Finding a publishing service
Services to suit your budget and needs
Decisions, decisions …
If you’re looking to publish your own book, one of the things you will need to decide on is your budget and the quality of the book you’d like to produce, remembering that the higher the quality required, the higher the cost of production and printing.
You also need to consider whether bookstore distribution is vital to the success of your book. It is very difficult for self-published authors to get into mainstream bookstores, and to even stand a chance, you need to engage a high-end professional production and publishing solution, which is very costly. Small scale distribution to your own network or clients, for instance, is a lot cheaper as you can be a little more flexible in the production processes used, although, having said that, if your reputation rests on the content and presentation of your book, you’d be well-advised to treat it as a serious project and invest the funds necessary to ensure a quality product.
Independent publishing is better-suited to authors who have direct access to their target market and who are not shy to promote and market their own work. In fact, the bulk of most self-published authors sales will result from their own efforts. Publisher.co.za provides the perfect alternative to mainstream bookstores as it is very easy to find – a simple search for your book title will bring it up – and you will make much more than you would selling through a bricks-and-mortar bookstore (if you’re lucky enough to get into one of them).
If you are a first time author, or would like to improve your writing skills, we strongly encourage you to consider doing a writing course. If budget allows, opt for a professional course, such as one offered by Writer’s Write or SA Writer’s College. The better you learn to write, the cheaper will be your editing and production costs and the more likely it is that you will have book that is publishable with the potential to do well. The National Library of South Africa’s Centre for the Book also offers writing and publishing workshops – usually at no cost to authors – and once a year they offer a publishing grant to an author they feel is deserving.
Having your work evaluated
If you have finished writing you book, it would be a good idea to have your manuscript professionally evaluated. Here, your book is assessed from the viewpoint of both a reader and a publisher. The strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript are highlighted, and recommendations are made on how you can improve the readability and marketability of your book. Companies you can consider for your evaluation include Quickfox Publishing, Porcupine Press and Writer’s Write.
Choosing a production and publishing service
Most publishing services include the full range of book production services, such as editing, proofreading, cover design, book interior design and layout, ISBN assignment and barcode generation, printing, ebook conversion, and online distribution through most major retailers. Who you choose to use will depend on your budget and vision for the book. We have listed a few options here to suit a variety of budgets. We suggest you research each option carefully to find the one that is right for you, bearing the following guidelines in mind:
- Low-cost options will invariably produce a low-quality product – bookstore distribution will definitely not be possible, and you will likely struggle to secure media reviews unless your book has been very well written and content is of a high quality
- Medium-cost options are often appealing as they appear to ‘package’ books professionally, but editing quality is likely to be sub-standard and your file rights (your right to take the final PDF files and print elsewhere) are usually limited.
- Higher-cost options usually involve professional book production by industry experts, but do not assume this – look at samples of the work they’ve done and assess the quality of their workmanship before you commit. This is especially important since you will be investing a much larger sum of money and you’ll want to know that every penny spent will deliver the quality you expect.
Low to no-cost options
DIY PUBLISHING: If you have no budget for a professional production service, you can use self-help services such as CreateSpace, Lulu.com and BookBaby. It is strongly advisable to invest whatever money you have in editing and proofreading before publishing through these platforms. These platforms usually offer templates that you can use to format your book and lay out your cover. They also offer international distribution via Amazon and other major retailers. Using these services requires you to be familiar and comfortable with using the internet.
CENTRE FOR THE BOOK: The core functions of the Centre for the Book include information and advice, reading and publishing advocacy, and book development. The Centre for the Book coordinates book-related activities nationally, such as book discussions, poetry readings, book launches, writing workshops and conferences. Authors can also hold their book launches in the beautiful National Library building in Victoria Street in Cape Town.
PARTRIDGE PUBLISHING AFRICA: A division of Author Solutions LLC, Partridge Publishing offers package-based publishing and a range of editorial and production services, as well as international distribution. What you won’t find here is unbiased advice, manuscript assessment or high quality editing – their business model is to sell you their services, even if your manuscript is weak and unlikely to sell. Although they can be considered a vanity press in the true sense of the word, they have opened the door for new African writers and their entry level publishing options (book cover design, layout, ISBN, printing and distribution) are very affordable by publishing standards.
PORCUPINE PRESS: This independent publishing company offers good professional publishing services in a variety of genres, including fiction and non-fiction. Porcupine Press are one of the few publishing service companies that also offer writer development and guidance, a crucial service for first-time writers. They are based in Johannesburg but service clients throughout South Africa.
QUICKFOX PUBLISHING: Quickfox Publishing is a bespoke professional book production and publication service provider. Their small team of editors, designers and consultants have worked for South Africa’s largest publishers such as Random-Struik, MacMillan, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Pearson Education, and others. They specialise in non-fiction, coffee table, academic and educational books. Clients include entrepreneurs, motivational speakers, businesses, corporates, subject specialists, chefs, trainers, and educational and academic content providers. Quickfox is based in Cape Town but services clients throughout South Africa and abroad.