In a blog post from a couple months ago, I started a conversation on publishing and how it’s changed due to technological advancements and new reader expectations. In this series, I’m hoping to supply some insight regarding the vast world of publishing, and in this post I’ll be covering my research on self publishing.
What is self publishing? And where did it start?
Self publishing (also known as “vanity publishing” or “indie publishing”) is essentially when the writer completes all steps to the publishing process, either by means of third-party services and distributors or by independent work. As Grensing-Pophal states in her article “Who Needs a Publisher?”, self publishing is essentially paying “for the prestige of being published” and includes immense organization and effort from the aspiring author (Grensing-Pophal). In this model of publishing, the writer must find and pay for every service necessary in the publishing process from editing to cover design. Furthermore, being self-published means that the author must personally maintain any and all necessary legal components of the published work.
Peter Winick, the principal of strategy business Thought Leadership Leverage, states that “‘self publishing used to clearly have a stench of amateur’” (Winick qtd in Grensing-Popal). Winick’s statement mostly refers to the writers who have self published with minimal knowledge of what the self publishing market requires for success. While Winick’s statement is correct in that self publishing has historically been amatuer-ish in many regards, self publishing has also gained some validity in recent decades.
Presently, there are many resources available for authors to self publish. Additionally, there has been a significant amount of research on methods of self publishing. Self published authors have even revealed advice and tips for other writers looking for guidance into this new and growing method of publishing. Unfortunately, “‘there is [still] a lot of crap out there,’” which causes a negative perspective of self publishing (Winick qtd in Grensing-Popal). Yet, despite these reputations, Grensing-Pophal still acknowledges that self publishing methods are expanding exponentially due to new technologies and a growing desire for ebooks.
Other aspects of self publishing…
Self publishing includes a few other layers to the process. Considering the growing platforms and ways to interact with readers, self publishing has a more complex network of possibilities and opportunities. Below are some things that writers should keep in mind as well.
- Online platforms. Generally, self publishing allows access to a variety of online publishing platforms such as writing websites, social media, and personal blogs. Considering the potential of online distribution, self published authors can reach more genre specific audiences and readers. Therefore, it’s really important to have a complete online profile with a few of these platforms.
- Different kind of profit. While 100% of the profits the author makes is theirs to keep, there are other expenses that the author may not have with traditional publishing. In Phyllis Reid-Jarvis’s article, she outlines many tedious steps such as conversing and negotiating with bookbinders and printers, hiring an editor, and finding an illustrator.
- Bigger audience = bigger profit. As mention in #1, self publishing provides a method of reaching larger audiences online. This means that there are increased profits for the author since they also get to keep 100% of their profits. Interestingly, Josh Hadro mentions that this increase in profits for the author “is forcing many in the [traditional] industry to reconsider their attitude” of elitist gatekeeping (Hadro).
- Complete creative control. Self publishing guarantees that the author will have all of the creative responsibility and power. However, Reedsy blog mentions that “with great power comes great responsibility,” meaning that self-published authors must maintain responsibility for all aspects of their work (“Is It Better”). For some authors this aspect may seem daunting, yet many writers in modern day prefer this creative control over their work.
Pros and Cons to consider…
While several pros and cons are already apperant with this discussion, there are other things to consider when reviewing the self publishing process:
- Creative and legal rights. Self published authors maintain the rights over all aspects of their work, therefore allowing changes to their work to be more flexible and according to the author’s creative and artistic preference.
- Expanisve opportunities. The power of self publishing is pretty expansive. With access to the internet, hard copy printing, and other methods, self published authors can collect a vast assortment of readers.
- Flexible time frames. Unlike the traditional process, self publishing can take as long, or as short, as the author determines. This can be really helpful when writing is responding to immediate events and experiences.
- Lots of marketing. Complete creative control comes with complete creative manufactoring too. A self published author is responsible for creating and maintaining all marketting materials in addition to signing up, preparing, and attending any other regular publicity events.
- Historic reputation of self publishing. As discussed earlier in this post, self publishing has not always had a great reputation. Also, since self published authors are responsible for all content and materials, there is the risk of having the work not appear as professional.
- Access to reviews and awards. Most times, self-published work is not eligible for reviews, awards, and other prizes. This can create a barrier for self-published authors to create a reputable name for themselves.
I’ll have another post soon that will review the two publishing methods and ask some common questions regarding this topic. Hope this helps all my writers out there!
Barber, Ros. “For Me, Traditional Publishing Means Poverty. But Self-Publish? No Way.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 Mar. 2016, www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/mar/21/for-me-traditional-publishing-means-poverty-but-self-publish-no-way.
Grensing-Pophal, Lin. “Who Needs a Publisher?” EContent, vol. 35, no. 4, 2012, pp. 13-17. ProQuest, https://www-proquest-com.aquinas.idm.oclc.org/docview/1019286719?accountid=8340.
Hadro, Josh. “What’s the Problem with Self-Publishing.” Library Journal, vol. 138, no. 7, 2013, pp. 34-n/a. ProQuest, http://aquinas.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.aquinas.idm.oclc.org/docview/1323851645?accountid=8340.
“Is It Better to Self-Publish or Get a Publisher? An Author’s Guide.” Reedsy, Reedsy, 14 Oct. 2020, blog.reedsy.com/self-publishing-vs-traditional-publishing/.
Jen (JL) Pecoskie, and Heather Hill. “Beyond Traditional Publishing Models.” Journal of Documentation, vol. 71, no. 3, 2015, pp. 609-626. ProQuest, http://aquinas.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.aquinas.idm.oclc.org/docview/2121477637?accountid=8340, doi:http://dx.doi.org.aquinas.idm.oclc.org/10.1108/JD-10-2013-0133.
Reid-Jarvis, Phyllis. “My Experience in Self-Publishing.” Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, vol. 66, no. 4, 2005, pp. 1. ProQuest, http://aquinas.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.aquinas.idm.oclc.org/docview/220831488?accountid=8340.
“Publishing, After a Life in Publishing.” Publishers Weekly, vol. 262, no. 4, 2015, pp. 4-n/a. ProQuest, http://aquinas.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.aquinas.idm.oclc.org/docview/1648944791?accountid=8340.