This list of ten key questions will help you navigate the tricky task of choosing the self-publishing services that will help you self-publish your book and reach readers successfully.
The list is an abridged extract from the ALLi Guidebook Choosing the Best Self-publishing Companies and Services 2018 by our Watchdogs Jim Giammatteo and John Doppler, and this substantial book is available as a free download to paid members of ALLi, and available for non-members to buy in print and digital forms.
1. What Rights Am I Encumbering?
When a right is licensed to another entity, it is encumbered. Its use becomes restricted by the other party. Limit the license to what is appropriate for the payment you are receiving. If you are paying for the service outright, ensure you retain all the rights.
2. Where will my book be distributed and sold?
Ask for a list. Will they be engaging with booksellers on your behalf, or just adding you to a database or website with no discoverability built it?
3. Is your service exclusive or non-exclusive?
Digital publishing services marketed directly to authors almost always operate on a non-exclusive basis, with the exception of Apple's iBooks Author tool, books enrolled in the KDP's Select programme, and Audible, Amazon's audiobook distributor
4. Who owns the file after publication?
If you've paid for conversion and formatting services, you should own the file.
5. Can I make changes to my book after it goes on sale?
Most direct retailers allow you to upload new and revised files as often as you like, as do distributors Smashwords and Draft2Digital. Other multichannel distributors charge fees to make changes (but if you're an ALLi member, you receive a special code allowing you to make changes to your IngramSpark files free of charge.)
6. Do I set my own prices?
It is standard practice for services to let authors set their own prices, but some services impose restraints, e.g. Amazon won't allow ebooks priced below $0.99, unless price-matching books offered elsewhere (including freebies) – although they've become more reluctant to price-match recently and so should not be taken for granted.
7. Is payment an upfront fee or a percentage of sales or both?
This is one of the most important clauses in your contract. Giving up a percentage of sales can ease the financial burden on the author and ensures the service provider has an incentive to see your book succeeed. Payment in advance should mean you won't have an ongoing deduction from your sales – but consider whether that will impact the supplier's motivation. The ideal payment will likely depend on your sales expectations and your immediate budget.
8. How is my royalty calculated?
Different models exist, eg free to use until point of sale or fees charged upfront, but the fees should be transparent and upfront. Always read the royalty terms carefully – if something looks to good to be true, there's probably a catch.
9. Are there any extra fees or charges I should know about?
Read the small print – make sure there are no hidden fees or rights grabs – and highlight any potential issues at quotation stage before you are committed.
10. Where's the value?
Be sure your service provider is adding value to your manuscript – if they're not offering anything you can't easily do yourself, why use them?
OTHER VALUABLE WATCHDOG ADVICE
(Many more posts like this in the ALLi Advice Center Archive)