Assisted Publishing, is it For You?

Written by on February 1, 2017 in blog, ebooks, self-publishing with 0 Comments

Assisted Publishing

Self-publishing has grown substantially over the past few years, and like all industries that experience strong growth, it has attracted more than its share of scam artists and companies ready to take advantage of unwary authors. Most of these companies hide under the umbrella of ‘assisted publishing’ and do their best to appear self-publisher friendly. These predators look for gullible or uninformed people and do their best to overcharge and under-perform. And they’re damn good at it, knowing just what buttons to push in order to extract the most money from their unsuspecting and trusting customers.

Alli (Alliance of Independent Authors) does its best to uncover them; however, it can’t find them all. Orna (Orna Ross) doesn’t have enough money to pay me, or anyone else, to do it all because it would be a full-time job—and then some.

It’s Up To You

You, as self-publishers have to learn how to vet the assisted publishers and others alike, including whoever you use as vendors for miscellaneous services. Make a set of questions to use as a guideline.

As an example—

If you are considering an assisted publishing company, have a list prepared to evaluate them. This is not a comprehensive list, but here are a few questions you might ask.

  • Is the company asking you to pay any money up front? If the answer is yes, then go no further. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Find someone else.

Assisted Publishing

Any money you pay should come as a result of sales, the same way in which reputable distributors charge—companies like Smashwords and Draft2Digital. They take a small percentage of your list price, and they charge nothing else.

  • Is the company guaranteeing you sales? If they are, they are likely a scam. No one. And I mean, no one, can guarantee you sales unless you pay for a promotion—like Bookbub (which we’ll discuss in another post).
  • Do they offer the option of buying a barcode or a copyright? If they do, run. (A copyright charge is acceptable for administration purposes, but only if it’s reasonable—like $50 or less. A copyright isn’t really needed, but if you want one, it only costs $35 and you can do it yourself.) You can get barcodes for free also. Here’s a link to a post I wrote about that.
  • How much is the company charging for an ISBN? If they are charging you, it should be reasonable. Remember, if they do much business, they purchase ISBNs for about $1–$1.50 each. If you want to know more about ISBNs, here’s another link to a post that should answer all of your questions.
  • Do not pay much, if anything, for a web page. Remember, the company you’re dealing with can put up a page and assign you a URL in a matter of moments. The price they charge should reflect that.
assisted publishing
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  • Formatting for ePub and print should be reasonable. There are apps that do a fantastic job now—like Vellum. I’m sure if a company is in the publishing business, they have access to these same apps, which means that their cost for formatting is negligible. Again, the price should reflect it.

A side note. I have used Vellum and it produces beautiful, error-free books. I published two books using Vellum. And even though I now use a formatter, it’s more of a time consideration. It’s nice to know, though, that Vellum is there for a backup. If I need something done quickly, I can always format it using Vellum.

assisted publishing
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  • Editing services are critical, and need to be thoroughly vetted. Have a look at the company’s website. Are there any mistakes? Go to Amazon, and look up books that list the company as a publisher. Do the reviews talk about bad editing and mistakes? If so, it should make you wonder.
    • Editing should also be priced reasonably, and, the company should offer you a sample of the work. It’s important that you’re happy with the person who does the editing.
      assisted publishing
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  • As a rule, I think a good copyediting service would cost anywhere from $600–1,000 for a 100,000 word novel. Non-fiction is typically more as it requires additional fact checking, though it depends on the specific work.
  • There should never be a charge for storage of books. Almost all books in the self-publishing industry are POD (print on demand) so there is no need for storage. If you are having your books printed through another vendor, and it’s not POD, then ignore the previous statement—a reasonable charge is not out of the question.
  • Social media charges are out of the question (at least as far as I’m concerned). Even if you don’t know a thing about Facebook, or Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or any of the others, dig in and learn. You need to anyway. Pay or not, you don’t want to rely on someone else to handle this part of your business. You need to come across as real and the best way to do that is to become comfortable with using the various services.
  • Look at the company’s star authors. Check their rankings on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc. If there aren’t any authors who have achieved at least some success—in terms of sales—be suspicious.
  • Ask if you can talk to some of their authors. If the company won’t let you, track the authors down. Use Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Amazon, or any means you can think of. You might be surprised by what you find.
  • Don’t fall for the promise of press releases, or public relations, or of the ‘assisted publisher’ writing marketing copy. These are jobs you can do yourself with a little learning, and some help. And if you intend to write more than one book, you’re going to need it.
  • If the company tries charging for things like ‘Amazon’s Look Inside’ feature, at that point you need to tell them where to shove it. That’s a free service, and if the company is not going to do it for you, they should at least provide you a link to an article that shows you how to do it yourself.
  • Book cover design.
    I’m sure there are good graphic designers who work for, or with, the assisted-publishing companies. But I haven’t found one yet. You’re far better off getting a recommendation from a friend, or finding a cover that impresses you, then researching who the artist who designed it was. In fact, that’s a good way to find editors also, and formatters, and about anyone else.
  • Above all else, remember that the company should be motivated by your success. Think of companies like Smashwords and Draft2Digital. They don’t make a penny unless you do. They only make money when you sell books. That is what you want in a publishing partner.

I mentioned my editor, book cover designer, and formatter earlier. If you’re interested, here is their information. They’re fantastic to work with. If you have the willpower, my advice is to forget assisted publishing and do it yourself.

Book cover: Natasha Brown (fantastic!)
Editing: Eschler Editing
Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammar and publishing. See the complete list here.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.

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About the Author

About the Author: Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammar and publishing. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends. .

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