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Mill City Press Review

The first thing you notice about Mill City Press is the quality of the website.  It has a matte-quality similar to book covers of contemporary fiction – and something that most self-publishers do not offer, as most publishers only offer glossy covers.  So Mill City’s website has the appearance of a traditional publisher, not a print on demand house.  Mill City Press just sounds like a traditional publisher.  One of the things we point out here in publisher reviews is that the less well-known self-publishers can actually pass for a legitimate publisher, unlike the major self-publishers like Lulu, iUniverse, and AuthorHouse.

Aside from outward appearance, what does Mill City offer?  In their description they’re honest about the marketing prospects of self-published novels –

Reviews are nice, but getting them from reviewers who matter (like the New York Times, etc.) is next to impossible. If you’d rather spend your time and money securing one great review instead of driving already interested internet surfers to your book’s sales page, you can still publish with us (our publishing packages are the best value around), but you won’t get the full value of what we can offer.

Instead Mill City Press promises to use “viral public relations” to generate interest in your book.  So you can think of Mill City Press as self-publishing meets Web 2.0.  To promote a book, Mill City offers two different plans: a 30-day publicity program and 60-day publicity program.

In each program, Mill City will promote the book in viral networks and other new media.  Their basic M.O. is to treat a book no differently than a website – and this is the right stance to take.  Given that the majority of POD book-buyers will purchase the book online, the idea is to get as many links to your book as possible.  While you can spend a lot of time and energy trying to lock down print and web reviews for a novel, Mill City’s basic premise is that your time would be better spend generating incoming links to your book’s page.  That’s a reasonable premise.  The publicity package includes

  • An overall PR plan based on the book’s market, including working directly with a publicist.
  • Generation of a podcast and downloadable ebook
  • Press kit creation, including press release writing and distribution
  • Pitching your book to new media contacts
  • Solicitation of reviews – Mill City doesn’t totally ignore the importance of reviews, just does not emphasize them as the most important marketing tactic.  Includes guaranteed mention in literary blogs.
  • Creating viral network profiles for your site.  There are literally hundreds of possible viral networks where you could make a profile.

Is all this necessary?  Well, really much of what you’ll find in the list is stuff you could do yourself.  It doesn’t cost you anything but time to start social network profiles and to participate in those networks.  But that’s often the case with hiring a publicist – they’re doing the legwork so you don’t have to.  And for many people, that list of marketing features would be too-heavy a workload.  But not only that, you can have better results submitting marketing materials through a press – yes, even a self-publishing house – rather than independently through an author’s account.  So letterhead or an email from Mill City Press is much more professional and effective than an author asking for a review or mention.  Really, this is no different than being on a traditional press.

Other Features of Mill City Press

In addition to marketing, which is their major selling point, Mill City Press books just look better.  Go to the site and scroll through some of their covers.  They have the modern appearance of novels on a traditional press.  Mill City Press will also submit your book to book buyers at the major chain bookstores.  There is no guarantee that Border’s will buy your book, just as there’s no guarantee that marketing efforts will automatically lead to book sales, but this is a significant step better than other self-publishers.  Mill City allows for book returns, which is the main stumbling block for brick and mortar bookstore distribution.  Finally, a major selling point is that authors keep 100% of the royalties above wholesale printing costs.

It sounds fairly ideal, but you do pay for these features.  The most advanced package is $3,798, which is sizable.  But you do get a fair number of features that you don’t get with other self-publishing, making it sort of self-publishing and ½.  It’s not quite traditional publishing, but it’s better than packages offered by other self-publishers.

About Henry Baum

Profile photo of Henry Baum
Author of three self-published novels and one traditionally published (Soft Skull Press, Canongate, and Hachette Littératures). Recipient of Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival, the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction, and the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize. He lives with his wife Cate Baum in Spain. He's the founder of SPR.

34 comments

  1. Bill, have you actually published a book through this company?

  2. I published an aviation history book with them December of 2009. I have a couple of issues with them. First, it is very hard to get to a live person when you call there. And if you do not know their extension good luck.

    The bad point is their printer. My book cover is basically black with a color pic in the middle. My first order of paperbacks arrived (glossy covers) and there were spots all over them. The printer is Thomson Reuters out of Eagan, MN. Well, at that time they were very accomodating and replaced the damaged books.

    I had told them that they need to shrink wrap the books before shipping them like they did with my hardcovers. Hardcovers, no prob.

    My second printing I decided to go with a matte finish on the cover of the paperbacks hoping this would stop the spots. Well, instead 61 out of 100 of the books had shiny scuff marks all over them. Now Thomson Reuters tells me they will not reprint the books and I have to find another printer. They will refund my money on the damaged books only after I rip off the front cover of the book and send these in to them. What a waste!!! Why dont I ship them back to them and they can donate them to schools, churches and libraries?

    So now I am thinking that I can sell these damaged cover books at half price instead of wasting them and at least try and recoup some of my expenses. The paperbacks sell for $50.00 (Big Book, 552 pages)

    This is the worst printer around and they say they have a 98 percent sucess rate on their printing. They even told me that lighter colored books go out with scuff marks! HA! They even admitted they messed up on other orders.

    What do they not see? If they shrink wrap the books they will be protected, but they are way to unprofessional to do this. Please stay away from this printer. They will take your money and run with it!!!

  3. These guys are really unprofessional – the owner Mark Levins is the rudest guy on earth. He accuses customers and threatens them through out the publishing process. I agree with the earlier comment – you cannot reach anyone over the phone. Stay away from this publisher. They are a big ripoff!!!

  4. I thought that they used Book prining revolution or Lightningsource for their printing jobs? At tleast that is what they told me?

    Also, what could he be threatening you with? I am unclear of that comment and would some clarification. Thanks.

    Lastly, what companies do you consider better? I read his book and though it’s onviously written with the objective of showing MCP in the best light, I’m interested to hear who is a much better choice. Thanks again.

  5. You know I just published another book by the way and this time went without a publisher. I mean come on, I created my own website, when I was with Mill City. Saved some money there, but they do not do any marketing for you unless you pay big bucks, alot extra. I found a fantastic printer down here in Illinois where I can pick the books up and they redid my covers for me on my first book cheap. They will definately be printing my second book. I obtained my own copyright, ISBN number and barcode and LCCN number (Library of Congress) through Bowkers.com.
    Anyone can do it. I found a publisist also for my second book who is chomping at the bit to promote my book and she just got out of college with her masters in marketing. She will market your book to all of the radio stations, newspapers (press releases) etc. all for $100 and that allows you three states to promote it in.
    I can go to Amazon and Borders myself and promote my book in person.

    To be perfectly honest, I sold more books off my website then I did having a distributor. My book was an aviation history book, so I really had to hit that clientele.

    I made up 4 x 6 postcards promoting my book through Vista.com where you design your own card front and back and used as a business card and passed it out everywhere. Gave it to pilots on flights I take for business and had one take a pile of them to put in the pilot’s lounge. Got to be creative and you can publish on your own.

    I thought about book revolution printing my new book, but I really believe that it is the same printer that did my first book and botched it. See comment above. Good luck and believe you can do this on your own.

    • Hi Karen,
      I have been looking for a publicist, but the majority of them are pricey. I’m interested in hiring your publicist if she’s taking on more clients. If so, can you please forward her info to me.

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thank you for sharing. I’m having a hard time with MCP. Every time I have a revision I have to pay them 50 an hour. The formatting is terrible and they are making me pay the formatter every time I need it revised. It’s excessive spacing between words. I am so stressed out right now. They have had my book for 8 months now. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I schedules speaking events and have deadlines that, I know they won’t meet. I’m a couple of hundred shy of paying them $3000.00 for the basic package, that price includes$725.00 for basic editing. I just don’t think my book will ever get finished. I’m so stressed out and I don’t know what to do. You can’t speak to anyone via telephone, and when I try to ask questions through chat, they won’t answer me. It shows that their online, but every time I go to chat their unavailable. I do have a really nice representative, but she can’t help me, and we only speak via email. I paid Xlibris for there package, $1099.00, for a two in one package deal. They will do my first book and my second for one dollar. Since MCP is doing my paperback. I ordered my ebook with xliberis, but now since I paid for the entire package they want to do my entire book. Since I have to pay MCP close to $600.00 for and ebook package, I let Xlibris publish my ebook. Now xlibris want to publish my paperback and hardback. I agreed to the hardback, but said no to the paperback because I spent all this money with MCP. I just don’t know what to do anymore. There is no one to talk to at the company. And they seem to become agitated very quickly. Do you have any suggestions. Any help will be appreciated.

    • Hello Barbara,

      Like you I have written a “specialty” type book, a DIY dog training book. You mentioned that you found a good publisher in Illinois. Would you be kind enough to pass along the name and telephone number.

      Thanks,

      Larry

      • The first book I did I published with Mill City Press, but had problems with their printer. Books kept having spots all over them. So my second book, I published on my own. I went to Bowkers.com and got my ISBN and LCCN numbers and barcode plus copyright. It cost $225.00 and as I paid about $10,000 to Mill City Press, they did not market the book for me. So I ended up marketing my own book, by calling all the newspapers for press releases, was on two radio shows, and made my own postcards for business cards through Vistaprint.com. You do not need a publisher, as they take all your money and do nothing for you. I edited my own book and when it was time to get the file into “Print Ready” for the printer, I sent it to a friend of mine in Chicago to put it in that format for about $75.00, as I do not have that program that does this. Hope this helps. You then hit all the libraries and donate, you can put it on Amazon.com by yourself also, and on Ebay. You can take it to pet stores, like Petco and Petsmart and talk with them about carrying your book. They are very nice there and am sure they would be very receptive to this. You could also call the local adoption agencies and ask when they will be out in public and be there to sell your book. Promote it at dog shows. Build your own website and get paypal for payment options. I built my two websites through Tiptopwebsite.com, which charges $9.95 a month and to get your domain name is $39.00, one time fee.

        • I viewed your website and was very impressed. I contacted you through that website for the same information. I am in the process of writing a book but I am so confused as to where to begin and who to choose as a self – publisher. If you or anyone else that reads this can point me in the right direction or offer names and contact info. I would appreciate it.

    • I am interested in your publicist also. Please forward me her information. I am finishing up my second book, and after reading your post and finding many, many negative comments on the self-publishing companies I have found, on top of publishing my first book with PublishAmerica, I think publishing the book myself may be the way to go. How much did it cost you to publish it yourself and is your printer willing to do POD orders?

      This information would be very helpful to me in my decision making process.

      Thank you,

      Tammy D. Jackson
      Author of Beth’s Search (PublishAmerica, 2009) and For Jamie’s Sake (yet to be determined).

  6. Wow! I commend you and congrats. I called them over a year ago and they said that they used revolution so you’re probably right. Then more recently, they said Lightningsource. I don NOT have a lot of money to spend at all but on the other hand, there’s something to be said abpout letting the pros do work in areas that i am less than proficient in so I didn’t mind them doing all of the ISBN, barcode duties etc.. I would NEVER trust a company to copyright me so I was simply using the click and copy right site which ironically, the own as well. Lol. I am interested in the info for your publicist if you can. They seem to be SO strong in their book cover quality department that it was a serious selling point for me. I’m very disappointed to hear your experiences and feel somewhat lost now. Thank you so much for your prompt response.

  7. Jason, you can go on the government site http://www.bowkers.com they are the ones who handle the ISBN, barcodes etc. That is who Mill City Press and all the rest of them use.

    I hired an editor for $75.00 an hour and that is all it took for her to put in my headers and footers (page numbering and title of book at top) and then she formatted the book to PDF Print Ready for the printer and this is when I was with Mill City. I saved a ton there, as it only took her an hour to do.

    Everything that Mill City Press prints whether through Revolution or lightning is really done through Thomson Reuters up there. Then on my new book I used this girl Shanna here in Chicago and she did my cover of the book for me, I gave her what I wanted in Word format with pictures, etc and my barcode. She did that and also put my book into print ready files for printer for $150.00. I will never go through these self publishing firms again, as you will end up marketing it your self anyway. A good website builder to go to is Tiptopwebsite.com. They cost $9.95 a month and charge $49.00 for your domain name. You create the site yourself, but it is alot of fun to do and it walks you through it. Both my websites I created through them. They have 24/7 support also. They gave me the code to paste on each page so no one can copy pictures.

  8. Mitchell Jon MacKay

    Having been involved in self publishing thrice beginning in 1997 (ancient history), Barbara Sellers’ approach seems realistic and credible. With POD, Vanity and Self Publishing – essentially the same entities w/variables – there is a likelihood of problems with printing and pricing. As with home remodeling, you get what you pay for and sometimes not. As someone said, all companies are not right for all writers: you pick and choose according to your finances and perceptions. Mark Levine’s FINE PRINT book is helpful. So is good Scotch whiskey.

  9. I have had a mixed experience with Mill City Press. I am extremely happy with the way my book turned out from interior formatting through the final printing, but that’s where my satisfaction ends. I made the mistake of purchasing their “Premium” package, and boy what a mistake it was. Basically they gave me an enticing sales pitch (the only time I ever talked to a human being there, the rest was all through email) and I fell for it. Their “promises” of promoting your book is a bunch of b.s. They charge you a fortune for what you can easily do yourself and then when you try to get answers or support, good luck, they suddenly start giving you the run-around and a bunch of double talk. Their basic package is great for a first-time author. I have no complaints there. But whatever you do, DO NOT buy the premium package. It is a total rip off! I would use Mill City Press again, but I won’t fall for their empty promotional promises again!

  10. I completely agree with everything Jordan says here. I had the same experience with Mill City Press. I was very happy with the way my book turned out, but that is where my satisfaction ends. I too, was duped into buying their Premium Package. What a rip off!!! Basically they did NOTHING they said they would to promote my book. In fact, when I asked about some of the things it says on their web site about what the Premium Package provides they told me that they no longer provide those services and that their web site was “out of date”…what kind of business charges for something (in the thousands of dollars) and then does nothing for that money? They are really nice to you while you are paying them money and through the publishing process. After your book has been published they are extrememly rude, unprofessional and hard to get a response from. The “Publishing Reports” page that the authors use to track their sales is very vague and difficult to understand. Don’t even think about trying to ask for help with this. They will give you the run-around. All of their behavior after my book was published really, really undermined my trust in them. I would recommend them to someone who is publishing their first book…but whatever you do…DO NOT get the Premium Package and DO NOT expect any decent customer service after they have your money and the book is done.

    • My experience was exactly like Amy’s. My book is 610 page autobiography hardcover. I bought 1000 books to start with. 500 in distribution service and 500 to me. The distribution service gave away more books than they sold and the net on the ones sold was very small. I use the expression “there is good news and bad news with Amazon. The bad news is that Amazon sold very few books. The good news is that Amazon sold very few books.” However, I do have two reviews on Amazon with five stars each. Most of the books sold came from my advertising through internet connections. The quality of my book was outstanding. In a year, I stopped the distribution service and had the remaining 384 books shipped to me. I then started going to events and selling books there. I only have 60 books left out of the 1000. I want to order 500 more, but the price for 500 is considerably more than the unit price on 1000. I got them to lower the price by fifty cents, but it is still over 25% more per copy than 1000 price. And yes, I can only send them an email and ask a question. Then I have to wait a few days until they get around to answering my email. No need to call, even with the party’s extension, you will only get voice mail. The shame is that they have a very good service to start with, but then they just drop you.

  11. Thank you! This blog is a real useful thing – I live abroad the Us – in Eastern Europe and search for a publisher. From one side the appearence of self-publishing companies gave me hope for my future realisation of my dream to write, from another – complaints about self-publishing are extremely bad. I led myself into end corner! What to do – only to find a printer and to promote my book myself?

  12. Hi Barbara,
    I just came across this review and all of your comments.. In doing a little research, I came across your book on the Clark Group web-site. Are you currently affiliated with this cooperative publishing house? Would you recommend them, or do you still recommend registering with bowkers.com, hiring printer, editor, etc.

    I am sifting through so much information trying to decide the best possible route for my book.
    Thanks!
    Lisa
    truyoubeauty.com

  13. Hi All,

    I work for Mill City Press and I am very sorry to hear that some of you have been unhappy with our service. We take service complaints very seriously and I want to address them for you.

    I am especially concerned by the complaints from the past few months. We recently restructured our distribution and marketing departments so they should be running as smooth as butter now. Since I work directly with our customer service team, I’d really appreciate the chance to talk with you about your experience.

    Please contact me directly so that we can discuss your issues and see if there is something we can do for you.

    [email protected]
    612-455-2293 ext 221

    -Karina

  14. I published a book of poetry 3 years ago. About a year ago, I was asked to pay $120.00 by Mill City Press to continue having my domain name. I did so, but then went on line and found I could keep my domain name — ottlukk.com for several years, for around $9.95. Did so. Recently, Mill City Press sent me an e-mail saying I had to pay $299.00 for continuation of my “expanded distribution” and another $99.00 for their “return services”. When I objected,saying I thought I had already paid for these services, they referred me to my “contract”. I asked them (this evening) to link me to their contract, and the clauses that enable them to bill me for additional services three years after publication. I will be sure to share their response on this thread. Ott

    • Yes, they just did that to me also. So I am obtaining my own ISBN through http://www.myidentifiers.com which is Bowkers where I obtained my other ISBN for my other books I published on my own. Cost $125.00 for your own ISBN. Then they are shipping my 34 books that the distribution center has back to me, which will cost about $70.00. I created my own website through tiptopwebsite.com for 9.95 a month.

      • Dear Barbara:

        I have been in the process of looking for a publisher, but not really finding one. I had contact some years ago, and one self publisher called me the other day asking how I was coming along, well I still do not have my book(s) published; but planning to go through Amazon and put my book together myself.

        I have talked to a publisher that does magazines and such, it seems a daunting task to try to get my pictures with my writing. That is the thing that I find difficult and frustrating! I tell the publisher that I also want my illustration to be a greeting card or get well card, they tell me they can do it, but i need to put it the way I want it to be on the disc and bring to them, trying to keep cost down to me! If I can do this I will print them my self!
        I think after reading what you and all of the kind readers have said, I will try to do it myself. I also don’t have a fortune to give to someone else. I just want some to be able to relax and enjoy a good book with their kids and make memories.
        I do children’s books with illustrations. I do canvas. To me writing and drawing is fun, but I am not fast.

        I don’t know if your Ms. Shannon, is still interested in new authors, but if so, I would like to contact her.
        I plan to do the ISBN and Library of Congress, the self publisher who contacted me today even, said to get the Library of Congress was $700.00 and that you needed a different ISBN every time you went to another book seller, i.e. B&N, & Amazon, etc.
        I guess I am too wordy, but I am just frustrated.

  15. Angela, the ISBN is only $125.00 per paperback, and then another $125.00 for hardcover and $125 if you want an Ebook. They are lying to you. As for the greeting cards. I did my mom’s watercolor pics on my own at Staples. You want to make sure the illustration is in high resolution for the best results and then you can upload it to Staples.com and they will print for CHEAP! on nice heavy card paper with matching envelopes. You can even put a saying on the inside if you want and I put my mom’s website on the back of the card to direct people to my website. I would definately publish on your own as these publishers do nothing as far as marketing goes. Made that mistake on my first book, on the second one I did it myself. The copyright comes in the mail about a month later and I framed them and hung them up on the wall. Shannon is available always and she is more of an editor and puts your book in the format for your printer to print the book including the cover. Email me at [email protected] if you have more questions.

  16. One-star is too high for this alleged publishing company. It operates on a shoestring staff that purports to be a publishing company. For example, its receptionist also handles wholesale book orders. Its customer service is shoddy, its publishing design services minimal, and I regret paying this company a dime. I m currently sending correspondence to the Better Business Bureau and the Minnesota Attorney General Office based on contract dissatifaction with this company. Choose another publisher if you expect quality service and responsiveness. If you choose this company, do not expect personalized service or that your emails or phone calls will be returned in a timely fashion.

    • Hey, let me know what happens with the BBB and the Attorney General. I see a class action suit coming….all the misery and time wasted with them. And never answering my calls! Now they want me to pay $499 a year to distribute my book! I had the rest of my books shipped back to me and got my own ISBN number and they are out of the picture. But I think of all the money I wasted on them and I am the one who had to market my book myself.

  17. Hi Darryl,

    I am sorry to hear that despite our best efforts we have been unable to resolve your issues in a manner that is satisfactory to you. We fully stand behind the work we do and take complaints about our service very seriously. In regards to being sorry that you spent money with us, we are willing to provide you with a full refund. We can also give you all of the files we’ve created for your book.

    Please contact us directly so that we may find out how you would like to proceed.

    Sincerely,
    Brenda R
    Mill City Press
    612-455-2294

  18. Darryl, I am sorry to hear about your demise. I too feel the same way. Gee Brenda, giving a full refund, I would like one also, since mill city damaged every book they every printed. All the covers were damaged and then they would replace them and still were not right. Marks all over them. So I went to Publisher’s Graphics here in Chicago and paid them to take the covers off all my books and replace them with new printed ones. Yeah, that was alot of fun and a big waste of my time to have to do this.

  19. I’ve been reading through all these comments and I was glad to see that a rep from mill city was present to some degree. I plan on publishing my first book soon and live in Minnesota so I though mill city. being based out of MN might be a good option.
    Now there are a handful of quite negative comments/experiences in this thread, but I very much want to hear both sides of the argument, if I took this at face value, with these comments, it would be a wonder that their still in business with such practices. This doesn’t seem to be the whole picture. How many book have been printed successfully compared to the amount of issues, that have occured like those outlined in this thread.

  20. I just completed the self-publishing process for my first novel. I used Mill City Press for this effort, and could not be happier! Their process is very well organized, and I received the handholding and one-on-one assistance that any first time author desperately needs.

    Like writing a novel, publishing a book is a learning process. The folks at Mill City carefully walked me through all of the decisions that needed to be made along the way, and were only a phone call or an e-mail away when I needed them.

    I published a paperback book using Mill City’s editing, book cover design, book formatting/interior layout, book fulfillment marketing, back cover copy, and, of course, printing services.

    Before choosing Mill City I wasted a lot of time trying to get the attention of an agent or conventional publishing company. (Don’t bother.) I then chose another self-publishing company and, after numerous issues, I had to cancel my contract.

    From day one with Mill City I received top-notch service. In addition to all of the above, their printing prices are by far the lowest I could find. This, of course, allows an author to price his or her book more competitively.

    I am in the middle of writing my next novel and will definitely use Mill City Press to have it published. I can’t describe the joy you will get when your novel arrives in your mailbox and it is everything you were hoping for.

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