Self-publishing for Writers

We receive many enquiries from people considering self-publishing. Most of our queries are wondering whether it’s the right route for them and the truth is, you are the only person who can decide whether to pursue self-publishing or not. That said, we’d love to share some of the pros and cons we’ve come across in the hope they’ll give you something to consider as you make your choice.

Self-publishing pros

When you publish your own book, all of the control is ultimately yours. You can choose what to write, where to share it and what platforms you make it available on. You won’t have to consider what publishers want and won’t have a sales team or board to answer to.

You are in control

It’s also worth bearing in mind that self-publishing can offer an avenue for writers who face barriers on their road to publication for a variety of reasons and does provide alternative ways for underrepresented writers to reach larger audiences – and also potentially, under represented readers.

There are now many avenues for writers to make their work available to potential readers with minimal costs. From print on demand options such as Blurb, Lulu and Bookbaby, to digital programmes from Amazon Kindle to Smashwords.

You are likely to have a greater level of control when it comes to design – you’ll be able to choose your own font, book cover and make your own choices about how many acknowledgement or thank you pages you want to include, for example.

You will also be more able to control your own timeline. As much of the process will be in your own hands, you will have more of an opportunity to create a publishing schedule that can fit into your own life or existing commitments.

While it’s likely you’ll have fees and costs to cover with your distributor and chosen publishing platform, you won’t have to give a cut of your earnings to a publishing company.

Self-publishing cons

Publishing a book is a huge job – almost as big as writing one in the first place. You will need to take on (or outsource) the various roles a publishing company would traditionally provide for you, such as finding an editor, copy proofer, typesetter and cover design artist.

You'll need to promote your own book

You will also need to be prepared to market and promote your own book, which can be a big task too. If it’s a skill that comes naturally to you, you may take on the job yourself or you might prefer to hire a publicist to help.

While the attitude towards self-publishing is changing, there is still something of a stigma attached to the idea in some circles. This is largely thanks to the fact that it’s down to the author to exercise (or ensure) quality control, rather than a third party. While many authors self-publish their books to an extremely high standard, not all do (in the same way that not all publishing houses always do!) and that has had a knock on effect on opinion.

Getting books into brick and mortar bookshops is notoriously difficult – for publishers as well as individuals – there’s only so much floor space and a large number of books. When publishers are able to offer discounts or larger lists of books and bulk buys, they have an advantage. That’s not to say bookshops never take self-published books or that online alternatives aren’t an excellent opportunity, it’s just something to bear in mind.

Be on the watch out for vanity publishers

There’s a big difference between self-publishing through companies and avenues that allow you to package up and distribute your work and vanity publishers. These are companies that typically charge high sums to publish an author’s work while offering little in return. Watch out for exceptionally large fees and promises with no stats or proof to back them up.

Before embarking on self-publishing

Before deciding whether to publish your work yourself or whether to seek out a publisher to work with, as yourself how willing you are to market your book, what skills you have to bring to the table and how much control you want to have over the whole process. Think carefully about whether you want physical copies to approach book shops with (and if so, how many you need), whether print on demand might suit you or if you’d rather start with a digital-only presence.

For more hints and tips that might help you make up your mind or might be useful along the way, have a look at our suggested reading list.

Five reasons to publish an e-book

Tips for being a better self editor

Rule for proofreading your own work

You may also want to consider working with a literary consultant, career coach or freelance editor to help you perfect your novel and map a career plan.