The answer is yes.
So most Indie Publishing services seem like a reasonable services for the needs most inexperienced authors tend to have. You won't be particularly lacking by going through them, and thier honesty comes down to a case by case basis. But there is a big difference between them and me, which I'll explain:
The main difference is that while they are Indie Publishing services. I am a Designer. We offer different things, more suitable to different types of people with different strategies. I'm not going to lie; inexperienced indie authors may be better off seeking out that kind of service, but it will absolutely cost you more money long term, and you will have no control over your account.
Taking a look at many Indie Publishing Services, you’ll often see pitches like:
"National Library of Australia Prepublication Data Service entry”
"Bowerlink World Book Database listing”
"Access to Brick & Mortar Stores" and a heap of other things in turn...
But here’s one key niggling thing… Indie Publishers aren’t actually publishers. They’re ‘middle men’ who know how to use indie publishing services like Amazon and others.
Typically an Indie Publishing service will set up your book on IngramSpark https://www.ingramspark.com which gets you onto the 'wide' market. So that would include Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, B&N, and so on, each of which are publishing services. This is the 'expanded global distribution' and exposure that many of these Indie Publishers talk about in their offerings.
Thing about that is… you can do that yourself.
See, once an Indie Publisher puts your book up on IngramSpark, they will have control over your work and author profile, and take a cut on all royalties from every sale there on out.
So Amazon (which is 70% of the market) will take a cut of the royalties from every sale. It varies between 35%-70% depending upon book price.
IngramSpark will also take a cut of what's left.
The Indie Publisher will then take their own cut on top of what's left of that.
You will also be completely at their mercy in terms of a monthly report on your earnings, which is often delivered after a delay, so you often don’t have good visuals on for example the immediate effect of a marketing initiative you may have undertaken.
Many of these companies also give you no control over pricing, because they want to protect their ends. This is why you see on Amazon these days a lot of books going for say $50. That is because that cost has to cover the plethora of middle men taking their cut along the way.
$50 is not an attractive price for a paperback, and is a hard sell in this busy market.
So, you can absolutely hand the reins over to an Indie Publishing service and have them do it all for you... or, like what I and many many other authors do, you can cut out the middle man and do it yourself.
You can maintain complete access and control over your account and files, update them any time you like, price the work however you like, and keep all the royalties from launch onwards.
By doing it yourself you can forget the first and second middle man and just go straight to Amazon, keep full control and all royalties, then if you wish to go wide or gain cheaper print copies (in Australia), then you can go separately directly to IngramSpark 'as well’ and gain the royalties direct from those expanded storefronts which make up the remaining 30% market share.
Head over to IngramSpark and read about how to go about it. You set up an account, you upload, you proof, you launch; that's it. Same with Amazon. It's nowhere near as hard as you think.
With InrgamSpark you will need to buy an ISBN (about $40aud) and they charge I think $25 per edit of content. With Amazon you don't need an ISBN because they provide their own. If you're Amazon exclusive, you can also opt into their 'Kindle Unlimited' distribution service to help with promotion. You won't have that available if you go 'wide'.
Now, all that being said, while to me it is a no brainer, to someone new to all of this, it is a lot of work and a bit of an education wall to hit. But it is definitely not impossible. The best thing about doing it yourself (in addition to keeping everything your own and making all the money) is that the absolute hardest part of being an indie author by far, is actually marketing the book post-launch. And you are on your own in that respect regardless of the path you take.
The Indie Publishing services will provide you no assistance in this; it is completely up to you, so in that respect, just through doing it yourself, you have the advantage of adaptability, adjustability, and being able to price dynamically and on the fly.
The service-locked authors have to do the same thing, only they have to go through the middle man to do it, and likely at extra cost if they can do it at all.
So you're going to have to take all that into account for your individual situation. Are you willing to learn this stuff yourself in return for maintaining full control and royalties?
In comparison to my service... as a Designer, I can get you a good cover, lay out your interiors, build you a site if needed, author branding, social media and promotional material, even video work.
I do NOT offer a "National Library of Australia Prepublication Data Service entry” - because I've never once seen any authors mention the necessity of that, I see no point to it myself, and what's more, you can do it easily on your own and maintain full control.
I will not provide a "Bowerlink World Book Database listing", because firstly, I'm pretty sure that just goes with the territory of having an ISBN, and even if it doesn't, like that above, it's pretty much pointless as well. I think what it does is open the door to get you onto bookshelves of retailers overseas, but you'll still have to convince those retailers to pick your book. So if down the track you think that's important and wish to get one for your book... just do it yourself.
No, I will not offer the services of loading up your book onto Amazon and IngramSpark, because why would I? It's your book. I have my own books to look after and manage. I don't need to manage others. What I can do though is talk you through the process (which is something other designers won’t do, because most are not authors).
And you will retain full control, and full royalties. I have absolutely no interest in taking a cut of anything you have. You pay for my time; that's it.
So again; you need to choose what's best for you.
If you decide to go the Indie Publishing route, then here is my take on approach.
They will always 'seem' nice and completely legit, but I’ve often found they fail to mention the royalty cuts they'll take on their websites, and that has to be through surreptitious intent I think. They have to be taking a cut somewhere, so you need to find out where.
Many will offer a “50 free print books”, well that’s because they can bulk order 50 print books directly from the IngramSpark Australian printer, for I'm guessing $5 a piece. I imagine that's the lowest bulk pricing bracket IS offer, so that's why they say 50. It'll be about $250 out of whatever their pricing is. I'd be curious though as to how much the ‘next' 50 books would cost you, because that is where they would add their own expenses on top.
But again... you can do that yourself. If you register through IngramSpark, then you can get that same 50books bulk for $250... but then another, and then another later for the same $250, and that price bracket would go down with 100 counts and so on.
So why pay the middleman?
From a design perspective, many of the lower cost services are really not up to par, and clearly just take the most minimal of effort. I find their book cover designs to be very poor quality, personally, but it's basically like what I said earlier; they would be all about short and quick, maybe outsourcing overseas. The ebook and print interior quality will be templates as well. Many will format for you, which is good, but do not be fooled here; the aesthetic quality you receive will often be below average.
If you're going to go the IndiePublisher route, then I would advise IndieMosh
I have no ‘direct’ affiliation with this company, though I have had joint contact with them through a previous client job where we cross-communicated on the development of a cover. I did the cover, they published the book.
Now their own cover designers are good. You will get a good cover from them and the extra stuff all other indie publishing services offer. They also simply deliver on what they say they will, they're nice ladies, and will see you right. So if you’re going to go with one, I’d recommend that one.
Again... I'm a Designer, that's it. I do peoples layouts, covers, videos, sites, and whatever else design related. Unlike other designers though I can also help you to pursue the publishing process yourself. One thing I can absolutely do for you is get you a book cover that will kick the ass off of what most of the indie publishing services out there can offer, and help with a heap of other stuff as well.