8 Full-Service Formatting, Design, and Distribution

These services do the design and formatting for you. Some may also provide e-book aggregation and print book distribution.



Author Solutions Companies

WARNING: iUniverse, Author House, Trafford, Xlibris, BookTango, Balboa for HayHouse, LifeRich for Reader’s Digest, Archway for Simon & Schuster, and Westbow for Thomas Nelson

All of the above companies are run by Author Solutions, Inc. and are overpriced vanity presses that do not let you assign your own ISBN, charge too much for printing, set unrealistic expectations, and upsell you at every opportunity. Do your research before you choose vanity or subsidy publishing. Victoria Strauss maintains the Writer Beware site, where she lists predatory vanity presses, unethical agents, contest and award fakes, and other alerts for writers. Check it before you publish!



BAM!Publish is a “complete authoring and publishing solution” powered by FastPencil (see below) for the Books A Million bookstores across the United States. Their packages are $699, $1799, and $2799. I can’t recommend this service for professional independent authors and publishers. However, if you have one book and dream of seeing it in a bookstore, and you have the money, who am I to deny you this personal but probably unprofitable satisfaction? Again, see FastPencil below for details on this service.



BookBaby offers full-service book creation and distribution as well as a la carte services like editing and cover design. They also have reliable (telephone and email) customer support. Instead of taking a percentage of sales, they charge a flat fee and you keep 100% of net sales (after the sales channels have taken their percentage). Your book will be available a very wide network of online retailers including the Big 5 retailers. They distribute at the 55% trade discount with returnable terms for the bookstores.

Disc Makers, the company that owns BookBaby, also serves indie musicians and filmmakers with CDBaby. Their HostBaby website builder is an easy-to-use content management system for building your author or musician website. You also get a BookShop page, where you can earn more royalty by selling direct, which is a handy link for your website.

I recommend BookBaby a lot. They offer very wide print and ebook distribution including wholesale book networks Ingram and Baker & Taylor. Their book printing service is very high-quality digital printing. They do color books, complex books, and hardcover books, too.



Booklocker offers self-publishing packages for any budget. Their DIY option costs a $25 setup fee with a $35 proof. The first year POD file hosting fee is $18. Their most popular program is a basic service where you send your Word doc and cover and they do the rest. They can design your cover, too. They can help with fiction and non-fiction as well as children’s and other full-color interior books. Booklocker distributes with Ingram, library, and school partners, too. The company also owns WritersWeekly.com.

Bookstores Near You

Does a bookstore near you offer self-publishing help? Bookshop Santa Cruz’s publishing service is an example of one. I used to live in Santa Cruz and this independent bookshop is well loved by locals and tourists. There is a large writing community there and I expect they started the service at the suggestion of more than one author-customer. So check with your most loved independent bookstores to see if they offer a service like this.



FastPencil offers an online ebook and print book creation tool with templates and a cover creator in the cloud with version control, writing, editing, and collaboration tools. Despite its impressive suite of tools and services, I can only recommend it for professional independent authors if you pay $599 for a Small Publisher Custom Imprint Setup, in addition to the other costs. Why? Because otherwise, you do not get to apply your own ISBN and therefore your publisher is FastPencil.

It’s free to create and print your book privately. It costs $249 to distribute your book to Amazon, BAM!, Ingram, Kobo and others. They charge $999 to add project setup, review, and cover design, and $1999 for a premium version of the same. That’s pretty expensive.

If you are a prolific blogger who wants to turn your blog posts into books, you may have considered FastPencil, but Pressbooks offers an easy alternative for only $99.

They also provide book marketing services, which I don’t recommend because you should do your own and outsourcing book marketing is the number one worst investment a self-published author can make.

The bottom line: If you are a multi-book author looking for a cloud-based book creation tool that allows multiple people to contribute to the book, along with a distribution service, and you are selling enough to recoup the fees, you may be tempted. But print your book elsewhere because their inflated printing costs make your books more than twice as expensive as other services.

FastPencil is the technology behind BAM!Publish, which guarantees your printed book in their stores across the US. (See above.)

Gatekeeper Press


Gatekeeper Press is a full-service company that offers design, formatting, and distribution to the major online retailers. You can also use them for a la carte services like editing and cover design. Small but growing, they have great customer service (email and telephone) and great prices on services and among the lowest prices I’ve seen on print books. (See my Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, 4th Edition, for a full price comparison.)

They’ll handle your ebook and print book creation and distribution, editing, and cover design for about $600.00 plus 99¢/page beyond 200 pages. They distribute to all the major ebook and print book retailers. Gatekeeper makes its money by charging you up front for services. You keep 100% of royalties.

If you want to list your own imprint as publisher instead of GKP it’s only a $100 charge. They’ve kindly offered to waive that charge for my readers by using the coupon code: carlaking

You’ll get 10% off with an IBPA membership, also highly recommended. (See more about IBPA in the Organizations chapter.)



Full-Service Formatting, Design, and Distribution Copyright © 2018 by Misadventures Media. All Rights Reserved.

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