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Self-publishing is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. The author is responsible and in control of entire process including design (cover/interior), formats, price, distribution, marketing & PR. The authors can do it all themselves or outsource all or part of the process to companies that offer these services.


Business aspects

The key distinguishing characteristic of self-publishing is that the author has decided to publish their work independent of a publishing house. In the past, self-published authors had to spend considerable amounts of money preparing a book for publication, and to purchase bulk copies of their title and find a place to store them. Print-On-Demand technology means the author, via numerous, accessible global distribution channels like, can have a book printed only when an order has been placed and it is available for purchase world-wide.

In 2008, for the first time in history, more books were self-published than those published traditionally. In 2009, 76% of all books released were self-published, while publishing houses reduced the number of books they produced.[1] According to Robert Kroese, "the average return of the self-published book is £500".[2]

Technological advances have enabled this growth:

Types of self-publishing

Vanity publishing

The term 'vanity publishing' is mostly obsolete today as a company contracting with an author to assist with the production of a book is typically considered 'self-publishing', not vanity publishing.[3] The author may engage a company that offers services—usually designed as publishing packages including editing, marketing, design, etc.—and outsource all or part of the process to these companies.

There remains, however, a small number of companies that refer to themselves as a 'publisher' but only offer to publish an author for a fee. These are 'vanity publishers' and should be distinguished from the above companies that offer services to the independent author and do not pretend to be a publisher. These companies make the majority of their income from the fees paid by the author and not from sales as would be the case with traditional publishers. These companies are also known as joint venture or subsidy presses.

Marketing and promotion

In today's publishing environment, all authors, whether published traditionally or independently, must undertake the marketing and promotion of their book. This includes social networking, blogging, having a website, etc. It may also include virtual book tours or blog tours, book signings, book award programs. There are numerous companies today offering a range of promotional services for every budget with varying programs for different genres, etc.

While bookstores remain the primary domain of traditional publishers, online retailers such as and Barnes & Noble cater to the self-published author making it easy to upload books, to have them printed on demand, and distributed globally.

Given the ongoing demise of bricks-and-mortar bookstores with the closure of major chains like Borders, Angus & Robertson, Hughes & Hughes and others, it is predicted that within three years, 75% of books will be sold online (50% as ebooks and 25% as printed books). Only 25% of books will be sold in physical bookstores (down from 75% today).[4]

Advantages of self-publishing

Disadvantages of self-publishing

Self-published best-sellers

Contemporary authors have also self-published.

What Color is Your Parachute?Bolles, Richard NelsonLater published by Ten Speed Press
Chicken Soup for the SoulCanfield, JackWith Hansen, Mark Victor, co-author
Golden HandcuffsCourtney, Polly[7]
The Christmas BoxEvans, Richard Paul
SpartacusFast, HowardDuring the McCarthy era when Fast was rejected by previous large scale publishers
Invisible LifeHarris, E. Lynn
EragonPaolini, Christopher[8] Later published by Knopf
In Search of ExcellencePeters, Tom
ElfquestPini, Wendy and Richard[9]
The Celestine ProphecyRedfield, James
The Joy of CookingRombauer, Irma S.
No Time for WorkRyan, George[10]
A Choice, Not An EchoSchlafly, Phyllis[11]
ShadowmancerTaylor, G. P.Later published by Faber & Faber
The Visual Display of Quantitative InformationTufte, Edward
Poems in ProseWilde, Oscar
The Wonderful Wizard of OzBaum, L. FrankLater published By Reilly & Lee
The ShackYoung, William P.First million copies published by Windblown Media; subsequently on New York Times best seller list.[12]

Self-publishing in music and in other media

Musical performers often self-publish, or "self-release" their recordings without having access to record label resources. While some acts who enjoy local or small scale popularity have started their own labels in order to release their music through stores, others simply sell the music directly to customers, for example, making it available to those at their live concerts.

In the years since the Internet became prominent as a medium for publicizing and distributing music, many musical acts have sold their recordings directly over the Internet without a label, either through their own websites or from third party websites. In some cases the sale takes the form of a physical CD or LP that is shipped to customers, while more sales today are beginning to take the form of downloads. Several musicians who first found prominence recording for record labels have recently attracted wide attention for self-releasing records online, among them Radiohead, Frank Ocean, Nine Inch Nails and Brian Eno.

See also


  1. ^ Publishers Weekly (04 April 2010). "Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000 in 2009 as Traditional Output Dipped". Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  2. ^ Robert Kroese. Self-Publish Your Novel: Lessons from an Indie Publishing Success Story.
  3. ^ Neuburger, Jeffrey D. (10 September 2008). "Court Rules Print-on-Demand Service Not Liable for Defamation". Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  4. ^ Shatzkin, Mike (11 July 2010). "Where will bookstores be five years from now?". Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e Christina Patterson (18 August 2012). "How the great writers published themselves". The Independent. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  6. ^ The Guardian (27 March 2012). "Pottermore conjures Harry Potter ebooks". Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  7. ^ Brown, Helen (2010-01-08). "Unleash your inner novelist". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved September 16, 2011. "Polly Courtney [...] made money self-publishing her novel, Golden Handcuffs, in 2006. [...] Courtney now has a three-book deal with HarperCollins [...]"
  8. ^ Saichek, Wiley (September 2003). "Christopher Paolini interview". Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Kernan, Lorna. The Irish Times.
  11. ^ Lane, Frederick S. (2006). The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 99. ISBN 1-59102-427-7.
  12. ^ Rich, Motoko (2008-06-24). "Christian Novel Is Surprise Best Seller". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-24.

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