Don’t Lose Heart for Self-Publishing Your Book

Oct 28

Question: Do I really need to spend so much money to independently publish my book?

The answer depends on what you hope to achieve and how much work you’re willing to put into it. Technically, becoming a small publishing company—an author-publisher—is easy. You choose a publisher name and open a bank account, and if your state has a Home Occupation License requirement you file for one. In practice, however, it’s not so simple. So let’s take a closer look: What are the additional steps you need to take before bringing your book into the world?

Self-publishing vs. print-on-demand

Before doing anything else, draw up a reality-check production budget. This will help you decide whether you have the money to independently self-publish your book. If you do not have enough, going with a cheaper print-on-demand (POD) firm might be your best option.

To get a clear picture of your budget requirements, create a self-publishing checklist that includes the following items:

  • A list of vendors you could hire and a range of typical charges for each
  • Fixed expenses such as an ISBN block, an LCCN number, and a barcode
  • Variable expenses such as permission costs and fees for a cover designer, a logo designer, a proofreader, a back-cover copywriter, a photographer for your author photo, a front-cover photo or illustration, an interior designer or compositor, and (if your book is nonfiction) an indexer
  • A ballpark budget for a first-run printer fee, including galleys and eBook conversion

Yes, creating this checklist takes some research, but most of this information can be found by searching the web.

After you have your checklist, the next step is getting referrals to and bids from potential subcontractors. (An expert book coach will have great referrals.) Only after you’ve done this can you create an accurate production-cost estimate, and then you will know whether self-publishing is right for you.

Advantages of self-publishing

While independent publishing can be costly, there are advantages that make it worth the money. First and perhaps most important, you maintain control over your work both creatively and from a business standpoint. Second, at the right price you can have a professionally produced book, not a homemade-looking one that paints you as an amateur to booksellers. And third, today there is fortunately a great deal of business and creative support for small presses and self-publishers.

So with a good strategic marketing plan (both online and off), the potential for profit is real. But whichever publishing venue you choose—whether it be self-publishing, POD, or traditional publishing—one marketing truism remains: It is up to you, the author, to promote your book. You are by far your book’s best spokesperson. And if everything goes well, you will have a professionally published book that you can feel proud to promote.

Now back to where we started: Do you need to spend all that money to independently publish?

To get a definitive answer, there’s one more thing you need to do. Select eight to ten POD firms and make a comparison chart listing the top features each company includes in its packages. For example, can you use your own ISBN? Can you opt in to a distribution contract? What’s the profit split? What will the best author package cost you? When you weigh this information against your self-publishing checklist, this should tell you which publishing route is a match for you.

Share This

One comment

  1. Good advice, Maggie. I'd like to add that authors not only need to determine if they have the money to invest, but, also, whether or not they have the necessary time involved when self-publishing. We work with authors who would rather hire someone who has already negotiated all of the contracts. In additon, every author should have both an editor and a proofreader. A proofreader should review text before formatting and after formatting to catch any finger slips.