Eternal Press is the publisher for both of my first two books, Jade & Jane. They have been easy to work with and nothing but supportive in my experience. As a new author I can't thank them enough for accepting my manuscripts, paying for cover art, editing, and formatting. and getting my book out there. I had no idea starting out how difficult this process is until I recently self published my first book, Jewel.
If you are pretty much broke like I was and know next to nothing about the publishing business then I would say Small Press is a good way to go. It didn't cost me a dime with Eternal Press and they took care of everything. When I get those quarterly royalty checks it is pure profit less any promotions I have run and of course, the cost of swag and author copies for those promotions. Eternal Press does some promotions as do most publishers, but one thing you learn as a new author regardless if you go with a publisher or not is that you do the majority of marketing yourself.
If you self publish you pay the cost of your cover art and any professional edits you have done. I have been pleased with my covers done through my publisher as well as the ones I have had done and paid for myself. The publisher takes a chance on you, hoping you will sell enough books to cover their costs for the cover work and editing, their promotions and advertising of the books they publish, and any overhead involved in this process. Eternal Press has a 60/40 split on net royalties for eBooks so on a $5 book sold through Amazon, Amazon keeps $1.50, Eternal Press keeps $2.10, and I get $1.40. My guess is that you will need to sell a couple hundred books before they hit the break even point (after that they are in the black) and many new books simply don't sell very many copies. So they are taking a chance each time they give an author a contract. The advantage for you is that first $1.40 for that first eBook sold is already profit for you.
If you self publish, you are taking the same chance your publisher took on you. You will need to sell enough copies of your book to meet any costs involved with your cover art, editing, and formatting before you realize a profit. Of course, your royalty on each eBook sold is higher so on that same $5 eBook you get the whole $3.50. So if you spent $350 you will need to sell 100 copies before you are in the black.
When you self publish you take on all the headaches involved in the editing, formatting, and cover art but my experience is you have more input and involvement in the process. Still, I found I was banging my head on the table on many occasions and it can be very frustrating and time consuming getting all the details complete. If you don't care for this type of thing then Small Press is definitely for you.
There are a few advantages to self publishing other than the increased royalties per book sold. First there is the time lapse. It takes time to find a publisher that likes your manuscript enough to offer you a contract and from there a good bit of time from contract to actually seeing your book published. Eternal Press is one of the faster ones, my books were seven months on Jade and ten months on Jane from contract to published work. My understanding is that one to two years is not at all unusual for this time frame. If you self publish you can do it much quicker (that doesn't mean better, btw) but if you are not a very patient person, it can seem to drag on forever waiting for your publisher to get to your book. Just remember you are not the only author waiting for the same thing. Honestly, they have more experience in this than you will have and should normally have less mistakes in the process.
By far the biggest advantage I have found in self-publishing is seeing your sales real time without having to guess by the Amazon sales rankings how many books you sold that day. You can see what promotions worked for you and what didn't. I can tell you that for me, I tend to sell more books when I tweet or post excerpts. For Norma Jean's School of Witchery, Book One: Jewel this is what that looks like.
If you are with a publisher, you don't have access to this information. Instead you only have your sales rankings to try and figure out what you may have sold. For the same book and time period that looks like this.
That's a lot less illuminating and certainly not as exciting as the first graphic. For Jade, that has been out 1.5 years it's very difficult to get a good handle on sales. With royalties running on a two and three month delay, it can be very frustrating trying to get a handle on sales.
The other advantage to self publishing is pricing, although this can also be self-defeating in a way because of the temptation to deeply discount a book in order to get a few sales. For me, the only pricing I have changed is the paperback price, originally $12.99 that I have lowered to $9.99 trying to get a few paperback sales. I have not had much response to this yet and I have not experimented with the eBook price at this point. I value my work and I will say that I don't intend to do any huge discounting any time soon. My publisher offers both Jade and Jane 50% off using the discount code provided in the calendar on their website which I think is a pretty good deal. There is no split with Amazon if someone takes advantage of this and I make almost as much on each book sold direct through Eternal Press that I do through Amazon.
Eternal Press also gets the book to more retailers than the three tier system I elected with Amazon, including places like B&N and iTunes, and I have had sales at both places show up on my royalty statements, so that can be a big advantage to going with a publisher like Eternal Press. The other great thing is that you are part of a team and the authors help each other out with promotions, tweets, and spotlights and they are great people to interact with.
What's best for you depends a lot on your personal preferences. For me I plan on continuing to both self-publish as well as use Eternal Press. I hope you have found this post helpful and look forward to your comments.
Update, October 2015
Eternal Press has been sold to new owners. I will always be grateful to them for taking a chance on a new author. The new owners (Caliburn Press) promise better contracts, quicker turnaround, and more marketing and promotion. I look forward to working with them in the future. I'll keep you updated....
Update, March 2016
It's been a bumpy transition but things are starting to smooth out. One great thing is that the new owners have lowered the price of the eBooks for Jade & Jane down to $2.99. That has helped sales, in my opinion. They are working on a better and more reasonably priced platform for the print copies as well. I will keep you updated.
I have also discovered a website called Novel Rank that gives you a good estimate of your sales based on Amazon rankings. It doesn't claim to be 100% accurate but at least gives you an idea of how your non self published books are doing (chart for Jade)...