When most people think of publishing, the big publishing houses in New York and London come to mind. However, self-publishing is also an option, and although most successful self-published works are classics of literature written and produced before the advent of the major publishing industry, self-publishing is becoming popular again—among a wholly different crowd.

Are you deciding to self-publish or not? If you’re writing the great American novel or your memoirs, then publishing through a major company is ideal and probably the only way to having a best-seller. But if you’re writing a specialized, unusual, or even controversial work, self-publishing may be the best option for you. The key to understanding self-publishing and using it for your benefit is to know when it is appropriate and potentially profitable.

Self-publishing is essentially taking in upon yourself to arrange for the printing and distribution of your work. With a traditional publisher, you simply send your finished manuscript to an editor for review and if your work is accepted for publication, the publishing house arranges for the production of copies, the distribution and marketing of the book, and the royalties agreement. They maintain the rights to your work as well, and that is in contrast with self-publishing. If you publish your own work, you maintain the rights to your work, and you also receive much higher profits from sales. However, it is also up to you as your own publisher to market your work and distribute it to stores or individual buyers. Therefore, it is ideal to have a large target audience in mind—and a plan for how to advertise—before deciding to self-publish.

Remember, self-publishing is ideal when:

  • You are writing an unusual, specialty, or controversial work which may only appeal to a specific group and may not be acceptable to traditional publishers
  • You want creative control of the printing and production process and are confident in your ability to arrange for this. You want to maintain the rights to your work, and you may not agree with editorial changes a traditional publisher wants to make to your work.
  • You are confident with your ability to market and distribute your product to an audience.

If you are a new author and you have submitted your work for publication many times without success, you may elect to self-publish your work. However, it is a much better idea to get a professional opinion before doing so. It is possible that your work simply needs editing or stylistic changes, and if you are willing to have a professional editor go over your work and provide a review or critique, you may have much higher chances of being accepted by a traditional publisher. This would be especially beneficial to the author who has no experience with designing, printing, and distributing books or written material. Professional editing and manuscript formatting is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your submitted work is not being rejected by publishers due to technical errors. Often, large publishing companies do not have time to consider every manuscript they are sent, so poorly presented manuscripts with grammatical errors and bad formatting can be immediately rejected—even if the story is compelling.

If you know you do have a great manuscript and you still find yourself being rejected by traditional publishers, it might be time to consider self-publishing. Make sure you are confident in your material, prepared to learn, and ready to work. Self-publishing is not for slackers; it is a process unto itself, with technical aspects like formatting and printing, business deals with distributors or stores, and marketing/advertising. Self-publishing is great for individuals with an interest in these fields, and it can be even easier if you plan to do an e-book. (E-books are a topic on their own, so check back for a future entry on e-books.)

By no means is self-publishing only for those rejected by the large publishers. Many people self-publish their work because they can have control over the process, and they have the confidence and skill in business to undertake all the aspects of publishing. You can hire others to edit your work (like the professional editors at First Editing), and you can hire others to print, distribute, and market your work. In a traditional publication situation, the publishing company has a pre-packaged process for completing the editing and style, printing and binding, and distribution and marketing. Self-publishing offers the opportunity to take on these tasks and utilize a variety of creative methods.

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