The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Fifth Edition: A Primer on Contracts, Printing Costs, Royalties, Distribution, E-Books, and Marketing Info

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The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, now in its fifth
edition, has been lauded by industry professionals as the go-to book for
authors considering self-publishing. The Fine Print has helped
thousands of authors understand self-publishing companies' services,
contract terms, printing markups, and royalty calculations. This latest
edition includes new chapters on e-book publishing and book marketing,
as well as updated head-to-head comparisons of major self-publishing
service providers, including free book-publishing companies to consider
and self-publishing companies to avoid.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Fifth Edition: A Primer on Contracts, Printing Costs, Royalties, Distribution, E-Books, and Marketing:

2

Nov 21, 2012

Where I got the book: an author-friend bought it for me at a conference. She said she learned a great deal from the author (who is, of course, also a speaker on the conference circuit because that sells books like nothing else) about what she should expect from a publishing company.

And she's right, in a sense. Some of the points covered in this book could be enlightening to a writer who's hoping to sign with a small press, for example, because even though said press is not actually charging you, Where I got the book: an author-friend bought it for me at a conference. She said she learned a great deal from the author (who is, of course, also a speaker on the conference circuit because that sells books like nothing else) about what she should expect from a publishing company.

And she's right, in a sense. Some of the points covered in this book could be enlightening to a writer who's hoping to sign with a small press, for example, because even though said press is not actually charging you, Dear Writer, a monetary price for its services, you are paying the considerable price of giving up your rights to your work POSSIBLY TO THE END OF YOUR LIFE AND BEYOND. So this helpful illustration of how you, the writer, are the piece of meat in the grinder of the publishing world may serve as a cautionary tale for the wiser wannabes out there.

The title of this book should probably be "The Fine Print of Assisted Self-Publishing, because that's what we're talking about here. Let me explain the distinction.

- Self-publishing proper = you, the author, make every single decision about your book. You may contract with designers, formatters, editors and so on to ensure the quality you want, or you may do everything yourself. You buy the ISBNs, you upload the books, you keep track of sales and income. You decide how much you're going to spend on these third party contractors.

- Assisted self-publishing = you, the author, sign a contract with a "self-publishing" company and pay it a fee, for which it will perform the services stipulated in the contract. These definitely include publishing your book--often through printer/distributor Lightning Source--and usually but not always include the provision of an ISBN, cover and interior design, and some kind of marketing. The "self-publishing" company, in addition to its fee, takes a printing markup and often some other kind of chunk out of the profit from the book, and pays you, Dear Author, what's left as a "royalty".

Mark Levine sketches out this distinction very briefly, but comes down heavily in favor of assisted self-publishing. "The micromanagement," he declares, of the self-publishing process "can be daunting and impractical...Unless you have the time to self-manage the entire publishing process, you'll probably be sorry once it starts. Like most people, I have a full-time job. I could never spend the amount of time it would take me to manage the publication of each new edition of this book. There are simply too many moving parts, and all of them need to be in sync with each other."

Wow, self-publishing sounds pretty daunting, huh? Especially if you have a full time job. I flip to the back cover and see that Mark Levine's full time job is as CEO of Hillcrest Media Group in Minneapolis, MN, which "provides book publishing, ebook design, printing..." I note that the book is published by Bascom Hill Publishing Group. I google them. Oh lookie, they're a division of Hillcrest Media Group and based in Minneapolis, MN. I turn to the book's Introduction to find exactly which self-publisher Levine uses and find the name of Mill City Press, which by his own admission is owned by Hillcrest. And based at the same address as Bascom Hill. Levine says he doesn't review Mill City in his book "not only because it would be completely unfair, but because Mill City's model is unlike almost all I review here." And he goes on to give a plug, albeit an oblique one, for Mill City. Which may be an absolutely awesome assisted self-publishing company, for all I know. But you'd have to buy another book that reviews Mill City as well as the ones in this book to find out how it compares...

Are you beginning to see how you're the piece of meat, Dear Author? Or perhaps we should think of you as the juicy bone. Now you may have absolutely no writing talent at all, or you may be the next [insert famous name here]. Or you may not be a great writer, but you've produced something that tickles the reading public's interest - there's one almost every year. On the writing spectrum, there's an end where you can pretty sure the book won't sell (and even then there are so-bad-they're-good exceptions) and an end where a book has more than a 50% chance of doing great (celebrity biographies, for example); in between there's a vast sea of risk, where almost any book could, through some mysterious alchemy that no publisher has ever been able to completely understand, make the bestseller charts. These are the juicy bones that may just yield a really good meal.

So who takes the risk? This is where the whole assisted self-publishing industry gets really interesting.

In traditional publishing, the publisher bears all the costs and may even pay the writer an advance. It's a considerable risk per book, and justifies--to some extent--the transfer of rights. Publishers survive and even thrive (seriously, New York offices and expense accounts? It has to be a winning proposition somewhere) because they make enough good bets to keep going, but the risk is all theirs and not the author's.

In self-publishing proper, the risk is all the author's. Every truly self-published author runs the risk of not recouping the cost of producing the book.

In assisted self-publishing, the risk is also all the author's. The self-publishing company must charge a high enough fee to cover costs, or they wouldn't be in business. If the book doesn't sell, they probably just about break even; if it sells (and an author who's paid out money to publish a book generally markets like crazy to make sure it DOES sell) they make a profit. That's just my guess, of course, but somehow I imagine assisted self-publishing companies are not in it as a pro bono exercise.

Back to this book, in which Mark Levine reviews a number of assisted self-published companies that, he asserts, are NOT vanity publishers because "the author is publishing a book in a strategic, well-thought-out, and well-informed way," in other words she's marketing her book. Huh? I've read that section (starting on page 2) several times and I still can't see a difference between the companies reviewed in Levine's book and vanity publishers. In both cases the author pays a fee and receives publication services of varying extent and quality in return.

That aside, Levine IS REVIEWING HIS COMPETITORS. He does it pretty well; by the time you've plowed through his list of outstanding, pretty good, just okay, to-avoid and Worst of the Worst (a chapter that covers just one company which at one point was involved in a lawsuit against Levine - think about it), you'll have a fairly comprehensive idea of what to look out for IF you decide to hand over money for someone else to do your work for you. And plenty of writers do; they're scared they're not smart enough to figure out how to self-publish, they're too lazy to do the work of learning how to self-publish, or they figure that any publishing company that's not them is somehow more prestigious because they can legitimately talk about "my publisher."

All I could think about while I was reading this book was "why in the name of Virginia Woolf" (a self-publisher) "would anybody, after reading this, want to go the assisted route?" The fees! Oh ye gods, the fees! Anything from a few hundred to tens of thousands of $$$ to do something you could project-manage yourself and earn way, way more in royalties. IT ISN'T THAT HARD. Every day more and more writers are successfully self-published all by their widdle selves, without "help" from any kind of company whatsoever. There are endless internet resources to help you.

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Oops, sorry, this is a review, isn't it?

Anyway, look. If you're really convinced that you, Dear Juicy Bone Writer, are unfit and incapable of handling the self-publishing process by yourself, this book could be of value. At least you can look up the company whose website you're on and see if it compares well to, say, Mill City, which Mark Levine has been very careful not to review but to which he has carefully drawn your attention. And I think it's great, GREAT, that someone is comparing and rating these companies. Although I would prefer that it not be a competitor.
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5

Oct 06, 2016

This was definitely the most detailed book I've ever read about self-publishing - or publishing in general.

I'm writing a book right now and I've been going back and forth when trying to make a decision of whether to self-publish or submit to a publisher. This book answered all of the questions that I had!

For example, one of the reasons I've been wary about self-publishing is because most of the books I've seen that I knew were self-published had awkward cover art, a lot of grammatical errors, This was definitely the most detailed book I've ever read about self-publishing - or publishing in general.

I'm writing a book right now and I've been going back and forth when trying to make a decision of whether to self-publish or submit to a publisher. This book answered all of the questions that I had!

For example, one of the reasons I've been wary about self-publishing is because most of the books I've seen that I knew were self-published had awkward cover art, a lot of grammatical errors, and other things that made them look super unprofessional. But in this book, he tells you in detail how to avoid these mishaps when you're self-publishing.

I also love that the author updates this book regularly to make sure that the information is still relevant! Not many authors take the time to do that.

I highly recommend this to anyone considering writing a book or anyone about to embark on the publishing process!

Copy received from Netgalley for an honest review. ...more
4

Mar 20, 2016

Good analysis of price setting, printing costs, royalties, and publisher/author percentages. Some self promotion.
4

May 16, 2014

Review of Fifth Edition (Published 2014)

The Fine Art of Self-Publishing should be required reading for anyone considering self-publishing, publishing through a small press, or publishing through a “traditional publisher” which requires the author to contribute to the publishing or marketing, or requires that they purchase books at “cost”. Seriously. Reading this book could save you thousands … if you remember a few things that he doesn’t mention. Like the number one rule of publishing:

Money Review of Fifth Edition (Published 2014)

The Fine Art of Self-Publishing should be required reading for anyone considering self-publishing, publishing through a small press, or publishing through a “traditional publisher” which requires the author to contribute to the publishing or marketing, or requires that they purchase books at “cost”. Seriously. Reading this book could save you thousands … if you remember a few things that he doesn’t mention. Like the number one rule of publishing:

Money flows from the publisher to the author.

Now we’ve finished the public service announcement, let’s get back to the review.

The author is the owner of a self-publishing firm, and the book is very much from that perspective. I’m not convinced by his explanation by of the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing, but he defined what he meant, and that was sufficient to give the context for the rest of the book. I’m also not convinced by his underlying belief that authors need outside help in producing a professional product, that they are unable to do it themselves. I agree that everyone needs an external editor and/or proofreader, as no one can fully edit or proofread their own work, and people who aren’t trained graphic designers need to pay for a professional cover design. And an author may well decide to outsource tasks such as formatting.

But I don’t believe that a “self-publisher” is the best place to obtain all these services. I’ve read books from several of the self-publishers referenced in this book, and while the formatting in all of them was professional, the cover designs were of variable quality, as was the editing (one was, in my opinion, 150 pages longer than it needed to be, which priced the book out of the market).

What Levine didn’t do was give an author looking to self-publish any reason to outsource the publishing rather than do it themselves using freelance contractors. He points out that all the self-publishers he refers to (other than CreateSpace and Lulu) outsource the printing to Lightning Source. Yet a savvy self-publisher can deal directly with Lightning Source and avoid the printing markups which seem to be a major way these “self-publishers” make money.

This, for me, was one of the key strengths of The Fine Art of Self-Publishing: a clear analysis of how “self-publishers” make money not just from being paid to produce the book, but from the ongoing sales. The author also takes readers through the real meaning of standard contract terms, including royalty calculations, and the relationship between printing markups on selling price—and how excessive printing markups produce a book that’s priced too high to sell. He also covers some of the “marketing” activities these organisations offer, with some idea of the relative cost and benefit of each.

One of the disadvantages of any book examining the current state of a market is that is can get outdated quickly. The Fine Print of Self-Publishing is no exception: one of the featured publishers (WinePress) has already gone out of business since the book was published three months ago (there’s probably a lesson in there about the reliability of some of these firms).

There are also a couple of areas where I would have liked to have seen more information, specifically with regard to one publisher mentioned in the book. While they don’t charge for publishing, they do require authors to contribute $4,000 towards marketing the book … but don’t say what that $4,000 buys. Personally, I’m not going to even look at spending that much money without knowing exactly what I’m getting for the money. In fairness, the company wouldn’t disclose their contract without having a manuscript—something the author couldn’t exactly provide, given the nature of this book—so that’s not the author’s fault. But I’d really like to know what an author gets for that money …

The other thing he didn’t cover were the firms who publish for free, but require authors to purchase a set number of their books. Based on the printing markup figures used in the book, the cost of 1,000 copies could easily exceed $10,000. These companies are, I believe, especially deceptive, as they often claim they aren’t self-publishers or vanity publishers, but traditional royalty-paying publishers (only they don’t pay royalties on the books the author buys).

Despite what looks here like a laundry list of complaints, I do believe any author considering self-publishing should buy and read this book. While the author never comes out and says “use Company X not Company Y”, the analysis makes it pretty clear who are the best options. It also provides a basis for the savvy author to calculate figures such as print markup for other companies not featured.

Buy the paperback and a new highlighter pen. You’ll need it.

Thanks to the author and StoryCartel for providing a free ebook for review.
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4

Aug 20, 2017

I did not buy this book on Amazon, but got it free from Story Cartel in exchange for a fair, honest review. This is my review.

Let me start off by making this assertion: this book is written by someone who really, really knows his stuff. He is either one hell of a master on the subject of (self) publishing, or he has done an incredible amount of research.

However, as with most writers who are thoroughly conversant with their subject, the author makes the small mistake of assuming that his readers I did not buy this book on Amazon, but got it free from Story Cartel in exchange for a fair, honest review. This is my review.

Let me start off by making this assertion: this book is written by someone who really, really knows his stuff. He is either one hell of a master on the subject of (self) publishing, or he has done an incredible amount of research.

However, as with most writers who are thoroughly conversant with their subject, the author makes the small mistake of assuming that his readers know what he is talking about all the time. For example, he talks about web and sheet-fed offset presses, but does not bother to explain the difference; I am not sure that is a difference the average person will be familiar with. I have a background with the printing press industry, and I know the difference, but I also know that this is not common knowledge.

The author also talks about Lightning Source and Ingram almost interchangeably. I don't think I missed his explanation of the connection between these two organizations. That's because I don't think there is an explanation.

But these are minor issues, the kind of issue anyone with a curious mind can easily resolve by spending a minute or two on the net; what counts is: does the book fulfil its promise? is it worth it? Is it educative?

Yes, it does. You bet. Absolutely. I am extremely glad I read this book, and I will be reading it again very soon. And again, most probably. It might not stop there. There is too much to absorb to be done in just one or two readings. ...more
2

Jul 25, 2018

I struggled to get through this one. I read quite a lot of self-publishing advice books and I thought this one didn't really stand up to the best in the market, in large part because the author encourages using publishing services (he owns a publishing service). Since it's very difficult to tell a legitimate full service publishing services provider from a vanity press - literally, the only difference is in price - I think it's a risky strategy to encourage, and because of that I can't really I struggled to get through this one. I read quite a lot of self-publishing advice books and I thought this one didn't really stand up to the best in the market, in large part because the author encourages using publishing services (he owns a publishing service). Since it's very difficult to tell a legitimate full service publishing services provider from a vanity press - literally, the only difference is in price - I think it's a risky strategy to encourage, and because of that I can't really recommend this book. Two stars.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley. ...more
5

Jun 22, 2016

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing: A Primer on Contracts, Printing Costs, Royalties, Distribution, Ebooks, and Marketing (sixth edition) by Mark Levine is a “must read” for anyone thinking of self-publishing a book, or who has already published and wants to consider other options.

Not only does the primer cover the basics described in its title, it reveals the stark financial realities—“warts and all”—of self-publishing that many authors either do not understand or haven’t learned by doing their The Fine Print of Self-Publishing: A Primer on Contracts, Printing Costs, Royalties, Distribution, Ebooks, and Marketing (sixth edition) by Mark Levine is a “must read” for anyone thinking of self-publishing a book, or who has already published and wants to consider other options.

Not only does the primer cover the basics described in its title, it reveals the stark financial realities—“warts and all”—of self-publishing that many authors either do not understand or haven’t learned by doing their homework.

Chapter 8, with its apples-to-apples charts comparing publishing service providers, is worth the price of the book alone. He also explains and illustrates the standard wholesale discount structure in the book industry and how that affects a book’s retail price as well as an author’s earnings.

Here are some of my favorite comments in Levine’s book:

“While it’s great to be a dreamer, in book publishing it’s smarter to be a realist.”

He goes on to cite a Nielsen BookScan report (2004) that found:

“Of all books sold, 79 percent sold fewer than ninety-nine copies. Another 200,000, or 16.67 percent, sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 books, or 2.1 percent, sold more than 5,000 copies. Fewer than 500 books, or 0.04 percent, sold more than 100,000 copies, and only 10 books, or 0.0008 percent, so more than a million copies each.”

“The average US nonfiction book (without distinction between traditionally published or self-published) sells fewer than 250 copies per year and fewer than 2,000 copies over its lifetime. . . . [W]hen you factor in the explosive growth of self-published titles since 2004, the percentage of books selling fewer than 1,000 copies would be greater still.”

He also gives his take on distinguishing self-publishing from vanity publishing:
“What makes self-publishing different from vanity publishing is that in self-publishing, the author is publishing a book in a strategic, thoughtful, well-informed way. The author has the book professionally edited by a real book editor (friends who teach high-school English don’t count), has the cover and interior professionally designed, has a realistic approach to the process . . . has a marketing plan . . . and marketing budget . . . and intends to work hard to generate sales.”

“Marketing is typically the most expensive part of the publishing process . . .”

Levine says self-publishers should hire professional editors and designers if their books are to be well-received and commercially viable:

“A poorly edited book is a waste of your time and money. . . . Without [professional editing], your book is DOA.”

“If your book doesn’t look and read like it came out of a traditional publishing house, then whatever amount of money you spend on marketing is a waste.”

“[I]t’s easy for publishers to skew the royalty calculations in ways that on the surface seem generous, but really aren’t.”

“Printing [cost] markups affect every aspect of your book’s success. . . . The result is a book that should be retailing for between $13 and $15 selling for $20 to $22. . . . People don’t buy overpriced books, especially those that are written by authors they’ve never heard of.”

For example: “Author Solutions companies . . . appear at first glance to have no printing markup. But, they are just pushing those markups into the royalties and/or printing markups when authors order copies of their own books. . . . Abbott Press, Archway, Balboa Press, and WestBow all take approximately a 61 percent net royalty (after backing out the trade discount and printing costs).”

“The core Author Solutions companies, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, and AuthorHouse pay authors a 10 percent royalty, and often require a higher retail price than a comparable book in the same genre and page count.”

Caveat: Mark Levine has a self-interest in this (which he discloses upfront): His company, Hillcrest Media, owns Mill City Press, a publishing service provider. That said, he does not recommend that anyone choose his company over the others. In fact, he makes no recommendations. He lays out the information on costs and compensation (technically, there are no “royalties” for a self-publisher) and lets the reader draw his or her own conclusions.

As a professional editor and publishing consultant, I typically recommend that authors go the DIY route and use CreateSpace for print books (as a printer, not publisher), in conjunction with IngramSpark for broader distribution, and KDP (Kindle) and Smashwords for ebooks. However, I also realize that not everyone has the skills or inclination to do that and wants a bit of hand holding. Mill City appears to offer a reasonably priced package to transform a manuscript into a book—print and ebook—that doesn’t nickel-and-dime the author with hidden or disguised costs (there is no free lunch), as do most of the other companies offering such services.

In the past, I have recommended that authors NOT use the majority of the outfits offering publishing services—including but not limited to AuthorHouse, Author Solutions (or its subsidiaries), iUniverse, Lulu, and Xlibris. In my not-so-humble opinion, Levine’s book reinforces that advice.
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4

Apr 20, 2018

An insightful book on some of the ins and outs of self-publishing. Great for new and aspiring indie authors in need of a little help along the way.
0

Jun 07, 2007

INTRODUCTION

For most authors, writing is a part of who we are—our thoughts and ideas constantly percolate as dialogue and plot twists in our minds. Kurt Vonnegut summed it up best when he said, “Most people do other things with their time. But writers, we'll sit around and think up neat stuff, not something just anyone could do.”

Writing a book is an amazing accomplishment. When I finished my first manuscript, I felt the way a runner feels after completing a marathon for the first time.

But if INTRODUCTION

For most authors, writing is a part of who we are—our thoughts and ideas constantly percolate as dialogue and plot twists in our minds. Kurt Vonnegut summed it up best when he said, “Most people do other things with their time. But writers, we'll sit around and think up neat stuff, not something just anyone could do.”

Writing a book is an amazing accomplishment. When I finished my first manuscript, I felt the way a runner feels after completing a marathon for the first time.

But if publishing your manuscript and turning it into a book is your goal, then finishing the manuscript is just the beginning.

Until the mid-1990s, there existed three ways to become a published author:

Submit a manuscript to agents and traditional publishers, such as Random House or Dell Publishing, and hope you were one of the chosen few.


Pay a vanity publisher $10,000 to $20,000 to print your book, which got it "published" but left you deep behind the financial eight ball before you sold one book; or


Utilize self-publishing, which required you to handle all aspects of book publishing, including finding a printer and cover design, formatting, obtaining an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and UPC Bar Code, and locating sales and distribution avenues.
Over the past five to seven years, however, new production technologies and the Internet have spawned a new industry segment. Electronic publishing (epublishing) and print-on-demand (POD) publishing give writers more opportunities to become published authors.

POD publishers (PODs) allow a book publisher or printer to produce the number of books actually ordered. These publishers are hybrids of traditional publishers, vanity presses, and self-publishing companies. Several publishers reviewed in this book have complained about being labeled as PODs. They argue that POD is merely a method of production and limited distribution, and should not be confused with self-publishing, which uses the author’s financial resources to publish a book. That is true. However, I suspect that these publishers disdain association with the term mostly because several scummy publishers have dirtied the word, and given these publishers an undeserved black mark.

Well, friends, in this book, I call them PODs because (1) many laymen outside the publishing world continue to refer to these publishers as PODs, (2) this book is long, and abbreviations like this make it easy for you to read, and (3) I’m trying to keep this book affordable and every extra page adds to its cost. So, for you publishers reading this now, relax, no one who reads this book is going to come away thinking that POD means anything nefarious.

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing only covers royalty-paying PODs (the extended ebook version of the book includes some PODs not large enough to make it in here and many epublishers that strictly publish electronic books). Most PODs now charge up-front fees. Some have wider distribution channels than others. And like traditional publishers, some are selective in what they will publish while others publish anything so long as the writer pays the publishing fee.

All publishers featured in this book have these common characteristics:

Accept submissions from new or inexperienced writers without requiring the writer to have an agent
Publish the book in six months or less (in most cases 30 to 90 days)
Don’t pay an advance
Offer little or no marketing budget for the author’s book, but sometimes provide these services for a fee
Pay higher royalties than traditional publishers
Charge up-front publishing fees.


http://www.book-publishers-compared.com/ ...more
4

Nov 21, 2014


More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/


The Fine Print of Self Publishing really is an excellent primer on working with small print companies. There are a few discussions on large print houses (should one be lucky enough to get a large contract) and publishing without a company, but the focus is on avoiding common pitfalls that defeat publication. For first time authors who aren't sure what avenue to pursue now that they have written a book, this can be very

More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/


The Fine Print of Self Publishing really is an excellent primer on working with small print companies. There are a few discussions on large print houses (should one be lucky enough to get a large contract) and publishing without a company, but the focus is on avoiding common pitfalls that defeat publication. For first time authors who aren't sure what avenue to pursue now that they have written a book, this can be very eye opening and the information extremely useful.

The book breaks down as follows: The basics of self publishing; self publishing essentials; from manuscript to distribution; The profile of a great self publishing company; The fine print of publishing contracts; E book publishing; Marketing your book; An apples to apples comparison of major self publishing companies. Included in the appendixes are : Standard POD trim size offerings from lightning source; self publishing checklist; e-book distribution and royalties comparison; Tips for recognizing a great self publishing company; author volume discounts; return policies for book production files; author royalties: print sales; author royalties: hook sales; book marketing checklist.

As can be seen from above, very specific and detailed advice and recommendations are given. Bot soft topics are covered too - most particularly how to separate yourself emotionally from your work so you can properly market it. Vanity vs self publishing, and the need to invest in your work are the heart of the advice here. Time and money (and luck) are requirements for a successful book.

I found this to be very useful, thorough, and informative. The author comes from the perspective of a publisher, writer, and marketer of books. Although sometimes it felt like an extended advert for his publishing house, it's a small nitpick in an otherwise informative book.

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

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5

Jul 17, 2013

The subtitle of this book reads “everything you need to know about the costs, contracts and process of self-publishing”. Mark Levine does an excellent, comprehensive job of covering these topics. This is a detailed how-to book. In chapters one through six he lays out the basics of print self-publishing, stuff you need to read over and over, the nine qualities of a good self-publishing company (this chapter alone is worth the price of the book), and the fine print of publishing contracts. Since The subtitle of this book reads “everything you need to know about the costs, contracts and process of self-publishing”. Mark Levine does an excellent, comprehensive job of covering these topics. This is a detailed how-to book. In chapters one through six he lays out the basics of print self-publishing, stuff you need to read over and over, the nine qualities of a good self-publishing company (this chapter alone is worth the price of the book), and the fine print of publishing contracts. Since he’s been a lawyer he has a detailed analysis of what you need to look at in any contract you sign. He is also a business man and astute marketer of his own self-publishing company (www.millcitypress.net). In chapters seven to twelve he rates twenty-three self-publishing companies, seven of which he rates outstanding and two he rates pretty good. He goes into detail on each company evaluated as to what to expect, what their packages and pricing are, and the pluses and minuses of each. He emphasizes many times the need to have your book well-edited by a professional because a poorly edited book is not worth the time and money it will take to self-publish it. He advises to be sure to know who your audience is and to have a well-designed cover because this goes a long way to selling the book. Among other well-taken advice, he says to make sure the markup on printing the book is reasonable, make sure you are getting fair royalties, and be sure you can get your original production files back in the event you decide not to use an author services company. The book focuses on print self-publishing which Levine says from a reputable self-publishing company might cost from $1,000 to $5,000. The book is well-written, Levine is very honest about what he knows and doesn’t know, and he writes with straight talk humor. I bought the Kindle edition, and it was easy to navigate to chapters, to foot notes and to links on the web. There’s an added benefit when you reach the conclusion. Read this book and keep it on your self-publishing resource shelf.

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5

Feb 19, 2017

I received a copy of this book as a Firstreads Giveaway. It is written for a very specific audience of authors who have finished the writing process and are ready to publish their work. I'm not quite the target audience (although I did do a couple of Nanowrimos) so it was a little dense for me, but if I WERE to publish my novels, this would be my go-to book. It has everything you need to be aware of before you jump in to self-publishing. It's not as simple as dumping your Word doc into a .mobi I received a copy of this book as a Firstreads Giveaway. It is written for a very specific audience of authors who have finished the writing process and are ready to publish their work. I'm not quite the target audience (although I did do a couple of Nanowrimos) so it was a little dense for me, but if I WERE to publish my novels, this would be my go-to book. It has everything you need to be aware of before you jump in to self-publishing. It's not as simple as dumping your Word doc into a .mobi file. The biggest takeaway: HIRE A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR. I wholeheartedly agree after reading a few too many first-time novelists that had very major typos throughout their work. My only complaint - the author talks about making sure you don't skimp on the margins of your book, thinking you can save cash on the per-page pricing. But this paperback version that I read had the teeny-tiniest margins on the outer edge. But they didn't detract from the great content. If you (unlike I) want to get your Nanowrimo novel out there, start with this book. And hire a professional editor. ...more
5

Nov 18, 2014

This is a great book for anyone who has even given thought to entering the self-publishing world. I thought that the process was a lot simpler than it really is and I'm so glad that Mark Levine's book came across my desk when it did! As an aspiring author, one of my goals is to eventually get my story published. I've been thinking about going the self-publishing route since I started writing this story. This book is going to be such a great resource for me when I finally get to that stage in the This is a great book for anyone who has even given thought to entering the self-publishing world. I thought that the process was a lot simpler than it really is and I'm so glad that Mark Levine's book came across my desk when it did! As an aspiring author, one of my goals is to eventually get my story published. I've been thinking about going the self-publishing route since I started writing this story. This book is going to be such a great resource for me when I finally get to that stage in the game. There are some incredible tips in here on things that I would have never thought of and there are some common sense tips such as having a professional edit your work and to design your cover. I'm also very excited to utilize the little extra gift Mark stuck into the conclusion of this book. Great read for anyone in the writing world or the publishing industry! ...more
5

Jun 28, 2016

As a self-published author of two years, I could have used this book from the moment I'd considered writing a book. I learned much of this from trial and error, and I could have had less error had I had this book as a reference to make a plan for publishing and marketing. Luckily, there are many elements that I can utilize now because the landscape of self-publishing is forever changing. I will definitely recommend this to other Indies, whether they've previously self-published or are still As a self-published author of two years, I could have used this book from the moment I'd considered writing a book. I learned much of this from trial and error, and I could have had less error had I had this book as a reference to make a plan for publishing and marketing. Luckily, there are many elements that I can utilize now because the landscape of self-publishing is forever changing. I will definitely recommend this to other Indies, whether they've previously self-published or are still flirting with the idea. ...more
4

Mar 07, 2015

I highly recommend for those about to embark on self-publishing. I am hoping Mark continues to update his book as this business is constantly changing.
5

Sep 23, 2017

Mark Levine does a fabulous job laying out the pitfalls of a complex industry that features the good the bad and the ugly with respect to the dreams of you and I, as authors, and the unscrupulous, the well mannered and those of integrity birthing, fostering or destroying those dreams in their honest midwifery, total integrity in delivery process or their deadly greed destroying dreams and themselves in the process. Talked to Mark Levine on the phone once and he seems very much in the class and Mark Levine does a fabulous job laying out the pitfalls of a complex industry that features the good the bad and the ugly with respect to the dreams of you and I, as authors, and the unscrupulous, the well mannered and those of integrity birthing, fostering or destroying those dreams in their honest midwifery, total integrity in delivery process or their deadly greed destroying dreams and themselves in the process. Talked to Mark Levine on the phone once and he seems very much in the class and integrity team. He did not try to desperately imprison me with the idea he is the only fair game in town, nor try to get me to commit to Mill Street Press on the spot. He's pricey, offering many services, for additional dollars. I did, however, take his advice ten years later inasmuch as he highly recommends Angela and Richard Hoy, and booklocker. com a (Print on Demand (Pod) publisher. Levine's advice was excellent and he says if you can find a POD publisher paying a higher royalty than booklocker then go with it. Angela Hoy has already proven to be a good friend, as her husband also, and she writes a weekly E Zine called Writer's Weekly that I highly recommend. Angela has recently written articles about the defunct Tate Publishing (FederalCharges Pending for Tate Officers) Mark Levine has written an excellent book and provides needed information for Indi Writers. Tell Angela Hoy, I sent you. Chris Queen. ...more
5

Jun 07, 2019

I thought I had written a review of this, but must have completely slipped my mind! I have gone back to certain chapters over the years as a refresher and overall, there is so much useful information that is packed in this book! Really lays out all the pros and cons of the various methods of publishing.
5

Feb 24, 2018

Thank you to NetGalley and Mark Levine for allowing me to read and review The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. This book is fantastic, and I will be purchasing a copy and recommending it to my clients. It's an absolute must-read for anyone considering self-publishing.
5

Dec 21, 2017

Awesome information for those beginning even intermediate in self-publishing books. I always recommend research before self-publishing and this is a great read for research.
4

Apr 18, 2010

I firmly believe it's a mistake to pay to have your book published by a vanity press and that it's tantamount to flushing your money down a toilet. But if you are intent on doing it anyway, then you must read THE FINE PRINT OF SELF-PUBLISHING by Mark Levine first. He analyzes the major vanity presses and their contracts, their pluses and minuses, and gives you a thorough understanding of how that business works.

He starts by talking about how he chose the vanity press route for his first book:

I firmly believe it's a mistake to pay to have your book published by a vanity press and that it's tantamount to flushing your money down a toilet. But if you are intent on doing it anyway, then you must read THE FINE PRINT OF SELF-PUBLISHING by Mark Levine first. He analyzes the major vanity presses and their contracts, their pluses and minuses, and gives you a thorough understanding of how that business works.

He starts by talking about how he chose the vanity press route for his first book:

"In 1994, when I finished the novel, I put it into the hands of a few big-time publishing houses. They all told me the same thing. 'We like the writing, but in order for us to sell it, you have to rewrite this and rewrite that, then send it back to us.' I wasn't about to start rewriting my book so that maybe some traditional publisher would take it."

To me, that attitude pretty much sums up the problem with most of the writers who go the self-publishing route. He goes on to say his book was awarded 'Book of the Year' by the publisher he paid to publish his book, making it a dubious honor at best, and the fact that he's proud of it, and touts it in his book, made me wonder about the guy and his credibilty (he claims that President Clinton read the book and that's certainly worth touting). On the other hand, he recognizes that a vanity press publication is, at best, a small step towards becoming a publisher yourself or landing a traditi0nal publishing contract.

But Levine quickly won me over with his knowledge and professionalism in his approach towards his topic. Levine is obviously pro-vanity press, but even with that bias, he does a remarkably thorough job analyzing the companies and their practices, even singling out the worst offenders by name (Authorhouse and PublishAmerica among them) and detailing exactly what they are doing wrong, line by line, in their contracts. During the research phase of his book, he even succeeded in getting some publishers to adjust their contracts to be more author-friendly.

The book is breezily written and very informative. THE FINE PRINT OF SELF-PUBLISHING is a long overdue, much-needed book and is worth buying whether you're contemplating self-publishing or not simply for the education Levine gives in how to read a publishing contract and understand the terms. ...more
5

Dec 18, 2008

Mark Levin has a classic here with The Fine Print of Self Publishing: The Contracts & Services of 45 Self-Publishing Companies Analyzed Ranked & Exposed. I have to say that as a self published author I devoured this book, all 321 pages, in one single sitting. I found myself up at midnight, then 1:00 AM, then 2:35 in the morning going over the page after page of useful information. Man, I wish I would have had this book a few years ago!

First of all, Mark gives you reasons why to self Mark Levin has a classic here with The Fine Print of Self Publishing: The Contracts & Services of 45 Self-Publishing Companies Analyzed Ranked & Exposed. I have to say that as a self published author I devoured this book, all 321 pages, in one single sitting. I found myself up at midnight, then 1:00 AM, then 2:35 in the morning going over the page after page of useful information. Man, I wish I would have had this book a few years ago!

First of all, Mark gives you reasons why to self publish and what to look for in your publishing partner. Then Mark gives ranks self publishing services into four categories: Outstanding, Pretty Good, Okay and Avoid. He groups the publishing and printing companies that he studied into these categories then tells us why he grouped the companies in their categories. But he doesn’t just give it to us in dialogue. We can see the numbers. Mark has taken the time to explore what a paperback of 200 pages with each of these services would cost you, what your book will cost and how much royalties you can expect for selling your book directly from the publisher versus selling on Amazon.com or similar online bookstore formats. And he makes it easy to understand.

Unfortunately, Mark Levine did not list all of the service providers out there. I have since seen I-Proclaim, Raider, BlueToad and Ireland’s Choice Publishing, which somehow didn’t make the book, but I would presume that Mark Levine will add these when he updates the next versions. But nonetheless, Mark does not fail in giving the reader and self publisher all the tools he will need to be able to judge one of these services for himself.

I have a couple of books that I will be printing in the near future but before I make a move, I am going to be re-consulting this magic tome when the time comes. I highly recommend anyone who is looking to self publish to grad a copy of Mark Levine’s book well in advance! ...more
4

Apr 20, 2010

As self-publishing, or Print-on-Demand (POD) publishing is becoming more popular, an important question for authors concerns the contract they are about to sign. Are they getting a good deal from the publisher, or are they (figuratively) signing their life away?

The book explores a number of things that the author must consider before signing a contract. Are the publishing fees fairly priced? Does it have a good reputation in the writing community? Does it offer decent royalties without fuzzy As self-publishing, or Print-on-Demand (POD) publishing is becoming more popular, an important question for authors concerns the contract they are about to sign. Are they getting a good deal from the publisher, or are they (figuratively) signing their life away?

The book explores a number of things that the author must consider before signing a contract. Are the publishing fees fairly priced? Does it have a good reputation in the writing community? Does it offer decent royalties without fuzzy math? Can the author easily terminate the contract? Does the contract include the ability to obtain an ISBN or a UPC Bar Code? Never accept a contract whose terms extend for the length of the copyright (the life of the author plus 70 years). What happens to your book if the publisher declares bankruptcy?

Much of the book is taken up with an analysis of the contracts from 48 different self-publishers. The Outstanding publishers include Booklocker, Bookpros, Cold Tree Press, Infinity Publishing and Outskirts Press. The Pretty Good companies include Booksurge Publishing, Echelon Press and Third Millennium Publishing. The Okay publishers include Indy Publish, Llumina Press, Plane Tree Publishing and Publish to Go. The Bad publishers (to be avoided at all costs) include AuthorHouse, Holy Fire Publishing, PageFree Publishing and PublishAmerica. Any author thinking of signing with a "Bad" publisher needs to seriously reconsider if being a writer is really a good idea.

There is a more recent third edition available (this is the first edition). Regardless of the edition, this book needs to be on every budding author’s bookshelf. It is full of information on what to consider, and what to avoid, before signing a book contract.

...more
3

Aug 03, 2015

The author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing does a fine job of turning on the headlights toward common pitfalls of self-publishing. Warning lights include: how not to identify your target audience, what to avoid when selecting an editor or publisher, the things you should not write about, and the people who do not qualify as editors.
The beginning of the book glares the reader with the author's personal anecdotes and the end glares the reader again with charts, ratings, and statistics. The author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing does a fine job of turning on the headlights toward common pitfalls of self-publishing. Warning lights include: how not to identify your target audience, what to avoid when selecting an editor or publisher, the things you should not write about, and the people who do not qualify as editors.
The beginning of the book glares the reader with the author's personal anecdotes and the end glares the reader again with charts, ratings, and statistics. However, as you read the material in between, you'll find that the author holds out a lantern on the pathway of self-publishing. This book beams with tips for an honest sale practice, good and bad examples of copy editing, advice on advertising and marketing books, and the most cherished, the best places to get web traffic.

The lighthouse of this book is the explanation of publishing contract language and terms. You'll learn how to detect and evade contract terminology which can cripple the inexperienced self-publisher. You'll also learn specific phrases and their meanings and how to use them to protect your rights.

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing is a good book to read just after writing your first book but before selecting a publishing company or signing any contract.

My favorite quote:
"Effective book marketing makes the most of your book's assets and your own personal strengths so that your work reaches not just a lot of people, but the right people."-- Mark Levine

For more reviews visit www.McNeilsReviews.com
...more
5

Dec 11, 2008

You’ve spent endless hours writing your book. Now, it’s finally time to publish. These days, more and more people are turning to publish on demand and other forms of self-publishing. But buyer beware! Not all companies are created equally.

If you are looking to self-publish, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing is a must have resource. Finding the publisher that fits your needs and your budget can be extremely time consuming. The majority of us don’t even know which questions we should be asking or You’ve spent endless hours writing your book. Now, it’s finally time to publish. These days, more and more people are turning to publish on demand and other forms of self-publishing. But buyer beware! Not all companies are created equally.

If you are looking to self-publish, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing is a must have resource. Finding the publisher that fits your needs and your budget can be extremely time consuming. The majority of us don’t even know which questions we should be asking or how to spot red flags. This resource helps new authors in two important ways. First, it educates readers about what they should be looking for in a self-publisher and what constitutes a “publisher to avoid”. Then, this book sets out detailed information about costs of publication packages, what authors receive for that price, any extra services available, approximate royalty amounts, cost of books, and information on what will be included in the contract for 45 different companies. For convenience sake, self-publishing companies are divided into Outstanding, Pretty Good, Ok, and Avoid.

I learned a lot from The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. In particular, there were quite a few things that I hadn’t really considered or even noticed in the fine print of the self-publication contracts. As self-publishers we really have to be aware of what we need and be diligent in understanding what we’ll get for our dollar. Most definitely, price doesn’t always equate directly to value. ...more
5

Jul 08, 2016

For most authors, finishing their book is the easy part. The difficulties come later when they try to actually get physical copies out into the world and are forced to experience the horrors of the publishing. In an environment in which there seems to be an absolute overabundance of information and opinions, Mark Levine provides lucid and vastly helpful information about the publishing process and industry in his The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.

Full of important and crucial information on the For most authors, finishing their book is the easy part. The difficulties come later when they try to actually get physical copies out into the world and are forced to experience the horrors of the publishing. In an environment in which there seems to be an absolute overabundance of information and opinions, Mark Levine provides lucid and vastly helpful information about the publishing process and industry in his The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.

Full of important and crucial information on the publishing and editing process, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing is a necessary resource for anyone interested in publishing, be it their own work or the works of others. The multiple editions of the work reflect a desire to keep on track with the publishing industry as it develops in order to provide the most beneficial and important information to readers. Levine’s insight is elucidating and necessary, explaining the ins and outs and the good, the bad, and the ugly of self-publishing. Overall, Mark Levine’s The Fine Print of Self-Publishing is a priceless primer for authors and those interested in the industry regarding self-publishing.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for writing a review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own. ...more

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