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  • [She Self-Publishes] A Guide to Working With a Self-Pub Company
[She Self-Publishes] A Guide to Working With a Self-Pub Company
Written by
Emily Suess
November 2012
Written by
Emily Suess
November 2012

Previously, on the She Self-Publishes inaugural post, fellow She Writes member, Mina, commented:


"I'm seriously headed in the self-publishing direction, but find the level of what I don't know… daunting. I'd LOVE a bulleted list running down all the basics of self-publishing process, and then points of reference for every step of the way…"


While there are as many paths to a self-published book as there are authors, I can offer a glimpse into navigating the process that might make it a little less terrifying for first-timers.


We'll just cover two general categories: self-publishing with a company and self-publishing with independently hired contractors. It is conceivable that you might use a combination of both methods to publish, so keep that in mind as you read on.


As you can imagine, self-publishing is challenging and pretty involved. So I'm only going to cover the basics of working with a company in this post. In another post, we'll talk about taking a more independent approach.


Self-Publishing With A Company*


In this model (assuming the company you hire is reputable – do your homework!) you're hiring experts to guide you from manuscript to published book. They've got the resources and connections within the company to make everything happen, and you've got money you're willing to spend for the expert guidance. You handpick which services you want and sign on the dotted line.


Common Company Services


Self-pub companies usually offer several different packages with any combination of these common services:

  • Design
  • Fulfillment
  • Print and E-Book Publishing
  • Complimentary Author Copies
  • ISBN Recording
  • Copyright Registration
  • Editorial/Proofing
  • Book Printing
  • Marketing & Promotion


Picking a Company


Not all self-pub companies are worth the money. In fact, there are a few companies out there I wouldn't suggest to my worst enemy.


My advice to anyone new to this game: Never take a company on their word. Read online reviews, check out Mark Levine's The Fine Print of Self-Publishing and run with a swiftness from any rep that tries to weasel out of showing you a contract.


Selecting a Package


I'm not going to lie. Comparing packages is difficult, as there are so many options and pricing methods from company to company. If you're totally lost, ask someone who's self-published before for some guidance, but keep in mind that what works for a science-fiction title probably won't work for a how-to on interviewing for executive jobs.


I will say one thing unequivocally about selecting a publishing package: NEVER, EVER buy a package you can't afford because you're sure you'll recover the money through book sales down the road. There are no guarantees in this fickle industry, and it would be heartbreaking if your life's work left you with staggering debt.


Signing the Contract


Don't sign anything without reading the contract, and, no, a cursory glance at the subtitles doesn't count.  Some companies like to put in little clauses that burden you with legal fees if there's a dispute, and some try to force you to pay what amounts to a penalty if you decide to leave.


Again, I recommend Levine's book to help you understand contract terminology. When it comes to things like rights, termination, and lawsuits, you can't afford to simply trust what a sales rep is telling you.


Marketing and Promoting the Book


The first thing you need to know about marketing and promotional services is that no matter what services a company offers, you must be actively involved in the promotion of your book. Common services you can buy could include any of the following:

  • Designing and launching an author website and blog
  • Setting up social media accounts
  • Managing SEO campaigns
  • Designing and printing business cards, bookmarks, posters

(Authors use tons of other methods to promote their works such as library readings, blog tours and giveaways, but for the most part these are organized by authors, not self-pub companies.)


A word of caution: Back in 2010 I thought I was being contacted by self-published authors to do book reviews on my blog. Turns out company reps at Author Solutions were pretending to be the authors that hired them, leaving comments and requests through email and social media in the author's name. The comments were pushy and unprofessional. There was backlash.


Long story short? The self-pub company's staff wrote things that not only damaged the company's reputation but damaged the author's online and social media reputations too. And, for a while, I was put off by all self-published works regardless of author or how they were produced.


If you hire a company to help with the promotion of your book, please – for the love of all that's holy – do not take a hands-off approach to your marketing and publicity.

Other References:

*Some authors refuse to call this method self-publishing. Whether you agree or disagree, companies and writers alike frequently use the term self-publishing to describe working with these types of businesses. In the end, what you call it isn't as important as getting your book out there. 

Emily Suess is a freelance copywriter in Indianapolis. She writes about self-publishing and freelancing on her blog, Suess’s Pieces. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • Mina Lobo

    Emily, you're my hero! :-) I really look forward to the forthcoming Indie post!

  • Emily Suess

    @ Geena: You're welcome, and thank you for the book recommendation and for sharing your experience. Marketing is such a huge part of an author's success, but it can be a difficult hurdle to jump if the writer isn't prepared for it.

  • Geena Bean

    Thank you Emily for the great advice on self-publishing.  I'm still figuring out how to use social media to the best of my advantage, but what I have learned is that it takes time.  For anyone who is interested in self-publishing, make sure you do the research before you even decide to publish your work!  Before I decided to self-publish, I had no idea about the networking, research and time it takes to build a platform for your audience.  I would also recommend reading "The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published," by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry.  I had the privilege of attending a publishing seminar given by both of these wonderful authors, which paved my path to the possibility of success.  You must market and do the research for your book, no matter which self-publishing company you choose to hire.  Although I learned this a bit farther within my project than I would have liked to, I am now on the right track and doing as much as I possibly can thanks to well-informed people like you Emily, as well as the two authors I mentioned here in this passage.  Thanks again Emily!

  • Daphne Q

    Wow... this is quite helpful. Thanks for posting.