An Outline of Self-publishing Services in 2010 and 2011

I've found that these companies seem to break down into 3 tiers:

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."
With these companies, the focus is on becoming a published author. Whether this is a vanity publishing, a photoessay of family history to give away at the big reunion, or a launchpad to being a professional author, these services get you started. These companies are essentially entirely fee-based. You pay for what you get, and they're happy to sell it to you.

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'".
With these companies, the focus is on becoming a professional author. Your work would stands up to a certain level of peer review, the book is formatted in a professional way, and you are positioned to sell books and earn money. These companies are often also fee-based, although they may want temporary exclusive rights to publish/market on your behalf.

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.
These companies (more likely personal consultants at larger companies) are focused on making money through bookselling. They're usually in it for a percentage, rather than a fee, and that makes a lot of sense, since you want them to be well incentivised. These are often completely exclusive. (for the book, or even for you as an author)

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,