Book Publishing Services: What are they? Do I need them?

Options for indie publishing are exploding. While this is a great thing for authors who want to publish a book without involving a traditional publisher, the terminology around self-publishing is also exploding and further muddying the waters. In today’s publishing marketplace, it’s getting more difficult for authors and companies involved in the industry to categorize the various services available. So, we thought we’d zero in on one of the latest terms in the industry: book publishing services, also called “author services.”

Who Needs Book Publishing Services?

The easy answer is any author who wants to self-publish a book. But, as you’ll see in the next section, What Are Book Publishing Services?, not all authors need or want book publishing services.

Authors may consider book publishing services if they:

  • Are selling the book rather than gifting it to family and friends.
  • Are publishing the book as a business venture rather than a hobby.
  • Are publishing the book as a hobby but want it to be as professional and beautiful as possible.
  • Intend the book to be an extension of their professional life and a marketing tool meant to advance a career or business enterprise.
  • Want to maintain complete control of the book publishing project from start to finish and be involved in every step of the decision-making process.
  • Want to be the publisher of the book and not accidentally transfer ownership of the book to a self-publishing company.
  • Prefer to work with one company rather than manage several freelancers working on various parts of the project.
  • Allocated funds for book cover design, professional page layout, editing and marketing.
  • Understand that books designed by someone who is not a professional book designer can look very amateurish and “self-published,” and that books that look “self-published” have a disadvantage in the crowded book retail marketplace.
  • Lack the book design skills or knowledge of the software to do it themselves, nor do they have the time or inclination to learn.

What Are Book Publishing Services?

When you’re searching for a company offering book publishing services, it can be difficult to separate out those companies that focus on book publishing services as their core business and those that offer book publishing services as an add-on to publishing.

Here’s what you should look for when seeking book publishing services.

The company focuses on book production and promotion: Book production includes editing, cover design and interior layout and proofreading. Included also may be illustration, indexing and other services needed to publish a book. The company may offer book promotion services such as PR, designing and printing promotional materials, designing author websites, and offer coaching and other resources. A freelancer may do book covers and interior page layout among the many types of items they design but it’s not a specialty.

They aren’t self-serve publishing platforms or distribution/print-on-demand companies: Often Amazon KDP and IngramSpark are confused as book publishing services. These companies offer distribution to Amazon and other online retailers, bookstores and libraries. Amazon KDP provides templates for covers and pages, but these are meant for authors to do the formatting themselves. To understand the difference between these two companies, read this blog from our archives.  The book publishing services company may provide title set-up on either or both of these platforms and upload the book files for authors. At 1106 Design, title set-up is included for free.

You’re free to choose which services you want: Perhaps your book has already been edited and you don’t need this service. Authors should be free to choose which services they want and not feel pressured to buy services or products they don’t need. There should not be any “upsell” on the part of the company.

They write a proposal to you, not the other way round: If you’ve contacted a company and they want you to submit your manuscript for review and acceptance (along with a check!), run. You’ve likely contacted a vanity publishing company. At 1106 Design we do ask authors to submit their manuscript, but only so that we can provide the author with an accurate quote. At no time should the project hinge on a self-publishing company accepting your book for “publication” when you’re paying the tab.

They aren’t the publisher. They provide the services to publish your book: Some authors choose to allow a self-publishing company to be the publisher. As long as one is aware of the choices and ramifications, that’s fine. A sure sign that the company will insist on being the publisher is if they offer to provide you with a “free” ISBN rather than ensuring that you own the ISBN for your book. They have purchased blocks of ISBNs, and by assigning your book one of their ISBNs, they will be considered the publisher of record. A company focused on production and promotion may provide an ISBN as an option, but should also facilitate the purchase of an ISBN for the author if the author should so wish. Which leads me to the next point…

You keep 100% of your publisher’s commission (royalties): The book publishing services company should not keep any of your royalties. They should charge you for the services provided and nothing else. Watch for companies that offer their book publishing services at prices lower than other companies in return for keeping a portion of the royalties as additional compensation. One way to ensure that you keep 100% of your royalties is to open your own accounts with Amazon KDP and IngramSpark and to manage your own print-on-demand.

How Do I Find Reputable Book Publishing Services?

With the Internet at your fingertips, it’s never been easier to find reviews—good and bad—about companies and people who provide book publishing services. Once you have a list of companies you wish to contact, simply type the name of the company in the search bar of Google, Bing or your search engine of choice, along with the word “reviews” or “scam” or “complaints.”

A few resources help to separate the companies that provide sub-par services or are scams, from those that authors can count on. These include:

The Alliance of Independent Authors: ALLi provides a Self-Publishing Services Watchdog and a member directory with companies rated. Authors can use both to research book publishing services.

Center for Book Publishing: They track and rate companies that provide publishing services here.

This article from Publisher’s Weekly is an excellent resource to help authors recognize red flags and find reputable companies.

We recommend that authors obtain proposals from three book publishing service companies (or from three freelancers should they decide to go that route). Make sure to understand what services you are receiving, how the items are priced, and how revisions are handled (e.g., an hourly fee for revisions over a certain number).

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