Types of Publishing — Self Publishing

There are three kinds of publishing: traditional (or trade) publishing, self publishing, and vanity publishing.


Did you know that in 2018 there were 1.6 MILLION books self published? Think about that for a moment. Over one-and-a-half million books in one year alone. And the number is growing every single year!

I think it’s fair to say that self publishing is a viable publishing solution.

Can you do it?

In self publishing the AUTHOR also plays the role of publisher. This means you are responsible for not only writing the book but also getting it ready for publication, making it available for purchase, and ensuring your audience knows it’s out there.

Here are some of the tasks you are responsible for: writing, developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, assessing when the manuscript is ready for publishing, formatting for ebook or print, cover design, making the book available to sales outlets, printing, storage, distribution, publicity, and marketing.

Can you do all those things? If so, you can self publish for very little money — possibly even no money. 

Even if you CAN do it all yourself, should you? It’s rare for one person to be good at everything. A crappy blurb will cost you sales. An unprofessional cover will cost you sales. A poorly edited manuscript will cost you sales (and result in livid, one star reviews, which cost you sales). An upfront investment can be the difference between selling 50 copies and selling 500 or more.

Here’s the reality: Most people can’t do all those things — certainly not at a professional level. Most people need help to self publish a professional-quality book that other people want to pay for. Creating a professional product can cost upwards of a thousand dollars.

Where to Find Help

Where do you find the help you need to create a professional product? You can either use freelancers who specialize in the specific task you need help with, or you can hire a company who will sell you packages of services. I strongly recommend the former over the latter. The packages that the latter sell are often overpriced and include services you don’t need to pay for. (The link above will help you find legitimate partners.)

Both freelancers and self publishing companies have to be paid up front. They are not paid only if the book sells. That means you may be making a large upfront investment with NO GUARANTEE that you will recoup your money.

Note: If a company both charges you upfront AND takes part of your royalties after publishing, that is a vanity publisher. I’ll talk more about these in a separate post.

Additional Info

Some other information about self publishing:

–Self-published books are very difficult to get into bookstores. If you want to see your book on bookstore shelves, go the traditional publishing route.

–Self-published books sell far better as ebooks than in print in most genres. Print is expensive, and it requires a hefty upfront payment that is almost never recouped.

–The people who excel at self publishing rarely do so with standalone books. Most write series, and they publish VERY frequently. If you have one book or if you write slowly, self publishing may not be the best solution for you.

–Self publishing requires a lot of marketing effort. Remember where I stated above that over 1.6 million self-published books hit the market in 2018 alone? Imagine your book was one of those. How would people find it in that sea of content? They won’t unless you do the work to make them aware of it.

I'm a huge fan of self publishing WELL. We'll discuss what that means in later posts.

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