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

When I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, I was excited.  I subscribed to Joel Friedlander’s blog a few years ago, and when I checked out Betty Kelly Sargent’s website I marked it as one to return to for more information.

The cover of The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide promises over 850 curated and verified resources in 32 categories.  I figured if this book lived up to the advance reviews (in the front of the book) by authors, editors, and other publishing experts, I would have a new tool to recommend to my own clients.

Let me start with the good points.

  • The authors organized the content in three parts: Prepare, Publish, Promote. I love this breakdown.  Newbie writers will know exactly where to begin their research for each step of their writing journey. 
  • Entries within each main category are subdivided into the tasks a self-publishing writer needs to accomplish at that stage of his manuscript. For example, in the Prepare section, subheads include Developmental Editors, Indexers, Image Sources, Cover and Book Interior Designers, and more.
  • Within each subhead, the list of resources is in alphabetical order by surname or company name. Included with each name/company listed is the location, phone (if available), email, website URL (clickable in the digital version), and a short blurb about the services offered.
  • At the end of each main category, the authors have included a list of the “Best Books” associated with that category’s focus. While most of the recommended books already reside on my shelves, I saw a few I’ll be checking out later.
  • The clickable links provided in the digital version of the book, do indeed take you to active websites.
  • The authors call this guide a living document and solicit readers to help them add to the products and services. This is a wonderful concept, as we all understand that what we find on the internet today may not be there next month.  It does sound like a gargantuan task for the authors.

Now let’s look at what didn’t work for me.

  • Calling a collection of information a guide implies that it contains in-depth information the reader can use to develop some skill, or accomplish some task. I would call this book a list.  Despite the very brief, generic blurbs about the services each listee offers, the newbie self-publishing writer does not find enough detail to help her make an informed decision.  She can sort her way through the list in each category and subcategory by visiting each website, emailing, or calling, but that would be a plodding effort.
  • The subcategories (for example; Content and Developmental Editors; Social Media Consultants, etc.) begin with a short paragraph of introduction to the associated tasks. These explanations of the benefit of utilizing the services, and why the writer would need them, barely skim the surface of what a newbie writer needs to understand in order to make informed decisions.  It takes more than a sentence saying you need to have someone edit your work to make him understand the importance of spending his money for services he feels he can do for himself.
  • The lists within subcategories are hard to read. Even one space between entries would help a great deal.  Using bullets to define the entries, in addition to a space between them, would be even better.
  • The authors call this guide a living document and solicit readers to help them add to the products and services. (Yes, this is the flipside of that statement from the “What I like” section above.)  They state that they are interested in hearing about “any person, company, product, or service of value to independent authors that’s not included in this guide.”

But they don’t indicate what it takes to qualify for inclusion in this guide.  Nor do they detail how they decided which services and products made it into this original version.  Have they themselves used each of these services and products?  Or did they only compile the lists from internet searches, and services offered by people personally known to them?  And how will they vet the value of services and products referred to them by their readers?  If the reader understood the selection process a bit, he might be more inclined to submit the information about a person or product he’s successfully worked with.

  • This is a personal quirk, but I like my reference books in print, sitting on a shelf right next to my work area. The very fact that this document is subject to change on a quarterly basis (the authors’ stated goal) makes the print version of the book obsolete before the end of the year.
  • And my second personal quibble, this time with the digital version, is that the last page is titled “Table of Contents,” but the link provided takes me to the “Advance Praise” page. And when using the “Go to” Kindle tool, selecting “Table of Contents” takes me once again to the praise page.  The only way I could reach the actual TOC was to go to the cover, or to that praise page and click through the pages until I once again reached the TOC.  (I read this book on my Kindle for PC app, as I did not find a way to download it from the authors’ provided link onto my Kindle device.  So I don’t know if the same problem will show up on a Kindle reader.)

Overall, it’s a brave concept though I’m not sure how the authors will manage to keep the guide current and relevant.  There’s a bit of a feel that they put this guide together to see how writers receive it, and that they plan to make changes to the next edition based on the reviews received for the original version.

There is value in this extensive list of services and products (no, I didn’t count to verify the over 850 sources) in giving the self-publisher a place to start the process.  The sections, Prepare, Publish, and Promote break the process into digestible pieces, and point the writer in the right direction, providing a place to start his own research.

I do wish there was more depth to the information provided, not only for defining the categories and subcategories, but for each entry.  If a writer has already self-published, he’s undoubtedly done the work of creating his own list of resources.  And for the writer new to self-publishing, this guide does at least gives her some concept of all the processes and tasks necessary to reach publication, therefore making it a good place to start her own research.

I’ll certainly keep my eye out the next edition of this Ultimate Resource Guide to see if it is an actual expansion of the original, or just more contacts added to the lists.  Then I’ll make a decision on whether to add it to my reference shelf permanently.