What is Self-Publishing?

This is definitely one of the most common questions I see, especially from writers who are just getting into the publishing part. Sometimes the question comes directly to me, other times I see it on a forum, or it comes up in conversation.

The thing is, a lot of people don't know this term is one of the most confusing in publishing today. There are two different definitions, there's no standard agreement on which definition to use even from expert to expert is some cases and the inexperienced author is often left bewildered. One of the reasons I wrote my book is to help clarify this term as I believe it is also the source for a lot of bad experiences and disappointment.

If you are considering this route, or maybe just investigating your options, here is a short answer to get you started:

1. The original meaning refers to an author who sets up his own publishing company in order to publish his own books. This means he sets up a legal entity and hires out, or does all of the necessary tasks himself that a traditional publisher would normally do. Sometimes this is now called "independent self-publishing" but some people also just say "self-publishing".

2. The most common meaning today refers to being published by a fee-based/POD/pay-to-publish company. Examples of this are iUniverse, Booklocker, and Outskirts Press among dozens of others. If you plug the term into a search engine, you'll likely find such services in the majority of the top answers.

Many people argue that using these companies is not "self" publishing because the author is not the publisher of record in most of these cases etc. Others say it is because the author is not waiting for the approval of someone else to be published, has more control over the product, so the term "self" is appropriate. I'm sure that debate will continue for a long time to come.

What is self-publishing? It seems like such a small question, but I hope you can see how important the answer truly is to you as an author. If you plan to "self-publish, which one of these routes are you going to follow/are you on now? Are you sure?

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Dustee said...

Thanks for having this blog. I just 'self published' through Outskirts Press. I bought the Ruby package but did not utilize all of it, by choice. This is my first publishing effort so I wanted to see how it would be, comparing it with traditional publishing (I have one I'm pitching but the content keeps it unpublished after 14 years of writing it).

I've learned that writing is the easy part. Finalizing edits with the publisher isn't too fun. But the work really is happening now - the marketing. If I want to sell the book, I have ensure the readers know it is available. The Internet seemed to grow to enormous sizes and shapes when I looked at this one particular task. None of this was revealed to me in making my decision. Had it been, I would have opted for a different package (a larger one). I hope this is something you cover in your blogs and book(s).

On a final note, I had the option of purchasing my own ISBN and using my 'Hopes & Dreams Publications' on the back cover but that would have cost more money in the long run... the packages are not balanced well. But the plus side is I hold the rights to publish elsewhere, not just with OP. I don't know if this is good until I actually try it...

Michael said...

I'm pleased that you have contrasted the two uses of "self-publishing" but I'm disappointed that you did not take a stand in favor of Number One. You are aiding those who want to dilute the meaning and mislead writers.

You said that people using publishing services companies consider themselves to be self-pubbers because they do not need approval. Actually, extreme porn or hate books probably would not be approved by those companies (if they read the manuscripts).

You also cite "more control." If a writer uses one of these companies, she or he has very little control, and usually must use the designers, editors and publicists, etc. that the company has chosen, and follow their schedule and use their distribution channel.

You can't be a self-publisher unless you are the publisher. It's a very simple rule, and I don't understand why people don't "get it."

If someone uses one of these companies (which are really re-labeled vanity presses) they will usually spend more, make less, wait longer for publication and often have a lousier book than by becoming a real, independent self-publisher.

Time for plug: My book, "Become an Independent Self-Publisher" should be out next month. http://www.silversandsbooks.com/publishingbookinfo.html

My publishing blog: http://BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com

Cheryl Pickett said...

Thank you both for your comments!

Dustee, Yes, many people discover after that fact that writing is the easier part. Marketing is a totally different skill. As far as the marketing packages from fee-based companies, usually they leave much to be desired. I think that's an idea for a new post :-)

I agree that porn or hateful material would likely be rejected, but those topics are hopefully few and far between. I think the average writer/my reader probably isn't going there.

I also wanted to cover both sides of the definition because it's out there and again, I don't see the debate ending any time soon.

Whether someone agrees with one def or not is in many ways less important in my opinion, than understanding what you're getting into when you make your choice as an author.

It would be great if the "industry" would just put out a set of definitions, but seeing as that won't happen any time soon, if ever, my goal is to educate people so they can make solid decisions. That being the case, they need to know both sides.

Once someone understands each concept clearly, makes their choice confidently, then they can choose books like yours or similar ones to move forward.

JaxPop said...

Cheryl - Unlike Michael, & I'm not bashing him, he's entitled to his opinion, but I'm glad you didn't take a stand in favor of one over the other. (First it was - You're not pubbed unless you take the traditional route. Now you're not pubbed unless you set up your own pub company. Whatever - I don't care.)

I used Booklocker & will use them again, hopefully in June. Everything with BL was/is spelled out - no definitions or tedious/confusing options to muddle through. They actually reject a high percentage of the manuscripts submitted, based on content or lack of quality or both. I had TOTAL control throughout the process &, within 3 weeks of having my MS accepted, had my first copy in my hands, & for substantially less than other POD companies 'quoted'. The product is first rate & I'm selling lots of books - without paying upcharges for marketing or return programs. This is not a promo for Booklocker - just saying, there are some good guys out there.

ALL of my publishing & initial book costs were covered within the 1st 60 days as a result of sales. (I was sick for 4 weeks when the book came out - so it was a slow start.) Today, 3 new high volume sales outlets were added. I've spent $150 (also recouped) on marketing so far. This covered props for book signings, including a 2' x 3' laminated poster of my book cover. (Cheryl - you may have seen the props on my blog.)

In a nutshell - I had control. My work had to be reviewed & accepted. The costs were very low & there was no bait & switch. Timing was & has been amazing (I ordered another 100 books on 4/10 late PM(Good Friday) - Received them at 10AM this morning 4/15!) And... (to wrap this up) I'm making a real profit (32 books sold today). Life is good & I've been really blessed. Have a great night y'all. DE