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WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 2

Help for writers

Choose Your Self-publishing Route Revised

Joanne Phillips


Embarking on the indie publishing journey, in the ever-evolving landscape that is 2023, demands a fresh perspective. Back in 2012, the array of choices for authors was mind-boggling, leading to meticulous research and comparisons. Fast forward to today, and the paths have evolved into two main routes:

1. Do it all yourself
2. Pay someone else to do it all for you

Neither of these routes are as simple as they sound, however. For a start, doing it all yourself doesn't mean literally doing it all - it means sourcing skills and services from professional suppliers. Equally, paying someone else to do it for you won't cover everything - there are some things you simply can't buy. You still have to get out there and sell your book! Let's look at each option in more detail:

Option 1: Putting the ‘self' into self-publishing

What some might call the true indie route, if you choose this path you will be the project manager of your book.


• Total control! From trim size to cover design, pricing, and e-formatting, every decision rests in your hands. Total control means you choose your own editor and cover designer - or you can do it yourself, of course. The end product meets your vision exactly.

• Instant information. Platforms like Amazon KDP provide real-time feedback on sales and downloads, aiding in tracking marketing activities.

• Monthly royalty payments. Many author solutions companies pay royalties six-monthly. Amazon and Ingram Spark pay monthly (Amazon: 2 months in arrears; Ingram: approx 3 months in arrears). As an indie author, it's important to be in control of your money.


• Overwhelming control! With complete control comes complete accountability and a lot of stress. If your proofreader misses lots of errors, it's your fault because you chose them. If you do your own cover, or approve a bad design, ditto. So many decisions to make can be overwhelming - which is why lots of authors chose to have a company help them out and hold their hands through the process.

Option 2: Throw a bit of money at it

Choosing an author solutions company entails delegating the entire project to someone else, but it comes with its own set of challenges. First, it's important to tackle the age-old question of ‘vanity' publishing, which still pops up a lot on Reddit.

Using an author solutions company - i.e. paying someone else to publish your book is NOT ‘vanity' publishing.

Often, so-called vanity publishing has been a term loosely used to describe a nefarious practice whereby a company would pose as a traditional publisher and pretend they wanted to publish a book on its own merits, then charge a lot of money to do so. The often-unsuspecting author would end up with hundreds (or more) copies of their book that they had no hope of selling. Vanity publishing is a classic victim-blaming term, as it was always the publishing houses who were at fault in this process.

These days, with print-on-demand (POD), there is no need to have hundreds of copies printed and stored, because copies of a book can literally be printed when they are ordered and sent directly to the customer.

That said, there are still companies around who will happily charge far too much for self-publishing solutions, so do your research carefully. It helps to know roughly what it would cost to do it yourself (see above), and then you can decide if it is worth it for you personally to pay someone else.

So, what should you expect from a professional author solutions company?

1. They will treat you with respect and professional courtesy, and remember that you are the customer. You are not ‘their' author - they are not ‘your' publisher. Get that distinction correct from the outset. If you think you are being published and have a publisher, you are wrong. This route is self-publishing. If you don't want to self-publish, keep querying agents and traditional publishers until you find a route where NO MONEY changes hands.

2. They will tell you the charges up front and explain what every charge is for. There will be fees for editing, proofreading, cover design, typesetting, formatting, and administration as a basic level. There may also be distribution fees, and warehousing if you decide to hold stock.

3. They should ask to see a sample of your book before they agree to offer their services. Why? Because most really good author solutions companies have their own reputations to consider and wouldn't want to be responsible for publishing anything that might reflect badly on them, for example a book that was defamatory. Also, because if your sample needs a lot of editing, they would need to reflect this in their costing.

4. They should have a very clear timescale of what will happen and when. When you will receive proofs, when you will see your cover designs and how many designs you'll get to choose from, and when the book is likely to be ready for release.


• Expertise and hand-holding. Reputable companies offer publishing experience and a valuable sounding board for ideas, ensuring the best possible quality for your book.

• Distribution. Some companies have a proven distribution record and can help get your book into bookshops (if you pay for it); a challenging feat for indie authors going solo.

• Delegation. Save time on legwork and administrative tasks, allowing you to focus on writing your next masterpiece. Until you've been through the process yourself, it's hard to imagine how much work true indie publishing involves, so you might want to consider this aspect seriously if you're short on computer skills or time.


• Cost. The cheapest at the time of writing was just under £3000 for a basic package (but this didn't include proofreading which was extra). The most expensive genuine package was just under £8,000 and this included many extras including marketing and a hardback edition. Work out how many books you'll have to sell to get this back.

• Loss of control. Handing over control means sacrificing something, whether it's access to sales figures or decision-making authority. Clarify reporting and royalty arrangements before committing.

Final Thoughts

If you do decide to go it alone and want to have a print version (physical copy) of your book, as well as an ebook, then Ingram Spark is one of the most popular POD printers at the time of writing. There are other printers, of course, many offering creative ways to turn your book into a stunning product, such as colour photos, hardback and dust-jackets, foil embellishments, embossing, and more. With the glut of AI-generated books hitting the market, many authors are looking for ways to differentiate their books and turn them into items that readers will love to own and keep.

Remember, most author solutions companies will use the same POD printing service that you have access to, so you will end up with the same product as if you did it all yourself. You have access to editors and cover designers, via places such as Fiverr, but do you have the time and the energy? These are all important questions when you come to make your decision about which route to take.


WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 1: What is self-publishing? Revised

An explanation of self-publishing as it stands today, introducing the term ‘indie' and a brief overview of routes to market for indie authors.

WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 3 Revised

EbooksDigital bookstore selling wide range of ebooks in 50 categories from Hildegard of Bingen to How to Write a Dirty Story and showing how the range of ebooks available is growing.: How to Sell on Amazon: An overview of the KDP platform and what it offers to indie authors.

Writersservices Self-publishing Guide 4 Revised

Ebooks: Formatting for Kindle Revised

Writersservices Self-publishing Guide 4 Revised

Ebooks: Formatting for Kindle Revised


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Joanne lives in Cheshire, England with her teenage daughter. She writes and produces audio dramas as GravyTreeMedia, and romantic comedies, literary fiction and cozy mysteries as an indie author. An award-winning novelist, Joanne has a Masters in Creative Writing, and is a freelance publishing professional. Connect with Joanne at and on social media - she loves hearing from readers (and will probably send you some free stuff to say thank you).

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Other articles by Joanne Phillips on the WritersServices site:

The Business of Writing
The Ins and Outs of Indexing
How to Market Your Book Online