When deciding how to distribute their book, every author has three choices: 1. Self-publish, 2. Use a subsidy publisher, or 3. Try to get a traditional publishing deal.
There is an entire industry devoted to “subsidy publishing.” These companies act as project managers. You pay them, and they do the various tasks required.
You simply have to relentlessly research them, just like you would research a contractor you’re hiring to build your house. At every step, remember:
1. They will try to upsell you. They will try to sell you “packages” of services, and once they have your money, it can be difficult to monitor the actual work they do.
2. They will try to gain ownership of your book. They may offer a “contract,” which is problematic because they aren’t investing a nickel. They are providing a fee-for-service deal, just like I do.
3. Take baby steps! If you like a company, then hire them for a small, defined service, such as the cover design. If you’re happy with their performance, then move ahead. It may cost more because “packages” are bundled with a discount, but you must make them prove they are acting in good faith.