This post, from Timothy Pontious, originally appeared on his The Pencil Place blog on 5/26/09. In it, he provides a pretty thorough survey of POD publishers.
I had my mouse cursor hovering over the Upload button at lulu.com, but I am truly thankful that I took more time to research the POD / self publishing / vanity publishing horizon before I settled on a publisher for my current project. No, I’ve not settled on that publisher(s) yet. Thanks for asking. I was originally leaning toward lulu.com, but all bets are off at the moment.
There may be several dozen ways to organize this data, so I didn’t. This is a semi-random info dump of what I’ve found so far. Some entries are lump-able into categories, and others just kind of stand on their own.
Since I don’t have a legal department, I’ll issue a disclaimer anyway. This information is all gathered recently across many web sites. For all I know it is already outdated somewhere. This information is for rough comparisons only. Your mileage will vary.
Most of these publishers are a mix of paper/digital, so I did not differentiate unless there is something unique in their approach.
NOTE -> All places where I report the cost of a copy of a single book for an author, it is either a 5.5" x 8.5" or 6" x 9" paperback trade book – color cover and black text on white paper @250 pages (or similar as described on their page). I’ve tried to give similar data where it is available, in a similar pattern in the text. It is extremely difficult to match apples and apples across these many web pages.
The other cost I list is the minimum cost for your first hundred books, which is the minimum setup fees and book costs with NO additional services selected. Also no discounts are accounted for, and my math may be fuzzy, but I tried to be consistent.
Publetariat Editor’s Note: While an estimate of your cost for the first 100 copies is a useful bit of information for making comparisons between publishers, do not assume the companies profiled in this article will actually require you to order a minimum of 100 books. Many POD publishers don’t ask you to buy anything more than a single author copy for review prior to releasing the book for sale. Check with each individual company to verify its minimum order policy.
Mind your security while you browse these sites. Some of these pages are truly horrific throwbacks to not only Web 1.0, but Windows 98 or something. They tease with a little information and require you to register so they can send you more data. I did not bother registering with these sites, assuming they either didn’t know how to spell "Internet", or they were up to something else evil. Really folks, this is the 21st century. Put your data out where we can find it, or some of us are just not going to play that game and you’re losing authors. Allrighty then?
I may also have missed some significant publishing vendors. Let me know and I’ll include them as an update. So here we go.
POD and Self Pub (paper/digital) Publishers (in no particular order)
Most of these entries have editorial, layout, book design and marketing packages that can be purchased. Sometimes the packages are bundled.
iUniverse [http://www.iuniverse.com/] has a separate service for everything. If you’re the author who needs a lot of services, the kind of traveler who demands room service and excellent concierge service, this is perhaps your publisher. I would not be surprised if they have services for their services. Setup fees range $599 – $2099. Author cost per book (for our example size as stated above) is $11.19. The minimum cost per the first hundred copies (your promotional stash) is $1718. Layout, design and editorial services are abundant. They don’t seem to have much of an author community, but they do have author podcasts going. They also offer hosted web sites to market your book. Only books, no other media.
Lulu [http://www.lulu.com/] also offers a suite of services for editing, layout, cover design, and etc. There are no setup fees, but the services can rack up the cost quickly. The author cost for one book is $8.53. The cost per the first 100 is $853. Lulu also handles CDs, DVDs, audio books, PDF downloads, and some other media as well. There is an authors forum area, and they brag about their technical support. For a confident author with an editor friend and a graphics friend, Lulu can be a low cost entry point effectively. Lulu has storefront pages for your book collection that is a fairly staid template with your customized background image.
Authorhouse [http://www.authorhouse.com/] opens their setup fees from $598 to $1298. The author cost for a book is $9.83. The minimum cost for the first hundred books seems to be $1581. Authorhouse will grant a free ISBN number, but they didn’t say anything about US Copyright registration. They also brag on their technical support.
Scribd [http://www.scribd.com/] Scribd is the single eBook-only venture I came across (but that is not what I was looking for so that’s appropriate). You may upload any document to Scribd, and readers can read a sample online for free. If they purchase that book, they may read it all online, or download and therefore print it. The author may set any price, and keeps 80% of the revenue. This is seemingly a streamlined system (I’ve not tried it yet) and the home page is already throwing books at the viewer’s browser, which I like as a marketing approach. The downside is that the browser must load the iPaper application, which streams the document to the browser, and therefore takes a bit of time to load. This feature has taken some heat in some forums I was reading through. Scribd has a fairly complete FAQ area to welcome new authors, so that’s a plus.
Selfpublishing.com [http://www.selfpublishing.com/] This is one of the sites that requires registration, so I didn’t investigate it very thoroughly. One odd thing is that a hosted ISBN is $99, and an indie ISBN is $125 and the barcode is another $25. You can buy 10 bar codes in a block from the source on the Internet, plus bar codes, for that amount. If you have nine more books in you, I’d venture elsewhere.
CreateSpace [http://www.createspace.com/] This one also requires registration a little sooner than I would have preferred. The author cost for a book is $3.66 (or less if you upgrade your package). They offer a free hosted ISBN, and an indie ISBN for $35. They pay royalties as follows: Retail is list price -20%, and Amazon is list price -40%. They offer hosted web sites for your book. One big plus is that they handle multiple media formats (including the only video service I found so far). CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, so if you publish here the next step for marketing should be a breeze!
Read the rest of the post on The Pencil Place blog.