Secret #1: Most use the same printing company
A publishing company is not a printing company. A printing company is not a publishing company. Most modern book publishers do not own printing presses. The vast majority of books published by self-publishing companies are not printed by those publishing companies. Most of their books are produced and shipped by Lightning Source. It prints over a million books each month -- often one at a time.
Self-publishing companies want you to think they are unique and special. Some may have better designers and editors than others, but there is no reason to believe that books published by Outskirts Press or Schiel & Denver or iUniverse will vary in physical quality. Their books may pop out of the same printing press seconds apart, along with books published by Random House, CreateSpace and my own little company.
Some companies lie about having their own printing facilities. Schiel & Denver says, “We ship worldwide from our USA printing facilities based in TN, PA and ME” and “Our book publishing company operates printing and distribution centers in the following locations . . . .” Two of the locations the company lists are cities where Lightning Source prints books.
Infinity Publishing brags that it has its own printing presses but sometimes uses Lightning Source, Infinity says, “. . . its books are not as high quality as ours . . . .” That’s a lie.
Secret #2: Some apparent competitors are owned by the same parent company
In the old days of Detroit, car companies engaged in what was called “badge engineering.” There was often no difference under the hood of a Dodge and a Chrysler, or a Buick and an Oldsmobile, or a Ford and a Mercury. The main differences were in the headlights, grill, interior trim, tail lights, brand name, marketing pitch and price.
Similarly, bedding manufacturers make slight variations for competing retailers to make it hard for people to comparison shop at Macy’s and Sleepy’s.
In electronics, Panasonic and Quasar cordless phones came out of the same factory, but had different colors and model numbers and were sold by competing dealers.
Badge engineering now exists in the book publishing business. Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI) owns former competitors AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford, Wordclay and Xlibris; and has a Spanish-language division called Palibrio and a self-pubco called Partridge Publishing in India. ASI also operates the self-publishing businesses for traditional publishers Harlequin, Thomas Nelson and Hay House, and for Writer’s Digest magazine.
There is little or no difference between the books produced by these different brand names. Some are aimed at specific genres (such as chick-lit or Christian) while others will take money from just about anyone. An ASI editor, marketing person or cover designer may work on projects that will bear the brand names of multiple companies.
Each brand offers multiple “publishing packages.” The packages have different names, but there is little real differ-ence, and little reason to choose, for example, iUniverse over Xlibris or Hay House’s Balboa Press.
When I last checked, Xlibris packages were priced from $399 to $13,999, Dellarte (Harlequin) packages ranged from $599 to $1599, iUniverse from $599 to $4,200 and Trafford from $799 to $7,199. Although these price ranges are different, what you get at each price point is very close, with little or no difference in value.
I examined three different $999 publishing packages offered by different Author Solutions brands. Some have definite advantages to some authors. Other differences will be meaningless. All three include copyright registration, but only Westbow included Library of Congress Control Number registration. Balboa and DellArte charged $90 for it. You can get one for FREE, with a few minutes’ work.
Read carefully. What they offer may not be what they seem to offer. For example, DO NOT be falsely impressed by the inclusion of an “editorial review.” It’s not the same thing as real editing, and may lead to a sales pitch for expensive editing.
Dellarte says, “The Editorial Review is not a full manuscript edit, nor is it a replacement for the Dellarte Press full range of editorial services.”
- Be aware that the self-publishing field is very competitive. As with cars and travel, there are abundant deals, discounts and free add-ons and upgrades. When you are offered a price, don’t be afraid to ask for a better deal, an upgrade or some freebies. Some items that may have significant value to you, have little or no cost to the publisher. Don't be afraid to ask for extra bookmarks or posters (if you think they have value), or for the September Special in November.