Pros and Cons of Publishing with Author Services Companies

What is an author services publishing companyMany writers choose to self-published by using an author services company. They have self-published a book, but not in the “true” sense of the word. Additionally, using these companies, also called subsidy presses, is cause for concern if you know little about what you are getting into.

What is an Author Services Company or Subsidy Press?

Author services companies used to be called vanity presses. They have always made it possible for writers to publish their own books. However, unlike the other self-publishing methods described in previous posts, such as offset printing, print on demand (POD) and digital printing, this path to publication does not involve having your own publishing company. The majority of these companies (not all) use their own imprint on your book’s spine.

For this reason, some authors mistakenly say they were published by such companies as Lulu, Author House or Balboa Press—like they are actual publishers. No…you pay them to publish your work. They say they pay you “royalties,” but basically these payments are just the money they owe you on the sales of your self-published book after they take a percentage because you published using their services.

The Convenience of Many Services Under One Roof

Subsidy printers are known now as “author services” companies because most offer more than printing under one roof. You typically can purchase a package including editing, proofreading, book cover and interior design, distribution, and even promotional services. In my humble opinion, more often than not these services are overpriced, not as professional or unique (when it comes to design) as you might find if you search out contractors yourself.

That said, if you have no desire to find contractors, manage them or in any way become a project manager, a subsidy press might be just what you want. Some people are simply not cut out for true self-publishing but have the need to publish their work on their own. (If you aren’t sure if you are cut out to self-publish read this post and this post to help you determine what type of publishing path best suits you.)

Different Types of Printing from Subsidy Presses

You might find that you can have your book produced in different ways from different subsidy printers. For instance, some might offer POD printing while others might offer offset printing. Many now offer ebook printing in addition to printed books, and you can even find ebook publisher that function as author services companies. Some ebook publishers offer print book publishing as well.

Read Your Contract Carefully

Should you choose a subsidy press as your method of self-publishing, know that each company will have a contract. Read it carefully.  Be sure you know what you are agreeing to and don’t go into this type of publishing with incorrect expectations.

Some subsidy press affiliated with publishers claim that his gives you an advantage with the publisher. Don’t go into your print deal with false expectations; your contract will likely not offer any promises. Make sure you understand the commitments you make; sometimes author services companies ask writers to commit to purchase as many as 2,000 books. Recently, three authors sued a subsidy publisher for a number of reasons.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles |


  1. says

    This is absolutely fascinating, Nina. I think I am finally starting to understand why you advised me to not publish my faith book with Balboa Press. These are lessons that are hard to learn. The whole self-publishing process is incredibly confusing and intimidating, but this blog post breaks things down into manageable pieces of understanding. Thank you.

    Okay, so next steps for me? Either go with a traditional publisher, which could delay publication of my book by at least a year (do I really want that?) or create my own company and engage in DIY publishing, which is what you advocate in the first place. Okay, thank God, I’m finally getting somewhere with my book project!!
    Amanda Socci recently posted..Living Life Offline is Better Than Memorializing Life Online

  2. Nina Amir says

    It’s so important to really understand all aspects of publishing… So many writers plow forward without a real understanding of what is involved.


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