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To Self-Publish or Not

Self-publising is a big topic of conversation among writers (would-be authors and authors), agents, and traditional publishers these days.

  1. Is self-publishing vanity publishing?
  2. Is there a stigma attached?
  3. Will I ruin my chances with a traditional publisher if I self-publish?
  4. What are my chances of gaining high sales with my ebook?
  5. If I can create a book by myself, why should I hire anyone to help me?
  6. If I use the right algorithms for my ebook, can I make a fortune?
  7. Is it better to self-publish ebooks, POD (print-on-demand), or do a print run?


The answer to all of these questions is yes, no, and maybe. I know, that’s trite, but these are complicated questions with not-so-easy answers. Although I am traditionally published and have an agent, I’ve been studying self-publishng for two years. I’ve done a few small ebooks to see what my personal experience would be, plus I’ve talked to others who have been down this road. I’ve also read lots of blogs by people heavily involved who are both for and against self-publishing. Let me see if I can break it down for you.

  1. You have to write a good book. If you are publishing or posting your book without having strong writers and editors give you feedback and vetting your work, then you are probably indulging in vanity publishing.
  2. The stigma is going away now that we have some successes in the self-publishing world and some very good books coming out that in some cases beat what traditional publishers are doing in quality and content.
  3. There are still agents and publishers who turn their noses up if you self-publish first, especially if you don’t sell very many copies.
  4. You have to know who your audience is. You also have to know what category your book fits in and then promote the heck out of it.  Some categories appeal to ebook readers, some categories are still more popular in print, and some categories have a smaller number of readers and are harder to find an audience who will buy either ebook or print copies.
  5. See #1 above. You can do it all yourself if you are an expert at all facets of book publishing for either ebooks or print. However, everywhere you are not a professional will show in that area in the quality. But when you hire, be careful and check references and work and look for complaints about scammers.
  6. If you can understand and follow the algorithms and use them effectively, it might increase your sales or it might be a fluke that others have had success doing or they may have been early adopters, which gave them an edge. Is it really worth your time to learn all of this when the algorithms change frequently? Personally, I don’t understand giving away 20,000 books to sell 3,000, but then that’s just me.
  7. If you have a reasonably large target audience that you can actually reach, you may want to do both ebooks and POD. Ebooks are theoretically cheaper, since you don’t have to pay for paper or some of the distribution expenses, however, some people, like me, prefer a book in their hands. Refer back to knowing your audience. The biggest issue is knowing where you are going to sell and how you are going to promote your book. That tiny thumbprint on the internet, no matter how well designed, isn’t going to do you any good if no one knows it’s there. Your garage full of books that you can’t find a venue to sell in or bookstores who will buy them without demanding full return rights, may not be worth the space they are taking.


You have to know how you will reach your audience and promote your book to them. You have to know what your strengths and your weaknesses are and hire those who are good at what you are not good at doing. Except for editors: Always hire an editor. No matter how good you are, you can’t properly edit or proofread your own work; or join a writing group with very strong editors who will help you.

By the way, it’s okay to have a small niche audience, like book sales at the back of the room when you speak at events, or a book that only people in your networking or religious organization or the PTA will buy. Just plan accordingly.

Basically, decide which you are going to be in your spare time: a writer or an entrepreneur. If you are going to self-publish, and do it well, then you will have to learn a few basics of business in order to succeed. If you don’t believe that, then pick out a movie with a high budget that was a disaster or a book highly promoted than stunk. Good marketing can make a sale without building a following. As a writer, you want to build a following.

Check out my article “To Self-Publish or Not – 5 Important First Steps,” at

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