What makes for a great self-publishing company?

Many of the questions I hear most often, working as I do in the self-publishing business, can be distilled down to one very simple one: “What makes for a great self-publishing experience?”  The answer is equally simple: “A high-quality self-publishing company.”

First, we have to consider the business side of things.  A self-publishing company is, in the end, a company––and a company works according to profit.  As end users, either clients or readers, we want to know that we are receiving the best possible product and service for our investment.  You definitely want to look for a balance of:

  • reliability
  • affordability
  • quality production
  • excellent customer service, and
  • out-of-the-box thinking and solutions on offer

Of course, we don’t want to reduce the process of writing and publishing a book down to a simple exercise in corporate dynamics.  Book lovers, both writers and readers, know that there’s something, well, special about literature.  The advent of self-publishing has seen fierce debates spring up over the role of literary agents and publishing companies as “gatekeepers” for the written word, and rightfully so.  The stakes are very, very high when it comes to the stories we create and let influence our lives.  And because the stakes are high, it’s important that we look for a few more things out of a great self-publishing company, in addition to sound business practice.  We should look for:

  • sound ethics (from start to finish)
  • self-awareness (including of the company’s place and stance on being a “gatekeeper”)
  • authenticity (including a genuine interest in the client’s and reader’s satisfaction), and
  • sensitivity to a changing market and a changing world (which can translate to adaptability, but also to advocacy in the broadest and best sense)

Do your research!  Check online for customer satisfaction ratings––impartial ones––and contact the companies you’re interested in beforehand to gauge their possibilities.  After all, once you commit to a self-publishing company, you’re likely to be in close contact with them for quite a long time.

Now, someone might honestly point out that I work for one specific self-publishing company and therefore that I’m likely to view my own company in a favorable light, but here’s the thing: a great self-publishing company doesn’t need to be territorial.  All a great self-publishing company needs to do is offer a good product––a great package––and a service that puts its clients first and advocates endlessly for them.  The wonderful thing about the self-publishing industry is that at its core, it is a kind of fellowship of free (or freer) spirits who believe that the more voices that are heard, the more stories that are told, the better off we will all be.  So I’m not just an advocate for one company; I’m an advocate for the whole movement!


These are just a few thoughts to get us started.  What do you think makes for a great self-publishing company?  Drop me a line in the comments section to join the conversation.


ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 25 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Avoid Using “Hard Returns” in your Manuscript

A few weeks ago, we told you to why you shouldn’t allow your publisher to format your book. As a matter of fact, we gave you 3 good reasons for this. However, neither of those reasons were relevant for you, so you decided to forgo formatting the book yourself.

Formatting a book is not a task to be taken lightly. If your book is poorly formatted, it can mean that you aren’t taken seriously. That’s why most self-publishing companies include interior formatting services in their fee. It is understood and accepted that authors usually don’t have time to learn the nuances of interior layout. When you allow your publisher to format your manuscript, there is one piece of advice you should keep in mind:

Don’t use hard returns.

A hard return occurs when you use the “Enter” key to break the line instead of letting it wrap naturally. Most word processing programs automatically take text that won’t fit on the current line to the next line.  Because your publisher will most likely be copying/pasting the text of your manuscript into their book design program, those hard returns can often throw off the formatting considerably. Because of this, publishers normally don’t accept manuscripts with hard returns. The only exception here is poetry books and using the “enter” key to go to the next paragraph.

Other than hard returns, can you think of any other things you had to change in order for your publisher to accept your manuscript?

Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.

Indie books and Indie book awards kicking up some old self-publishing dust

Author Solutions very recently announced its sponsorship of their inaugural “indie publishing” contest. The announcement reads…

“Since when can a writing contest turn the winner into an author with a published book…and provide a staff of book marketing professionals to help get the book into bookstores and publicized? This is the new reality of combining a traditional writing contest with the myriad advantages of indie publishing.”

According to the guidelines, aspiring authors can enter up to 5,000 words of their novel, nonfiction book, story, or even poem. Winners and runners up will then be selected from among the 4 categories, along with a grand prize winner. The entry fee is $35 ($25 for poems).

The news stirred up a long standing semantically charged debate among those in the book publishing and self-publishing industry, with a fight over what exactly “indie publishing” is.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware writes, “By “indie publishing,” they don’t mean true self-publishing, or publishing with an independent publisher, but the kind of publishing provided by print-on-demand [POD] publishing services.”

And Sue Collier of Self-Publishing Resources emphatically calls out the ASI with this remark, “Say what? Authors Solutions is NOT — I repeat, NOT — an indie book publishing anything, let alone “leader.’”

Much of the controversy over the competition surrounds content ownership and ISBN assignments in particular.

Collier goes on to write, “Authors Solutions is a vanity press (aka subsidy press). It is a pay-to-publish service wherein authors pay to publish their book under the Author Solutions name.”

I think it is safe to say that the type of publishing this contest aims to produce is a form of self-publishing – authors still retain 100% of their rights in most cases, even using a publisher supplied ISBN.

What about the term “full-service self-publishing” though? There are publishing solutions where you can effectively select from among a collection of services from writing all the way to book marketing, and even offer private imprint options. Very few authors are also designers, marketers, editors, SEO experts, etc., all of which combine toward the goal of effective book publishing.

In many cases authors can benefit greatly by a full-service firm. Sure, you could contract all those services ala cart, but unless you have massive leverage, that’s likely to be an expensive endeavor. It’s a matter of scale. And yes, books are primarily available POD. Some are carried in brick-and-mortar stores, but primarily sold online. Readers buy books online.

This is not an Author Solutions promotion or plug for the contest however. Not all publishing services providers are equal, and like Collier, I have worked with many dissatisfied Author Solutions authors across all of their brands. Research is key. Sure, you may learn a few things from other’s AuthorHouse complaints, Xlibris scams, or iUniverse reviews. Take that information in part with a grain of salt – those unhappy authors are infinitely more likely to complain that happy ones.

In the end, successful book publishing is successful book publishing, and each author’s goal in that endeavor unique.

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