Self Publishing Options Today

With the advent of the digital revolution and the de-stigmatization of self publishing, the world has opened up to a slew of self publishing options. Print On Demand (POD) services and companies have multiplied exponentially. Book distributors such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble have either implemented or greatly enhanced their self publishing arms, with Amazon’s CreateSpace being one of the most well known and highly used self publishing service. Many authors are no longer trying to break down the doors of the big publishing houses to get published and are opting to self publish. Today we take a look at a few of the services available and what they offer.

This is Amazon’s self publishing service. CreateSpace allows authors to upload their completed manuscripts and book covers and have their books printed on demand through Amazon. Authors also receive an eStore for their book, as well as distribution through Amazon’s distribution channels. Your book will obviously be on Amazon’s shelves, but can also receive national and international distribution through the Expanded Distribution option. You have the choice whether you want to use an Amazon ISBN or use your own*. One word of caution: using Amazon’s ISBN limits your ability to take your book elsewhere for distribution. My advice is to always obtain and use your own ISBN if you are going to self publish, no matter which service you use. You want to keep as much control over your work as possible. However, you must use an Amazon ISBN to be distributed to their Library and Academic channels.

For books purchased through your eStore, Amazon takes 20% plus fees; purchased through and they take a 40% share plus fees; finally, if you use their Expanded Distribution option, when your title sells they take a 60% share plus fees. Let’s look at an example book, paperback with 250 black and white pages, printed at the 6×9 trim size:

eStore: 20% + $0.85 fixed charge + $0.012 per page, these are CreateSpace charges. On a $14.99 book, that’s $3.00 + $0.85 + $3.00 for a grand total of $6.85 that Amazon takes out of your list price. This leaves you with a net royalty payment of $8.14, or roughly 55%. 40% + $0.85 fixed charge + $0.012 per page in charges. That’s $9.85 for them and $5.14 for the author, or roughly a 35% royalty rate.

Expanded Distribution: 60% + $0.85 fixed charge + $0.012 per page for a total of $12.85 to Amazon and $2.14 to the author. That’s just under a 15% royalty rate for the author. This service also comes with a one-time $25 per book fee to setup the service. *There are some limitations regarding using your own ISBN, so please be sure to read the information carefully.

This information is available on Amazon’s CreateSpace website and can be found here. This is their print services. To publish to Kindle, Amazon’s e-reader, you must go through a separate process with separate costs. Information about publishing to Kindle can be found here.

This is Barnes & Nobles’ self publishing platform.  This platform publishes your book in electronic format for the Nook — B&N’s e-reading device. According to their website, “PubIt automatically converts your digital files for viewing on NOOK, mobile, and computing devices.” Authors/publishers can upload their finalized manuscript to the PubIt service, which will format the book for publishing on NOOK. Their FAQ section has this question and answer:

  • Where are PubIt NOOK books sold? PubIt NOOK books are available for sale on, NOOK book reading devices and NOOK software for iPad, iPhone, Mac, Android, and PC.”

They have a two-tiered royalty rate:

  • For ebooks with a list price between $2.99 and $9.99, the author/publisher receives 65% of list.
  • For ebooks with a list price at or below $2.98 or greater than $10.00, the author/publisher enjoys 40% royalty.

This information is available on B&N’s PubIt website, which can be found here. If you would like to sell print books through B&N, that’s a whole different animal and process, which can be found here.

Lulu is another well known self publishing operation.  For me, their website was not as forthcoming with information and pricing. In frustration, I finally gave up trying to track down true royalty rates — I’d never get this post written if I didn’t… However, I did learn that if you use your own ISBN, Lulu will then charge you a $75 fee for their GlobalReach distribution service. This gets your book on Amazon, B&N’s, Baker & Taylor, and other widely known booksellers shelves. It also gives brick & mortar stores the opportunity to order and stock your work on their physical shelves. Their other distribution service, which is free, — ExtendedReach — cannot be used if you use your own ISBN number. They only offer this service if you get a Lulu provided ISBN. Remember what I said about ISBNs in the Amazon paragraph…

With some digging, I was able to find a “How much will my book cost?” question/page. It can be found here and it lists Lulu’s production costs. Then, I was able to find their “Retail Price Calculator.” Here is where you go to price your book, but you need to determine the amount (in dollars) that you would like to see as your royalty. Input that number, the number of pages in your work and a few other key pieces of information and the calculator does the rest. Using $8.14 — the amount of royalty money you would receive using CreateSpace and selling through your Amazon eStore — Lulu then prices your title at $33.35. No, I didn’t mistype that: $8.14 author/publisher royalty, $2.04 Lulu fee, $6.50 manufacturing cost per unit, and retail markup of $16.68. Maybe I am misunderstanding how this calculator is used, but I don’t think I am…

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I could go on and on listing possible self publishing services. There’s iUniverse and SmashWords, and a whole host of others… However, to give you just the tip of the iceberg should be enough for me to get you to put your researcher’s hat on and start comparing notes. If you are thinking about self publishing — print or electronic format or both — then you first need to do your homework. Don’t hop on the first bandwagon that drives past you. Weigh your options. Keep your goals in sight. What are you trying to accomplish by publishing? Will your book be best served in print, electronically, or both? What are your distribution goals — how far and wide of a reach do you want? Are you ready to sell books out of the trunk of your car, after paying manufacturing costs and buying your own books?

There is no “one size fits all” in the self publishing arena, just as there are none in traditional publishing. Each written work has its own merits and strengths to sell copies. Each work has a target audience and the author has thought about how best to reach that target (and if you didn’t, you better!). Not everyone has a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader; nor does everyone wish to read their books electronically. Most of what I read is in e-format, but I honestly would prefer a book in my hand. I purchase e-books for the travel convenience — I am a daily commuter… Do your research and don’t just run to Amazon because you heard they offer 70% royalty (that’s actually a Kindle royalty rate, and it comes with lots of “if’s, but’s, and and’s” before you can get that rate).

Self publishing can be a great alternative to the traditional publishing arena. The stigma of self publishing is not what it used to be. You can hold your head high and proclaim you are a self published author without people giggling in the background, thinking you’ve “bought” your way into being a published author. However, just like you have to do your research to be traditionally published — what publishers are looking for your type of manuscript, finding and securing a literary agent who is also looking for works in your genre, etc. — you have to do some to get the best bang for your buck in self publishing. Although most POD and e-book providers offer their services for free, it’s still at a cost. It takes your time and sometimes great effort (formatting, proofing, reformatting, resubmitting, etc.) which are dollars and cents. Every second you are not writing is another penny that you aren’t earning. Self publishing puts you in the driver’s seat, taking time away from your writing. Know which destination you are headed for and what their process is before your manuscript is finalized so that there is no delay in self publishing.


4 comments on “Self Publishing Options Today

  1. Thanks for doing the research for this informative post. I have to concur with your thoughts that “Self publishing puts you in the driver’s seat, taking time away from your writing.”

    While self-publishing has lost its stigma (that, and experimental poets have long self-published because the market is so small and the text so tricky) this post emphasizes, quite rightly, the workload weighed up against potentially unworthy royalties.

    My current perspective hinges on the inability of kindle and e-readers to handle spatially innovative poetry; however, the inability of publishers to step into more ambitious publishing software than Microsoft Word to handle formally experimental work causes a “rock” and “hard-place” scenario.

    • I am glad you enjoyed the article! While I am doing the research for myself, I thought it would be good to share my findings with others. Each one teach one — that’s certainly how I have learned a lot about the industry. Yes, the publishing options for poets are not as open unfortunately. I believe publishers stick with MS Word because that’s industry standard word processing software, and therefore no learning curve for most people. Forcing writers to learn a “publishing” software would slow down the writing process, so they try to keep it simple IMO. Kindle/e-readers are a hard call — the pages are created dynamically so they often “shift”, making it nearly impossible to do the type of page layout you seek. Hopefully one day someone will be able to come up with a way to prevent the “shift” — maybe you!

      • I think it might be an ambitious project to prevent the ‘shift’ (for me!) I find it so hard to get my head around the last 50 years of poetics (post Open Field composition to concrete poetry) to be wiped out by “advancing” technologies. Surely it is the job to technology to facilitate and drive innovation, not the suppress it.

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