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Oh, the Nightmare of Self-Publishing Author Services

For many authors, first time self-publishing turns into a nightmare beyond all proportions. One type of plague is the Who’s Who yearbook or the International Poetry book who thrive on the vanity of novice writers to see their works in print. End result: expensive and unmarketable.

The other type of plague is the Vanity Press or Author Services company (often from a larger publishing house). A wolf in sheep’s clothing, vanity presses never admit they are such but make you pay quite high costs per book.

In differentiation, Jennifer Lancaster’s packages (delivered personally) come with full transparency of pricing and service, and are not tied to any number of books ordered. We are not a front for a large conglomerate and we don’t have sales teams.

You’ve probably seen Balboa Press when you Googled self-publishing. Before venturing forth, just have a quick read:

Jillie’s Take tells of her Author House / Balboa Press nightmare when publishing a children’s book:  http://jilliestake.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/a-balboa-press-survivors-living_18.html

At least six people warn about Balboa Press here:


And author Terran James has informed me directly:
“I had a falling out with Balboa press. They are a cookie cutter press, over charging and definitely under delivering. Too bad I like some of the staff.”

Well, if a company invests a lot of money in “sales publishing consultants” and Google Adwords, you are going to receive a great snow job. Balboa Press claim that they are the self-publishing arm of Hay House and that there is a real possibility of being picked up by Hay House. They are in fact another self-publishing arm for Author Solutions Inc., but you won’t find that on Balboa’s Home page. (AuthorHouse is the other expensive, fully assisted self-publisher).

Prices of Print on Demand Books

Jillie mentions the high Cost of Goods Sold and fake explanations of varying royalties and POD (print on demand) costs. The thing I liked about Lightning Source is that the print prices and upload fees are all black and white, as stated in their PDFs. Repeat publishers use LSI, while self-publishers can try their new service IngramSpark, for a setup fee of US$49 and $12 title fee per year (unless you want to revise content).

Obviously the first step is working out whether a printer or POD platform can meet your quality and costing requirements. That’s why I enjoy using ‘book cost calculators’ and the transparency that this denotes. You might notice from Jillie’s long post that Balboa Press goes 50/50 with the author on royalty fees, after heightening the commission and COGS and gouging for illustrations etc. However with Lightning Source or CreateSpace, you are the author and after the 35-55% retail commission and cost of print, you keep the royalty.

Say you sell books on your website at $20 you ordered yourself through Lightning Source, at a pre-ordered print rate of $3.00 per book, how much profit will you make?  Post-production, you get to keep the remainder after Print, delivery, upload fee initially and any marketing costs. If you sell 50 books all up over the year,  an example is :

Retail web page $20 –  3 (print) – .30 (ship) – 2 (upload) = $14.70 per item goes to you.

Because $735 is your remainder, a novice would aim for shelling out less than $735 in pre-production costs if expecting to sell 50 books yourself. (Don’t forget to count other avenues like online bookstores, library buyers, or affiliates). I include this low example because many authors publishing for their own desire are getting gouged $2 – 3,000 in production expenses, and most never recoup that cost. However, business authors need to factor in other deciding factors, like future earnings from potential clients, increased brand awareness and credibility.

Thinking of Paying for Author/Self-Publishing Services?

If you cannot work out your Royalty fees and book costs (based on printing/binding alone), based on your conversation with a book self-publishing sales consultant, then I suggest you quickly move on to a book mentor or book editor. If you do not live in northern or central Brisbane and want personal meetings, then I can suggest a book mentor/editor for your area (e.g. Sunshine Coast, Sydney) who will give you a high level of service.

For those authors in northern Brisbane self-publishing, please contact Jennifer for an initial chat.

Being an author myself, I can empathise with anyone trying their best to get their message or story out into the world… without going completely broke or tearing their hair out! However, I can only help (with mentoring and editing) those publishing for business reasons.


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