This is a big question, and everyone who wants to publish has an opinion on it, including me. I am a member of several writing groups, and this topic invariably comes up, almost on a daily basis. It really depends on your definition of “self-publishing”.
For some people, this means paying a vanity press to produce their book because they have neither the time, nor the inclination to learn how to do it themselves, manage freelancers, or try for trad publishing. And with many vanity presses using the term “self-publishing company”, it can be easily understood why some people take this route. I’m not here to judge, if a writer is fully informed when using one of these companies and happily agrees to pay often in the thousands to have their book come to life, then that is their choice. If they later decide they may have been a little naive, then that is a lesson learned.
For others, self-publishing means hiring freelancers to do the work they don’t know how to do, can’t do, or do not want to do. Things like editing, cover design, blurb writing, formatting, advertising, website maintenance, managing social media accounts etc. fall under this scenario. The writer remains in control, they decide who does what, how much they want to spend, and they can make the choices they feel are best for them.
Then there are the hard core individuals who want to do everything themselves. It’s called self-publishing for a reason, right? So they will design a cover, do their own editing, make their own website, format their own book, buy their own ISBNs, even create their own publishing label. Admittedly, I fall into this group, but only because I have technical drawing skills and a qualification in Business Administration. I either know how to do certain things already, or have the basic skills in place to learn how to do it without too much tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth. And I will say that despite my pretty decent editing skills, I still get other people to go over my work. Not everyone who decides on this route is as lucky as I am, and it sometimes results in a sub-standard publication which will translate to poor sales.
There are benefits to doing some things yourself, such as purchasing your own ISBNs. If you use the numbers provided by a publishing platform or a third party, they will be listed as the publisher, not you. So even though you think you are publishing something yourself, another entity is the registered publisher. I did not want to fall foul of the ISBN issue, so I bought my own, especially as I want to develop my own publishing business in the future.
So, should you pay someone to publish your book? It’s a very personal decision based on a lot of individual factors. Basically no-one can tell you what to do. They will try, and you might get upset. The best thing a new writer who wants to self-publish can do is educate themselves on all the available options and the things that will need to be done. Hopefully that way they will make an informed decision and won’t fall for any scams or hollow promises.
Here are a couple of resources I found invaluable during my steep self-publishing learning curve.
The Creative Penn – resources to help you write, publish and market your book.
The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) – a non-profit association for self-publishing authors.
Click here to join the katiamdavis.com mailing list for information on upcoming publications and exclusive freebies or click on the image below to visit my website and learn more about me and my writing.