Select Page

The term “self-publishing” suggests that the author retains certain publishing rights beyond ownership of the copyrights. That makes it radically different from a traditional publishing deal, where they author pays nothing, but the publisher controls most publishing rights. Many authors choose self-publishing because they are not able to secure a traditional deal, or simply do not want to waste time trying.

Self-publishing authors typically must pay or subsidize part or all of the costs to be published. This is true whether they do it all themselves, or they hire a company to do the vast majority of the creative development (editing and design).

Here is an example of the costs that might typically be involved with getting your book published by a self-publishing company.

$259.00 Title prep, Questionnaire and intake
$1,059.00 Front Cover design
$1,500.00 Line Editing
$759.00 Text Layout
$899.00 (Hard) Copy editing & Proofreading
$450.00 Softcover wrap
$322.00 Print Processing including 20 printed softcovers
$119.00 Digital ARC
$259.00 Ebook prep & processing
$5,626.00 TOTAL


Even if you (the author) choose to do as much as possible yourself, you are still going to pay to get your manuscript edited, you will still need a killer cover and you may still need help with the print layout, ISBNs, Ebook prep, etc. So be prepared to spend some money no matter what, unless you secure a traditional deal, but even then you will be spending on marketing.

Some self-publishing companies will offer additional marketing options as an adjunct to your regular costs. Beware! That is not to say that marketing is not important. It is. But you may be much better served hiring a marketing firm or expert, or simply doing what most authors do and use guerilla marketing techniques that cost little or nothing and do it yourself.

So who can you trust to do the best work for a good value?

There are many larger self-publishing companies like Create Space, iUniverse, Dog Ear Publishing, Friesen Press, Kindle Direct, IngramSpark, Lulu, Publish America, Smashwords, Xlibris and Xulon Press.

The problem with large is that the author many not get the hands on service they desire. We have heard many horror stories from authors who have used larger companies. Some of them will try to upsell you on extra items like marketing. Usually they will take a portion of the royalties as well, and their royalty reports may be sub-par or lacking altogether.

The advantage of working with a larger self-publisher is that they have a lot of experience publishing authors, often their systems are very good, and they know what they are doing.

CreateSpace is one of the lower-priced firms that handles creative development and publishing for authors. Their quality varies depending on who you work with. Their printing quality is decent to good, and of course they will publish you into their Amazon distribution channels. The downside is that bookstores and libraries do not look kindly on Create Space as they are the competition.

IngramSpark has the biggest and best distribution channels for print and digital. Their POD printing technologies are top shelf. Their systems are excellent. The downside is that they do not provide creative development, meaning editing and design. Authors must have that done elsewhere and submit finished cover and text pdf files to IngramSpark. But after that, you can easily change ebook prices, order gorgeous books on your own, and keep 100% of your royalties.

Smaller self-publishing companies may be able to provide more collaborative hands-on services that will do a much better job of teaching and training the author. Assuming they have excellent distribution and printing through Ingram, there should be no real difference between them and the larger firms, and their may be significant advantages.

Things to look for in a full-service self-publishing company:

• Knowledgeable customer service folks who speak good English
• Preferably the same person serving you throughout the process
• Excellent print and digital distribution to online and brick and mortar bookstores
• Premier POD printing capabilities
• Good below-wholesale author print pricing
• Superb collaborative editing services
• Superb collaborative design services
• Collaborative process and training so author can learn the ropes
• Good value for price of service

In closing, there are many options now for authors get published. Be smart. Do your homework. Talk to other authors who have been published by the company you are interested in. Make a good investment. Good luck.


AUTHOR 101 is a series of articles that answer typical questions posed by writers and authors. Some of the answers comes from the Pocket Guide to Publishing, by Joe Coccaro and John Koehler. The book is available as a free download at KoehlerBooks.com. This material was written to help writers and may be used, shared and copied as it is useful.

John Köehler is the author of seven books, an award-winning graphic designer, 1991 Boomerang World Champ, and is the founder and publisher at Köehler Books.