Choosing the best self-publishing company for YOUR book

We know how difficult it can be to decide which self-publishing company is best for your book. Are all self-publishing companies the same? Not exactly.

That's why we review a number of self-publishing companies here, to give you a better idea of the best publishing company for you and your book. We've used expertise gathered over more than 20 years in the world of publishing to create an article that discusses the best practices of the best book publishers. And then give YOU the tools to compare a number of book publishers to both each other and Dog Ear Publishing. The goal, in the end, is to help you find the best publishing company for your book.

While most self-publishing companies use nearly identical technologies to print books, each company has a distinct personality and unique approach to book publishing. And finding the true cost of self-publishing your book on another company's website can be challenging. That leaves authors to make a significant publishing decision with little or no data. We've changed that.

Dog Ear makes it easy for you to compare the best self publishing companies and decide.

Below are what Dog Ear believes to be the seven most important considerations in choosing a publishing company. Keep in mind that just because a sales rep may say they are one of the top 10 self publishing companies doesn’t mean they are the best publishing company for you or your book. Use our concepts outlined below to make your own informed decision.

The Seven Keys to Choosing A Self-Publishing Company

1. Self-Publishing Contract

  • Do you own ALL rights to your book?
  • Can you terminate your publishing contract at any time, without penalty?

It is imperative that you own all rights to your book, and that you are able to terminate your agreement with the publishing company at any time, and without penalty. The author contract should be short and easy to understand. The top self publishers never lock you into keeping your book with the self-publishing company for a certain duration. You should own every single piece of the process, from the copyedited manuscript to the files used to print your book - and you should be able to get them at any time, not just after canceling your contract. The best self publishing companies keep the author in control.

Key question to ask the publisher: Do I own the files used to print my book and will they be supplied to me at the end of the production process? (The top self publishers will return everything to you once the contract is over.)

Dog Ear Publishing's Author Contract is right here.

2. Retail Price

  • Can you set your own retail price?
  • Can you control the discount offered to retailer and wholesale accounts?

A book with an unreasonably high retail price cannot possibly succeed in the market. Your book needs to be priced competitively with other books in its category. The best book publishers in the traditional market price books to sell AND maximize profit. Does your book's retail price at least come close to what the traditional book publishers are asking for their books? Can you set your own retail price point without having to pay a fee? Chains, big retail outlets, and wholesalers may say they want at least a 50% discount. Do you control the discount offered to retailer and wholesale accounts, again without having to pay a fee? Make sure the self publishing company isn't allowing a more aggressive retail price by artificially reducing the wholesale discount to the trade. The best self publisher for you is one who will let you control the prices and discounts you offer on your creation.

Key question to ask the publisher: Can I choose any retail price and wholesale discount for my book, without having to pay an additional fee? (A top rated self publishing companies will give you clear and easy to understand information about pricing & fees during even your initial phone call. If they cannot, keep shopping.)

Dog Ear Publishing's Guide to Retail Pricing is right here.

3. Author Book Costs

  • The best rated self-publishing company will offer reasonable per-unit print prices - not a 'discount from retail' model.
  • Does the company offer high-volume offset printing (also called "traditional printing") services?
  • Is the cost to buy your own books just a discount from the retail price?

An author's cost to purchase his or her own book from the self-publishing company should be a fixed price based upon format and page count, not a discount from the retail price of the book. The discount-from-retail model gives the publisher an incentive to set a higher retail price. Furthermore, can the publisher offer offset printing (also called "traditional printing") services? Offset printing is the most per-unit cost-effective manner to purchase your book, but the downside is that it requires large quantities, usually in excess of 2,000 units. Most self-publishing companies do not offer offset printing solutions.

Key question to ask the publisher: What is the cost for me to purchase my own book?
(Have an estimated page count and trim size in mind so you can get some idea of what it may cost you. Based on your book publishing goals, your choice for the best self publishing company will depend heavily on these costs.)

Dog Ear Publishing's Exclusive Book Printing Prices are right here.

4. Author Profit

  • Do you receive 100% of the profit from every sale?
  • How is your royalty or author profit calculated?
  • How frequently is your profit paid to you?

Some call it "royalty" - we call it a "net sales profit." Regardless of name, this is the amount you receive from each book sale. Be careful of any self-publishing company that gives a huge profit but forces unreasonable retail prices on your book. It makes no sense to get a 50% royalty on a book that will never sell (see the point about about Retail Price). Also watch for royalties that are increased by reducing your wholesale discount to booksellers. If no store will buy the book, what's the point of a royalty? Most often, the royalty is paid on the net sale, not the retail price.  The best book publishers, and especially the best self publishers know that a net sales profit method is in the best interest of the author, and won’t manipulate royalty percentages or profits.

Once your book is published, the self-publishing company's costs are fixed. It costs exactly the same to print and distribute a 100-page book that retails for $10 as a 100-page book that retails for $50. Shouldn't you get all the profit from a sale? Why should the publishing company deserve more profit when you sell your book for a higher price?  Look for a publishing company that pays you on a fixed-cost basis - and who forwards all the remaining profit to you. Your choice of the best publishing company for your book should understand that the author deserves the bulk of the profit.

Key question to ask the publisher: How is my author profit calculated and how often is it paid to me? (The best self publishing companies list their costs openly and honestly so you don’t have to be surprised by hidden fees and fluctuations in pricing.)

Dog Ear Publishing's Guide to Author Profit is here.

5. Customer Service & Expert Advice

  • Are customer service representatives responsive to your needs?
  • Is the staff seasoned in book publishing, with both experience and expertise?

The process of self-publishing a book and then marketing that book can be very complex. Does the publisher possess the knowledge and skills to help you navigate the world of self-publishing? Will you speak with someone who knows something about the book industry? Do you have access to "decision makers" who can make things happen for your book? How long has the person with whom you are speaking worked at the publishing company and in the publishing industry?

Key question to ask the publisher: Who can I speak to when I have questions about my book, the process, or the world of self-publishing? And how many different people will I have to work with throughout the process? (Having the best online book printing experience possible means you must have access to key contacts with the company; a “familiar face” that you work with regularly, so you don’t have to keep asking the same questions over and over.)

Dog Ear Publishing's Key Personnel can be found here.

6. Business Model

  • How does the self-publishing company say it makes money?

What is the company's business model? A business is supposed to make money, and that's an honorable thing, but watch where it makes its money - look for hidden charges or undisclosed costs. You should be aware of every single possible cost before you ever spend a dime. And really be wary of any publisher that insists it is investing more in the project than you are - that is never, ever true.

Key question to ask the publisher: Where in the process do you make your profit?

Dog Ear Publishing's Business Model is discussed right here.

7. Creative Control

  • Are your book cover and interior design truly custom-made?
  • Can you make design changes without incurring a fee?

Many self-publishing companies save costs by reusing book cover and interior designs. These designs are called templates, and by using them, book publishers often churn out hundreds of books that look nearly exactly alike. Will your book have a truly custom design that you helped create, from start to finish? Can you revise the book cover and interior design without being charged additional fees? Where are your book cover and interior being designed, and are they designed by professionals?

Key question to ask the publisher: Do I have design input on my book, and will I be charged a fee to revise the design? (All of the top ten self publishing companies know that book design is incredibly important to both authors and readers. If you are uncomfortable with either your book cover design or the interior, these contacts will help you create the finished product you desire.)

Dog Ear Publishing's Cover Design Services are discussed here.

A Look at the Total Cost of Self-Publishing:

All things considered, what will your total expenditure be with the self-publishing company over the long term? As long as you remain enthusiastic, and work in partnership with the self-publishing company, your book's lifetime will go well beyond a few months or even a few years of sales.



Authorhouse is based out of Bloomington, Indiana and is the largest of the self-publishing companies that we discuss on our web site. Explore fully how your retail price is set. Can you really pick any price point you want? Find out what level of expertise your customer service agent has in the book industry - and in helping you make decisions about your book.

Read on...

$674 more expensive than Dog Ear

BookSurge is owned by Amazon.com and few retailers want to help support a direct competitor. It is also important to think about the implications of having your retail, wholesale and print resource contained within the same company - it means you lose options and control.

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$644 more expensive than Dog Ear

Infinity Publishing is one of our toughest publishing competitors. They have a single publishing package priced at $499 and are a strong contender at the less-expensive end of the self-publishing industry.

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$115 more expensive than Dog Ear

iUniverse ™ is owned by AuthorSolutions (the company that owns AuthorHouse, xLibris and Trafford) and assigns authors specific retail prices for their books and pays royalties based upon the discount offered to wholesale and retail accounts.

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$594 more expensive than Dog Ear

Lulu.com is ideal for a graphic designer who only requires a few books. The cost of setting up the full suite of services needed to really publish a book is where the Lulu.com service begins to fall apart.

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$260 more expensive than Dog Ear
Outskirts Press

A very typical player at the less-expensive end of the self-publishing industry. Outskirts Press publishing packages range from $199 to $999. Their production processes are heavily template based.

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$306 more expensive than Dog Ear
Publish America

Publish America is an anomaly - not so much because they offer any unusual services (they provide the exact same things most self-publishing companies provide) - it's simply because Publish America and the Publish America web site are so unwilling to provide any information about Publish America.

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$533 more expensive than Dog Ear
Tate Publishing

To understand costs and actual services, Tate Publishing requires that you contact a sales person at the company.

See what we've found. Read on...

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Trafford Publishing

Trafford was from 'up North' in Canada. They, in many ways, were the grand old company of print-on-demand publishers and self publishing companies. Trafford is now owned by AuthorSolutions - the company that owns AuthorHouse.

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$596 more expensive than Dog Ear
Wheatmark Book Publishers

Wheatmark is a self publishing competitor that entered the market at almost exactly the same time as Dog Ear. Their self publishing model is just like most of the other self publishing companies listed in the review.

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$470 more expensive than Dog Ear

Wordclay is great for a graphic designer who only needs a couple books. The biggest obstacle is that to get complete services, you'll pay quite a bit more. Your book profit and printing costs are so high as to be prohibitive when compared to Dog Ear.

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$755 more expensive than Dog Ear

Xlibris is now owned by AuthorSolutions - the same company that owns AuthorHouse.

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$1,400 more expensive than Dog Ear
Xulon Press

Xulon Press is one of our publishing competitors from the Christian market. They, in many ways, are the grand old company of Christian self-publishers and Christian self publishing companies.

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$1,100 more expensive than Dog Ear