Tier 1: "Published Author" companies.
- Take a raw text you send them and (for a fee) shoehorn it into the page size you request.
- Take a well-formatted text and print it directly.
- Print (bound, paper/hardcover) copies of your book to order, and ship them where you ask.
- Produce and host on their website ebook copies of your text.
- (For a fee) get an ISBN or Library of Congress registration
- A "line editing" pass that deals mostly with the readability of your text: "You can't spell. Use the same tense/voice. Don't put your entire novel in bold italics."
Tier 2: "Professional Author" companies.
- Everything in Tier 1
- (For a fee) cover art and title assistance
- (For a fee) copy editing AND line editing
- A company-hosted "author" and "book" page to get your publication into the search engines
- Registration with all the online booksellers, including a professionally created book reference page at each with all the details filled out.
- (If you so request) Direct on-demand fulfillment to the booksellers so you don't have to personally process every online order yourself.
- Feedback you get from them is more like "There are a lot of joke books... it's going to be hard to differentiate yours" or "Consider naming your epic tragedy novel something other than 'Bob's Beatnick Ballyhoo to Borabora'".
Tier 3: "Profitable Author" companies
- It all gets very very vague here.
- There are services that are intended to get you into the booklists of various personalities, publishers and papers, and (eventually) into brick-and-mortar stores.
- This is "book publicist" work, and I'm guessing it's a whole new tier of expense.
Some of the services offered by each Tier 2 company reach toward Tier 3, but I'm pretty sure none of them is actually aiming to center their business there.
Slotting various companies
N.B. These are general categories and personal observations! Companies change. Services change. Industries change.
I'd place lulu and blurb in Tier 1.
I'd place Outskirts Press, iUniverse, and xLibris in Tier 2
I see no one clearly in Tier 3.
I can't really figure out where CreateSpace falls, because (at the time I looked) I was daunted by the up-front agreement before I could (really) get a handle on their services. I'm sure they'll work that out at some point and their position will become more clear.
That's all for now,