Charisma House, the Lake Mary, Fla.-based Christian publisher, launched in September a new print on demand self-publishing service called Excel.

To be directed by Tom Freiling, founder of Xulon Press, Excel offers authors free typesetting, custom cover design, and preparation for electronic publication in formats for Kindle, Nook, iBook, and Kobo. Excel makes its money when authors purchase print copies; optional publicity services for a fee will eventually be available, according to Freiling.

Excel’s services and business model are similar to Xulon’s POD venture, announced last month. What sets Excel apart, Freiling said, is that it has the ability to typeset manuscripts on the same day they are uploaded by an author, using a new high-speed digital typesetting program it has developed that is exclusive to Excel. (The program, based on the open source LaTeX program, is not yet patented or named, Freiling said.) “Production is fully automated,” said Freiling, one of the factors that enables Excel to offer its services gratis. When an author wants print distribution, Excel works with Lightning Source, for no additional fee.

Existing Charisma House staff will handle the workload; Freiling said he does not anticipate any hiring for Excel in the near future. “There is no telemarketing sales person and no editorial staff. No one is trying to sell authors [additional] services or packages of services. This puts authors back in the driver’s seat.” But our experience is entirely online. We are removing the telemarketing salesperson from the self-publishing process. We're putting the author back in the drivers seat.

Excel also provides a social networking platform for its authors, as well as access to a members-only Twitter account, Facebook page, and LinkedIn profile, a monthly conference call, and a monthly newsletter, as well as personal coaching. Excel authors pay no membership fee; others who have not yet signed with the company will be able to use those services for a cost Freiling estimates will be $25-$50 per month. “Sometimes authors want to do some investigating before they decide whether to publish,” he noted.

The first title is “at press,” according to Freiling; about 500 titles are planned for 2014.