Self-publishing companies:
Buyer beware!
It’s a jungle out there.

Self-publishing companies will format your book, design and create a cover, print and bind your book, and provide some form of distribution. If you believe you can not do it alone, these companies stand ready to help.

Stacie Vander Pol, in her book, Top Self Publishing Firms, says the average total cost of using a reputable firm is from $299.00 to $699.00.

Mark Levine, in his book, The Fine Print of Self Publishing, says you will need to spend $1000.00 to $2000.00, at least.

I believe the difference is in their expectations. Mark is looking for highly professional results. He believes you should have a custom made cover, professional editing, and cover all the bases. Nothing wrong with that.

But, as you know by now, I am on the other end of the spectrum. I want to get by as cheaply as possible to extend the joy of publishing to those who can’t afford custom covers.

Unfortunately, there are problems no matter which way you go because this industry is not well regulated. There are reputable companies that will do a great job for you, and there are companies that will try to scam you.

I will show you what to look for and what to avoid. I will also profile some self-publishing companies that both authors above agree on. However, for an in depth look at the industry, a list of companies to use, and a list of companies to avoid, you need to read their books. It is a worthwhile investment of your time and money.

Stacy Vander Pol uses sales as an element in selecting the best companies. I believe sales are affected more by the author than the self-publishing company. I believe Mark Levine’s concern for custom covers and professionalism caused him to put CreateSpace too far down on his list. Mark mentions several plans for most of the companies he reviews, but doesn’t mention CreateSpace’s fabulous Pro Plan.

Part of the problem is comparing apples to oranges. Lulu and CreateSpace serve the Do It Yourself (DIY) croud, while the self-publishing service companies serve those who need more help.

The Cost per Book

The cost per book is critical! If the publisher charges too much to produce your book, you will be priced out of the market. Many self-publishing companies are gouging authors by charging way to much for their books.

Mark Levine says the cost to print a POD book is about $.015 per page plus $.90 per cover. You need to memorize this sentence because you need a standard to compare the costs of books to. For instance, Using Mark’s figures, a 150 page book should cost around $3.15 to produce. The publisher is entitled to a small handling fee.

The cost for a 150 page book with CreateSpace’s Standard Plan (FREE) is $4.50. A markup of $1.35 over the average cost may seem like a reasonable handling fee, but it represents a 43% markup. However, other elements come into play: 1. The service is free, and 2. Amazon only takes 40% rather than its usual 55%.

The cost for a 150 page book with CreateSpace’s Pro Plan ($39.00 plus a $5.00 annual fee) is $2.65. The $1.85 difference goes into the author’s pocket. Notice this is actually less than the average cost, and Amazon still only takes 40%.

Let’s price our book at $14.95. Subtract the 40% for Amazon and you have $8.97. Subtract the $2.65 printing costs and you have $6.32 for the author. You wont get that from a traditional publisher! You need this information so you can make cost comparisons. You also need to know how much you are giving up when you decide you can’t do it by yourself.

The Author’s Rights

You should retain all rights to your book and should be able to publish with other self-publishing companies.

Contract Termination

You should be able to terminate the contract at any time with reasonable notice.


The royalties should be clearly stated and free of any vague elements.

File Ownership

At some point, preferably up front, the books files and cover, should become the property of the author.

Total Costs

I am enamored with CreateSpace because it is either free (Standard Plan) or very cheap (Pro Plan). I am excited by the reality that anyone can publish a book, even an energetic high school student.

There is also a very practical reason for being so cheap, and that is the simple fact that most books don’t sell very well. The average book sales for a traditionally published book is 500 copies (Book Scan). The average number of copies sold per title of a POD company that printed 10,000 different titles: 75 books. (, established by Marilyn and Tom Ross).

So why not begin your publishing career as cheaply as possible. If your books sells well, you can either upgrade it, or pitch it to agents by quoting your sales statistics.

What to Avoid

I would not select a self-publishing company without reading at least one of the books mentioned above. There are simply too many scams and bad deals around. I don’t agree with everything these authors have written, or every recommendation, but selecting a company from their best companies lists should keep you out of trouble.

Make sure the self-publishing company you select is going to do everything you need to be done. Some companies with an excellent rating do not include covers in the price of their packages.

Many companies will try to up sell you into a more expensive package. Resist the temptation; remember you want to publish with a minimum investment.

Book marketing and promotion packages can be extremely tempting, especially if you don’t have any experience in online marketing. Resist these packages. Most of these consist of fliers, post cards, business cards, press releases, etc. Most of these are of little value in selling books because they are not targeted to your audience.

If you really want these things, you can buy them cheaper from companies that specialize in them.

I would prefer that you master the tasks involved in self-publishing, and work with a company like CreateSpace, but if you feel you really need the help of a self-publishing company, then I hope this information helps.

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