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The Pros and Cons of Self Publishing Your Book

The publishing industry is continually changing. With the popularity of the e-readers and print on demand companies, self publishing has become easier than ever. If you decide to self publish your book, you will have total control over the outcome. You will also be responsible for finding someone to edit your book, design the cover, design the interior, find a printer and market the book. You can do the entire process yourself, but it is difficult to be objective and the quality could suffer. There are pros and cons of self publishing a book. If you do your research, self publishing can be a fun and successful journey.

Pros of self publishing-

  • You have full control over the outcome of the book. You can decide on the final design cover and the final editing decisions.
  • Self publishing is a good option if you have a book that fits a niche market. Most traditional publishers are not interested in publishing non fiction books because they are harder to market in traditional outlets.
  • You can publish a book quicker than if you choose to self publish. It can take years to get a book accepted and published by a traditional publisher.
  • Self publishing your book is a business; therefore, you can write off the expenses associated with publishing your book.
  • You can promote your book as an e-book and a paperbound book maximizing your profits.

Cons of self publishing- 

  • It is difficult to break even when you publish your book. Publishing can be expensive. It will come out of your pocket. You will need to consider the cost of the book vs. the long term benefits of being a published author.
  • The books can be expensive to buy in small quantities. If you only want 50 books, you will have a smaller profit margin. 
  • Many self published do not hire an editor for their book. This is one of the major reasons that self publishing has a bad reputation.
  • It is difficult but not impossible to get a non fiction book into the major bookstore chains.
  • You may end up with a garage full of books.

What do you need to consider?

  • How many copies of your book will you need?  If you think you can use several thousand copies, you can print using a less expensive process. On the other hand, if you over project you may have boxes of books in your garage. 
  • Get estimates on book design and editing costs.
  • Do you want to print using digital or offset technology?
  • Which distribution channels will you use? What discount rates will the distributors require?

As always, if you want more information about publishing your book, please contact us at Our Little Books for a free consultation.

Reader Comments (18)

Excellent, excellent advice on the pros and cons of self publishing and a well balanced article.

One on the things self publishers in Australia consider is on or off shore printing. Most send their jobs to China because it is so much cheaper to produce a book. I self published Bitss of Caramel Marmalade on Toast but printed locally as I could not stand to think of women and children in a sweat shop producing my book - it just seemed wrong to me.

I engaged two professional edits, because, my spelling is far from perfect....and, I love superfluous adjectives :)

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan is a secret Santaeg

We couldn't vision having our books printed in China either. We wanted to keep the jobs closer to home.

I always need someone to edit my work. Spell check generally will pick up my mistakes but I forget punctuation. Everyone should have their work edited even if they are an editor.

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulia M Lindsey

>>The books can be expensive to buy in small quantities. If you only want 50 books, you will have a smaller profit margin.<<

A POD printer such as Lightning Source will print even one book at a time to fill an order. If the book is sold by Amazon or other online booksellers, the profit margin can be 50% or even more--much better than with bricks-and-mortar booksellers.

Michael N. Marcus
-- Independent Self-Publishers Alliance,
-- "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don't be a Victim of a Vanity Press,"
-- "Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company: Make a better deal. Make a better book."
-- "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults),"

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael N. Marcus

Agree with you on the editor - essential, and if you can afford it a Developmental editor is well worth the money, especially if they have commercial savvy.

I think the days of the print run are over. POD and the various options there take that out as a con. Ebooks (only a small percentage now but growing fast) get exposure allow for review etc and then follow that with POD. Once you have a good idea of the market for your book you may decide to go for a print run.

Another thing to note. A lot of comments are made about Non Fiction niche is perfect for Self Publishing (I prefer Indie Publishing btw), but you might be surprised at the number of fiction writers who are DIY and making money out of their work. Quite a few authors of fiction, tired of wallowing in slush waiting to be rejected by 21 year old intern, are Indie publishing. Again as your article points out this is a lot of work, especially in marketing - you have to be out there - but considering that you have to be out there anyway it works because the money is more immediate and the time to market is greatly reduced.

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterS.G. Royle

Thank you for this lovely outline for potential writers. I have a book in me and my time will come. I keep being inspired by people such as you.

September 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

S.G Royle
I agree a developmental editor can make all the difference, and money well spent to have a great book.

Thank you for your comment about indie publishing a fiction book. I do not have any experience in writing or publishing fiction. I have read several indie published fiction books and they have been well written, entertaining and well designed. The marketing is hard no matter how your book is published.

September 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulia M Lindsey

Good summary of the points Julia. I could imagine if you are an experienced writer then the self publishing road would be very attractive, however for a novice they could be disappointed with the results. It would obviously help them to have someone with experience guiding them through the process.

September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Oakes

Great article, Julia--straightforward and right to the point. Honestly, after just having gone the "traditional" route with my book, the only advantage I can see to traditional publishing is that you don't have the up front costs for production. But there is a definite trade-off in terms of control and production time...since my book covers the ins and outs of self-publishing, the long production cycle was a real detriment since technology is changing so quickly. There were also a lot of production items that I didn't agree with, but had no control over. And since the onus of marketing is vastly on me and my coauthor (something else many self-publishing authors don't realize--they'll have to do the majority of book promotion themselves regardless of how they publish), there hasn't been a real advantage to going the trad route.

I also want to agree with all the comments about everyone needing an editor. I have been an editor of others' work for more than 20 years, and I still need an editor for my own writing. It's the old adage "can't see the forest through the trees" at work when it comes to your own writing.

September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSue Collier

Hi Julia,
This is really excellent and insightful article with regard to the pros and cons of self publishing your book. This is the kind of advice every novice writer must be aware of. It can give them a good thought to consider in their writing career.

September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTina @ cleopatra costume

Very interesting article to read. I went to a recent event where there was some comparison of traditional vs. self-publishing, and it helps to see many of the same points made here. To me one of the biggest risks of self-publishing is an amateur look (everything from cover to font to layout to writing). Editors and people in-the-know about the publishing business are key.

Judy Stone-Goldman
The Reflective Writer

September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy Stone-Goldman

It is good to have your own book, but I never wanted to write one for my own.

This is very interesting. Writing a book is really good, especially when you are about to put everything you are interested in. And this post is very useful to those who write.

November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLanguage School Bournemouth

Self publishing is one thing the internet has provided writers that are new to the industry.But of course it is not that easy,it'll take a lot of courage and patience.

November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSan Diego Keynote Speaker

Publishing books had always its pros and cons, and everyone must consider a little bit of it. This post is really a big help.

December 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSolicitors Westminster

Self publishing for me is really challenging. And when you start your book, you must really make sure the pros and cons. Thanks for showing this one.

Self book publishing is challenging indeed and you must really considered its pros and cons. This posts is helpful. Thanks.

This is really interesting blog, thanks for sharing

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