Spiderwize describe their services as ‘assisted self-publishing’ and though based in Lochinver, Scotland, their services are available for UK and US authors. Although relatively new kids on the self-publishing block, Spiderwize have become more prominent in the past year, particularly in the UK.
“We are a small publishing business who have a passion for books and a passion for helping authors see their books become a reality. We pride ourselves in giving each author a fast, high quality and efficient service making sure that you as the author are kept up to date on the whole publishing experience.
Our dedicated staff are fully trained in the book production process and are highly skilful at what they do.
We accept many types of books and categories though our company is based on the Christian faith and so we don’t publish any books that contradict or conflict with our faith.
Yes we accept books in most categories apart from Horror, Adult and Science Fantasy books which we don’t specialise in (though we do accept most Science Fiction books). In the religious / spirituality category we only publish Christian related books. If you are unsure if we will accept your book you are welcome to send us a sample chapter of your book and we will let you know.”
I would not necessarily let the ‘Christian faith’ qualifier put a perspective author off using Spiderwize. Most author solutions services have some sort of qualifier barring works submitted that contain hate-incitement, pornography or books deemed to blaspheme religious icons. If anything, companies like Xulon Press has shown that tapping the Christian bookstore network can prove highly effective and lucrative. Indeed, apart from the proverbial 25,000 online distribution retailers so often quoted by author solutions services, Spiderwize list a number of Christian faith retail channels they use.
Where I would like to see more disclosure and a qualifier for ‘staff are fully trained in the book production process’ is seeing some real publishing experience and credentials. This specific detail of company founders, editors etc is missing from their site, and I would feel far more confident if I knew who we were dealing with.
Their shop window (website) like all author solutions services is author-driven, although, to be fair, 50% of their main web page is given over to promoting two recent titles and an immediate link to take you to more titles just out—not bad, not bad at all. There is a pretty brunette draped over some hardback books and overall, visually, I can’t help but feel Spiderwize has modelled much of what you see on Author Solutions group of companies (AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford).
Spiderwize sell their services to authors on the basis that an author can submit their manuscript to them and not have to worry about formatting, layout, cover design, ISBN, dealing directly with a printing, and getting distribution. All these services are included in their publishing packages. Authors can submit their own cover design provided it is in 300dpi. Again, all pretty standard author solutions service stuff.
“You give us your finished manuscript and we will turn it into a physical book that will be available to online retailers including Amazon UK, Amazon US and wholesalers.
When you publish by yourself a lot of time can be taken up in learning all of the required technical specifications, finding a printer and finding out how to get your book to online retailers and major wholesalers. But by using us we will free up your time as we will deal with the book formatting, cover, printers and distribution.”
At the risk of repeating myself in this review, but for the benefit of authors who may not have read other reviews we have done on author solutions services; the distribution services offered by Spiderwize (unless we state otherwise in our review) only gets an author’s book listed with online retailers and wholesalers. It will not get your book stocked on the shelves of high street stores, or for that matter, backstreet stores and independent stores. Sales must be initiated by a book buyer, either in a retail chain’s product department or by an independent bookstore owner looking through an online catalogue, AI (Advance Information leaflet) or press release sent out by the publisher. Of course, alternatively, an avid fan or book browser, who has read a review or heard mention of an author’s book, might request the bookseller to place a special order for it from the distributors.
“Your book will be added to distribution channels and made available to book wholesalers, and therefore will be available to high street stores. Though high street stores would be able to order your book we cannot guarantee that your book will be stocked on the high street shelves. We should point out that it is unlikely for high street stores to stock your book as they focus on selling traditional printed books and usually do not sell print-on-demand books – unless you, as the author, can persuade them to stock your book. Bookstores are often very willing to stock the POD books of local authors.”
What is important here is that Spiderwize are entirely upfront about the expectations an author may have about their book reaching high street stores. Failure to get your self-published title on the shelves of your local bookstores can be a tough one, and in today’s commercial book world, the difficulty in obtaining shelf space is not just confined to self-published authors; it is a challenge to many authors not on the A or B list even with large publishers and respected independent publishing houses. The real difference is that established publishing houses have the means and the resources to promote and market their titles.
The Print Publishing Package includes:
Custom made full colour cover
Assigned production assistant
ISBN and barcode
For sale to online retailers
Availability to book wholesalers
1 copy of your book
Set up as a file for POD in US and UK
1 round of proofing
Paperback or hardback choice
Retail price flexibility
“Once you have signed up for this package we will first edit 2,000 words of your book and send this back to you to review – this is to make sure you are happy with the editing service before we edit your entire book. If at this point you decide our editing service is not what you are looking for then you are free to decide not proceed and we will give you a full refund of your fee.
Our in house UK-based editor is fully qualified with MA (Wales), PhD (London), DLitt (OFS), DEd (SA), was Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of the North in South Africa for ten years, and Senior Lecturer in English at the University of South Africa before that. He is the author of numerous academic textbooks and literary studies published by Oxford University Press and McGraw-Hill.”
Editing Add-on: £449
Our editing service will give your manuscript a finished polish.
Once you have signed up for this editing add-on we will first edit 2,000 words of your book and send this back to you to review – this is to make sure you are happy with the editing service before we edit your entire book. If at this point you decide our editing service is not what you are looking for then you are free to decide not to proceed and we will give you a full refund of your fee.
Authors should note this package does not include the above mentioned promotional posters, postcards and business cards.
Where I really am impressed with Spiderwize is their book discounts to authors and potentially competitive retail prices (dependent on what author sets). One of the biggest bones of contention I have with author solution services is their insistence on marking up books they sell to their authors to, in effect; take a second dip at making a profit when the author has already paid them for a publishing package. Spiderwize do not do this, at least on all their Publishing Package. Spiderwize on the strength of selling books to their authors at virtually print cost get the thumbs up. A 200 page book from them will cost the author £3, allowing a highly competitive retail price of £7 to £8.
One of the things which take away from publishing packages offered by author solutions services is the quality of their so-called custom cover designs. A look through the Spiderwize bookstore reveals some pretty good cover images and some reasonable one, certainly nothing worse than I have seen from small commercial publishers. Spiderwize do not support their own hosted bookstore, but they do list their books and provide ‘inside the book’ previews of them as well as external purchase links.
We touched on marketing materials Spiderwize provide in some of their packages, but they make it very clear that they do not market an author’s book. This is a self-publishing service, and what is important is that there is no attempt to delude or sell the author more than they actually offer. Their response to the question of marketing:
“No. We must make it clear that apart from providing a Promotional Pack in the ‘Plus’ publishing package marketing your book is not one of our services. Marketing the book is up to you.”
Royalties are entirely dependent on the price an author sets for their book and the level of discount given to individual retailers, and ultimately, Spiderwize let the author decide on their percentage royalty within reasonable guidelines applicable to the book trade. Royalties are paid to the author twice yearly.
“We do not restrict the author to a fixed royaltie percentage. Instead we will give guidance on what we think the best retail, wholesale and author royalties percentage (amount you earn per book) should be for your book. But the final decision is the author’s, so if you wish to change the amount you will earn per book, then this is fine. Though please keep in the mind the more you wish to earn per book will in turn increase the price your books sells for.”
Amazon lists 44 titles by Spiderwize, surprising small for an author solutions service offering some pretty good deals. Ideally, I would like to see some more hard and fast figures on proper royalty breakdown and discounts given to retailers, but from what I have seen, Spiderwize make their money on the publishing packages, and critically, do not choose to gouge further profits out of the author who wants to sell books. I think Spiderwize has got the balance just about right, and getting your 200 page book published and reasonably edited, allowing the author to purchase their own copies for £3, all-in for £1000—seems a pretty exceptional deal to me. The few negatives would be their lack of a full-colour illustrated package, and significantly, their lack of a hardback publishing option. While this should not detract from Spiderwize and the services they offer, they are clear deficiencies in offering a full publishing service.
I said at the start of this review that visually Spiderwize looked a lot like an Author Solutions imprint—well, when you lift the bonnet—nothing could be further from the truth.
About the Reviewer: Mick Rooney
Mick Rooney is an author, editor, researcher and publishing consultant from the Republic of Ireland. He has published nine books since 1990, through his own imprint, using author solutions services, and he has also published through mainstream publishers. Several years ago he began researching the publishing industry, and in particular Independent, POD (print-on-demand) and subsidy/self-publishers. Many of the findings of his research can be found at his site, The Independent Publishing Magazine together with his own experiences in the world of writing and publishing. He is the author of To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish? A Seriously Useful Author’s Guide. He is also a contributor to many magazines and online resources including, Writers’ Forum, Publishing Basics Magazine, Publetariat, Carnival of the Indies, selfpublishingreview.com, Irish Publishing News, as well as many writing and publishing forums. In September 2011, he published his latest novel with Book Republic, The Memory of Trees, available in hardback and ebook.