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Three Primary Ways to Self-Publish your Book

You’re not a best selling writer—in fact, maybe you’re a beginner with your first book manuscript and you want it published so bad you can taste it. Okay, here’s the real deal on publishing.

If you have the talent and sheer determination, you might wish to try first getting published by traditional, commercial publishers. They’re the ones that charge you zero for publishing your book, offer you an advance on your royalties, agree to spend $5000 or $500,000 on promoting your book, etc. But you’d better have talent and a fine literary agent or else skin thicker than an elderly elephant and the iron determination to possibly weather multitudes of rejections for years before you (hopefully) get a contract. If you choose this route, more power to you.

A nickname referring to a publisher who will issue you a contract regardless of the quality and marketability of your work is vanity publishing. They have that reputation because they’ll appeal to your vanity—your deepest yearning to become a published author. They charge a lot and make the majority of their money from fees rather than from sales. Vanity presses may call themselves joint venture or subsidy presses, but in a vanity press arrangement, the author pays all of the cost of publication and undertakes all of the risk, and the publisher does no promotion whatsoever. Many authors end up with one or two thousand books molding in their garage.

A publisher that distributes books under its own imprint is usually termed a subsidy or “joint venture” publisher, and is therefore a little more selective in deciding which books to publish. Subsidy publishers, like vanity publishers, take payment from the author to print and bind a book, but contribute a small portion of the cost as well as adjunct minor services such as editing, distribution, warehousing, and some degree of marketing. Often, the adjunct services provided are minimal. As with commercial publishers, the books are owned by the publisher and remain in the publisher’s possession, with authors receiving royalties for any copies that are sold. Most subsidy publishers also keep a portion of the rights from any book that they publish. And, generally, authors have little control over production aspects such as cover design.

True self-publishing involves a ton of work for the writers and it probably involves procuring things that you have no idea how to do. It means authors choose a printer, get an ISBN number from Bowker, get copyright forms and register with the Library of Congress, get a bar code for the cover (for scanning price, etc., in bookstores), make sure all the right pages are in the right place and order (copyright page, preface, etc.), arrange for the book’s cover design (one of your most important investments), arrange for endorsements and testimonials to go on that cover, develop a marketing plan, arrange for publicity (free coverage as opposed to paid-for advertisements, which are seldom worth the investment), arrange for radio and TV appearances, book signings and other public appearances, make sure you’re listed in all the right online places, and so on. So what I’m saying is, you must undertake the entire cost of publication yourself, and handle all marketing, distribution, storage, etc. All rights then remain with the author, the completed books are the writer’s property, and the writer gets all the proceeds of sales.

Print-on-Demand has gotten some bad press, but it has come a long way and has become a quite competent and successful means of publishing for many writers. Technically Print-on-demand is a technology: a way to print books. Print-on-demand (POD) is also called short run printing or Print Quantity Needed (PQN). But many think of POD as a type of publishing because POD publishers have build an entire industry around the technique. Some POD publishers are not terribly picky about what manuscripts they will publish. However, most of them will not publish soft or hard porno, gratuitous violence, racist, or extremely profane manuscripts. PODs are sometimes web-based and, thus, use a digital form of printing that is cheaper and faster than the traditional press form. Most often, print-on-demand companies say that they print only the books you need.Instead of purchasing several hundred or thousand books beforehand, you order books as you need them. For example, if your book is listed on, they will print only when a customer buys your book. You will be paid a royalty on your books, or a percentage of each sale. Many print-on-demand companies now function on the model of leaving all book rights with you, the author. This means, for example, that if your books sold exceedingly well and a commercial publisher wanted to give you a contract, you could accept at any time without being under obligation to the POD publisher.

Writers can then select from a selection of publishing packages or design a unique one for themselves. Most POD publishers include ISBN number, bar code, typesetting, inclusion of your book with online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and other details as part of every package. However, you may pay additional fees if you need extensive editing, custom book cover design, and an active marketing program for your book.

Subsidy or Self Publishing (Offset press)

High quality from a good printer
Low unit cost if printing in large quantity – F.O.B.
Tremendous flexibility in cut size, paper weight and color
High storage cost
High distribution cost
High initial investment
High prepress cost, errors extremely expensive

Print on Demand

Lower quality relative to offset printing
Uniform unit cost at all quantities
Limited flexibility in cut size and paper
No storage cost
No distribution cost with Lightning Source, Replica or BookSurge
Low initial investment
Low prepress cost, errors easily corrected

I want to give you the straight truth about what’s best for you. If you want total artistic and production control, then self publish. If your topic is too controversial or obscene to be accepted by POD or traditional publishers, you may choose to self publish. If you are printing a memoir or something you just want for family and friends, then self publish. If you want to publish at an overall lower cost, then self publish (do not subsidy publish). If you have a ready-made publicity platform such as being a celebrity, being a public speaker, being a well known musician, etc., then you may want to either self publish or subsidy publish. Self publish if you don’t mind taking the time and effort to do everything listed above yourself; subsidy publish if you just want a whole pile of your books produced in a hurry.

There is also definitely an ideal situation for using print-on-demand. If you’re short on time or don’t possess the know-how to do all those details involved in producing your own bona fide book, then you may want to consider Print-on-demand. If you don’t want thousands of books in your garage you may want to go POD. If you want ideas for things like book cover design that you can just pick and have implemented immediately then choose POD. If you don’t mind taking a smaller profit per book, then POD might be right for you. If you like the idea of having marketing methods available right now for the choosing and you’re willing to pay for them, then go POD. If you want your book automatically listed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers, go POD. If you want your book distributed by one or two of the giant book distributors, then go POD.

Print-on-demand publishers are sharpening and expanding their efficiency and their publishing packages more every year. Just be careful and shop around very astutely and thoroughly before you select one. I know of one POD that can provide a complete publishing package as well as a seriously crucial marketing program to kick off your promotion for about $2000. But I also know PODs that charge upwards of $10,000 for the same services. So do your homework! And let me know if I can help.

A POD that I think stand out a bit from the crowd is found at the following link. Check them out and I believe you’ll find that they really work hard with you to make your book the very best it can be:

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One Response to “Three Primary Ways to Self-Publish your Book”

  1. Steve says:

    Let me know if I can help edit a book manuscript for you or help you find a publisher. Contact me at

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