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For decades, the “Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook” has been the bible for UK creatives, journalists, publishers, et al. Now under the Bloomsbury Publishing umbrella after the buyout of its original A & C Black imprint in 2000, the brand has morphed with the passage of time and technological developments, and now supports the very useful Writers & Artists website, and has just launched its new Writers’ & Artists’ Self-Publishing Comparison service, which looks to be helpful for non-UK self-publishers as well – at least until you get to the actual choice of providers.

“This innovative resource puts you in touch with the self-publishing providers offering the services that you need to help your novel progress on its path to publication,” declares the website. “Just answer a few simple questions about your work, select up to five providers and we’ll do the rest!”

Wait one moment, though: Isn’t self-publishing supposed to be about, well, doing it yourself? What the Self-Publishing Comparison service actually does is match aspirant self-publishing authors with: “companies which provide editorial, design, marketing, distribution and e-book services for authors.”

A trial run of the multiple-choice comparison service for ebook assisted distribution, for instance, gets very granular in terms of territories covered, periods of exclusivity, pricing and royalty percentages, etc, before yielding 63 providers. These include Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo Writing Life, and, alas, a number of the various brands operated by the notorious and controversial self-publishing platform Author Solutions, currently the subject of a widely publicized class action in the U.S., including Author House, iUniverse, Palibrio, Trafford,  and Xlibris. And the list as a whole, although ranked by relevance, might still prove unwieldy unless further qualified by some very detailed responses. And the system is then set up to provide a quotation on demand. In other words, self-publishing by these criteria is paying someone else to publish for you, rather than the old-fashioned way of getting a publisher to pay you for your work.

The Comparison service, therefore, will escort you through various aspects of self-publishing very neatly, and often will provoke you to think hard about some of the decisions you have to make in the course of your own self-publishing project. As a hand-holding walkthrough, it’s excellent, but you have to keep your eyes open and watch where it leads you – certainly until the whole Author Solutions mare’s nest of sub-brands is sorted out. And just to make the point once again, it shows how much of a myth the standalone DIY self-publisher has become, with so many service providers, consultants, and guides clamoring for his or her attention.

Just a personal note here: I may be out of the usual run of self-published authors by being: a) a Scottish cheapass; b) an experienced print editor; c) a geek with enough software skillz to manage my own DTP and conversion programs. But I did all my self-publishing myself, without paying a cent to anyone. It’s good to have these resources around, and the kind of domain insight that the Writers’ & Artists’ Self-Publishing Comparison service provides for you. But you still don’t have to give them any of your money. And if a publisher looks likely to be able to earn back its share of your royalties for you, why reach into your own pocket at all? Just sign up, pocket the advance, and get back to writing.

 
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