Self-Publishing - Considerations for Choosing A Publishing Service

Electronic book reader in front of bookshelf
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If you've determined that you should self-publish your book, now it's time to choose a self-publishing company.

Which DIY publishing service should you choose to help you publish your book? It depends: Do you want to see a physical, printed book on your bookshelf, or are virtual pages and online-only distribution enough for you? Do you have a built-in audience who will come to a print-on-demand publishing site, or do you need marketing help to reach your potential book readers?

Are you publishing those family recipes or children's story as a keepsake, and want it to be full-color and beautiful--or are black and white printed pages enough for you. Here are some things to consider when choosing a self-publishing company:

  • In what format do you want your self-published books?
    Hardcover? E-Book? Full color? Some self-publishing companies offer e-book creation, some offer traditional book printing, some offer both. And there are different packaging options within the print book spectrum. How much design help will you get? If you envision a certain look or format for your book-hardcover or spiral-bound, all text with photo-inserts or all-color printing-make sure to choose a self-publishing service with the book packaging options you need.
  • How much help you will need writing and editing your book?
    While there are self-publishing companies that offer a range of writer's support options (for a price), others leave it all to the author. Do you want some help or foresee needing editorial assistance? Would you prefer getting copyediting and proofreading from your self-publishing company rather than searching for freelance help yourself? Then make sure the publishing services you need are offered before signing on the dotted line.
    • Your intellectual property rights
      In simple terms, traditional publishers purchase the right to an author's words (as outlined by your book contract)-essentially going into business with the writer. Vanity presses or self-publishing companies generally charge for printed books, but allow you to keep all the rights-and, therefore, control of what happens to your book. E-book publishers do not charge upfront, but take a chunk of the sale proceeds and may require that you grant them certain distribution rights. Make sure you know how your self-publishing company may be distributing your content, and make sure you're in agreement with how they're going to use it.
      • What are the pre-publication set-up and printing costs for your book?
        How much will publishing your own book cost you? If your self-publisher offers a print book package for a flat-price, what is included and what will cost you extra? If your online publishing platform gives you a royalty for every book sold, how does that royalty compare with others? How much will print-on-demand copies of your book cost you and your readers?
      • How will your book be distributed to readers?
        Will your self-publishing company help make the book available to others? Do you want online store distribution and compatibility with your favorite ebook reader or mobile platform? A print-on-demand option? Some self-publishing companies even offer the hope of in-store presence--for the right books and at a price.
      • Does your self-publishing service offer book marketing and publicity support?
        If you think your book topic is newsworthy, do you need a publicist to get it in the hands of magazine editors and morning show producers? Do you want to see an email campaign or flyers for a conference? What book marketing and publicity options does your self-publishing company have, and how much will those services cost you?
        Take a look at some of the major publishing services and the overviews of their features, to help you compare:

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