Reputable self-publishing resources
Updated: Feb 6
With the whole wide world of the internet out there, it can be a bit daunting to put your book into the hands of total strangers. How can you know that these professionals are legitimate? If you search for information on Google, how do you know it's coming from a credible source on current self-publishing practices?
The good: Watch dog groups
The Alliance of Independent Authors (or ALLi) is a fantastic and highly credible place to start your search for self-publishing services. They publish a searchable list of best and worst services using a color-coded rating system. It's so easy to use, and I try to drop the link to it where ever I come across indie authors who need to vet a potential service (usually vanity publishers, but more on that another day).
The caveat? There are so many self-publishing services out there not vetted by ALLi and that number is growing all the time. There are other self-publishing industry watch dog groups out there, such as Writer Beware who may have more information available on a particular service that ALLi is lacking.
Some self-publishing service providers may also be in the process of becoming partners or members of such groups (I'm one!). Becoming a vetted partner or member takes time, so just because a service you are looking at is not included on one of the above sites doesn't mean you should immediately disregard it.
There are a couple of considerations and questions you can ask yourself as you research and interact with a self-publishing service:
Do they have a professional website or business page?
Do they follow industry standard practices?
What is their onboarding process like? Are their services and pricing transparent? Do they offer a service agreement or contract? How do they accept payments?
Are their prices in line with industry standard rates?
Do they have testimonials visible (with names)? Or do they have a portfolio with projects similar to yours?
We'll discuss red flags to look for below, but I want to touch on two qualities that I would not necessarily consider a red flag (though others might). The first is relative experience of the service provider. Everyone has to make a start with their business. This doesn't mean, of course, that you have to be a provider's first client (though that first client is always special!).
If you're worried about a service provider's experience, consider what they are asking for. Are they offering services at a competitive (though not completely low ball) rate that is appropriate to their experience level? What credentials do they have, and what kind of training have they received?
The second quality that I do not consider a red flag is working with a service provider who has not worked in your genre before. Even editors, who you would think need to know every genre back to front, may change their niche. Or if they are just starting out, they may be editing widely to discover a niche. Don't dismiss them right away!
The okay: Marketplaces
Facebook writing and self-publishing groups are rife with questions about marketplace sites like Upwork and Fiverr. I'll be upfront. I don't use marketplace sites to find work. They work for some people, but from the research I've done, I don't see the point of wading through the sea of similar service providers, especially when many might be offering similar services for well below the industry standard rate.
For some indie authors though, these marketplace sites can offer competitive and lower rates, which may be all that they can afford. My advice: vet your vendors on marketplace sites just like you would if you discovered a provider anywhere else. You can ask questions like:
What kind of reviews and testimonials do they have?
Have they worked with clients similar to you?
Is their native language the same as yours?
How long have they been on the site?
Does their pricing seem reasonable? Is it significantly lower than standard rates?
The ugly: Red flags
Professional self-publishing service providers are trying to make a living and keep their reputation intact. If you come across a service that is charging an extremely low price, steer clear. The provider is either too inexperienced (and doesn't know better) or is a scam. Professionals just starting out in the field may discount their rate, but it shouldn't be so significant that it makes the rates of other professionals look ridiculous.
If you ask a professional to complete a sample or show a sample of previous work (cover design for instance), consider if the sample is up to industry standards. Ask around and compare. Editing, for example, is more than just running PerfectIt or Grammarly, and if that's all you get out a sample edit, you should be wary.
One particular red flag seems to really get to indie authors: the unsolicited email or phone call from a "publisher." Bottom line: no legitimate publisher is going to call or email you out of the blue. These are a scam (or close enough) every time. If they're asking for money to publish your book, then you really know they're up to no good.
The internet can make finding good self-publishing services both a wonderful and terrible experience. With discernment and a healthy dose of caution, indie authors can get to know the ins and outs of the industry so they know what to look for as they commence their search.