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Best And Worst Self-Publishing Services

Best and Worst Self-Publishing Services

Best and worst self-publishing services

Which Self-Publishing Service gets your Thumbs-up/ Thumbs-Down?

We are compiling a list of “Fave Raves” and “Yah Boos” for inclusion in our Guide To Self-Publishing Services.

An informal list of your favourite self-pub services and the ones that make you mad as hell.

They can be big companies or small, full package providers or individual services like printing, formatting, software, marketing…

I’ll kick of by saying my Fave Rave at the moment is Scrivener Software, for being a fantastic writing tool that also saves me hundreds in formatting fees, by automatically compiling for kindle, epub and all other formats.

My Yah Boo: Archway Publishing, for linking with ASI to offer overpriced ambiguous services that trade on the Simon & Schuster brand name.

Let us know yours in the comments below.

Orna Ross

Orna Ross is an Irish novelist and poet and Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

This Post Has 58 Comments
  1. I have had two books published by Wingspan Press and another is currently going through the process. So far I am delighted with their service.

  2. I will not utilize Authorhouse again for any books.
    After tracking book signings, and sells in my circle of contacts on two continents, the royalties sent were far below actual sales. I believe that there needs to be an independent accounting method employed to protect authors. Also, they have continued to solicit me via phone to purchase marketing programs and additional books. They aren’t trying to help authors in my opinion, they are only trying to help themselves.

    1. Hello Cleo, thank you for that review about Authorhouse. I was in the process of trying to make a decision whether or not I should use Authorhouse. I get phone calls everyday even after I stress that I will give a call back. I ended up blocking their number. Thank you again, I have made my decision not to use them.

    2. Hello. I currently looking for a full service Self publishing company. I see that you are unhappy with Authorhouse. Who did you finally go with? Are you happy with the end result?

  3. I was about to sign my book on C.S. Lewis with AuthorHouse but after reading such terrible reviews I shall definitely pull out! Thanks for the reviews…. they are so helpful.

    I’ve seen that CreateSpace are also good but do they do any distribution and/or marketing? I don’t want my book buried under thousands of other publications and was hoping to find a one-stop publisher that also distributes and sells….

  4. Excellent site – thanks. I’m hoping to get help proof reading, light editing and publishing a novel. I have approached 2QT publishing and the response so far has been very positive. I tried searching for them on your site, but couldn’t see them listed. I wondered if you knew of them and had any info/thoughts you’d be kind enough to share about this company?
    Thanks very much

    1. A big ALL THUMBS DOWN to Book Baby for assuring me that my biography of an historical figure (with a few hundred footnotes and 20 page bibliography) would be edited to “Chicago Style” — essential in the social sciences; for charging $679 for a mangled job, and for claiming after the fact that they only “format” to Chicago Style — I the client must have misunderstood. I was forced to hire another editor to undo the mess Book Baby made of the footnotes and bibliography. These folks are disarmingly friendly and assuring on the phone, but beware! This is a “mass production service” — lots of friendly access BUT your so-called “coordinator” never reads your manuscript, and makes verbal assurances to you that are evidently never communicated to the editors and designers etc. Lots of room here for disappointment. And when you are disappointed, these guys dance, dance, dance. I just posted a critical comment on Trust Pilot and they denied I was a customer. O dear. Not what you want in a publisher.

      If your book is at all complicated — go somewhere else. And if you work with these guys, no matter what they SAY (and which services they recommend you buy to accomplish what you say you need), read the fine print yourself.

  5. Excellent website. As a novice, first book and not computer savvy, I looked at quite a few self-publishers, and finally signed with Archway. Would love an appraisal of their work/reputation.
    Thanks so much.

    P.S. I have so little knowledge about computers it’s embarrassing – I assume I check in at this website in a few days to see if you’ve replied?

      1. Hi ! Loretta how’s everything. Anyway listen ! I published a Book with Xlibris back 2015 and receive lil of nothing in Royalties. I now I’m ready to break my agreement. Any suggestions moving forward would be highly appreciated. Thank u

  6. So much help. All of the writers on this site are great. I had a feeling for each person replying. It has been a nightmare of a journey I started out working with iuniverse. My next two books were done by Author House. Too much money! They have frighten be to the core. I am afraid to try any of them any more, for they all sound as if they are going to do wonders. They never follow through.

    Marketing is my negative side. I put all this money out for advertising a video of my first children book, and the marketing person said it would do wonders. It is an on going video, that’s on special for $99.00 for so many months.. Without the special the video ad is $280.00 I believe. Buying books and advertising rips me apart, that why I had to stop until I find a better way to get my books out there.

  7. I just wrote to you but when I entered “submit” … a following page stated something like “you have already said that before.”

    Just would like you to know that in no way could I ever …etc etc. I just discovered your page.
    Oh well! Wonder how that worked!
    Irmie s.

  8. I am trying to “co-produce” – co-write for lack of a better description – with someone (from tons
    of notes which also need to be typed up to keep them readable.) I think I’d be quite able to conquer
    it on my own, but I am a bit afraid I might be running out of time. Would you know by any chance
    where I might look for people who provide such typing services and/or someone interested in
    being a ‘co-pilot.’ I realize that any background checks are my responsibility of course.
    Thank you for your time and trouble ….. Irmie Sofroniew

  9. HELP!!!!
    I am 79 years old, wrote a novel in 2005,”Children of the Fire” had good Amazon reviews, used Xlibris, spent too much for their services and am not satisfied with their printing costs, and royalty plan and want to change to another self publishing company.

    I am truly a technophobe–barely can use MS Word—who would you recommend.
    Thanks

  10. I have just finished writing a book. I want to self publish and was searching for information and direction to where I should go, but after hearing all these comments I’m even more confused! If anyone has any positive direction for me to avoid such traps, please let me know. For newbies where is the best places to go to get started?

    Thanks for any feedback

    1. Michelle, a good starting point is to read ALLi’s handbook, Choosing and Using a Self-publishing Service, written in easy-to-understand and objective terms to help you find your way. There’s also a huge amount of valuable information in the archive of this blog – take some time to look through it to gain heaps more knowledge for free. Don’t forget to use the search box if you want to go straight to a particular topic. Good luck with your self-publishing journey!

    2. I have just contacted Matador publishing who offer a full service to publish your book and you can pick and choose which services that you do want and don’t want. They even sent me a book so that I could see their style and finished article. They don’t seem cheap but you get what you pay for. They even sent me a free book on self publishing. Brilliant-the best information that I have received from a self publisher on just an email enquiry. I have had a bad experience with one UK publisher, name withheld as I am taking them to court, for changing titles, omitting text, deleting text, moving chapters from the front of the book to the back and from the back to the book all unauthorised. They added in to my book that I had a glossary to explain the dialect in my book except that I don’t have a glossary. My book was wrongly reformatted which caused all sorts of errors which they wanted me to pay for as amendments. They cropped text and left it on a comma and not a full stop and missed out paragraphs. They wanted all amendments done with the first proof copy and then it would be printed. I was given no proof that it had been done. I have now withdrawn copyright. I haven’t as yet used Matador but one good thing is that you can have as many proof copies as you want until you are satisfied that your book is ready to print and they return the book to prove that they have been done. Your book will not go to full print until you sign to agree that it is ready. Send for their free book or any free self publishing info. Only you can make the decision as to which publisher that you use. Retain copyright of your book. I wish you luck. If you do receive bad treatment know your rights and challenge them and should you move on to another publisher don’t use the same ISBN.

      1. I have used Matador for two of my books. Yes they are a bit pricey but the result is something you can be proud to hand out They were very helpful for a new writer.
        Good luck

  11. I wrote a book & had self published by xlibiris called A Feather In A wind…totally clueless to the business. I thought I had done my research but found out after I spent lots of money that obviously I haven’t..I feel as though I was totally ripped off..It was a biography of my life growing up as an adopted child not knowing her biological parents or even where she came from. My plan was if I wrote this book someone would come forth and help me in my endeavors..Well that never happened..I feel as though they did not market or do anything they said they were suppose to do,,,
    so Unhappy for trying to accomplish something that took many years of research and totally flopped..Xlibris calls me to this day trying to get more money out of me..I seriously would not recommend Xlibris..the book is still on Amazon. Now I don’t have the money to try again or do the right thing.

    Thanks

    Sonia Pighin

    1. Dear, Sonia.

      Right! I am currently working on my first novel. I previously contacted Xlibris. Ever since the consultant kept on email jacking me. I told him many times, I will call or email him when I was ready. He never listened and kept on calling. Thank you for your comment.

      Guenael.

    2. I too have had problems with Xlibris . I was very serious about my writing and so easily falling into their uncaring , greedy grasp. I purchased two of their expensive packages . And have since financially paid the price . They have done nothing to help me and won’t even give me my money back , they instead are still trying to get even more money out of me ! I advise anyone … DONT GO NEAR THESE SELF PUBLISHING CROOKS !

  12. For anyone who has ever thought about working with BOOK BABY, run far and run fast. THEY ARE A NIGHTMARE!!!!!! Forget the constant automated replies every time you try to communicate with them, there are bumps in the road, endless downloads and an incompetent team of customer service idiots who have to go back to square one every time you contact them. There is no continuity – nobody in control of your book – instead they just spout off more things you can download.

    I needed 2 simple words changed on the book cover but rather than making the simple change they needed to send me an e-mail with the title and subtitle again for confirmation – of course they got it wrong, so now we had four mistakes to correct. That’s ass backwards.

    They told me I’d get royalties, which was odd since they claim you will get 100% profits on their Premier Plan. One of them then explained that royalties are your profits less commissions to Amazon and other companies – that is NOT the definition of royalties.

    To send a simple Word document they make you upload the latest version of Flash. Why? When it did not upload I called and asked what to do. They said I could just attach the doc and send it. Why not make it that simple from the start? Another of many many hurdles.

    Then they sent another bunch of downloads one of which gave me a malware nightmare on my computer.

    Now I have left them 3 e-mails to which I get their famous auto responses that they will get back to me in 24 hours – it’s been 5 days.

    They are incompetent, so steeped in downloads that they have no idea what is going on, have and if you try to speak to management they are “busy at this time”

    I guess, to get them to respond or do anything, ‘m going to file a complaint with the better business bureau

  13. I have written a history book “People Migrations in Europe and America: Two Thousand Years of Nation-Building” meant to be a textbook and a resource for the public doing family histories. It is very accurate and succinct, but it looks a little crowded in single spaced Times New Roman.

    There are many cross-references too. From day one I insisted that the page numbers must not be changed, and my contract is based on that agreement. I have paid the XXPress two payments of $699 for assisted publishing. Their Office manager has asked for the third and final payment, but these people haven’t done anything helpful for me yet.

    I do not have rapport with their Author Account Manager. She makes partial and evasive replies to my requests. I swallowed my disappointment and sent her the whole manuscript on MS Word. She sent it to an editor who has no name and I am not allowed to ask him or her any questions. The evaluation that this no-name editor sent me, gave two examples of how I should reword passages. To do that would increase the number of pages and make it necessary to change the page numbers of all the cross references. That would take years, and I have already spent 15 years carefully, accurately writing and documenting this book. I shouldn’t have to pay for this editor wasting his/her time and mine.

    The Account Manager has clearly told me that I will have to do the editing myself and put the manuscript in PDF, which I am willing to do, but I don’t see why they cant give me practical help within the $1400 I have already paid.

    I have put the manuscript in Cambria 10 font, and without changing page numbering it looks less crowded. I have also done chapter one in two columns without changing page numbering. I am pleased. What do you think? I cannot afford funds or time to purchase some other software.

    Please advise me.

    1-604-795-6390

    1. Myrtle, I’m sorry to hear you’re having this unsatisfactory experience – it sounds as if the company is doing very little in return for the substantial sum you have paid them already. I’ll forward your message to our Watchdog service, which I hope will be able to offer you some useful expert advice on how to proceed. After spending so long researching and writing your book, you deserve a better outcome than what you’ve experienced to date.

      1. Could you please also help me …. I have paid over two thousand pounds to Xlibris for my two books . The latest one is not even published because I have not sent them the manuscript for it . As , I just want my money back . They refuse to remburse me for their poor service . Xlibris have caused me nothing but stress and the outcome is , I have put my writing on hold : (

  14. I am a newby and electronically challenged. I was advised to go to Lightening Source for my publishing needs. Since I found their guidance to submitting my book digitally to look like Greek I sought out one of their suggested editors. I copyrighted the book and bought the ISBN before submitting my archaic file to this editor. So far he (David Collins) at WingSpan Publishers has been open and honest and helpful. I did not know he was also a publisher and after reading all his info on his services I am apt to trust him to do the whole nine yards for me. But there is so much competition and info I am still afraid to sign the publishing agreement. It’s odd that someone has a boo on Dog Ear because I just researched their web and how they compare themselves to so many others and how great they are and what traps to look for, blah, blah, blah. They too put down AuthorHouse and Amazon. So my question is has anyone heard of WingSpan based out of Texas? Any feedback? I hate changing horses in the middle of a stream but if I’m going to get screwed I need to know. Thank you all for having this forum for those of us just starting out and feeling in the dark.

  15. Working with dog ear, and so far communication has been cold since they have recevied payment. I was trying to contact the person responsible for editing my book and i recevied a e-mail that was not favorable because i had question. I think they out sourced the editing that i paid for well i am looking for a editor i can work with on my next book Jan, 2014

  16. Boo to AuthorHouse. I have published 3 books through AuthorHouse, the most recent was released April 2012. The first two books went fine and were handled well, and I am receiving royalties on those books. On the third book I felt I was misled by AuthorHouse on pricing. On the first two books I was able to set my price without charge. On the third book they changed their policy (without having posted this change on their web site). I had to pay a significant fee to set my price, which I did because the book was ready to print. Then, I found out that instead of providing books to the author at cost, they also changed their policy to require authors to purchase books for a percentage of the list price. Again, this policy was not made clear when I signed up. This cost me hundreds of more dollars. Even worse, however, is that the book has been out for almost a year and AuthorHouse claims that I have not made one sale. I have received 3 quarterly statements showing no sales and have tried repeatedly to get AuthorHouse to look into the matter, to no avail – my colleagues have informed me that they are purchasing the book. I tracked down a colleague who was able to provide a receipt, and I sent that receipt along with Amazon order numbers provided by that colleague. I have heard nothing.

    On my 4th book I went with BookLocker.com – they were terrific.

    1. I have published 4 books using Author House but NEVER again. I love the quality of their work (formatting, cover design and rapid printing) but the staff needs a serious overhaul. They have proven to be dishonest and money hungry. Avoid at all cost.

  17. For the UK I can’t praise SilverWood Books enough (www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk) a friendly & professional company producing books that are every bit as good as mainstream for quality.

    For the avoids – I was with a company that left a trail of horror behind it – first they were called Bookforce, then changed to Discovered Authors and then Callio – the MD is Graham Miller – these companies do not exist now, but keep an eye on that name… avoid.

  18. I don’t have any boos – only raves.

    1) Draft to Digital is a new aggregator that’s a competitor to Bookbaby and Smashwords. Right now they’re in beta stage and looking for testers. I know a couple of authors who’ve tried them and are singing their praises in terms of ease of use and customer service. https://www.draft2digital.com/

    2) Kobo Writing Life (KWL) is great, and now we can set up our books for pre-order! Hopefully AMZ and B&N will follow soon.

    3) Finally, I love Calibre. It’s free and a great way to manage your ebook library as well as do conversions. http://calibre-ebook.com/

  19. My Yah Boo is also Authorhouse, for the same reasons as Ben. I can’t knock Smashwords as they do such a fantastic distribution job for indies, but I wish there was another comparable service and I WISH they’d update their clunky webiste and interface.
    My Fave Rave for formatting is Jutoh. I downloaded this software last year for around £25 and it’s easy to learn, has a WYSIWYG editor that is perfect for ironing out formatting issues like indents or font style, makes a fab TOC and compiles in all formats, including running the epub check. Brilliant!

  20. My Fave Rave? Bookbaby, such brilliant reach for an eBook distributor, and a platform that makes me grin it’s so easy to use.

    Yah Boo? Authorhouse – my old enemy. Aside from their extortionate prices and model that traps authors in a low-profit, low quality environment, it’s their sales team that gets me. Incessant, rude, and pushy.

    When sourcing data for the Guide, I queried a few prices by phone. For the next three weeks, despite repeatedly clarifying that I was on a purely fact-finding mission, and wouldn’t need to publish with Authorhouse, the sales calls and emails kept rolling in.

    Yah boo.

  21. Yes and yes on the Scrivener questions, Philippa. Do you have a website? You could do the giveaway PDF from there. A Mailchimp email could let people know where to find it, through a link. KWL have very much to recommend them — it’s a new platform. They want feedback from indies on how to meet writers needs. Thanks for the Boo on Trafford… sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, it’s not the first complaint. Noted!

  22. Does Scrivener convert from Word to PDF? and would it retain links from text to footnotes? Can anyone tell me how to make a PDF ‘give-away able’? automatically?through Mailchimp?

    I like Seeley James’s ‘coy’ editors…what does he write!?

    On the subject of boos…can I offer Trafford… I published a novella with them in 2006, know of several copies bought through Amazon, and not paid for a single one. Lots of glossy posters and bookmarks though!

    Roz Morris recently has praised Kobo Writing Life unless I am mistaken?

    1. KWL is another of this new breed of slick, easy-to-use platforms. I praised it highly and still do. KWL are still in the early stages, and Kobo have indicated that they have many more updates and ideas up their sleeve. If there are any problems and issues, they’ll be ironed out ASAP. Great platform 🙂

  23. For editorial help: I used EditorialDepartment.com for concept editing, coy editing, proofreading, artwork, ebook formatting, paper edition layout, and marketing materials (press releases, jacket copy, etc). They are high priced and very high quality.

  24. An amazing editor is Kaycee Hawn at http://www.renwordsmith.com and I can’t say enough about the awesome work cover artist Patty Henderson does – http://boulevardphotografica.blogspot.com/

    I have recently started my own freelance editing business – http://www.Rainbow-Tales.com/editing. I think it would be so cool to one day find my name on one of these list as a “Fave Rave”! I hope some of you will check me out and give me an opportunity to prove myself.

  25. I live in the U.S. and plan to go with BookBaby. I have heard good things about them, and after 20+ years working on this book, I trust them–Premium Service also offers free Web Site for a limited time

  26. I like Scrivener too – even if I don’t really know how to use it (and there isn’t a GOOD how-to that I’ve found, anyway).

    So the good thing about it is even an idiot can figure it out enough to make use of it.

  27. I originally published my autobiography on Amazon Kindle using their own uploading software. It took some time – uploading it page by page to get the formatting right. The book has hyperlinks and photos on every page and this enabled me to produce a multimedia reading experience. Very happy with Amazon. I then tried the same thing with Kobo – using their own self publishing tool – total disaster. Could only load a complete book instead of individual pages – and the formatting was all over the place. Thumbs down to Kobo. I have now re-launched the book on my website as a free PDF download – which means I have complete control over the formatting process. My advice – whichever road you travel always try to retain as much control over the finished product as you can.

    1. Thanks for that on Kobo, Ken. We are feeding back to them at the moment about their KWL platform and will be sure to pass that on. Totally agree on the delights of creative freedom/control …. that’s why I went indie in the first place.

  28. I wrote my ms in Microsoft Word. I have had it formatted for print and am about to retain someone to convert to digital. Do you happen to know if Scrivener converts a Word doc to digital formats, or did the original MS have to be created in Scrivener? Thanks!

    1. What I do is copy the Word Doc into Scrivener. It’s amazing how doing that shows up all sorts of things in the ms. It is the work of 30 minutes to break it down, cut and paste, and then compile for all digital and/or print formats.

  29. Fun!

    I’ve had good luck with CreateSpace for my first novel and will be checking into Scrivener for turning it into an ebook a month to six weeks after the print version comes out. Still loving Blogger and Weebly for hosting sites. Both are super easy to use, even for a technophobe.

    No boos that I can think of presently, unless it’s national writing organizations that still don’t offer full membership/inclusion to indie authors.

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