This is the PUBLISHING SERVICE INDEX for September 2017. Our last index was released in May 2017. Originally I compiled the index, month-to-month, but I found the work involved to update almost 90 companies and service providers (now 82) was not being compensated by enough changes on the index over a short period of weeks. Indeed, some months the changes were very modest, and sometimes hardly noticeable. The September index shows some moderate changes. The top five providers/platforms have all maintained their positions, with CreateSpace and Thomson-Shore making marginal gains. Lightning Source continues to slip down, and later this year or early 2018 (whenever we release the next index), I suspect it may exit the top ten for the first time ever over the history of the Publishing Service Index (since 2010).
Publishing service providers continue to fall by the wayside and close their doors, either because of a downturn in business from authors seeking full service providers or increased competition from freemium publishing platforms (online platforms that offer free basic services for file load up and formatting software, but charge for more advanced services like design, editing and marketing). There is one positive aspect of this. We lose some of the predatory companies from the publishing service landscape like Tate, Raider and America Star Books (formerly Publish America). However, authors should remain on their toes. Predatory companies may disappear, but the people running them don’t always despite the multiple warnings and legal cases. It looks like America Star Books is already trying to reinvent itself as ASB Promotions to sucker in a new wave of authors looking for marketing services.
As a publishing consultant, one additional point of note. I am finding it increasingly difficult to suggest a large and varied pool of reputable full publishing service providers to authors looking to go in that direction, particularly if an author wants both print and ebook editions of their book. More and more, we are moving to a publishing landscape where authors need to take greater control in the management of their book projects, and that means looking to publishing marketplaces to connect with professionals, whether an author is looking for a book designer, a skilled book formatter, an editor, or marketing and promotional assistance. While it is still possible to find all those services under one roof, so-to-speak, this area and the options available are shrinking, and when it comes to quality, efficient delivery of services contracted, and reputation; these are not the kind of things any serious independent author wants to compromise on.
The September Publishing Service Index sees the closure of five companies, either closing their doors for good or diversifying into other areas of business. Significantly, two are Irish companies, which is a far smaller landscape and market than the UK or USA. Nevertheless, it underlines the dominance KDP, IngramSpark, Kobo, Smashwords and CreateSpace (and the core freemium business model) now holds. But it is also a testament to full service providers like Matador, Silverwood and the recent expansion by Thomson-Shore that they have held or even strengthened their positions. I’ve always argued that dedicated and reputable full publishing service providers (FSP) have their places, even in a highly competitive self-publishing service market. But it is a gargantuan task for a new full service provider to establish itself in the current landscape of publishing. I think this is why the FSP area is shrinking. I rarely now review new companies in this area, because they either come and go before ever finding their footing after a year or two, or they simply mimic the Author Solutions model of gouging and exploiting authors (often new) as a production mill to make money.
Since we last released the index in May this year, TIPM and Radio Espial conducted audio and video interviews with the former CEO of Hillcrest Media, Mark Levine, and indie author Linda Riesenberg Fisler. If you haven’t seen the interviews, you can view or listen to them by visiting the Radio Espial website for all the links (iTunes, Soundcloud, YouTube etc.).
As always, 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 read and reflected in every new index published through TIPM.
|SEPT||MAY||COMPANY/SERVICE PROVIDER||PRIMARY COMPANY BASEMARKET||SERVICE CLASS||SEPT VALUE||INDEX POS MOVE|
|1||1||Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)||GLOBAL||DIY||870.24||SAME|
|5||5||Kobo Writing Life||GLOBAL||DIY||709.73||SAME|
|13||11||Hillcrest Media/Mill City Press||USA||PUB/FSP||499.82||DOWN|
|14||14||Epigraph Publishing Service||USA||FSP||448.98||SAME|
|15||15||Dog Ear Publishing||USA||FSP||445.71||SAME|
|20||18||CPI UK Antony Rowe||EUROPE||PRT||430.42||DOWN|
|21||24||York Publishing Services||UK||PRT/FULL||414.98||UP|
|24||26||Google Play Books||GLOBAL||DIY||408.27||UP|
|26||25||John Hunt Publishing||GLOBAL||PUB/FSP||407.27||DOWN|
|27||29||Grosvenor House Publishing||UK||FSP||388.08||UP|
|28||28||Nook Press (B&N)||USA||DIY||387.50||SAME|
|33||36||Cold River Studio||USA||FSP||369.02||DOWN|
|34||37||Book Guild Publishing||UK||FSP||368.95||UP|
|36||34||The Choir Press||UK/USA||FSP||367.83||DOWN|
|41||41||Acorn Independent Press||UK||FSP||355.57||SAME|
|50||50||Kazoo Publishing Services||IRELAND||FSP||338.63||SAME|
|64||65||Turning Stone Press||USA||FSP||317.46||UP|
|65||68||Chandler Book Design||UK||PRT||314.13||UP|
|67||69||Dolman Scott/Oak Press||UK||FSP||303.36||UP|
|80||83||Better Book Company||UK||FSP||209.59||UP|
|81||84||Pegasus Elliot MacKenzie||UK||PUB/FSP||199.60||UP|
|84||87||Raider Int. Pub./Green Shore||GLOBAL||CLOSED/OFB||105.30||UP|
|85||63||The Book Producers||IRELAND||CLOSED/OFB||56.13||DOWN|
|86||82||America Star Books/PubAmerica||USA||CLOSED/OFB||-8.95||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
- CLOSED/OFB – Closed or out of publishing business
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.
I see we’re not included in your index although we’ve been going for about 5 years now – or since the 1980s if you include our work as book-packagers and publishers. We’ve helped nearly 200 self-publishing authors to date. We specialise in niche non-fiction although we take on fiction occasionally. We’re growing the self-publishing gradually – we don’t want to rush it and give a bad service – which is why you may not have come across us. Very happy to talk to you about what we do however.