Basics Self-Publishing

The Ins and Outs of Self-Publishing

Taylor Harbin
Written by Taylor Harbin

You’ve agonized over your manuscript, editing every sentence to perfection. You can’t wait to give copies to your friends and family. But how do you turn that file on your computer into a tangible or digital book?

The fastest method is self-publishing. Here’s how it works.

What is Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing means producing your book independently, without involving a publishing house. In self-publishing, you’re responsible for every step of the production process, though you may certainly purchase the necessary services at each point.

With self-publishing, money flows in two directions. First, the writer pays to have the book formatted, copyrighted, and printed or digitally produced. Only then does the writer recoup these expenses by book sales—or so one hopes!

There is no guarantee that the sum of your efforts will generate profit. You might invest a lot in putting your book out there, and sales might then disappoint. If you’re deeply concerned about this situation, you may want to try trade publishing instead.

The Stages of Self-Publishing

Self-publishing has many steps, which may seem daunting. But remember, many writers master the process and happily produce their own books.

You have several production options for your book, and the stages vary accordingly. You may combine any of these methods:

  • Digital production. Your manuscript will become an eBook and reach people’s computers, tablets, and smartphones across the globe.
  • Offset printing production. Your manuscript will become a huge stockpile of physical books, which you then have to sell to stores, libraries, or directly to readers. This will get you the cheapest price-per-unit at the highest quality, but you’ll have to deal with a stock of at least several hundred books.
  • Print-on-Demand (POD) production. Your manuscript will become available to you and to online shops on a by-demand basis. No stock or upfront printing costs, but the price-per-unit is higher, which means lower profit on each copy sold.


Self-publishing is a difficult undertaking and there are many pitfalls.

  1. Expenses. You will be paying the entire cost of producing your book. This can run hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
  2. Low exposure. Your book will not appear in any major stores. It might be listed on websites like Amazon and Barns-and-Noble, but those sites are huge. You’ll have to do some aggressive marketing to get readers’ attention.
  3. Public image. Some people associate self-published books with bad writing. If you decide to go the trade publishing route later on, few agents or editors will consider reprinting a book you’ve already self-published. It won’t count as a professional publishing credit, and won’t be eligible for major awards.
  4. Less writing time. Aside from producing the book, you will have to market heavily to drive sales and recover your expenses. This means you won’t have as much time to write.
  5. Lower quality book. POD Self-publishing doesn’t utilize the same resources that trade publishing does. The paper, font, binding, and overall quality of the book will be noticeably different.


Self-publishing is a growing trend because it has some wonderful upsides.

  1. No wasted time. You don’t have to wait endlessly for replies to your submissions, or for a publisher’s full production schedule to free up. Once your manuscript is polished, it can be produced right away. The lure of that is quite strong!
  2. Control. Since you are paying for the services to make the book, you have full control over every aspect of its design and presentation.
  3. More profit. Since there are no agents or publishers involved, you get to keep a higher percentage of revenue.
  4. Niche markets. A trade publisher might not be interested in a book about your family genealogy or the history your hometown. Self-publishing lets you get your work to people who are interested, no matter what the subject.
  5. Economics, seamless process, and ease of use. When it comes to digital or POD self-publishing, there is no cost per unit, no commitment, and no ongoing expenses. It’s fairly easy to compile the required files for both digital and POD publishing; there are many online guides, or barring those, online service providers. It costs nothing to the user and is fairly easy to do from the technical perspective.

Is It Right for You?

If you’re a hands-on person, need absolute control over every step, and have the time and energy to run the show yourself, self-publishing may be a good fit for you.

If, however, you have lots of patience, a thick skin, and quality writing that appeals to the masses, consider traditional publishing. Read more about it here.

No matter what you choose, keep on writing!

About the author

Taylor Harbin

Taylor Harbin

Taylor Harbin is a professional historian from southeast Missouri. Easily distracted by the internet, he composes all of his work on a manual typewriter. His fiction has appeared in Bards and Sages Quarterly magazine.

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