If you’re thinking about writing a book for your business or personal brand, you’ve probably got questions about publishing. Maybe you’ve read my articles on publishing for physicians or choosing the right publishing path for you, and you’ve learned that you’ve got more options than you thought for getting your book into the world.
Traditional publishers still hold industry prestige. But authors can get higher royalties, faster timelines, and more creative control with hybrid and assisted self-publishers. You’ll own your intellectual property after publishing, which is not true with traditional publishers. Plus, you won’t need to go through a publishing agent (or fork over royalty percentages to them). For many business authors, the choice is a no-brainer.
Whether you want to publish a book to gain more speaking engagements, consulting gigs, industry recognition, or a book funnel, hybrid and assisted self-publishing is an excellent choice. But (and you’ve probably guessed this) not all assisted self-publishers are built alike. And there’s a process I like to follow to help my clients evaluate whether a publisher is a good fit for them.
Before we start looking at assisted self-publishers and hybrid publishers, it’s worth understanding what the distinctions are between the two of them. I’ll make a blog post going into more detail soon, but there are two major differences you should know about:
- Hybrid publishers pay royalties. When you work with an assisted self-publisher, you’ll typically get up to 100% of net sales.
- Hybrid publishers tend to be more selective about the works they publish because your book also represents their brand as a collaborator. Assisted self-publishers tend to view the author as a client rather than a collaborator.
With either route, the author is paying to have their book professionally edited, designed, and distributed. But the quality of these elements depends on the publisher you choose. So let’s dig into this step-by-step guide for choosing an assisted self-publisher.
How to Choose Your Assisted Self-Publisher in 2023
Here’s what to do to find the right publishing firm for you:
1. Find Firms & Make a Short List of Best Fit
The best way to find a publisher is through a referral from someone who’s worked with them before. Have any of your friends or colleagues published their own books? They’d be the first people I’d ask. If you’re already working with a ghostwriter or book coach, they’ll probably have recommendations for you. Feel free to reach out to me directly if you want my recommendations for publishing firms.
But you might not know someone who’s published, and you might not feel ready to talk to a ghostwriter or book coach either. If I was just starting out looking for a firm I’d probably start out with a Google Search. I skip past the ads at the top; I like publishers who are invested in their own written content enough to rank organically with Google. Then check out their websites and notice the clients they work with.
If you’re like the authors I write for, you have pretty specific business goals for your book, and these should align with the publishers you search for. For example, many hybrid and assisted self-publishers work specifically with business owners. Some are even more specific than that, and they may work exclusively with coaches, consultants, lawyers, etc.
Check out testimonials from firms to see how their past client experiences have been. But remember that businesses choose the testimonials on their website; you might want to contact a previous client or two to get the real scoop on their experiences.
There are a few red flags that can tell you a publisher isn’t a good fit based on their website and previous projects. Ella Ritchie, founder of Stellar Communications in Houston, says,
“Beware book covers that look cheap and retail synopses that are incomplete. Your best bet is a corporate website that is up-to-date, showcases impressive work, shares information generously, and shows positive engagement with its audience.”
Check out a few websites, and make a note of ones that show professional projects with authors similar to you. Then use these evaluation questions to narrow down your list.
2. Evaluate Publishing Firms Using These Criteria from Scott MacMillan
Scott MacMillan runs Grammar Factory Publishing, a premier assisted self-publishing firm for business owners and entrepreneurs. Scott generously offered his insight on red flags in publishers, and how to know if a publisher is a good fit.
Here are Scott’s words on evaluating a publishing partner:
- Are they experienced (or better, specialized) in publishing the type of book you’re writing at the level of quality you’re expecting?
Many assisted self-publishers publish books for any author willing to pay, whether that’s fiction, poetry, a children’s books, a memoir or a nonfiction business book. Look for a publisher who has success working with other authors in your genre and has published titles that meet your expectation of the quality you want to see in your published book.
For example, if you’re writing a kids book, look for a publisher specializing in kids books. By contrast, if you’re writing a nonfiction book that supports your business, look for a publisher that focuses exclusively on that type of book.
- Are they up front about what they’re great at and can refer you to others who excel in other areas?
Don’t expect a publisher to excel at everything from ghostwriting or coaching through to editing and publishing through to marketing and publicity and beyond. Seek out a publisher who is excellent at the core activities of publishing (editing, design, production and distribution) and who has solid contacts they can introduce you to in adjacent areas where you may need further support.
Bonus points if they are able to coordinate productively and collaboratively with those providers too. That’s an excellent way to get best-in-class support throughout the entire author journey.
- Does their delivery model (deliverables, time to market, rights lock-up) suit your goals?
Two big advantages of assisted self-publishing are:
1) the ability to get to market quickly, and
2) owning all rights to your book from the start.
Make sure the self-publishing you’re considering has a systematic approach to completing your book and getting it to market in the timeframe you expect (4-6 months is generally reasonable) and confirm that you’ll own all copyright to and revenue from your book from the outset.
Your publisher should be able to show you, with reasonable precision, how your publishing project and the associated deliverables will unfold. They should also be able to communicate where things may stretch or shorten a bit depending on certain variables like revisions, additional rounds of editing and the like.
Using these questions to narrow down your list will help you choose a publisher who is genuinely a good fit for your project. From there, you might want to reach out to the firms on your list to book a consultation or get a list of their packages and rates. I’d recommend talking to someone before you sign any contracts though. Let’s go over questions to ask your assisted self-publisher before you agree to work together.
3. Questions to Ask an Assisted Self-Publishing Firm
When you hop on a call with a hybrid or assisted self-publisher, you’ll want to get answers to these specific questions:
1. What services are included in your publishing package? Can I get a custom package?
2. What’s the range of publishing costs I can expect from your firm? Are there any hidden costs I should be aware of?
3. How are royalties structured, and what percentage of royalties will I receive from book sales?
4. What is the distribution strategy for my book, and which retailers and platforms will it be available on?
5. Do you offer marketing and promotional services to help increase the visibility of my book?
6. What is the timeline I might expect for where I am in my project?
7. How do you handle editing and proofreading, and will my manuscript receive professional editing services?
8. Can you provide references or testimonials from authors who have published with your firm?
9. How do you handle book distribution, returns, and inventory management?
10. Do you offer any additional services, such as audiobook production or foreign translation rights?
11. What is the process for obtaining copies of my book, and at what cost?
12. How do you handle copyright and ISBN registration for my book?
13. What is the contract duration, and are there any termination clauses or penalties if I decide to end the agreement early?
These questions will help you evaluate the services and terms offered by an assisted self-publisher. If you have a manuscript already, the publisher may ask to look at it to put together a custom proposal of you. Let’s talk about how to evaluate a publishing package.
4. Evaluating a Publishing Package & Contract
Publishing packages vary widely by terms of service, customization, and cost. Here’s how to evaluate your package to make sure it meets your needs:
Look over the services included. You may want manuscript editing, but you’ll definitely want interior formatting, cover design, ISBN registration, and online distribution to Amazon and others.
Royalty & Payout Structure
What percentage of net sales will you receive? If you’re using an assisted self-publisher, you’ll likely get all net sales.
Marketing & Promotion
Many firms can include marketing in the publishing package. I’d urge you to use their marketing service or hire an outside firm to get professional book promoting support. Don’t spend thousands on publishing a book that no ne buys or reads!
Most firms use IngramSparks distribution network, but be aware that most hybrid and assisted self-publishers won’t put your book in bookstores. You’ll likely need to go to local bookstores and pitch your book to get them to carry it.
Rights & Intellectual Property Ownership
Make sure you’re keeping control of your intellectual property. Are there any exclusivity clauses that limit your options or force you to return to this publisher for work? This is a red flag, since first-refusal rights are not common outside of traditional publishing.
Can you purchase copies of your book at a lesser cost than consumer copies? Some publishers require authors to purchase a certain amount of books to ensure that copies are sold. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you should have a marketing plan to move those copies out of your garage.
Other services you might ask about include audiobook production, language translation, e-book distribution, and more.
Author Payment Terms
Of course, you should be clear on the full amount you can expect to pay for publishing. Typical assisted self publishing rates are between $10,000-40,000. These are usually spread out via payment plan that is based on project milestones.
Picking the Perfect Publisher: Here’s How
A great publisher can be the difference between a beautiful, professional book and an amateurish project that you’re embarrassed to show your friends, let alone your business connections.
Take your time when picking a publisher, and don’t fall for high-pressure marketing tactics. Check out a firm’s portfolio to get a feel for their quality of work, and seriously consider whether you enjoy working with the people involved. A book is a big project, and you want to partner with a firm you trust and admire.
With the right publishing choice, you can ensure that your book reaches its intended audience, elevates your brand, and leaves a lasting impact. And if you want to skip steps 1 & 2, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for assisted self-publishing firm recommendations. No matter where you are in your nonfiction book journey, I’m happy to help.