What is Self-publishing?

After Sunday’s post I was asked to clarify my stand on self-publishing. Although it’s not an option I intend to pursue, I think self-publishing is a legitimate means of meeting the publishing needs of many writers. It’s important, however, to know what self-publishing is and isn’t.

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True self-publishing leaves the control of all aspects of the process in the writer’s hands – cover art, print style and pricing. All rights, including the ISBN, remain with the writer who also keeps all proceeds from any sales.

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Often confused as self-publishing are Print On Demand, or POD services. A POD service offers a specific package of services and the publisher will retain ownership of the ISBN and certain publishing rights. The author’s payment comes from royalties which are typically based on a book’s net price, not retail, so the author pays both the initial printing costs and a per book fee. “In fact, POD services more closely resemble vanity publishers–which is how they’re widely regarded by professional writers and publishing industry people.”* I’m told Author House is one of the biggest POD providers, and continues to grow as it consolidates with and buys up other POD companies.

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If a writer assesses his or her publishing needs, examines carefully what is offered and makes an informed decision without unrealistic expectations of the outcome, both self-publishing and POD services can be considered as useful options.

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That’s my opinion anyway. What’s yours? Have you had experiences with self-publishing and/or POD? Were they problem-free? Would you recommend them to other writers?

* http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/pod/

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4 thoughts on “What is Self-publishing?

  1. Jody Hedlund says:

    Great explanation, Carol. I had to jump into the discussion and so my post today is all about my opinion!

    • Thanks, Jody. I’ll have to head over there and have a peek later. I’m watching the Olympic Torch Relay at the moment — they have a media truck following the run across Canada using live streaming video. It’s at the Gagetown Military Base this morning, where Joylene Butler’s son, Cory, will be carrying the torch soon. Can’t miss that!

  2. joylene says:

    You clarify the differences well, Carol. I self-published and found it effected my attitude towards my work deeply. While I began the process with only the intent of having one book printed up, my self-confidence grew in the process. All the positive feedback on my book gave me the strength to carry on. I’m sure I would have anyway, but hearing from so many readers how much they loved my book, instilled a feeling in me that I would not have imagined had I waited.

    Self-publishing requires a great deal of work. You retain all the rights, but you’re entirely on your own. It you don’t do it, whatever “it” is, doesn’t get done.

    I’m looking forward to my next book’s release. Theytus Books is publishing Broken But Not Dead in 2011. I know I still have a lot of work, marketing etc to do, but so much of the worry is out of my hands this time. That’s going to be a new experience for me. And I like new experiences.

    • What I found with “Dead Witness” is that you had obviously taken a great deal of care in getting it right before having it published… critique groups, editing, etc. I’m glad it turned out to be such a positive first step for you.

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