Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What exactly is self-publishing?

I admit, I am curious about self-publishing. It no longer carries the stigma it once did. Technology, like e-books and print-on-demand, makes getting published accessible to almost everyone -- without passing the traditional gatekeepers of agents and editors.  And, the press highlights self-publishing "Cinderella" stories, making self-publishing all the more enticing.

So, I thought I’d check out self-publishing and share what I’ve learned.

What did I learn?  Self publishing is confusing -- especially because some companies call themselves self-publishing providers, but actual self-publishing doesn't involve these providers at all.  This is my understanding:
  •  Vanity publishing, subsidy publishing, or co-publishing: An author hires a "publishing house" to print books for a fee under their imprint. These publishers make money from the fees they charge authors, not from sales of the published book. The term "vanity press" has a negative connotation.  Therefore, most companies that publish for a fee call themselves providers of self-publishing services. These publishers may offer other services like editing, cover design, marketing, and distribution. 
  • Self-publishing or independent publishing:  An author publishes a book independent of any third party publisher. The author is responsible for the design, editing, printing, distribution, pricing, marketing, and publicity, all or none of which may be contracted out to specialists. The author may also create and register an imprint.
Below, I outline the pros and cons of self-publishing:

- Faster time to market: a self-published book can be available within weeks vs. years

- No gatekeepers to block authors from getting published

- Author retains full control over all aspects of the book – editing, design, pricing, etc.

- Author retains all rights

- Higher royalties per book

- More timely payment and updates on sales than if traditionally published

- Book is available until author decides to take the book off the market

- There may be no upfront costs, especially if selling an e-book

- Upfront costs

- Lack of prestige (assumed that traditional publishers would not publish)

- Being responsible for everything that goes into creating and selling a book requires a lot of time, effort, and thought

- Reviewers often will not review self-published books making it more difficult to generate sales

- Don’t have access to all the publisher contacts or distribution. 

- Missing the key learnings gained by many years of publishing and selling books

- Most self-published books don't sell well

This is great food for thought as I move forward in the path to publication.  I'm probably not ready to self-publish, but someday, when I have more time and experience, I may try it.  Will you?


  1. It's a very interesting question. Here's an article you might find interesting if you haven't already read it...


  2. Great article. Thanks for sharing, Susanna!