10 Questions to Ask Publication Service Providers

Use this checklist to sift publishing service providers.
Ask these questions first 
to help you make good decisions on the services you and your book need. 

10 Questions to Ask Publication Service Providers, with PageMaster Answers

Asking these 10 questions will assist you in making an informed choice as you move forward with publishing. These questions are from Choosing the Best Self-Publishing Companies and Services 2018, one of many free resources provided by Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) to their membership. PageMaster is a partner member.

A brief explanation follows each questions, along with the PageMaster Publishing response. You are encouraged to apply these questions to all types of publishing contracts. Your feedback, experiences and questions are welcome in the comments section below.

1. What rights am I encumbering?

Intellectual property is protected by rights. For those working with words and images, copyright is fundamental. You can sell or contract your rights in many levels and for various time frames. When you agree to partner with another you give up some rights in order to receive the benefit of the service.

Ensure the rights you are granting match the benefits you are receiving. If you are paying for the service, ensure that you retain your rights and only those necessary for the publishing service to fulfill their part of the agreement are given. Are your electronic books or next book tied up in the contract? Some publishing contracts also include restrictions that you cannot print copies on your own and must purchase your author copies at an inflated price.

PageMaster contracts are non-exclusive and you can purchase copies directly at printing cost (which is competitively priced). Some transfer of rights is necessary if we are assisting with distribution.

2. Where will my book be distributed and sold?

Most distribution involves being placed in databases and websites but does not include someone actively engaged in marketing the book to booksellers on your behalf.

PageMaster provides three levels of distribution along with promotional options. The best value is premium distribution, which includes listings for independent bookstores to order through BookManager, print-on-demand services with Ingram Lightning Source, a listing on the Bowker Books in Print database, and a listing on our own website and local store. E-books are available through the Apple iStore, Amazon Kindle and Rakuten Kobo. This makes your book available throughout the English speaking world and you can opt out of individual services if you choose to omit them or handle those accounts yourself. As the publishing revolution continues a key question is how discoverable are your titles? For maximum discoverability there are things you can do to help including excellent blurbs, previews, BISAC codes and keywords.

If you have limited requirements for distribution we also provide sales and shipping through our on-line store. As well, you can partner with us to create and print your book and manage distribution on your own.

3. Is your service exclusive or non-exclusive?

Most digital publishing services operate on a non-exclusive basis. You should weigh benefits carefully in any exclusive agreements (such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing [KDP]), ensuring that is the best for your book and market. If a company, such as a traditional publisher, is going to put significant marketing dollars into your title, exclusivity or additional royalties going to them make sense. Ensure you are getting value for the additional rights encumbered.

PageMaster’s services are all non-exclusive and you are free to sell directly and opt in and out of marketing channels.

4. Who owns the file after publication?

Check to ensure that once you pay for conversion, design or cover art services, that they also belong to you. Many companies will not release artwork or files even though you have paid for the service. Recently, we discovered a major Canadian competitor does not follow this practice, to a client’s dismay. You should steer clear of services with hidden fees.

At PageMaster the policy is, if your account is current, files are released on request. There is an exception with art capture, where we have reduced the capture fee significantly. We provide promotion files but do charge an additional fee for the full files necessary for huge printing. The purpose is to reduce the entry cost of capture for artists.

5. Can I make changes to my book after it goes on sale?

Many companies allow you to upload new files as often as you wish. If they need to do additional work, a fee may be charged.

At PageMaster, we have a fairly rigorous proofing process and split the first book run to catch final errors. If more changes are to be required after proofing and first-run printing is complete, then a fee will be applied, as a designer is generally involved in implementing the changes and their time needs to be compensated. Ingram Lightning Source will also charge a fee for changes once the book is in the system. These fees are passed on. We do encourage authors to add endorsements and many of our books have been revised and expanded through the years.

6. Do I set my own prices?

Standard practice is to let authors set their own pricing. Amazon has restrictive pricing on e-books, and Kobo also reduces royalty rates on books over $9.95.

PageMaster authors set their own prices and are encouraged to compare their book to its competition for pricing. Production costs and pricing need to be considered together if you are planning on selling through third parties.

Dangers in Self-Publishing by Dale Youngman

7. Is payment an upfront fee or a percentage of sales or both?

ALLi suggests “Giving up a percentage of sales can ease the initial financial burden and ensures that the service provider has an incentive to see your book succeed. Paying in advance means you won’t have an ongoing deduction from your sales, but requires caution: once the service provider has your money in hand, will it remain dedicated to the success of your book?”

PageMaster’s premium distribution services follow a blend. There is a small upfront fee to assist with the cost of creating the listings, and a percentage of sales assists in ongoing marketing and administration. For publishing services the standard terms are one-third down, one-third on proof approval and balance on delivery.

8. How is my royalty or share calculated?

ALLi suggests: “Always read the royalty terms carefully. Many companies are less than transparent in the figures they offer. For example, a service from Author Solutions called Booktango claims to offer free e-publishing services plus 100 percent royalties, but that’s only if the sale is made on its own site. Even then, there’s a 30 percent ‘bookstore fee.' Ultimately, you’re receiving 70 percent, not 100 percent.”

Different services have different models, but the fees should be transparent and upfront. Most e-book distributors are free to use until a sale is made. On some, you pay fees upfront and earn “100 percent net” from these services, but that number can be misleading, as “net” may include any number of fees and deductions from your sales.

PageMaster passes on listing fees and initial direct costs (see question 7) then works on an admin fee/commission basis. Premium distribution includes a 15% admin fee on net receipts (what the reseller pays us). Other hard costs such as credit card and exchange fees come out of the 15%. The author receives 75%, less production costs if applicable.

Books sold directly through PageMaster (premium or basic distribution) incur the 15% admin plus a 10% marketing fee. The marketing portion is available to the author as an affiliate commission. (Note: premium distribution admin was previously 18%). There is no fee associated with the books you market directly.

9. Are there any extra fees or charges I should know about?

Many contracts limit the number of images or tables within a package, as they are more work and are outside the requirements for most books. It is important to know the terms of your contract so there are no unpleasant surprises. If you have special requirements, clarify them at the quotation stage.

At PageMaster, we try to determine the formatting complexity required up front. Photos, tables and lists are more work than straight text and we believe the cost for formatting each book should closely be reflected in the related fees. If there are budget constraints, there are ways, such as grouping photos at the end of chapters or in a section, which are more efficient. As always, the purpose and audience for the book should dictate inputs, ensuring it fulfils its role.

10. Where’s the Value?

“Your publishing partner should add value to your manuscript,” says ALLi’s Author Advice Centre’s editor, Debbie Young. “You may have only one book to publish, but they will probably have published hundreds, amassing a wealth of experience that will fill them with ideas for enhancements you would not have thought of. A professional and experienced company will offer a coherent set of services that makes your book the best it can be.”

PageMaster partners with authors and artists, bringing years of experience and expertise to your project. Our goal is to help 5,000 Canadian creatives successfully publish before 2025.

Choosing the Best Self-Publishing Companies and Services 2018 is a free resource available with ALLi membership. PageMaster is a partner member.

An abridged version of this article was published in the Spring 2018 issue of Inscribe Magazine.

Alliance of Independent Authors /
Spring 2018 FellowScript magazine
Dale Youngman, typesetting apprentice

Dale Youngman with an ITU typesetting textbook in 1976.

Dale Youngman began his career in printing as a floor compositor in 1976. Twenty years later he launched PageMaster Publication Services Inc. with the purpose of increasing quality and efficiency for independent publishers. PageMaster's vision is a complete Canadian publishing service championing works of life, diversity and hope.

Check out our store at PageMasterPublishing.ca to see current offerings. Browse this site for publishing resources. Call us at 780-425-9303 or visit our central Edmonton location at 11340 120 Street NW and see how we can help you succeed.

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