This is the PUBLISHING SERVICE INDEX for December 2016. Our last index was released back in late May/early June, and at one stage we released the index on an almost monthly basis. In compiling the index, month-to-month, I found the work involved to update the 90+ companies and service providers was not being compensated by enough changes in the overall index over a short period of weeks. Indeed, some months the changes were very modest, and sometimes hardly noticeable. I decided to hold off releasing an index during the summer because I began to see some changes within the service industry providers and I decided to see how these would all play out as the year progressed.
This month’s index reflects some of those changes and there are some trends and developments worth discussing.
Firstly, there are a number of providers who have either opted to exit the publishing service market or completely shuttered their companies and platforms. We reported earlier this year that service provider Original Writing, based in Ireland, had gone out of business. This was also followed by the closures of UKUnpublished, Spire Publishing and True Directions. Open Book Editions has also decided to remodel its business and operate as a standard industry imprint, dropping its publishing services. Dom Tom Publishing now primarily concentrates on a very small core of authors who set up the imprint. Penguin-owned Book Country recently announced that it too was dropping its publishing service options and will revert to its origins as a reader/author community. You will still find these entities at the bottom of the current December index, but they will all be removed from the first released index in 2017.
I also suspect they will not be the only ones. The publishing service industry is becoming increasingly competitive and it is becoming very clear that more and more authors are seeking the flexibility and economy of freemium platforms, freelance marketplaces and direct online sales channels. They want empowerment and the direct tools to publish, and preferably online, whether their intentions are for a print or ebook release, or both. The dominate era of convenient but often expensive publishing packages (and those service providers who still stick rigidly to this paper-driven, high print markups, and low revenue return for authors) looks doomed.
Nothing could underscore this more than the astonishing drop in the December Publishing Service Index of much-loved and Amazon-owned print-on-demand platform CreateSpace. Since the inception of the index in 2010, CreateSpace has been one of the kingpins of the index, and rarely outside the top two positions, sometimes for months on end holding the number one position. CreateSpace now sits 9th, a fall of seven places in just six months. But it’s not all bad for Amazon, its KDP platform, following a very shaky 18 months, is back at the top ahead of IngramSpark. The top ten remains dominated by free or economic, easy-to-use (for the most part) platforms, while well-established publishing service providers like Matador, Mill City Press and Silverwood Books (surprisingly, perhaps) continue to adapt and carve a place for themselves in an ever-changing marketplace. Hillcrest Media, operating Mill City Press and several other book print and service platforms, was bought out by Salem Media Group in 2016, which also owns and runs self-publishing service Xulon Press.
What has also struck me as significant in compiling the Publishing Service Index for December is the ‘culling’ of listed print titles by many service providers during the latter part of 2016. I noted in 2015 that the output of quite a number of providers offering full packaged services was down on 2015, and that trend continues in 2016. I noted this in June when we published the last index:
One significant noted point during the preparation of the May index is that a number of larger publishing service providers’ listed catalogue shrunk between two to five percent compared to our March index. This will happen occasionally as providers ‘spring clean’ their catalogues, but the amount of reduction seen over the past month suggests that this is beyond just a yearly review of author accounts and databases. Again, this is lightly a reflection of a continuing shift away from publishing package providers to DIY self-publishing platforms. Clearly, large package providers are not experiencing the expansive growth seen between 2012-15. The freemium/DIY platforms now dominate the self-publishing market for authors as a first choice, with fewer authors choosing the assisted/tailored service providers.
But now I think there is more to it than a simple decline in packaged services sold to authors, rather, the same service providers are carrying out an extensive ‘spring clean’ in their available POD catalogues pushed out to distribution channels. Whether this means publishing service providers are now scrapping for additional revenue (to offset the decline in service package take-up) by charging authors annually to keep print titles in the distributions channels (when that may have originally included the perpetual fee in the overall package cost) remains to be seen. Originally, some providers charged an annual fee for channel distribution listing, others did not. The other explanation is that self-published authors who went with large publishing service providers are now reclaiming their titles and moving wholesale to platforms like KDP, IngramSpark and Kobo with the flexibility and assistance of the freelance market provided by companies like Reedsy.
TIPM continues to receive regular feedback on services through comments under our reviews, via our TIPM Facebook page, and directly to us. We want to thank all of those who took the time to share their publishing experiences. Your comments are always welcome and every comment and experience of a publishing service — positive or negative — is always reflected in every new index published through TIPM.
|DEC POS||MAY POS||COMPANY/SERVICE PROVIDER||PRIMARY COMPANY BASEMARKET||SERVICE CLASS||MAY INDEX VALUE||INDEX POS MOVE|
|1||3||Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)||GLOBAL||DIY||806.69||UP|
|5||6||Kobo Writing Life||GLOBAL||DIY||608.01||UP|
|6||7||Hillcrest Media/Mill City Press||USA||PUB/FSP||586.00||UP|
|8||9||Lightning Source (Direct)||GLOBAL||PRT/FUL||565.20||UP|
|14||14||Epigraph Publishing Service||USA||FSP||444.97||SAME|
|15||15||Dog Ear Publishing||USA||FSP||439.61||SAME|
|23||23||York Publishing Services||UK||PRT/FULL||404.97||SAME|
|24||24||CPI UK Antony Rowe||EUROPE||PRT||396.37||SAME|
|25||25||John Hunt Publishing||GLOBAL||PUB/FSP||391.26||SAME|
|27||28||Google Play Books||GLOBAL||DIY||380.27||UP|
|32||35||Grosvenor House Publishing||UK||FSP||368.06||UP|
|34||32||Cold River Studio||USA||FSP||367.02||DOWN|
|35||36||The Choir Press||UK/USA||FSP||365.83||UP|
|37||38||Book Guild Publishing||UK||FSP||362.95||UP|
|40||41||Acorn Independent Press||UK||FSP||353.57||UP|
|51||54||Kazoo Publishing Services||IRELAND||FSP||338.62||UP|
|62||65||The Book Producers||IRELAND||FSP||323.63||UP|
|64||67||Turning Stone Press||USA||FSP||321.46||UP|
|66||69||Better Book Company||UK||FSP||319.61||UP|
|69||75||Chandler Book Design||UK||PRT||304.13||UP|
|70||73||Dolman Scott/Oak Press||UK||FSP||303.34||UP|
|84||89||Pegasus Elliot MacKenzie||UK||PUB/FSP||225.54||UP|
|87||93||Raider International Pub./Green Shore||GLOBAL||FSP||109.30||UP|
|88||52||Open Book Editions*||USA||FSP||58.36||DOWN|
|89||88||Dom Tom Publishing**||UK/USA||FSP||56.00||DOWN|
- DIY – Do-it-yourself bespoke services and basic conversion and formatting services
- FSP – Full Service Provider (Packages & Bespoke) – May also include Partnership publishing programs
- PUB – Also offers Mainstream Contracts or is a service imprint of a traditional publishing house
- PRT – Printer (primarily a printer with some additional but limited services)
- FULL – Fulfilment Services provided for distribution logistics, warehousing of stock (including supply to wholesaler and retailers)
- CRW – Crowdsource
* Denotes that company no longer offers publishing services
** Denotes former service provider turned traditional publisher
*** Denotes that publisher/imprint no longer exists or has closed operations
There is a much more detailed explanation of what the Publishing Service Index is and how authors can best use it in this post.
The most asked question we get at The Independent Publishing Magazine is often along the lines of; ‘What self-publishing service should I go with?‘; ‘Is so and so a good service to go with?‘; or ‘Is so and so a scam?‘
In some cases, that is an easy question to answer, cut and dry, but in other circumstances, the answer is entirely arbitrary. We are not here to review and run down a company’s name, nor are we here to endorse a company’s services. If we were only to review companies according to every point on an ideal dream list of what an author wants/should get, we would have very few reviews to share with you. In truth, no company has ever attained a 10/10, and only a few have recorded more than 08/10.
The reality is that some companies offering publishing services begin in a blaze of glory and we might rate them favourably at the time; others, frankly, are just poor, and they improve (sometimes in response to our reviews) to offer reasonable or better services. We are constantly updating our reviews, but this takes considerable time, and so do the initial reviews.
We get a vast amount of information from authors and the companies selling author solutions services every day – good and bad. We get a great deal of information from monitoring services week by week against the experiences of what authors report back to us. Simply put, and truthfully, we cannot reflect all of this information through the reviews. That is why the comments section under each company we review is so important. It is your recording and dealings with that specific company, and a positive or negative flag to subsequent authors considering using the same company.
So, how do we reflect the changing ups and downs with services?
We believe the PUBLISHING SERVICE INDEX will help to guide authors to services on the up, and those, gradually on the down. If you like, what we present is a kind of stock exchange for companies supplying publisher services.
The PUBLISHING SERVICE INDEX was first launched in June 2010.