Pro plan, which costs you $39 per book plus $5 of annual renewal fee. The Pro plan lets you retain more for each sale while allowing customers to pay less when ordering copies of your books. The basic rule is you set a list price and Amazon charges a fee once the item is sold. The fee is 20% of list price for eShops and 40% of list price for books sold via Amazon. For a comprehensive overview of all pricing combinations, also depending on the type of book you choose (hardcover, softcover, black / white, colour, etc.) check the "Pricing and Royalties" page on CreateSpace website.

  3. CafePress

    CafePress is a service specialized in user-generated commerce. You can choose an item inside CafePress catalogue, brand it with your company logo or your own images, and then buy your customized item to sell it. To sell your books, the e-commerce service creates a "shop", which is a personal storefront owned by you. When an item is sold on your shop, CafePress retains the base price (the price you paid to buy that item from CafePress) and you earn the markup you set above the base price. Books must be submitted using PDF format. Options to customize your books include binding type, cover image and internal images. To make sure your product is also indexed by search engines, CafePress provides a set of guidelines to obtain the best visibility for your customized items. You can open a Basic Shop for free, but only sell one of each of the products with your image(s) at a time. Premium shops starts from $6 for one month and allow you to sell unlimited items and access further customization possibilities regarding the layout of your shop. No free distribution via Amazon or writers feedback.

  4. Blurb

    Blurb helps you self-publish your own book for free, either in printed or digital format. You can submit your book using the free BookSmart software (Mac + PC) or just upload a PDF file. Once your book is uploaded you can customize a set of options to personalize your creation, these include: binding type, cover image, internal images, paper quality and Blurb logo removal from your book pages. You can also add an ISBN number to your book just by creating a JPG image (with or without barcode) and place it on your book. You can offer customers a 15-page preview of your book to help them evaluate a potential purchase. To ensure the right visibility off your books on search engines, you can add tags and set a category which your book fits in. You can also promote your book using a Blurb badge on your own website. Blurb forums are available to share ideas with other publishers and receive feedback and suggestions on your work. All pricing options are available on Blurb website, but a quick way to estimate how much your book will cost to you (and then the sell price) is to use the free Shipping Calculator. Whatever your earnings are, Blurb retains a $5 fee from your monthly profit. No free Amazon distribution.

  5. Xlibris

    Xlibris is a "back office" that allows you to self-publish and sell your own books without head-scratching. After submitting your book (either in MS Word or RTF formats), a cover image, internal images, a customer representative helps you choose the best packaging that suits your needs and takes care of publishing and selling your book. First premium price level osts $299 and offers: custom cover, internal book design, ISBN assignment, and more. Besides hardcover and softcover options, Xlibris offers also leather-bound editions of your books. Ebooks are not available for the time being. Each book published with Xlibris has a unique ISBN, so that customers and bookstores can easily search your book inside bibliographic databases. The retail price of your book is determined by the options you choose when customizing the print options of your book: if you want to maintain control of your retail price (and the earnings you get out of that price) you can purchase the "Set Your Own Price" option for $249. To receive help setting the best retail price for your needs, use the free Xlibris Book Calculator. For each sale made on Xlibris you get royalties corresponding to 25% of the retail price. If your book is sold via Amazon (only available for premium plans and Black & White books) you earn 10% of the retail price. Each plan you choose has a fixed number of copies to print your books. No writers feedback.

  6. Lightning Source

    Lightning Source offers a print and distribution model that takes care of all the hassle of publishing. You can have your books printed, distributed, sold and shipped using just one service. Ebook selling is also allowed. While Lightning Source can also drop-ship directly to customers, the company is partnered with all major book publishing distributors, including Amazon. Books can be submitted either in PDF or printed format. If you submit your work in print format, the service takes care to scan and digitalize your book for you. ISBN identification number is supported. Publishers can customize binding type, cover type (hard / soft), cover image and internal images of books using a dedicated free tool. The cost to access Lightning Source service is $12/year per book. When a book is sold, the service pays the publisher the wholesale price of the book, less the cost of printing the book. The cost of printing is based on a unit cost for each book plus a cost per page. No writers feedback.

  7. CreateBooks

    CreateBooks is a book publishing service that assists you when self-publishing your work. CreateBooks has a particular focus on the physical crafting of your book. Books must be uploaded in MS Word format. The service also takes care of providing you with a valid ISBN and bar code, if you want to distribute your book inside bookstores (see pricing options for more details on the cost of these options). Also, depending on the pricing package you choose, you are allowed to choose between different print options for your books: cover (hard / soft), binding type, cover image and internal images. Profits from sales operated by CreateBooks are all retained by original authors. The service shares also a set of guidelines that may give you helpful suggestions and tips to obtain good rankings for your books inside search engines. Books published withCreateBooks are also published inside Google Book Search listings. Marketing supports to promote your book sales like business cards, posters, promotional book cover and other material are also available for purchase. Distrubition via Amazon is accepted. No writers feedback.

  8. UniBook

    UniBook is a virtual bookstore where writers and publishers can print, publish and sell their books. Books submitted must be in PDF or DOC format. UniBook allows you to customize: binding type, cover type, cover image and internal images. Ebooks are not available for the time being. For each book you submit you need to insert tags and choose a category, so that your book can rank inside search engines. UniBook has a free service to calculate the price your books is sold to customers: just choose a format, input the number of pages of your book and the percentage of royalties you want to earn from the sell. The service returns all the options you have and even the available discounts if you order large quantities of book copies. Whatever solution you choose, UniBook will retain the 50% of the retail price. Starting price to utilize UniBook services is $79, which includes 5 book copies and worldwide distribution. No free Amazon distribution nor writers feedback.

  9. BookSurge

    BookSurge is a company that allows publishers and authors to self-publish a book and also take care of the sell process. Since BookSurge is a subsidiary of the Amazon group, you can distribute the book through Amazon bookstore and also convert your works into Kindle format (or into a traditional PDF ebook). You have to submit your work in PDF, DOC, RTF or TXT formats or send a print copy to BookSurge which takes care of digitalizing your manuscript. You can either purchase a Total Design Freedom Package to have complete control over the customization of your book (($799) or the Author's Advantage Publishing Program which offers a set of ready-made templates and limited customization options ($499). Options you can always customize inside your book (whatever pricing plan you choose) are: cover format, cover image, internal image, chapter titles, external / internal fonts and fleurons. BookSurge retains the 35% of the retail price of your book. There are several marketing options you can optionally purchase to increase the visibility of your book like posters, sell sheets, press releases, custom reviews and more (prices available on site). No writers feedback.

  10. Trafford Publishing

    Trafford Publishing offers a set of commercial solutions to print, self-publish and sell your book. Publishers can sell books either in print copies or digital format. No info is released on the format to subscribe your manuscript, tough guidelines are available inside the FAQ section of the website. First pricing plan starts at $799 and offers the following options: paperback format, custom cover design, author support, ISBN assignment, custom interior layout, Amazon distribution, and more. To have further customization options you need to upgrade to another pricing plan (starting from $1299). Your earnings are calculated as the 20% of the book sale. The retail price of your books is determined by the option you choose and the number of pages your book is made up. No writers feedback.

  11. Spire Publishing

    Spire Publishing allows you to print and sell a manuscript of your book completely on your own. The service is available only for US and UK markets. Books must be submitted in PDF, DOC or RTF format. Ebook selling is not permitted. The first pricing plan you can purchase is the Print Ready Publishing plan, which allows you to get five paperback copies of your book: for $299 you get a custom cover image, ready-made design templates ISBN assignment, and more. If you prefer a hardcover instead of a paperback binding, the price raises to $549 (for three copies). These two pricing plans do not include distribution and sale of your book. To have your book sold via third-party bookstores (Amazon included) you have to purchase the Print Ready Plus Publishing plan (same options of the basic plan) at $399 for five paperback copies and $749 for three hardcover copies of your book. Your earnings consist of the retail price less the print cost of the book (which is the price you pay to Spire Publishing to buy your book). The print cost depends on the options you choose. On Spire Publishing website you can also find marketing tips and strategies to promote your book. No writers feedback.

  12. AutorHouse

    AuthorHouse is a self-publishing company that helps publishers and authors print and sell their works outside the traditional book publishing channels. Manuscript must be submitted in MS Word or Adobe InDesign 2, CS, or CS2 file formats. Ebook publishing is available. The first pricing level costs $549 and has the following features: custom cover, custom, interior layout design, ISBN assignment, Amazon distribution, and more. The price of your book depends on: book size, cover type (softcover or dust jacket), final page count, where the book is purchased, and the royalty percentage you choose. The royalties you can earn from AutorHouse depend on the retail price of the book and the amount of money you want to get from your book sale (10%, 20%, 30% or 50%). AutorHouse provides also a range of services to market and promote your book (prices available on the site). No writers feedback.

  13. Infinity Publishing

    Self-publish company Infinity Publishing takes care of all the book publishing process following a print-on-demand-philosophy. Ebook publishing is not allowed. No information is provided on the file format to subscribe your manuscript. First pricing plan starts at $499 and covers all aspects of self-publishing your book: custom cover, distribution to third-party bookstores like Amazon, custom barcode, ISBN assignment, and more. You can also include a CD to ship with your book for $200 more. Other optional services include: Spanish translation, extended book distribution, marketing packages, advance reading copies (for reviewers and columnists) and book editing services (price details on the company website). Monthly royalties are paid on the selling price: 30% of retail, 15% of wholesale, and 10% on purchases by the author. Authors are also free to increase / decrease the price of their book within a 25%-75% range. Infinity published books are priced according to page count - the greater the number of pages, the higher the retail price. No writers feedback.

  14. SelfPublishing

    SelfPublishing allows publishers and authors to print their works either in print or digital format. SelfPublishing does not take care of distributing or selling your work to book retailers. No information is provided on the file format to subscribe your manuscript. Book customization options include: binding type, custom cover design, custom book layout, and more. You can purchase a single ISBN license directly from SelfPublishing for $99. The self-publishing company has one pricing plan which costs $249 for three years. No writers feedback or Amazon distribution available.

  15. WEbook

    WEbook is a free book publishing service based entirely on social collaboration. You cannot import your existing book, but only start your writing inside WEbook. The service community will assist you along the way with feedback and suggestions to help you perfect your work. To get in touch with other users you can access the forum, start a group, or comment inside the official blog. Once your book is ready, your work is reviewed and rated by the WEbook community which is the only subject that decides whether a book can be published or not. Only the highest-rated books are sold via WEbook. Ebooks selling or ISBN identification are not available for the time being. If you are allowed to sell your book, you can also share the revenues with the people that helped you improve your work with their feedback. Authors and major contributors receive 50% of all profits generated from the sale of WEbook titles. If you are allowed to sell your book, you can also share your revenue with those people that gave you helpful feedback. Inside WEbook website there are no info about binding types, paper quality or cover type options to personalize your book once published. The only choice you have seems to be to upload a cover image. Book published with WEbook are distributed via Amazon.

Other Self-Publishing Guides and Resources Worth Checking

  • Self-Publishing a Book: 25 Things You Need to Know

    ... The basic premise is anyone can become a small publisher. You call the shots. You retain the rights to your book. And you take home a bigger royalty than you'd normally get from a traditional publisher--if you sell any books. Against the advice of my agent, I began perusing the big self-publishing companies' Web sites and evaluating what they had to offer. Then I started poking around blogs and message boards to get customer testimonials. What I found was a veritable minefield with roads that forked in every direction and very few clear answers.

  • 6 Ways to Publish Your Own Book

    Online self-publishing services have given users the tools they need to create, publish and promote their work. These sites allow authors to bypass the process of finding an agent and pitching to publishing houses, a venture that can take months, if not years. Here are six great sites that will help you publish your work, guaranteeing you a published book that can be sold via different outlets, such as Amazon.

  • Lulu vs. CreateSpace: Which Is More Economical For The DIY Author?

    At the risk of coming off as some kind of Amazon shill, I'm afraid I've just got to blog about one of their services again: CreateSpace. I feel this is necessary because I keep seeing tweets, posts and Facebook notes from indie authors--especially authors outside the US---who intend to go through Lulu based in part on a belief that Lulu is the most economical choice for the services offered, and in many, many cases, this is simply not true.

Originally prepared by and Daniele Bazzano for MasterNewMedia, and first published on June 29th, 2009 as "Self-Publish Your Book: Guide To The Best Self-Publishing Services".

Robin Good and Daniele Bazzano -
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Monday, June 29 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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