Page V: Tellwell vs the “Big 5” Self-Publishers

Just five companies account for over 85% of the books self-published each year:

  1. CreateSpace: This company is owned by Amazon and its strengths include low printing costs. Tellwell includes Createspace as an option for distribution and printing. However, we are a competitor of theirs when it comes to services such as design and editing.
  2. Lightning Source & IngramSpark: These two platforms offer competitive print-on-demand services; however, their ebook distribution offers only 40% royalties. Tellwell often uses IngramSpark for print-on-demand, but not for ebooks. These companies do not offer help with editing, design, or publicity.
  3. Smashwords:  Smashwords offers an ebook “aggregation” service, making your book available for sale in some of the major ebook channels in exchange for a percentage of sales. You need to be technically savvy enough to get your book in the proper format for them. Their service does not include Kindle ebooks – the most popular ebook option. They do not offer help with editing, design or publicity services. Tellwell generally does not deal with Smashwords because we can get a better deal for authors by dealing directly with each ebook platform (e.g. Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and Google Books).
  4. Lulu: This company has a broad range of formats and some good tools for do-it-yourselfers, but their printing is expensive and they take a significant chunk of the author’s revenues.
  5. Author Solutions: They operate many different self-publishing brands including Xlibris, Authorhouse, Trafford, iUniverse, Belboa, Abbott Press, and Archway. Some of these brands are partnerships with traditional publishers, where Author Solutions does the actual work and compensates the traditional publisher for the referrals. Author Solutions’ two main strengths are their persistent sales force and their aggressive Google advertising. Their downside is that they significantly mark-up the printing costs and take a large portion of sales revenues. As of 2013, about 75% of their staff were located in the Philippines.

How Does Tellwell Compare to the Companies Above?

With Tellwell you get better royalties than with any of these companies.

Tellwell takes a very clear and unique position in the marketplace:

  • We offer 100% net royalties and don’t mark-up the printing costs
  • We focus primarily on Canadian authors

Because we give authors 100% of the sales revenues, it means we are neutral with regard to what distribution options we use. We often work with two of the above companies (IngramSpark and CreateSpace) for part of the solution for our clients, taking advantage of the best aspect of each. But we use other options where these companies fall short. We never work with Author Solutions companies. We choose the option that is best for each author.

The chart below shows how Tellwell meets or exceeds the royalties of all 5 major self-publishing companies.

PUBLISHING FEATURE (checkmark = Best)
Tellwell Author Solutions Lulu Smashwords Createspace Ingramspark
Max POD Royalty via major retailers
(before printing cost deducted) **
70% checkmark 10% ** 50% x 40-60% 70% checkmark
Print cost for 250-page paperback $3.85 checkmark or $4.65 $13.99 $10.55 x $3.85 checkmark $4.65
Print cost for hardcover 250-pages $10.65 checkmark $20.99 19.60 x x $10.65 checkmark
Kindle royalty 70% checkmark 35% 63% x x 40%
Kobo royalty (Chapters) 70% checkmark 35% 63% 60% x 40%
Nook royalty (Barnes and Noble) 60% checkmark 35% 58.5% 60% checkmark x 40%
iBooks royalty 60% checkmark 35% 63% 60% checkmark x 40%