Self-Publishing Index: Criteria Explained

I thought with the release of the February 2011 Self-Publishing Index that I would try and provide a little more detail behind how the Index is put together and what criteria is used. Each month, I publish a graphic spreadsheet showing the latest Index and how it has changed from the previous month.
Here is some of the criteria we use to achieve that Index list:
 The latest Review Rating for all author solutions services listed on POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing
This rating (0.00/10) is attributed to all services and can be found at the bottom of all the reviews we publish on the site. It is not set in stone, and can vary as an author solutions service develops and revises its services on offer to authors. At the bottom of every review is a link to updates on the company’s progress – as an example – service price changes, new publishing packages, expanded distribution platforms etc. At the core of all reviews is the ideal basis we look for in all author solutions services, but in reality, the requirements of individual authors will always differ, and therefore a search for an author solutions service scoring 10/10 is purely subjective.
 The amount of years a company is in operation
This area of the industry has a tendency to see far too many new start-up companies open for business, only to disappear a year or two into existence. As a rule, though we may publish a general overview of a new author solutions service, we do not review and rate companies in existence less than one year.
 The cost and value for money of a company’s services
This is entirely arbitrary and always a difficult criteria to nail down. It is not acceptable to say that because company A is cheaper than company B, therefore, they must provide a better service for an author. Likewise, I know companies who charge four-figure fees and provide an excellent service, just as there are companies who charge their authors thousands for a poor book product and exorbitant and pointless add-on services.
 Comments and feedback on all author solutions services
Again, this is a complex and large area of appraisal. All published reviews on POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing are open to comment and feedback, as a way of authors expressing their experience and opinion on a company’s services. These comments are freely available at the bottom of all reviews on the site and can often be more telling about a company’s value and reputation than any review, no matter how thorough. It is also an area where the company itself has a right to reply, and many of the reviews have discussion and input from the company in the comments section. I also receive a great deal of feedback privately from authors and companies – week to week – often information I cannot share publicly on the site because of issues of confidentially, including (arbitration or mediation between parties; impending class action law suits or legal process; impending company developments by way of sale, acquisition, administration or bankruptcy).
 Titles produced/published per annum
While the Index takes into account the output of any given author solutions service – this criteria is the one we have had to adopt the most complex formula for evaluation. We cannot punish a company producing 10 titles per year over a company producing 1000 titles, but what we can and have done is link it into the company’s review rating, years in service and feedback received. What counts most here is the negativity of a small company’s inactivity over a prolonged period of time, or the negativity of a significant jump in a large company’s publishing output over a relatively short period of time.
 Physical product assessment
When we review author solutions services, some are co-operative and will send us titles to review, but this is open to the selectivity of that particular company to choose their ‘best product’, and I prefer to review titles of my choice for paper quality and editorial quality, but that is only of value if the input and financial outlay of the individual author can be ascertained in the first instance.
All of the above data is revised and fed into the Self-Publishing Index every month to provide the latest up-to-date Index ranking. New companies are added on an ongoing basis (flotation), and it is advised that a period of time is required to evaluate the true stable ranking of any new company.

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