Digital Book World Self-Publishing Guide

By Devon Glenn | @DevonGlenn

Thinking about publishing your own book? Check out our helpful guide to self-publishing services below.

See our helpful self-publishing chart here. There are some blank spaces, so if you know the answer, please contact us and help fill it in.


The New Self-Publishing industry

The self-publishing industry has gotten a makeover.

Distribution costs have gone down and design quality has gone up. The fact that undiscovered writers can get someone to design, edit, publish, distribute and market their books for a few thousand dollars in a matter of weeks is nothing short of amazing.

Self-publishing services are designed for a large number of clients who have relatively small budgets. As with the yellow pages, there is a lot of up-selling and packaging of individual services. But that’s not to say that the services aren’t valuable.

Marketing options range from email blasts to contacts in the media, book trailers, book tours and other events, ads in magazines and trade publications, professional reviews and even, as is the case with Outskirts Press, advice on how to solicit endorsements from celebrities.

For free advice, Penguin’s Book Country is a social network where authors can give and receive feedback from other writers on their manuscripts. This is a good option for a serious writer who is willing and able to read others’ work and give good feedback.

For writers who need more help, many companies offer editing services. The wording may vary from site to site, but they mainly offer copy editing for grammar and spelling, line editing for readability, and developmental editing for higher level concerns like character development and pacing. A proofread is good for checking the formatting when converting a manuscript into an eBook.

Artwork has improved dramatically, but it’s still vital to see a sample. Most sites have sample illustrations and covers; some will let you pick the individual artist. FastPencil, in particular,has a marketplace where writers can browse through a list of artists and view their portfolios. Layouts usually come from a template, and for illustrations and covers, authors can choose from a few custom-made designs.

To convert a fully prepared manuscript, go to the distributors directly to avoid additional fees, like Barnes & Noble’s PubIt! and Amazon’s KDP.

When it’s time to convert the manuscript into an eBook, there are several formats to consider: .azw, .epub and mobi are the most popular. (See the rest here.) The Kindle .azw file has digital rights management (DRM) formatting to prevent piracy, which also limits how readers are able to share and alter the books. But considering the popularity of the Kindle, Amazon is going to get away with this for a while.

For books with a lot of images, make sure that the tool can support the files. BookBaby is one company that does this well, and offers some of the better cover designs. Vook, when it’s out of private Beta, should be a good resource for not only image-heavy, but also multimedia projects.

It is also important to look at which languages and currencies each service will support. Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI) serves a lot of international clients. Also note that ASI is now the parent company of AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford Publishing, Wordclay, and the marketing site AuthorHive. The individual sites are still up, but the services and prices are more or less the same.

The publishing service will likely come with sales management tools, and authors can expect to pay some combination of fees and royalties. BookBaby charges a small amount upfront, but doesn’t take any commission. Smashwords, in contrast, is free to convert, but takes 15% of all sales, on top of the distributor’s cut. Authors should figure out how many books they would need to sell to make a profit and decide if bigger royalties outweigh the start-up costs.


Site-by-Site Comparison (presented in alphabetical order)

Click to see our self-publishing comparison chart.

Here are the services we compare. If we’re missing one you want to know more about, let us know:

Arbor Books


Barnes & Noble’s PubIt!


Book Country



CreateSpace/Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)



Outskirts Press



E-reader photo via Shutterstock

2 thoughts on “Digital Book World Self-Publishing Guide

  1. Allan Neil

    May I point something out that I discovered yesterday? I got my first attempt on to Kindle, no problem, royalties to be sent to my bank account in UK by EFT. However, CreateSpace, although owned by the same company requires that I have a US Bank Account otherwise they will send royalties by cheque (check), charging $8 per check. I have got around this by getting as friend in US to accept payments then forward to me by EFT. So that these royalties do not incur US ‘Withholding Tax’ I also had to submit, by snail mail, an IRS form W-8BEN. I submit this for the information of non-US authors.



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