The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Fifth Edition: A Primer on Contracts, Printing Costs, Royalties, Distribution, E-Books, and Marketing

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, now in its fifth edition, has been lauded by industry professionals as the go-to book for authors considering self-publishing. The Fine Print has helped thousands of authors understand self-publishing companies’ services, contract terms, printing markups, and royalty calculations. This latest edition includes new chapters on e-book publishing and book marketing, as well as updated head-to-head comparisons of major self-publishing service providers, including free book-publishing companies to consider and self-publishing companies to avoid.

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3 Responses to The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Fifth Edition: A Primer on Contracts, Printing Costs, Royalties, Distribution, E-Books, and Marketing

  1. Jennifer Bogart "@"

    Save yourself hundreds of hours The self-publishing industry is growing in leaps and bounds. As a book reviewer I’ve noticed a sharp increase in self-published, print-on-demand titles coming into the market. With major publishing houses reducing the number of contracts being signed due to recent economic difficulties, the allure of finally getting that novel in print is driving many to sign contracts to pay to have their books published. With the increase in consumer demand, new self-publishing companies are popping up all the time.In The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Mark Levine — an experienced self-published author and owner/investor into various e-commerce businesses — analyzes 45 self-publishing companies. In previous editions Levin reviewed publishing contracts, customer service and other factors to assign publishers with a numeric ranking. In the third edition he has moved to more generalized categories: Outstanding, Pretty Good, Just OK, and To Avoid. Sadly 21 of the 45 companies analyzed fall into the To Avoid category – self-publishing contracts are often author-unfriendly, revealing the clear need for this title.After introducing readers to the benefits of choosing to print their book with a self-publishing company, Levine discloses that his companies have investments in a self-publishing firm. However, he does not compare or evaluate its services within the book, he just wants to be up-front with that fact, which is commendable. He then guides readers through the main components of having a book published, what needs to be provided, the details they should look for from a publisher, all of the major key points to be aware of. In the chapter revealing the nine traits of a good self-publishing company, Levine clearly defines his author-friendly publishing standards (ones that his affiliated press attempts to live by). Though a relatively short section of the book, this information is in and of itself highly valuable for those just dipping their toes into the publishing arena. In fact after reading this section, readers may be empowered to skip looking for a publisher all together and take on the task of forming their own publishing company.Levine puts his law degree to work as he breaks down and explains the usual set-up, clauses, and details of a publishing contract, allowing lay people to move into this territory with an additional level of confidence. While you can’t depend upon him for legal advice, his analysis of each publishing contract (provided further on in the details for each publisher) that he was able to obtain is priceless. Levine also explains the general principles of various techniques of calculating author royalties and provides a theoretical breakdown for each publisher as well. There are some editing issues present (somewhat disappointing for a notable reference title relating to self-publishing), most of which occur in the numerical notation for these royalty calculations.Each publisher receives its own chapter which details: publisher website, format of books, genres accepted, publishing fees and packages, additional services offered, return of digital files, retail pricing, author pricing, royalties, notes on the publishing agreement, and the author friendly rating – Levine’s personal analysis of the publisher. The Fine Print deals mainly with publishers offering paperback printing services. Hardbacks are mentioned (though rarely offered by publishers) and children’s picture book packages are noted, though not explored thoroughly. If you’ve written a children’s book you’ll be able to benefit from the general advice and through observing Levine’s author-friendly analysis skills in action, but you won’t find many helpful leads on potential publishing houses here.After reading through The Fine Print in detail, it’s easy to see why Levine has angered major self-publishing houses in past editions of this work. He is out to protect authors, their rights, and their pocketbooks, making no bones about a bad deal when he sees one. A few samples are sure to whet your appetite for more of his brass-tacks approach to analysis. If you buy this service and make your money back from it, I will let you watch me rip out each page of this book and eat it. … If this is true and (publisher’s name removed) can prove it, I’ll fly to the publisher’s offices and eat my book in front of all its employees. … If what you read here isn’t enough to convince you to stay away, then P.T. Barnum was right – there really is a sucker born every minute.It’s obvious that Levine is passionate about doing his best to ensure that authors receive a fair deal. However, it’s not all bad news – eight publishers are listed in the outstanding category, and nine are listed as pretty good. Levine does give praise where it is due when exceptionally fair terms and services are provided for authors.An overwhelming number of…

  2. Self-publishing must 0

  3. Whole concept seems unwise… Not for the do-it-yourselfer. Background: I am interested in writing a book about technical toys such as mobile Internet devices and smartphones. I have a lot of articles, but I have never actually written a full blown book, my only experience is as a technical editor of programming books. So I was looking into self-publishing, and submitting my ideas to big publishers.In general I did not enjoy this book, but it did have some good information, namely legal, which is hard to find anywhere else because most people are afraid to give legal advice (or what could be considered legal advice).I gave two stars because I think I am a little bit smarter for reading the book. There are several good tidbits about contracts, and a couple good items on how self-publishing (and POD) companies operate. The companies listed are represented pretty fairly, but that’s where the pros end for me. Most of the good tips I have already read about online for free, but I don’t hold that against the author, nor does it play into the rating.Cons (and it really seems I am in the minority here looking at other reviews):- My main problem with this book is the underlining concept of hiring a self-publishing company – to the tune of anywhere from $1000 to $5000 (in general). This sounds unwise and somewhat un-american. I think an aspiring author should really do it themselves. What I mean by this is format the document yourself, prepare it, and send it off to the printer yourself. It sounds ludicrous in this day and age to rely on a company to do this for you. The author does mention “do-it-yourselfers” a couple times in passing, but the book is not directed to them. IMO if a person really wants to write their own book, they should learn how the technical stuff works, it’s not that hard. You will be a much smarter person for doing so. There are plenty of good books out there to help you along the way (see Aaron Shepard for example). And finally, you can put that money you saved towards your marketing campaign! Oh, by the way, anyone who pays $1000 (or more) for a website is strictly out of their mind. Either learn how to build your own website, or use free tools out there from WordPress to Facebook, YouTube, and so on…The thing is, the author talks about vanity publishing for several pages in the beginning of the book, but to me spending that kind of money is vain when you could do it yourself. It’s just not sound business. Now, I do agree about getting some kind of editor, if at least a copy editor/proofreader. But here’s the thing, if you can’t shore up your grammar, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and so on to a certain extent, then you might want take some English classes, read some more books on the subject, or re-consider writing in general. Here’s another key point: Even the professional editors make mistakes. I think that the author should be the number one editor of their own creation. That said, I know my English skills etc… are not great, nor am I re-checking this review for grammar and what have you. I am writing this review to help “do-it-yourselfers” to steer clear of this book, and to promote doing it yourself instead of paying a ton of money to someone. The cover is up for debate. It’s not hard to set up the technical specs for a cover, but knowing your market, and being able to develop a cover can be challenging.- Second issue with the book is that it is NEGATIVE, very much so in fact. The author appears to have a big chip on his shoulder, and has obviously had some bad experiences with big publishing companies. The book was quite depressing during the first couple chapters. A lot of it was opinion, not fact. And ended up being a buzzkill.- Third – the author went wild about editing during the first few chapters, but they themselves were edited poorly. Add to that I was reading this on the Kindle, which I believe had additional typos, but that is expected with e-books and so I don’t hold that against the author. You can tell which are Kindle conversion typos, and although the author (or editor) should be checking that thoroughly, it is still understandable.- Finally – the information about the companies is ok, but a lot is outdated. I primarily was interested in using Lightning Source or CreateSpace (which is really what it comes down to if you are a do-it-yourselfer) and I already had researched CreateSpace. Some of the details about them are out of date, the same holds true for a few other companies I was already researching. But that is to be expected, information like this is better served on a website where it can be updated often.For a person who aims to do it yourself:I recommend the Aaron Shepard books, and do some research on the Internet. I also just downloaded a free book on Kindle called “Write Good or Die” (smart title right?). It has articles from various authors, some famous, some not, with a lot of good tips. That book…

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