Are you Self-Publishing a Book? Avoid Self-Publishing Companies!

By Zarina Macha

Here is a third post from Zarina, a brilliant post for all those budding authors out there thinking about self-publishing a book. Zarina has self-published several books herself (by the age of 22!) and I have self published Blogging Your Way To Riches. Here she explains what to do and what self-publishing companies to avoid. It is an easy process to follow so don’t fall for a scam self-publishing company.

Self-Publishing Companies

Over to Zarina

When I was 19, I emailed my novellas Every Last Thought and Psycho Girl separately to various literary agents. One year and several rejections later, I investigated self-publishing with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program (KDP). I ended up self-publishing the novellas together in 2018 as one book called Every Last Psycho: A Collection of Two Novellas (my mate had the ingenious idea of merging the names together after I got stuck for a title).

Investigating Use of a Self-Publishing company

But a few months prior to my kindle release, I contacted Matador (a self-publishing company), for a quote on a different book I was considering for release. You see, Matador charge authors money to set up a book and have it beautifully printed, bound and produced, with copies ready to print-on-demand and sell. Other such enterprises include Xlibris, AuthorHouse, Author Solutions, and New Generation Publishing. Now, Matador are a reputable self-publishing company, unlike these other vanity publishers. They only take on work that they believe can sell and are sure to produce quality products.

Nonetheless, had I made a deal with Matador, I would have given them a £400 deposit, plus paid £750 for;-

  • title set-up
  • ISBN allocation
  • British Library Legal Deposit
  • Bar code
  • Matador website entry
  • Bibliographic data management
  • Type-setting and proof revisions
  • Cover design. (I would still have needed to have my book professionally edited on top of this; they only supplied the final proofread).

I emailed Matador asking if I could hire my own cover designer to save money; they responded saying that would subtract £180 off the overall pre-publication cost. The woman on Fiverr who designs my covers averages out to about £17 per cover – eBook and paperback included. Not only that, she embeds bar codes onto my paperback covers at no extra cost.

This is all just pre-publication – Matador also charge up-front fees for their print-on-demand services. Their unit cost in the quote was £4.12; for 100 copies it was £406, for 300 it was £810, for 500 copies it was £1220…you get the picture. This adds to the fact that Matador handle book production only – if you want any promotion services their starting price is £250. I guess if you want 500 professionally generated copies of your book sitting on your shelf, it’s not such a bad deal.

Self-Publishing Companies

Comparison to Self-Publishing

Let’s compare self-publishing my novellas, shall we?

  • Title set-up with Kindle Direct Publishing and Draft2Digital costs nothing; with Ingram Spark it costs $49 (£36).
  • I bought a pack of ten ISBNs for my upcoming books which cost me £164. (KDP and D2D offer free ISBNs anyway, but if you want wide distribution it’s better to have your own).
  • I sent author copies of my books to the British Library’s Legal Deposit straight from my Amazon account, which cost about £6 each (for the book plus shipment).

True, while KDP don’t charge any upfront costs for their POD service, they do take a percentage out of the author’s cut for printing costs. With eBooks, an author gets a 70% cut; theoretically we get 60% of the paperback royalties, but printing costs are deducted so it amounts to around 30%. Considering authors signed to major publishing houses get 10%, this isn’t such a poor deal. Add that to dodging Matador’s frightful pre-publishing fees and it’s a bittersweet hats-off to Amazon for monopolizing the literary business once again.

Never pay for a company to set up your book

No author should be paying a publisher to have their book set-up. KDP’s free Kindle Create program helps you design and publish your eBook easily, and a few YouTube tutorials can walk you through formatting. Ingram Spark’s small title set-up fee is justified because of their wide distribution service; Amazon is a much more profitable company so can afford to not charge anyone for their print-on-demand service. Matador may be a trustworthy company, but as an independent author I’m inclined to go with the company that won’t charge me hundreds of pounds I don’t need to spend.

Self-Publishing Companies

Editing and Cover Art

The only thing an independent author needs to put money into, book production wise is editing and getting a good cover. Emailing book bloggers and contacting other authors on Facebook costs nothing. Booking interviews, asking friends to review your work in advance and uploading your work to social media costs nothing. I buy stacks of my poems from Amazon, paying the author price (£1.88 per book) and selling them for £5 at poetry nights. Subtracting a little off the top for the overall shipping cost, I’m profiting just over £3. Not a lot, but I haven’t lost any money by paying exorbitant fees to set up with some vanity press.

Be Smart and Savvy

The moral of the story? Be smart, savvy, and cost-effective when self-publishing. Buy a pack of ISBNs and assign them to all your books and eBooks rather than using free ones. (This gets your titles listed on Nielsen, the UK Book Database). Go on Fiverr to find a good beta reader, initial editor and cover designer so you don’t end up spending loads unnecessarily. If you have any friends who will happily read your work and give you feedback, make use of them (and be sure to help them out in return!) Do as much free networking as you can – build a mailing list, contact other authors, book blog tours, update your website. After all, you’re the master of your own work; makes sense to keep its creation in your hands.

Follow Zarina on Instagram and Twitter.


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Lynn Beattie

Aka Mrs MummyPenny

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11 Responses

  1. Thank you for such an honest article! I am looking to self publish next year and I have spent the evening trawling the internet looking at self publishing houses. Your words are making me re-think!

  2. Hello.
    Very interesting information. I have 4 books published by Matador; Spirits Of A Lesser God, Visit From A Lesser God, Whispers Of A Lesser God And The Horse Keeper.
    The finished product is very high quality and the paper and printing is far better than most mass market paperbacks. My real problem is sales ; printed and ebooks. Matador require upfront payment with every single service, but payment and royalties for all 4 books are not forthcoming. Thanks once again and I would be grateful for your own views on my opinion.

  3. I have self published 4 novels via New Generation Publishing, however, for my latest novel ‘Call of Angels’ i have not been able to spend time and marketing and do not want to spend any with them for marketing purposes.

    I have been contacted by Hybrid Publishing in America and am thinking of going down that route…mainly for redesigning the cover of my book which was shabbily done

  4. I have a finished book of rhymes for children to publish. I am doubting Matador or Amazon and viceversa. Which are the pros and cons?

  5. Zarina is quite right that Matador [and in my opinion other vanity publishers as well] should be avoided. In addition, Matador have very bad relations with Amazon, who delay or refuse to list their products. If you use Matador you will end up with a nicely produced ‘vanity’ book that nobody will be able to buy.

  6. Thanks for being so open and informative.
    I used New Generation Publishing at a cost of £3000 . The main title “Live a Life to Die For” is terrific; it’s catchy and unusual. However, I was wrong to assume a reader will know what my book is about from the main title and picture.

    It has been pointed out to me, by a major book retailing chain, that subtitles on the cover of nonfiction books are very important.
    How else would anyone know what the book was about if it didn’t have the subtitles?

    I came to you, on recommendation, as a total novice author and paid you a professional publisher £3000 for which I was expecting guidance on the fundamental issues of publishing which surely must have included the importance of a front cover subtitle on a non fiction book.

    In addition they noted, on the contents page, all Chapter Titles of each of the 38 Chapters have been omitted…
    And there is no Chapter 10 and 29 ?
    It is a surprise how NGP failed to spot the missing Chapter Titles on the contents page; in this I accept I also should have been more diligent and I share with you the responsibility .
    What are the potential possibilities and what’s the next step you can take to move forward?
    They are ducking !!!

  7. I am planning to self-publish my travel memoir this year and like everyone am going through the mine-field of deciding who to choose to do this. KDP is definitely coming out on top so far, and advice for hiring a cover designer seems highly recommended by most advice I have read. Marketing is the next thing I have to research as I know virtually nothing about this – hope you will cover this in one of your blogs. Thanks for sound, sensible advice!

  8. Looking for reviews on matador for a client. I’m in favour of working with smaller independent publishers who will assist an author to self publish, unless the work is outstanding and in-line with the market, then you’ll be able to get an agent and traditional publishing deal.
    I’d argue that getting anything done from fivvr is as bad news as a bad self publishing company. An absolute erosion of professional publishing services. Good cover designers can charge more than £17!!! Per cover. Not a realistic fee at all.

  9. One of the most important people you should ask to check your book once you have finished it is a proof reader. No matter how many times you check your work you will always miss something and the first time that your book is read by the general public someone will immediately spot any errors that you have made. No matter how excellent you think you are at finding mistakes they will always slip through. Once it has been proof read and the mnistakes corrected then have your book read – not a friend if you can heelp it as it’s difficult pointing out errors to someone you are close to! I have my books professionally checked and read and then I publish through Amazon.
    Never go with a self publishing company they charge extortionate fees that you will find hard to recoup.

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