With triple-digit growth in self-publishing services, technologies evolving weekly, and advertising hype, it’s tough for authors to figure out which vendors to choose for which services. In this series, I’ve been looking at three popular paths to get your print and e-book to online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores, without going through the subsidy presses.

So far, we’ve covered:

Path 1: E-book only or e-book first – Using either Smashwords and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or a service like BookBaby, how to get your e-book aggregated to the online retailers.

Path 2: Print (POD) – Get your print book formatted and distributed to the online retailers and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

This week, in the third in the three-part series of popular publishing paths for authors, I will describe how to work with a publishing partner to get your book into e-book and print formats, and into online and brick-and-mortar booksellers.

Or:

Path 3: Partner with a pro – Finding a distributor, small press, publisher services company, book packager, or literary agent who will invest in and shepherd your book much like a traditional publisher in exchange for an exclusive distribution deal and significant royalty from sales.

A Review of the Options in this Path

The demise of traditional publishing has had a negative effect on many people in the industry, so they are scrambling to find ways to take advantage of the rise in the number of authors who are self-publishing. Book distributors, printing companies, small presses, packagers, and even literary agents are creating services for self-publishers in order to sustain their business.

Key here is that most of these publishing partners need to believe in your book before they invest the time and effort. Unlike author services companies, most of these pros make money by selling books, not by charging fees to authors, so you must be prepared to convince them that your book will sell. Woo them in the traditional way. A publishing partner’s version of flowers and chocolate is a book proposal with a marketing plan.

Working with a distributor

Traditional distribution companies are becoming eager to work with self-publishers. One example is Small Press United (SPU), a branch of Independent Publishers Group. If you’re one of the fewer than 20 percent of authors who are accepted into their program they will present your book to resellers next to offerings from the mainstream press. They can also print your book on-demand and format your e-book.

Don’t overlook the smaller distribution companies, some of whom may have very narrow specialties — for example, companies sponsored by a library who reach out to seniors writing literary non-fiction. Another might specialize in spiritual titles, or romance, or nature books. These are easier to find if you’re a member of a small publishers organization, which not only have lists, but authors who can recommend them.

Working with a book packager

Another more popular option, because they accept more authors into their program, are companies like BookMasters, along with their distribution partner, Atlas Books. But book packaging isn’t only offered by large companies; independent publishing professionals offer similar services. An example is Stephanie Chandler’s Authority Publishing, which offers book packaging (aka custom book publishing) services for non-fiction book authors.

Many authors who do not expect to make money on their book, but are using a book to generate more customers, speaking engagements, media attention, or expertise in an industry, are often attracted to this solution because of the professional results they get.

Working with a printing company

Also look for established printing companies, like Transcontinental, Thompson-Shore and Fidlar-Doubleday, that offer a wide array of self-publishing services, distribution and fulfillment, data warehousing, editing, design, and marketing materials.

Working with a small press

Many small presses are now offering co- or partner-publishing deals to authors with books that match up with their catalogs. Of course, they only take books they think they can sell, because they will edit, design, convert to e-book formats, and sometimes even aggressively market your book.

Working with a literary agent

Literary agents are finding it more and more difficult to sell good books to traditional publishing companies, so many are offering independent publishing services to authors they have represented, and to new authors they believe in. Do choose your agents carefully; study each agent’s submission requirements; write a great query letter; and be ready to follow up with a book proposal.

Pros and Cons

  • You write the book and they handle everything else, perhaps for a fee. That’s everything and maybe even includes marketing and promotion: printing, e-book formatting, fulfillment, and distribution.
  • The fees can really pile up!
  • They will only co-publish books they believe will sell. They are interested in making a profit from your book, which means you will also profit.
  • Most insist on an exclusive distribution contract. That means that you buy your own books from them (at a discount) when you want a quantity to sell on your own website or for an event.
  • Most of these partners believe in your book and want it to succeed.
  • They have the skills to make your book more salable, so even though you get less money per book, you sell more books.

Further Reading

Other stories in this series:

Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and as diaries on her website. The newest version of her e-book, The Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, was released in August 2011 and is available on Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, and for the B&N Nook.