Time to Retire/Erase/Delete the Term “Self-Published”

Once upon a time you had only two options to get your book in print: get a book deal from a big publisher or send it to “Vanity” press. The former was unlikely, the latter guaranteed–send them your manuscript they print it and bind it as is. You buy the books from them and do what you can selling and marketing.

Both options are still available, the first still unlikely, but the second has morphed into a diverse industry with many iterations, and has become known as “self-publishing.” But I must quibble with that term. Unless you have a printing press in your kitchen, you are not really “self” publishing. What you are actually doing is “purchase of services” publishing.

All of the purchase of services options cost money, some a lot, some relatively inexpensive. But even if you go modest, for instance using a service through Amazon, you are paying someone to put your book together and sell it back to you or to others. They make money. You make more money by purchasing the book wholesale from them and hand selling it. You make a very little when someone buys it online.

At the other end of the spectrum you can spend a great deal of money. One of the larger purchase of services options is iUniverse. They have a “menu” where you can purchase any service related to getting a book out of your “typewriter” and into someone else’s hands. You can buy editing, proof reading, cover design, marketing packages, and so on.

In the middle of the two extremes are small publishers that do less for you than the mega-publishers but won’t cost as much as iUniverse. I won’t talk about any of them because they are all a little different from each other.

So what’s an aspiring novice writer to do? I think it depends on whether you want to invest your treasure as time or money. With the low cost option you have to do it all: pick out/design the cover, maybe find a barter arrangement with another writer to edit and proof read your work, spend real time online fiddling with the technology, and so on. Word of caution here: don’t try to edit and proof read your own work, so you might have to pay someone for that, even with the low cost option. You could find a writing group to do that for you, if you are willing to put in the time to do the same for others. The big cost is your time, not your money.

With the high cost option, if you have the money, it comes packaged. This frees you up to do what you really want to do, write more stuff. The cost is money, not time. Either way, let’s get away from calling it “self-publishing.” If you don’t like my term, pick one you think does fit. Or maybe a printing press in the kitchen isn’t such a bad idea.