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The Fine Print of Self-Publishing: The Contracts and Services of 48 Self-Publishing Companies—Analyzed, Ranked and Exposed

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing: The Contracts and Services of 48 Self-Publishing Companies—Analyzed, Ranked and Exposed

By Mark Levine

Bascom Hill Publishing Group,

Third Edition, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-9802455-7-8

321 Pages -- $17.95 (US)

Size 8.5 x 5.5


Review by Patricia Fry

You may recall reading my review of Mark Levine’s book, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, in the February 2007 edition of SPAWNews. This book was new then; and only 215 pages. In fact, Mark sent me an unedited review copy at that time. But I was so impressed by this book that I gave it 5-stars. I’ve also recommended it to hundreds of hopeful authors across the country and I list it as Recommended Reading in my book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book.

What is so great about this book? It is the only guide that I know of that honestly rates and ranks dozens of fee-based POD publishing companies. If you are considering signing with a “self-publishing” book producer, such as AuthorHouse or Infinity, you MUST reference a copy of this book, first.

As far as I’m concerned, it would be hard to improve upon the book I reviewed 17 months ago, but one improvement that I appreciate is that the companies are now listed in the Table of Contents. So if I have a client who is thinking about going with Dog Ear Publishing or PublishAmerica, Outskirts Press or Publish To Go, for example, I can use the Table of Contents to quickly locate the listing in the book and its rating.

Levine separates the 45 book producers into categories using such labels as, “Outstanding,” “Pretty Good,” “Those Who Are Just Okay,” and “Publishers to Avoid.” Before you sign with a POD book producer, you will want to know where they stand in Levine’s ranking system. Just how does he rate them? What criteria does he use?

He compares them using nine qualities, such as: reputation, fair fees, generous and straightforward royalty program, low printing costs, fair returns policy, add on pricing policy, offerings (ISBN, etc.) and important registrations/distributors/listing with Amazon, etc.

In the first part of this book, he explains what makes for a good contract and what to watch out for. But 268 pages of the book are devoted to comparisons between the various POD companies. You might be surprised to learn that, while there are eight companies rated outstanding, nine with a pretty good rating and seven that Levine labels as okay, he has rated a whopping 21 companies as those to avoid. I know, I know, you’d like me to name names. Okay, I will. Booklocker, Dog Ear Publishing, Infinity Publishing, RJ Communications and Xulon Press all appear in the Outstanding chapter. Outskirts Press and Lulu are among those listed in the Pretty Good category. And publishers to avoid include Authorhouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, PublishAmerica and Dorrance Publishing.

Levine does the math. He explains what is wrong (and right) with the contracts. He winds up each company evaluation with comments. He shows you in black and white which publishers are ripping you off. Did you know, for example, that some companies don’t even share their fee schedule until after you’ve signed with them? He also explains that some of these companies, that claim to be traditional publishers, are not playing by traditional publishing rules.

It sure has become obvious, after studying this book, that there is no standardization in the world of fee-based POD self-publishing companies. In fact, they come in a wide variety of colors, flavors and contracts. Even though Levine dissects the contracts for you, lays out the fee schedules, points out the major defects in their programs, he encourages you to see for yourself. Where possible, he gives you critical links.

This book is a bargain at any price, but how would you like to get it for FREE? For any books we give to new and renewing members, Mark Levine has generously donated his profits to SPAWN so that we can offer this book, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing as a free book choice for new and renewing members. Sign up today at Click on “Join SPAWN Now.”

– Patricia Fry is the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and the author of 28 books. Read her hallmark book The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, revised 2nd edition. and her NEW Author’s Workbook If you are struggling to promote a book, order Patricia’s newest ebook, The Author’s Repair Kit. Visit her informative publishing blog often at



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