In the era of user-generated content, anyone can write a book and get it published, whether it’s on librarianship, Big Data, or data scientists. There are dozens of companies to help authors find the right editorial services, design assistance, printing, marketing, and distribution for their works. These days, authors don’t need a huge publishing house. One of the best ways to get published and get involved in the process is to sign up with a do-it-yourself (DIY) publisher. Be prepared: Though these publishers charge authors for specific services, you’ll still end up doing most of the work yourself. But on the plus side, you’ll retain creative control of your book.
Whether you’re a librarian trying to help a patron get published or planning on writing a book yourself, here is a sampling of five DIY publishers to check out. We've also included a handy chart that captures all the key points that each publisher offers.
Blurb: Print on Demand
With Blurb, you design and lay out the book’s interior and cover yourself for free, and you pay Blurb each time you print a copy.
Formats: Books are available in print (text-heavy books, photo books, yearbooks, portfolios, cookbooks, wedding albums, brochures, magazines), PDF, and iPad ebooks.
Costs: Printing prices are calculated based on the book’s size and format (e.g., you can print a 50-page book for between $3.99 and $22.99). There are volume discounts for 10–249 copies. Ebooks cost $4.99 for the PDF and $9.99 for the iPad ebook. You can also use Blurb’s directory to hire freelancers who will design the book for you. Because these freelancers are not Blurb employees, you’ll have to work out a payment plan with each individual you hire.
DIY Level: Most likely, you’ll design your book using Blurb’s online tool called Blurb Bookify, if you don’t have access to Adobe InDesign (with InDesign, you can use Blurb’s free plugin to access templates based on specifications you type in, such as book size, page count, etc.). You can also turn your book into an iPad ebook using the online ebook creator or into a PDF using the PDF to Book workflow.
Distribution: Books are distributed to the Blurb Bookstore and, if you’re making an ebook, to Apple’s iBookstore.
Marketing: Blurb offers sharing tools so you can promote your book on social networks and your own website; there are also sales and traffic metrics available so you can keep track of how your book is selling.
Royalties: You set the price (books must be priced $4.99 or higher) and keep 100% of the markup for a print book or 80% of the profits on the retail price of an ebook. In the Apple iBookstore, you can keep 50% of the profits.
Special Features: You can order the Blurb Swatch Kit, a sampler of Blurb’s paper types, for $7.95, before creating your book. Once you order the Swatch Kit, you’ll receive a promo code toward the cost of your finished book. For photo books, Blurb has partnered with Samsung for a Story Album photo function so you can use the Galaxy S4 phone’s camera and Blurb to publish the book. You can download Blurb BookSmart to use layout templates or create custom layouts.
Pros and Cons: Blurb lacks an extensive distribution option, but if you’re interested in publishing a book for personal use, its design and creation tools make the process simple.
CreateSpace: Not for Amazon Only
CreateSpace, owned by Amazon, allows you to create and distribute your book to certain sites for free, but it charges for premium services and publishing packages.
Formats: You can make print books, CDs, DVDs, and Kindle ebooks.
Costs: If you want to have professionals design, edit, and publicize your book, you can sign up for a publishing package, which ranges from $248 to $5,054; you can also purchase editing or design services individually. You can order copies of your own book at a fixed price, as well as shipping and handling.
DIY Level: You can upload a Word document or a PDF file to the Interior Reviewer on CreateSpace to convert your book and check it on the site. CreateSpace then automatically scans for errors and automatically fixes your file to match the trim size you choose. You can also design your cover using the online Cover Creator tool.
Distribution: Books are distributed to Amazon, Amazon’s European sites, and CreateSpace’s eStore (which is Amazon.com) for free; other distribution channels include online retailers, bookstores, libraries, academic institutions, and U.S. distributors for $25; and it’s free to upload an ebook to Kindle Direct Publishing for sale on Amazon’s Kindle store.
Marketing: You can purchase marketing packages to help write press releases, get the book reviewed by respected publications, and create book trailers and other promotional materials. Prices range from $49 (for a Library of Congress catalog number) to $2,199 (for a book trailer).
Royalties: CreateSpace calculates its royalty share based on the buyer’s location relative to its printer’s location, and it takes a percentage of the list price you set for each retailer where your book is sold (Amazon, Amazon’s European sites, and other retailers).
Special Features: In order to print your book, you need an International Standard Book Number (ISBN; a unique identifier for your book). CreateSpace can assign an ISBN for free for use in its eStore, or you can purchase one if you want your book sold anywhere else. Options are $10 for a custom ISBN (distributed through CreateSpace only), or $99 for a custom universal ISBN (you choose where it’s distributed). Or you can purchase an ISBN from an outside source such as Bowker.
Pros and Cons: Amazon has the largest share of the market, so availability on Amazon and the Kindle store is a plus. However, you must create separate accounts for CreateSpace and the Kindle Direct Publishing website because the companies operate separately.
FastPencil: Going Social
With FastPencil, you can enlist the help of a community of fellow authors to make the book writing process a social event.
Formats: Print books and ebooks are available.
Costs: Publishing packages are DIY (free), Bronze ($999), Silver ($1,999), or Gold ($1,999) depending on the level of help you need (i.e., with design, editing, and/or distribution). The online book creation tool is free to use, but you must pay to print copies of the books you make. You can also purchase individual services such as copyediting, which is a $299 flat fee or a basic PR package for $899, which includes a press release draft and wire distribution.
DIY Level: You can create and edit your manuscript on the online platform using FastPencil’s design templates.
Distribution: Books are distributed to FastPencil’s Marketplace for free and to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, iPad, Sony Reader, and Ingram Content Group for $299.
Marketing: Marketing packages include PR Basic for $899 (a press release and wire distribution), PR Media Outreach & Social Media for $2,899 (a press release, wire distribution, and outreach to 40 media outlets), and Book-To-Screen for $799 (help with creating a screenplay).
Royalties: You get 80% in royalties on the list price you set for your book.
Special Features: You can connect to the FastPencil community to find professionals, talk to other authors and FastPencil’s Author Service team, and use the forums to ask questions. FastPencil has a publishing imprint called PREMIERE where established authors who have sold more than 100,000 copies of their books can easily publish and distribute their books and ebooks on the site.
Pros and Cons: The FastPencil community could be a valuable resource for some, but the prices are steep.
Infinity Publishing: A Little Vanity
Infinity Publishing is more like a vanity publisher, which means that you pay the company to design and publish your book. With Infinity Publishing, no aspect of the publishing process is free, but you choose a package based on the level of professional help you want.
Formats: Print books, ebooks, and audiobooks are offered.
Costs: Publishing packages depend on format (e.g., softcover and hardcover packages for $599–$949, ebook packages for $199–$349); or you can choose an all-inclusive package for $1,499.
DIY Level: You select a package that determines which professionals will be hired to do all of the publishing steps for you: design, layout, cover creation, editing, etc.
Distribution: Books are distributed to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor, and the Infinity Bookstore for free (with the purchase of any package); there is free ebook distribution to Sony, Blio, OverDrive, and Amazon; other options cost between $1,095 and $1,675.
Marketing: There are three options for marketing packages, depending on what services you need—Renaissance ($595), Modern ($925), or Contemporary ($975). You can also hire individual services such as a marketing consultant for $495 and book review service for $150.
Royalties: Using the suggested minimum list price, you get 30% of a retail sale, 15% of a wholesale sale (large quantities) or a Baker & Taylor/Ingram sale, and 70% of an ebook sale.
Special Features: You can order a free 100-page self-publishing guide by mail or download a copy that contains tips and best practices for aspiring authors.
Pros and Cons: The time commitment is much shorter than with other self-publishing tools because you’re not doing the design and layout work yourself. However, you should weigh this option carefully because the a la carte costs can add up quickly depending on the options you choose.
Lulu: Open Options
Lulu promotes “open publishing”—you can create books in multiple languages and formats and sell them using a variety of retailers in 225 countries. Lulu was one of the first self-publishing tools, and it is still going strong.
Formats: Print books (photo books, mini-books, cookbooks, travel books, calendars), ebooks, and iPad ebooks are available.
Costs: Printing a book has three price levels based on book format—book manufacturing cost (no distribution), book retail or list price (for distribution), or bulk discount levels. Creating an ebook can be DIY for free, or you can purchase one of three options for $99–$219. Lulu has options for publishing packages (Classic, Debut, or Blitz), or you can mix-and-match a selection of services to help you with design, editing, marketing, etc.
DIY Level: If you want to go the DIY route for free, you can upload your book to the site and use the cover creation tool. Otherwise, you can choose a package that will let the experts design your book for you.
Distribution: Books are distributed to the Lulu Marketplace and Amazon for free, with the option of adding Ingram Content Group distribution for $75 so you have access to all of Ingram’s partners; your ebook can be distributed to the Lulu Marketplace, Apple iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble NOOK for free.
Marketing: Lulu offers fee-based services for promotional services such as the creation of a website and business cards and for publicity services such as press releases ($499), an online publicity campaign ($8,399), and representation at book fairs ($1,799).
Royalties: You get 80% royalty on the price you set and 90% royalty on ebooks.
Special Features: Lulu offers a free ISBN if you want to take advantage of its distribution options, or you will have to purchase one for $99 if you want to publish under your own name and not Lulu’s. If you’re up for the cost, you can pay $18,499 to have Lulu create your book as a screenplay that it distributes to its producing partner in Hollywood.
Pros and Cons: Lulu doesn’t have many extensive distribution options; however, authors have a high level of involvement in the process.
Website creation tools
Official professional design/editing options
Automatic ebook distribution
Own online bookstore
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