While many authors still dream of finding a traditional publisher, others are ready to take the reins in their own hands. The St. Louis Publishers Association provides support and resources to help these authors, as well as to help authors of any stripe learn to market their work. True self- or indie-publishing is not for everyone, however. New authors can be overwhelmed by the learning curve required to successfully publish on their own. Several St. Louis businesses have formed in recent years to provide these authors with one-stop shopping for the services they need to produce a professional-looking book.
Bluebird Publishing has been been around for a few years. Dan Thompson, formerly of Big River Distribution, and Jeff Pfister, of Virginia Publishing, joined forces to offer authors the whole spectrum of paid-for services. Authors can choose from consultation, editing, design, layout or illustration, to the actual publishing. Bluebird partners with local Mira Digital Publishing to produce perfect-bound (paperback), hardcover or even spiral-bound books (think cookbooks). Bluebird will also format for e-books.
Treehouse Publishing is a new publishing services company in St. Louis. Like Bluebird, Treehouse offers the full spectrum of author services from consultation to editing, design and layout to actual publishing (only select projects accepted for publishing). Treehouse will also format for e-books. The company also offers its services to produce book trailers and websites, and to coach on social media marketing. The team can assist in creating query letters and synopses for authors hoping to find a traditional publisher.
Stonebrook Publishing provides publishing services, but only for select nonfiction manuscripts. Stonebrook looks for stories that will “change lives, save lives or have a positive impact on society.” If accepted, manuscripts are polished into professional-looking books with both author and publisher sharing costs. The author receives a portion of net profits that is higher than traditional publishers would offer. Stonebrook offers book coaching and ghostwriting services via its Stonebrook Studios, and conducts writing workshops.
To be successful, all authors, whether querying agents or traditional publishers or daring to go indie, must have their work edited. Editing services can be purchased through Bluebird or Treehouse Publishing or authors can find editors on their own. The St. Louis Writers Guild and the St. Louis Publishers Association have many editor members, and thanks to e-mail, editors need not be local. Authors should ask to see a sample of work to ensure an editor will do a professional-quality job.
Authors interested in paying a company to publish their books should consider several factors besides the obvious issue of cost. If the publisher, rather than the author, provides the ISBN (identification) number, the book belongs to the publisher, although the author retains copyright. Authors should know the penalty for breaking the contract, and know whether they have the option to request publishing rights revert to them (hopefully at no cost) after a given number of years or if sales are below a negotiated number of books per year.
If considering a publishing services company, authors should also inquire about percentage of profits they will receive. Ask about distribution (channels for readers, stores, libraries to buy the book), and whether the book will be formatted for e-book (and which e-book formats), and what distribution the e-book will have. All authors, no matter how they are published, must work to market their books.