"Self-publishing companies" sell their services in packages, typically priced from under $200 to over $20,000. It’s important to know what you need, what you’ll get, and what you won’t get.
The $199 “Emerald” publishing package from Outskirts Press actually provides what looks like a “real” book. The package is notable not for what it includes, but for what it excludes.
Most notable is the lack of an ISBN, which means the book can’t be sold by bookstores. An Emerald book is not even included in the Outskirts website online bookstore. Strangely, Outskirts says that you can choose the retail price. So what.
For $199 you are limited to one book size (5.5” X 8.5”) and a choice of two cover designs. You get exactly one book which you can read, give away, sell, or display on your mantelpiece. You can order more books if you want to. They won’t be pretty, but they are books.
Strangely named Aachanon Publishing beats the $199 Outskirts Emerald deal by $4, and provides THREE “free” books — not just one. With its “Budget” package, you are limited to a maximum of 10 black and white illustrations or photos in the text, the book size is 5" X 8" (a bit smaller than the Outskirts competitor), and you can have up to 300 pages. The color cover is preformatted, and can include two author-provided photos or illustrations. As with the Outskirts Emerald package, there is no ISBN. You must provide distribution — booksellers won’t handle it. Additional 300-page books cost $5.50 each.
Strangely named Wasteland Press calls itself, “‘the cheapest full service press on the internet.” Its “Basic” package matches the Aachanon $195 price but provides FIVE books in either 5.5" X 8.5" or 6" X 9" size. Maximum book length is 275 pages and there is no limit to the number of photos or illustrations. Wasteland offers faster publishing than most competitors, and its covers are “designed from scratch and are uniquely individual.” The samples I saw are quite nice. Books are sold on the Wasteland website, and provide a 15% royalty.
In a few months, some company may offer a publishing package for $179, or $99.
Or, if you're willing and able to do some more work, you can publish a book for less than $20 with Lulu or CreateSpace.