Sunday, August 17, 2008

Self-Publishing: Pros & Cons

The Globe & Mail has an informative article on self-publishing. If you’re considering self-publishing, read this article first.

No, it’s not derogatory or designed to convince you not to go that route. It’s a pretty unbiased look at what you need to know before you make a decision.

The author, Jack Kapica, compares two big self-publishing companies, Lulu and WWAOW, stating what each does – and doesn’t do. Even what they charge for their services. And he goes into what you, the author, will have to do – and what you may not be able to accomplish as a self-pubbed author.

Before you get carried away by all the hype about self-publishing, read this article. You may decide it’s for you – and Kapica gives you some examples where it may be – but you may also decide it won’t get you where you want to go.


  1. This decision—to self-publish or not—comes down to three basic questions:
    1) What are your short-term goals?
    2) What are your long-term goals?
    3) Will self-publishing help you accomplish both?


  2. I'm seriously considering it especially for the non-fiction. Have been watching for a long time and I think I'm pretty comfortable with them. They're a POD. For straight self-publishing I'd go with and for how-to eBooks definitely Clickbank. I think it also depends upon how much you can spend upfront, how much you want to earn, and how much of the fulfillment you can handle yourself. There are so many choices now, I really could slide projects into all of the above plus submit to a traditional press. ePublishers are good, too.

    Why not try it all?

    I'll tell you this. If I had a series that got bumped by a traditional press, I'd pitch to an ePress faster than you can say "right now" to keep that series going. Or self-publish. If authors would develop their fan base with that in mind, they could do it and keep up their readership without a house behind them. I wonder if the writer might not make more money, too. Sort of like a hairdresser who goes out on her own, but has a clientele that will follow. Because isn't it the haircut that counts, not the salon name? Of course. We care about the characters first, then the author, and hardly at all about the publisher. Selfish bunch, we readers. :) Happy Sunday!


  3. LJ, those are good questions to ask yourself once you're finished with the book. Ask before you start querying agents -- investigate what self-publishing entails, not just the process but the marketing and getting into bookstores.

  4. Dani,
    You've clearly done a lot of research on this and have some idea of what you would do. You're way ahead of a lot of writers who make a decision without considering what the long term issues are.

  5. Self-publishing does work under certain circumstances and for some authors. However, where it gets a bad name is when people use it to by-pass the in depth editing and revising needed to produce a quality book.

    But, some not-so-quality books also come from publishers. *sigh* It really depends on the author to make sure that any of his/her work is the best it can be.


  6. Sooo true, Vivian. And it seems that more and more depends on the writer.

  7. Thanks for this, Helen. I like how you linked it in to another article. I'm learning from the pros, now.

  8. I just think of the kid who self-published Eragon as an example of how to do it right. I'd rather not self-publish, but I've known some writers who have, who promote very well and who are excellent writers.

  9. I think we're hitting on the keys here -- editing & good material & writing to start with, then promotion to get it out to the public. And none of that is easy. But we've all seen examples of how it's been done.

  10. I'm thinking also of doing self-publishing on a small non-fiction book, but I'm doing so many things at the moment it might be a while before it becomes an actuality.

    I'm wondering what the difference is between Lulu and Amazon. Maybe you or someone else could answer that. I imagine it might be Amazon wants more of the profits.
    Morgan Mandel

  11. Morgan,
    Amazon and Lulu are two different things. You're probably talking about Lulu and BookSurge (Amazon's POD publishing arm).

    The article in Globe & Mail that I quoted from has a pretty good sketch of what Lulu offers. I'd start there:
    Plus, you can go directly to Lulu's site at:

    For more info about BookSurge and Amazon, I's start with two posts I did about that at:

    (Copy and paste those. I didn't do tiny URLs since sometimes the tiny URL drops the specific post)

    For a direct link to the BookSurge page, try:

    Hope all this helps.

  12. Thanks for that link and article. I agree that self-pub can be a viable way to go in certain circumstances, if you know what you are doing. Self-pub gets a bad rap from all the less than professional stuff that gets pub'd by just anyone with the $ to do it. They're not all bad - it's the 98 out of a 100 that give the other 2 such a bad name (joking --- I"M JOKING!) LOL

  13. One other reason to go self-pub would be if you had time sensitive material. The POD presses can get your book to market in a few months vs a (typical) year for the traditional houses.

    There are many players in the market though, so you have to know what you want out of the publisher so you can ask the right questions - like do they distribute through the big guys, do they have relationships with bookstores, do they accept returns (a biggie if you want to see your book on the shelf at your local chain store).

  14. Professional editing can make or break a book. I've read enough potentially good PODs and self-published books... if ONLY they'd shelled out a little money for a professional editor! It also doesn't pay to skimp on a bookcover. Yes, you can definitely publish your own book and maybe even make more money than through a publishing company... but, you can't skip any of the steps to success.

  15. L.J.'s three basic questions are right on. Not every author wants or is able to do the volume of travel and promotion a large publisher requires. Not every author cares if his/her book is in most of the book stores across the U.S. The article mentioned a growing problem ... too many books. Ten years ago when my first book came out there were 70,000 books published, maybe a little less than 1,000 in the mystery genre. I sent out query letters for five years but knew going in (1990) mine would be a hard sell. I combine genres, something that made agents cringe. I could have rewritten my book, changed it to fit the larger audience publishers wanted to reach but that wasn't me, that wasn't my goal. What is disappointing to see over the past five years is the growing bias against self-publishing, the promotional "doors" we need to market ourselves (conference panels, book signings, organization memberships) are being slammed in our faces. I studied the publishing business for two years before jumping in so it is important that anyone looking to publish, whether with a POD company or starting a business, that you do your research not only in the cost and distribution of your book but also have a detailed marketing plan as to your target audience, how much you can afford to promote, and promotional opportunities available.

  16. It's important to mention that promotion is changing, too, in large part due to climate change and petroleum issues. Traveling is not going to be regular part of the equation for much longer. Online promotion will become the norm. It's just a matter of time before everyone realizes it.



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