Just write. That’s the advice many aspiring book authors get, but it’s not so easy. Luckily, there are options.
After turning a lifelong dream into a much-revised manuscript, there’s a whole new set of challenges facing authors who want to reach an audience and make money.
Without industry know-how and technical skills for self-publishing, getting a book to market is a daunting prospect. Here are seven self-publishing book resources for aspiring authors.
As a self-publishing book resource, Kirkus Media offers editing services to customers. It claims to hire only editors who have worked on books published by the top U.S. publishers — the big five (Penguin Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and HarperCollins) — and award-winning independent presses such as Graywolf, Kensington, and Abrams or notable genre publishers such as Harlequin.
The Kirkus professional editing package — its premium editing service product — will set you back 6.5 cents per word for three rounds of editing. That’s an estimated $5,687.50 for a 350-page manuscript, typed and double-spaced with about 87,500 words — the average length of a manuscript.
Founded by Virginia Kirkus, the Kirkus company began its life in 1933 as the Virginia Kirkus Bookshop Service. Virginia had been hired by Harper & Brothers to establish a children’s book department in 1926, but the department was eliminated in 1932 due to the Great Depression, so she left to start her own company.
“She saw herself less as a literary critic and more as a soothsayer, a forecaster of which books would succeed and which wouldn’t,” according to the Kirkus company history. After multiple owners and a variety of company names, Kirkus was bought by businessman Herbert Simon in 2010 from The Nielsen Company for an undisclosed amount and it was renamed Kirkus Media. Kirkus is based in New York City.
BookBaby claims to make self-publishing easy for authors, handling everything from book printing, eBooks, book distribution, and cover design to editing and book marketing services. Founded in 2011 in Portland, Oregon, the company creates and distributes printed books and eBooks to Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers worldwide.
For different stages of the publication process, BookBaby charges editing services of $10 per page for line editing, $7 per page for copy editing and $3 per page for proofreading.
Other book self-publishing and allied companies accuse BookBaby of being exorbitantly expensive.
Its packages are “a bit expensive and may not be suitable for you if you want to print hundreds of books. For publishing services such as editing, you can find better deals somewhere else,” according to content strategist Mysson Victor with Penny Matters. However, Penny Matters ranked BookBaby as one of the best self-publishing companies for new authors because of its easy-to-use interface and guided approach.
Based near Nashville in La Vergne, Tennessee, IngramSpark was established nearly 50 years ago and has a global distribution network. Its Ingram Book Group (IBG) claims to be the largest book distributor in the world, serving 39,000+ book brick-and-mortar and online retailers worldwide.
The company says its main function is to channel books from publishing houses to retailers, but it also does print on demand via Lightning Source, which produces books. Books uploaded through IngramSpark go into the same database as titles from established publishers, meaning retailers can search for and order self-published books as they would any other distributed title. Print-on-demand orders can be shipped to retailers and sold in bookstores. Ingram distributes eBooks to top online retailers such as Kindle publishing (Amazon,) Rakuten Kobo, iBooks and Barnes & Noble.
IngramSpark and Lightning Source are not full-service publishing providers and do not offer proofreading, editing, typesetting, or design services, according to a review in SelfPublishing.com. When you search for information on the above, Ingram will advise you to seek out an author services company. Its preferred list includes Kirkus.
Brooklyn-based Serendipity Literary Agency claims to be “unearthing gems” and celebrating 20 years of quality representation. One of the largest Black-owned literary agencies in the U.S., Serendipity was founded by Regina Brooks in 2000. Brooks has remained committed to making the publishing industry more diverse, representing both authors and illustrators. She has worked to advance visibility and success for Black authors and recruit Black publishing professionals, training people from inside and outside the industry to become agents, according to Publishers Weekly.
Serendipity claims to have a diverse base of award-winning clients in adult and young adult fiction, non-fiction, and children’s literature. Brooks has a degree in aerospace engineering from Ohio State University and studied theater, dance, and voice. She attended the now-defunct Howard University Publishing Institute. Brooks held senior editorial positions at McGraw-Hill and John Wiley and Sons (she was the youngest and first African-American editor in JW’s college division). She’s on the faculty of the Harvard University publishing program.
A boutique literary agency, Serendipity says it can help writers throughout the entire writing process, including editorial review.
Launched in 2014, Reedsy provides authors with self-publishing services via a freelancer outsourcing platform. It connects authors with freelancers for just about every step of the publishing process. These include freelance editors, ghostwriters, proofreaders, formatters, cover designers and marketing strategists.
Every freelancer is vetted by the Reedsy team to verify they provide high-quality service. Authors can review them too.
Reedsy is not an aggregator or book retailer but focuses on providing authors with educational materials and services. Its freelancer profiles are easily visible and this builds instant trust with authors, according to SelfPublishing.com.
For example, ghostwriters can be hired to write the book if you lack the time or writing skills but have a great story to tell. Relatively inexperienced ghostwriters may ask for $20,000 to $30,000 per book, while veteran ghosts may charge $40,000 to $60,000, according to a Reedsy blog.
Reedsy saves authors a lot of time and banging of heads against walls “because you just hired another outsourcer that totally messed up your book formatting,” according to an online review.
However, it’s unlikely you’re going to find a bargain at Reedsy, according to book marketer Dave Chessen, founder of Kindlepreneur. While he said he’s a fan of Reedsy, “You’ll likely find cheaper services available on a platform like Upwork,” Cheesen wrote in a blog review of Reedsy.
Reedsy also doesn’t give you contact information or email addresses of freelancers until you agree to officially collaborate with a designer or editor, Chessen wrote. This can be a turn-off for some authors, but there is a satisfaction guarantee.
A direct — if not blunt — approach is what you get with Portland, Oregon-based The Book Butchers, starting with their name, which they amplify on their home page with this promise (even if it is tongue in cheek, and it may not be): “We slaughter your writing, so it can rise in glory from the ashes.”
The very next thing Book Butchers does on its homepage is dive right into the cost of proofreading, editing and manuscript review packages — a seemingly novel approach on self-publishing-book-company home pages.
“Our proofreading, editing and manuscript review packages are specifically tailored to help you publish the best possible version of your story,” the site says.
Even the package descriptions adhere to the butcher theme — something writers can appreciate — with names such as The Quick Kill Package, which charges 2 cents a word for proofreading, or The Perfect Murder Package, which costs 6 cents a word for developmental editing.
The Book Butchers looks at your story and helps you tell it powerfully – something that could help book sales, wrote founder Derek Murphy. He claims that most other editing services just clean up the writing without actually improving the story.
One thing The Book Butchers has going for it is that it lets you try before you buy, according to Author Stash, a user-ranked directory of author resources. That allows you to “feel confident that you’ve found the perfect editor for your book–and the perfect package for your budget.”
The company’s fiction and non-fiction editors have decades of experience in publishing, and many of their editors are successful authors themselves, according to WritingTipsOasis.
Austin, Texas-based Scribe Media was founded in 2014 by Tucker Max, the author of “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell”. The company pairs each client with a talented writer who interviews them for 40 hours. The audio from those interviews is recorded, transcribed, and the client’s words edited into a book. “We interview you for the content, we do all the writing, editing, and publishing,” Scribe says on its website.
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This isn’t ghostwriting, and Scribe doesn’t take a percentage of sales. They basically record and publish your story. You pay an upfront fee and end up with a book written in your words, that you own. The company claims to have helped produce more than 14 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. One of those bestsellers is by David Goggins, a retired Navy SEAL and motivational speaker whose book, “Can’t Hurt me,” sold more than 2.5 million copies.
The Scribe Media process is designed to showcase expertise, founder Max said in a 2018 Forbes interview. It’s based entirely on interviews, and the writer adds no content or ideas beyond what the author brings to the table.
“There are a lot of reasons for a CEO or founder to write a book,” wrote entrepreneur Nathan Pettijohn, whose book was published through Scribe Media. “It may not make you tons of money directly—the average nonfiction book sells less than 2,000 copies—but it can provide you with the platform to speak about your area of expertise and establish you as a thought leader in your field, which can lead to speaking engagements, press coverage and interviews.
“If you leverage it as a part of a bigger strategy, it can be a highly effective vehicle for building your personal or company brand. Beyond that, a book can help someone scale the impact they have on other people.”
With Scribe, you also have the option to write the book yourself, and the company will help market your book. If you choose to be interviewed and have your story professionally written, edited and published, the “Professional” package will cost you $40,000 for ($5,000 a month for eight months).
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