Packagers and Self-publishing

When you self-publish a book, you, the author, are the publisher.  Hence, you don’t need a publisher.  You do need a packager.  Many people think publishers and packager are the same thing: they are not.  The situation isn’t improved by many packagers trying to pass themselves off as publishers.

What does a packager do?  It performs several vital functions.  Initially, you upload the manuscript and the cover file to the packager, who puts the files together to produce the ebook or print book.  Once the book is released, the packager distributes the book to various sellers.  Whenever one of the sellers records a sale, the packager receives the sales revenue, accumulates it and sends you a royalty check, usually once a month. 

Both the seller and the packager keep part of the sales revenue and you get the rest. 

Smashwords is an ebook packager.  Kindle is also an ebook packager and they are now also a print book packager.  IngramSpark is print book packager. 

There are a number of packagers available, and the numbers keep changing as some pop up while others disappear.  A web search will provide lists of packagers to choose from.  Don’t sign up with the first ones you come across since not all the packagers are reputable and some may actually be vanity press outfits masquerading as a legitimate packager.   The issue with vanity presses is that they aren’t interested in your book.  They are only interested in how much money they can siphon out of your wallet. 

A vanity press, and there are many of them, is a publisher/packager who’ll publish anything, no matter how bad it is, as long as the author can pay the multi-thousand dollar fees.  Besides the publishing fees, they will also suck the author into buying expensive marketing programs.  Another tactic widely used by vanity press publishers is to insist contractually that the author purchase hundreds of print books at inflated prices.  I recommend you avoid all vanity presses.  Actually, the vanity presses are easy to spot: they advertise.  When visiting a website and you see an ad for a publishing company, it most certainly is a vanity press publisher.  To learn more about vanity presses visit https://blog.reedsy.com/scams-and-publishing-companies-to-avoid/

When considering a packager, study the submission guidelines.  If you don’t adhere to the submission guidelines exactly, your submission will be rejected. 

In addition, make sure you read ALL the fine print on the website.  In the website’s fine print, you may find onerous conditions, and it’s devastating to find out about those conditions after you sign a contract or agree to the Terms and Conditions statement.  One possible onerous condition for print book packagers is that you agree to buy a large number of print books at an outrageous price.  I’ve seen this condition on a number of print book publishers sites and it’s possible some print packagers now also use it.

Here is a list of questions to ask or search for answers when considering a packager.

◆ What distributors do they use, if any? Barnes & Noble?  Kobo?  iBooks?

◆ Are the distributors optional?  If so, how are they activated?

◆ Is there a fee associated with the distribution process?  If so, how much?

◆ Does the packager provide any marketing efforts on your behalf?  If yes, what are these efforts?

◆ Does the packager charge for marketing assistance? And how much?

◆ What is the revenue split from the packager sales?

◆ What is the revenue split from distributor sales?

◆ How frequently does the packager disburse sales revenue?  Monthly? Quarterly?

◆ Is there a minimum value before the packager will disburse sales revenue?

◆ Where will you find sales reports?  Online?  In an email?

◆ Will the packager provide an ISBN for your book?  Is it free?  If not free, how much do they charge for the ISBN?

The material in this article was taken from my book How to Self-publish and Market a Book. It’s available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Zbrx54, Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2Y2rewE and other book sellers