A Guide to Self-publishing

A number of methods of publishing independent works exist, and it is up to the author to choose which method is best suited for his/her work.

One of the oldest types of self-publishing, often called vanity publishing, involves an up-front payment by the author to a publisher in order to have written work mass-produced; in contrast to contracts in mainstream publishing where the author is paid a sum of money in exchange for rights to the work. The term originates from the idea that authors with the drive to pay publishers with the belief that they will make all their money back are driven with extreme confidence in their writing skills and talents. In this scenario, the author retains control of many aspects of the book, including the case and/or cover, artwork, and the format the book follows, essentially paying the publisher to market and distribute the book. While this is a good way for authors to guarantee the quality and spread of their work while retaining most if not all copyrights, it is very expensive, and requires a budget of at least a few thousand dollars.

A second type of publishing is print-on-demand publishing. This entails spending money on advertising to get people interested in the idea of the book, and then printing copies only when the book is ordered. Print-on-demand publishing can be done without too much help from other teams or individuals. This is a smart and economical choice, although it sometimes requires a solid reputation to pull off; not many people are willing to spend money on a product know little about, especially from a seller of whom they know less.

Finally, there is e-book publishing. This is arguably the most popular method of self-publishing, as it can be done with little to no cost, and makes use of digital media and the Internet for quick and easy spread of information. The method has become so effective, that many websites dedicate themselves to e-books, granting writers a more competitive edge in terms of publishing their work. The downside of e-book publishing on the other hand, is the difficulty of controlling access to the book; the internet is less secure for literature than the physical world is, and intellectual property theft is a very real risk. Also, popularity of the method means more competition. It is harder to be noticed in a larger crowd.



When self-publishing a book, the things to determine, in order, are: Goals, budget, teams, and marketing.

First, the author has to set goals: Is the book meant to be a source of income? Is it meant to spread a message? Who is the target audience? Such questions predict the subsequent steps to be taken. Without a clear set of goals; a point and purpose for wanting to publish the book, the odds of success are greatly reduced.

Once the goals are determined, the author then answers the question of how much he/she is willing to spend in order to get the book published. This is important because it will determine what services can be afforded: artwork, editing, number of copies, advertising, etc. Together with the set goals, the author’s budget also determines the method of self-publishing to be used.

The teams and team members the author involves in the project are the next problem: Typically, an indie author wants to take on the bulk of work alone. This means it is unlikely he/she will need to hire people for written content such as editors. The author may also hire professional artists if he/she is incapable of providing imagery alone. Alternatively, the writer may choose not to add imagery at all. Any people a self-published author hires must have a specific task to do that does not overlap with that of anyone else on the team. The size of the team is determined by the first two factors, as well as how much workload the author is willing to take on.

Finally, it falls to the self-published author to decide how best to market the book. Again, the selection of method comes into play here, as do the author’s goals and budget. Depending on how much money is left, the author may choose to spend on an advertising campaign, send a copy to a book critic for a review, or produce the first batch of digital or hard copies for the public.

At this point, the fate of the book falls largely outside the author’s control, and more into that of the public. The time spent waiting for news about the fate of the author’s brainchild is nerve-wracking; the truth is, it is not always rewarded with good news. Still, that doesn’t put off many authors from trying.

In the end however, the success of the entire self-published work hangs on the publishing process and method, and of course, the skill and hardship with which the written content was conceived. By paying close attention to both, the writer is more inclined to rest easy knowing that the final book is his/hers alone; and with all its dangers and disadvantages, this is a confidence not afforded to those who stick to the trend of contemporary publishing.