Thursday 29 January 2015

Book Review: The Self-Publisher's Ultimate Resource Kit by Joel Friedlander and Betty Kelly Sargent

Publishing industry experts Joel Friedlander and Betty Kelly have undertaken a monumental task with The Self-Publishers Ultimate Resource Book. They claim it’s:
“the first and largest collection of curated and verified resources for independent authors who plan to publish their own books”
It’s a great idea, and I suppose it’s well executed for a first edition (the plan is to update the paper version annually, and the electronic version two to four times per year), which is good because I noticed one thing that is out of date even now, a mere six weeks after publication (Amazon will no longer be running the ABNA Award).

It’s an ambitious and noble project. The book has over 850 online references in 33 categories, organised into three sections: Prepare, Publish and Promote, and there is a lot of good information. There was some information at the beginning of each category explaining what the category was about and why it was important.

However, I would have liked to have seen more, for those writers who are really new to the self-publishing scene (most reviewers won’t be: I assume most got their review copies in the same way I did: because we follow Joel Friedlander’s blog, The Book Designer. That means we’re not completely new to the self-publishing scene).

I also would have liked to have had more information about each individual and organisation listed in the guide than simply their website and some advertising verbiage off said website. For example, what about this product/service justifies its inclusion in the Guide? Have Joel or Betty personally used their services, or were they recommended? If so, by whom?

Personally, I’d rather have seen the Prepare section divided into pre-writing research (like recommended writing books or what writing programme to use, Word or a specialist writing programme such as Scrivener), and post-writing resources, such as editors and cover designers.

There are several notable omissions: they recommend “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Brown and Dave King, but don’t recommend Dave King’s editing business. More worryingly, there are also at least three entries which slipped in through “an error in our vetting process” which will be corrected (but which make me worry for those readers who’ve bought the 2014 print edition, and won’t know they are errors … and makes me wonder what errors I don’t know about).

The “errors” I did see are the inclusion of Author Solutions imprints Lulu and WestBow Press.
These feature as part of a “curated list of subsidy publishers”, aka vanity publishers, and the inclusion of these seem to me to contradict the concept of self-publishing in the first place. If you’re not sure why that’s a bad idea, read these three posts:

I also think the Book Review section needs to be divided in two, as it currently lumps paid review services (like Kirkus Indie reviews) together with other services without explaining the difference, and without explaining that paid reviews (e.g. Kirkus) be included as Customer Reviews on Amazon, while reviews from sources such as NetGalley can.

Overall, I think this is a good basic resource for authors intending to self-publish in the general market, as that is the focus of most of the entries. There are some Christian references, but not many, and I would suggest writers aiming for the Christian market won’t find a lot of useful information here.

Thanks to the authors for providing a free ebook for review.

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Tsu.

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500.


  1. Thanks for the review Iola - sounds like a good resource in principle and good that it will be regularly updated.

    1. Yes, the promise of regular updating is a real selling point, and perhaps a reason to get the electronic version rather than the paper edition (even if this is updated annually, how many people will buy each year?).

  2. Now that's what I call an honest review! It's amazing how quickly something can go out of date, but at least the electronic version of the book can be updated several times within the year.

    Iola, is this book the most useful you've read for Australasians? Or has the digital age made it relevant for wherever we live?

    1. Thanks, Andrea. I think this book is relevant no matter where someone lives.

      However, I'd also advise authors to connect with local writing groups (real life or online) to get local market knowledge, such as where is the best place to get books or swag printed, which local book chains/stores are open to stocking self-published or small press books, and how do you approach them.

  3. Good delving, Iola. I didn't think any book chains or stores were open to self published books. I suppose I'm mainly thinking of Koorong or the like, (if there's any like them at all.) How would you come by a list of smaller book stores all over Australia? And would you have to visit them personally or just write & send a copy? I'm still mulling over this facet of the Indie publishing world.

  4. Iola, thanks for your insightful review. The ebook version seems like the best option.


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