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The Safe Way to Choosing a Self Publishing Provider by Ben Galley

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Ben Galley

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There are many challenges facing today’s author, and choosing a self-publishing provide is one that cannot be ignored.

In today’s ever-changing publishing landscape, providers of self-publishing services are appearing at an unrivalled rate. With such a large surge and rush to self-publish, a huge number of companies have joined the fray to answer the demand, providing authors with services such as publishing, printing, ebook formatting, marketing, editing, and cover design. Having so many to choose from makes it confusing and concering. Am I making the right choice? Is this the best provider for me? What should I be looking for? These are the questions being asked –which providers can you trust, and which providers should you steer clear of?

This problem is further compounded by the fact that this industry lacks any sort of central vetting or Watchdog service that can advise new authors on who to watch out for. Many of us try our best to spread warning and recommendation – from The Alliance of Independent Author’s watchdogs like myself and Mick Rooney, to Writer Beware.com, or the Creative Penn. Despite these efforts, many authors are still making bad choices, sucked into the clever salespeak of large hard-sell companies and their spawn. Companies that are becoming notorious for trapping authors in detrimental situations, scuppering their chances of success before they’ve even begun.

These companies offer a business model that seems to promise a lot, and yet can greatly damage an author’s ability to make a living. They offer a 360 degree solution to authors, offering editing, cover design, printing, distribution, ebooks, and marketing services all for a ‘bargain’ sum – ranging from £5000 up to £10,000 in some cases. As far as I’m concerned, publishing should never cost that much. And yet there are authors out there paying it. It wouldn’t be an issue if these publishing services were comprehensive and top-notch, which they often aren’t. Shelling out for such a large initial fee puts authors on the financial back foot, meaning that they need years or huge sales to merely break even. When you factor in the poor royalties these companies offer, conveyor-belt-type processes, and a lack of general care on the provider’s part (ie – they see the author simply as a wallet with legs), you end up with a perfect storm of dissatisfaction. It’s an epidemic in the publishing industry.

And yet there are also stars of this landscape. Providers such as LSI, or CreateSpace, or Kobo – providers who actually have the author’s best interests at heart, who offer good value or free services. How are new authors to know about these providers?

Hence the need for a central hub of recommendation and warning. This was the idea behind the Alliance of Independent Authors’ first ever publication – Choosing A Self Publishing Service 2013: The Alliance of Independent Authors Guide. To highlight both the good and the bad. To provide detailed and unbiased advice. To pave the way towards a recognised and respected vetting service.

The Guide, compiled by the Watchdog team at ALLi, examines 20 providers from across the whole spectrum of the publishing industry, bearing their bones. We scrutinise their every aspect – their costs, their clauses, their conditions, and also look at the feedback from real-life authors who have actually used them.

The Guide then supplies two different ratings from two independent assessors to give the author an idea of where these providers sit in the industry, and how they stack up against each other. This ideally helps the author identify the major differences between what is a good and bad provider. This shows authors what warning signs to look out for, enabling them to make informed decisions when coming across a new and potential provider.

But the Guide doesn’t just look at individual providers and their services, it looks at the industry as a whole, and what it means to be a self-published author in today’s landscape. With forewords and comments from Victoria Strauss, Mick Rooney, and head of ALLi Orna Ross, the Guide offers advice and encouragement, as well as insight into the state of the industry, and how it affects us as authors. It defines the questions an indie author should be asking of providers as well.

For the very new authors out there, the Guide also performs as a resource pack – providing a comprehensive Directory of all ALLi’s carefully-vetted providers and partner members, as well as eight possible routes into publishing, and detailing the basics of self-publishing physical and digital books.

ALLi will be keeping this guide current as time moves on – updating it every twenty weeks or so. It’s a unique publication in the fact that it will evolve as and when new providers come along, or when existing providers change their services. In this way we hope it will help authors stay current, as well as tracking the progress of providers aiming to change for the better. This is another key purpose of the guide, and something that ALLi is keen to do – to educate those providers that are failing to provide decent services, and affect change. By highlighting in great detail the areas that we as authors deem lacking, we hope that we can help the providers rethink their approach, and become more author-centric as time moves on. That in turn will create a better industry for all. Higher-quality books. Increased business for the provider. Authors with greater chances of success. Happier readers. It’s all very achievable.

As far as myself and ALLi is concerned, the Guide is the first step towards clearing the mists of this landscape. It was a challenge to construct in regards to the sheer amount of research and service providers that are out there, but it needed to be done. We hope that it will be the first of many Guides to come, and help make the concept of authors being ‘burned’ by poor providers a thing of the past.

You can find the Choosing A Self Publishing Service 2013: The Alliance of Independent Authors Guide on Amazon in both digital (eBook) and paperback.

Or, you can join the Alliance of Independent Authors, and become a part of our valuable community, click here for information.

About the author

One the UK’s youngest indie authors, Ben Galley is the founder of advice site Shelf Help, and also the Alliance of Independent Author’s Services Watchdog. Ben is making it his mission to provide the finest advice about writing, self-publishing, and marketing, and about the plethora of companies now at an author’s fingertips. An author and lover of fantasy, he has released two books of his Emaneska Series to date, and two more are scheduled for double release on the 31st of May 2013.

  • The Dark Room: A thrilling new novel from the number one Irish Times bestselling author of Keep Your Eyes on Me
  • www.designforwriters.com

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