A self-publisher reviews The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide

When I first heard about The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide by Joel Friedlander and Betty Kelly Sargent, I was excited. Joel is well-known in the indie publishing community as The Book Designer, and has been offering readers of his blog great, free resources and commentary for years (if you haven’t been there already, I highly recommend checking it out now). I figured this book would be a collection of many of those resources, along with his typically insightful and honest commentary.

When I first opened up the ebook and discovered it was little more than an index of resources, I was disappointed at first. I think the problem stems from the fact that people are going to misread the title, skipping the word “resource” and focusing in on “guide.”

“Guide” is not really the best word to describe this book, as a guide is more of a step-by-step walkthrough of a process, whereas this is a “resource guide,” aka a big list, or group of related lists. And therein lies this book’s real value.

More of a “Self-Publishers Resource Directory,” this book is stuffed with fantastic resources for self-publishers. There’s tons of information here, and it will take a reader days (if not weeks, or even months) to sift through it all. Basically, I’d describe it as the Yellow Pages of everything you’ll need as a self-publisher. It’s also similar to the Writers Market brand of directories, but aimed specifically at self-publishing resources, thereby making it a must-have for anyone in search of service providers – from cover design to layout and formatting to PR once your book is ready to launch. It’s a comprehensive list of things you’ll need whether you’re publishing a print book, ebook, or combination thereof.

The way the authors have split up different self-publishing tasks into Prepare, Publish, and Promote is a natural way to help readers keep the many areas of self-publishing under control, and provides a good overall structure for the guide.

That being said, there are still some things that need to be tweaked in order to make this resource guide the best it can be.

As several other Amazon reviews have noted, there is not enough in the way of detail concerning how and why the service providers listed were chosen. Are they award-winners in their field? Long-time experts? Friends of the authors? There’s no explanation as to the criteria that Joel and Betty have used in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and that was my biggest frustration with this book. They say that they have vetted all of these resources, but how did they do so? I would definitely like a more in-depth explanation of this in the preface, because I think a guide like this demands a certain level of transparency. Did the service providers included pay a fee to appear in this book, or is this a free listing? Have they been in business for a certain number of years to demonstrate their superiority? Explaining the criteria for inclusion is key, especially for readers who are new to the world of self-publishing and do not want to be taken for a ride by unscrupulous providers.

Pricing is also missing, and even if some services are not easy to price in flat fees (editing, for instance, can vary widely from one project to another, depending on multiple parameters), it would be helpful to have some kind of dollar sign rating to indicate a scale of affordability. (Let’s face it: we’re indie authors, and the deciding factor is almost always going to come down to price!) Something along the lines of the typical restaurant guidebook’s use of $ for least expensive to $$$$ for most expensive would be perfect.

I would also suggest including the number of years each company has been in business, or simply a founding date for each company, in order to help readers find more experienced providers, and/or justify more expensive services and products on offer.

Overall, I found the comprehensive nature of this book to be its main selling point, offering an overview of everything a successful self-publisher will need to invest in throughout the publication process. With the addition of the authors’ criteria for inclusion of different service providers, I think this could be the definitive self-publishing resource guide, and I look forward to reading that addition in the future.

If you’re a self-publisher looking for service providers, this book is an excellent resource, and well worth the $7.99 pricetag.