WHAT IS ASSISTED SELF-PUBLISHING?

What Is Assisted Self-Publishing?

In my first issue of this blog thread, which I posted earlier this month, I talked to you a little about traditional publishing, assisted self-publishing, and self-publishing. Today, I will talk a little more about assisted self-publishing.

Once I finished writing the manuscript of the first novel I wished to publish, I was left with the question, “What next?” I knew there was a lot more to do, but I wasn’t sure where to start. Also, I have a full-time day job and two small children, which meant it would likely take me a long time to do the study and research needed to do it myself.

Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue for me. I love to learn, and I am interested in learning more about editing, self-publishing and so on. But this was a story I have had in my head for over two decades, and I wasn’t feeling patient enough to wait the months it would take to learn enough to do it myself. I knew I would eventually, but I just didn’t want to wait.

Finishing your manuscript is just the tip of the iceberg.
I quickly learned that the majority of the work comes after the final draft of your manuscript is done (if you can ever really call it ‘done’). And like the 90% of an iceberg that’s hidden underwater, a huge chunk of the process can be like a hidden mystery to those who have never done it before.

Finishing your manuscript is just the tip of the iceberg

Because of my lack of experience and my very busy schedule, the idea of assisted self-publishing intrigued me. So, I researched the names of some companies that offered this service, then started with reviews of said companies. This turned out to be a good idea, because I learned what to look for, as well as what to watch out for.

There are many things to do to get a book ready for publication, and assisted self-publishing companies can help with most of these steps.

Services offered by most assisted self-publishing companies:

  1. Editing.  You can choose editing options based on what you need and what you can afford. There is usually a per-word charge which varies according to the level of editing requested.
  2. Interior formatting and design. This step pretty much ensures your book is formatted correctly for print, eBook, or both, depending on what you want. It also makes sure it is easy to read and esthetically pleasing for readers. The price varies according to the format(s) you are publishing.
  3. Cover design and layout. Self-publishing companies offer this service as well, if you do not already have a cover image for your book
  4. Promotional materials. The designers can take the images from the cover and provide you with the files you will need to turn those images into bookmarks, business cards, signs and so on.
  5. Illustrators, if needed.
  6. Distribution. These companies will set up, or let you know how to set up, your distribution accounts with Print on Demand services, if required, and online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.
  7. Author website. Many assisted self-publishing companies can purchase a domain name for you, set up a basic website and get it hosted for you for a charge.
  8. Marketing. Assisted self-publishing companies do not do the marketing for you usually, but can provide you with valuable marketing advice. Again, for a fee.
  9. ISBNs. Assisted self-publishing companies can purchase ISBNs for your book. In fact, they often purchase ISBNs in bulk in order to save money. You may wish to purchase these yourself, however, to ensure you are listed as the publisher

CAUTION!!! Make sure you do your research before choosing a company to help you self-publish. Many will claim royalties, hold the copyright, etc. So, even though you are paying for their services out of your own pocket, you may end up not being listed as the publisher, not being the owner of your ISBNs or domain name, and so on. You may also end up losing some of your royalties to said company.

Pros of using an assisted self-publishing company:

  • They can provide the people/talent you need to get your book from manuscript to published book, so you do not need to spend countless hours searching for the people you need yourself
  • You can learn much about the process through interaction with your project manager and other people in the company who are knowledgeable in their fields
  • The assisted self-publishing company will provide the man hours needed for each step, when you yourself may not have the time to put into the process
  • They usually supply revision rounds, so you get some control of the project
  • All of the self-publishing companies I researched offered packages, so you can pick the price and the services you can afford

Cons of using an assisted self-publishing company:

  • Since they are getting paid to get your book published, you may end up with doubt about whether or not the editor has provided you with honest, or brutal enough, feedback. That might seem like a strange thing for an author to complain about, but it isn’t really. Not if you are truly interested in getting your best possible work out there.
  • You may not have direct contact with the various people working on your book, and may have to depend on a project manager and margin notes to get your feedback to the people it needs to get to
  • If the assisted self-publishing company purchases the ISBNs and the domain name for your website on your behalf, then chances are they will be listed as the owners, not you.
  • According to my research, most assisted self-publishing companies claim a royalty for what is supposed to be a ‘self’ published work
  • The services offered can be quite costly

I had a good experience overall with the company I chose and am, for the most part, happy I went that route for my first published work. I learned a lot, and my project manager was quick to get back to me when I had a question. I loved the cover of my book, which was created using stock photos and some input from myself. Also, once I realized my ISBNs and domain name did not technically belong to me, I contacted the company, who then helped me transfer ownership of the domain name from them to me. I can’t do much about the ISBNs for that book, unless I want to change my files and resubmit them, which would take more time and money.

However, I will likely not use an assisted self-publishing company in the future, for a few reasons. First of all, I’ve discovered that it is fairly easy to find independent editors, graphic artists, and so on, who charge less while still offering quality services, if you have the time to do your research. Secondly, since I am writing a series, I would like all the covers to be uniform, which would be very difficult to do with stock photos (Tellwell’s graphic designers use stock photos. I can’t speak for all the companies out there on this point, though). And lastly, lack of one-on-one, direct contact with my editor left a couple of my questions unanswered, which I feel ultimately affected the quality of the finished product.

In fact, the issue about cover uniformity for the series, coupled with the unanswered questions to my editor, led me to the decision to re-do my cover and update and expand my story in a second edition, without using an assisted self-publishing company to help me. I will tell you more about that in my next post.

In the next issue of Tips from a Self-Published Author Finding Her Way in the Dark:

Self-publishing:

  • What steps you will need to complete to get your book from manuscript to published work
  • Options for book formats and distribution channels
  • IngramSpark, CreateSpace and Smashwords

*PLEASE NOTE: My experience with assisted self-publishing beyond the initial research is limited to one company, Tellwell.ca. They are a Canadian company based in Victoria, BC, and were the only company I found during my research who did not claim any royalties. Therefore, many of my observations are based, in large part, on my experiences with them. These are my own experiences and opinions. I am not saying my choices would be best for everyone. It is always a good idea to do your research.

 

I look forward to posting more blogs about self-publishing, for your information and enjoyment, in the future.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. Sign up for my author newsletter in exchange for a free copy of my Seers Series short story collection, The Guardians of Sterrenvar, here.

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