Views on Self publishing

The Leicester Review of Books is keen to hear views from both readers and writers on self publishing and self published books.

Some of the questions we are asking are:

  • Have you self published?
  • What are your experiences of it?
  • What are the benefits that you have received?
  • What are the disadvantages or challenges that you’ve experienced?
  • Why do writers self publish?
  • Is it advisable for a writer to publish their books themselves?
  • Are there any famous writers who have self published?
  • Have you read a book by a self published writer?
  • What did you think of it?
  • Are self published books inferior to those produced by mainstream or commercial publishers?

So far we have received the following responses:

Synchronicity M. commented:

I am only beginning to investigate this too. I have heard good things about I think it does depend a lot upon what type of material you are putting out there. Some people have been successful using lulu as they were publishing content where the speed of getting it out there was critical … as in software reviews.

Carol Roach commented:

To self publish you have to do all your own marketing and that is hard. You usually get paid only by what you sell and you have to sell yourself. Some self publishing places ask large amounts of money up front and you hardly break even after you sell your books. Most big publishers look down at self publishing companies and consider them inferior, why because for a price they will publish just about anything good or otherwise. But the advantages is to get a book published that you may not have been able to do before. Some books are really good, they just don’t confirm to the formula required by the big time publishers. I went with publish america for my first book although they claim to be traditional they are really self publish.”

Rebecca Goings

Self publishing is a slippery slope. For some people, it is a great tool — to get a self-help book, a memoir, or a work of non-fiction into print–as those are decidedly harder to publish than mere fiction. However, the author who wishes to bypass the publishing world and go for self-publishing is in for quite the shock. First of all, self-publishing houses are known throughout the publishing world as “Vanity Presses”. They have nothing to do with the quality of the book, and everything to do with making themselves money. I myself have been approached by Author House, a company who has a few printing packages you can choose from, each looking extremely attractive, until you see the hundreds of dollars posted on the price tag.

Sometimes, it can be upwards of $1000 depending on the package you choose. These books are published “as is”, meaning, no editor will go through them for you, unless you want to pay the extra fee (which is usually another couple hundred dollars). Better hope there’s no typos, grammatical errors, or glaring holes in your manuscript! Also, these books can only be purchased through their website. They cannot be purchased from a bookstore, because they do not offer the bookstores their usual discount, nor are the books returnable to the printer if they do not sell. These are absolute MUSTS for bookstores to stock your book. Not to mention the fact that not enough people go to Author House’s bookstore online (or any other vanity press’s online bookstore) to even remotely earn back that $1000 you spent getting it published in the first place. Now, they do usually give you many copies of your book, delivered right to your door, but then YOU are responsible for selling them. And how, exactly, are you going to manage that?

One thing you must watch out for in self-publishing is when they demand money AND a signed contract. Never never never sign a contract with a company that makes you pay them money. Why? Because then they have exclusive rights to that book and you cannot sell the book to another publisher until the contract has run its course. So you just gave them both your hard-earned money AND the rights to your book. If you give **anyone** the rights to your book, you should be EARNING money, not spending it.

Companies like and also do paperback printing, which are actually very good quality; I’ve seen them both myself. Lulu gives you the option of being able to sell between 100 and 200 books before you will be circulated on and the like. So that’s definitely a bonus. And, they don’t make you pay up front to publish your book. YOU format it and YOU do your own cover, however, they will sell it for you in their own online bookstore. They DO take a cut of your cover price, depending on how thick your book is. If you have a thick book, say 400 pages, you could be looking at charging the public upwards of $19.95 to $24.95 per book in order to make any kind of decent profit. And who’s going to want to pay that much for a paperback?

If you go the self-publishing route, know that it is merely a tool for you to use to get your book in print, not in the bookstores. If you do not care about being a well-known author, then self-publishing may be for you; especially if you want to publish say a book of poems that you only want to give to friends and family. But if you are self-published and then want to market your books to actual publishers in New York, it is not universally excepted as being a publishing credit. To most editors, it appears as if you have no respect for the publishing world at large and thus wish to bypass it by self-publishing. So my advice to authors is to be careful when self-publishing. Know your facts, and know your myths. Obviously the vanity press is going to make it look like a sweet deal. But any salesman worth his salt will do the same. Ask yourself if you want to spend money or earn it as an author. Best-selling authors never had to pay their publishing houses one red cent. Food for thought.

Marina G. commented:

Once I read something about Dan Brown. I think that he has self-published his first book Digital Fortress in his website. He published half of the book and those who wanted to read the whole book had to pay for it. It was very clever. He had success with it.

Maria Schneider commented:

Check out POD-DY Mouth. She reviews Print on Demand (POD) books–those put out by self publishers. Her blog is a real eye opener and there’s lot of info on various self-pubs if you’re willing to read through the archives. There are a few posts on authors that have been successful. The author of the blog is traditionally published so she has interesting commentary on the industry also. I think Self-publishing is going to become more and more popular as the cost comes down and the accesibility goes up. However, with it, there are more books out there–and there aren’t necessarily more readers. Whether self-pub’d or not, I think authors more and more have to do their own marketing. We need some way to entice people to read–pop up snacks between the pages, prizes in every x number of books…dates with famous celebrites? :>)

Nick Soutter commented:

There’s a decent covering of the pros and cons of POD here .

17 Responses to “Views on Self publishing”
  1. Irving says:

    Hello folks:

    I self-published Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel with Booksurge, a POD book publisher. I think I did it mostly in a smart way. I had a friend design the interior and cover, ($500.00)did my own editing, along with friends, and paid only $99.00 for the initial fee for putting it in their system, which included an ISBN. I also decided to pay an extra $75.00 to get a Library of Congress ID number, and a bit more to get into Baker and Taylor wholesalers, so anyone going into a bookstore could order my book.

    They have deals with other online sources and are now owned by so my book is on Amazon, and Abebooks, Alibiris, Borders, and many small webiste that affiliate with Amazon.

    The best way if you go this route, is to have a good website made for your book, and do a lot of marketing yourself online, get on all the search engines, join all the directories, join discussion groups and forums in your book’s area, etc. Take a look at and check it out for yourself.
    Booksurge pays 25% of the ocver price as royalty, so it is not too bad a deal, and by many hours of working at it, I have managed to sell well over 500 copies online and to a few bookstores. I also got a few bloggers to review the book and some magazines.

    It can be done! It just takes work, like anything else in life. Oh and it helps if people like the book :)

    Peace and Many Blessings,

    Irving Karchmar

  2. Hugh Griffin says:

    In the US “self-publishing” connotes: buying one’s own ISBN to protect publishing rights, having the printing done by a printer…whereas most here seem to refer to use of ‘subisdy or vanity press’ as self-publishing. Many authors produce books for low prices and sell them successfully…but almost without exception, they use genuine “self-publishing.” There’s a very interesting and free Self-Pub listserve based in the US which provides much good advice from many successful authors and doesn’t permit “sales” or “advertising” by subsidy publishers (like all those listed above).
    H M Griffin
    Los Angeles

  3. Linda says:

    Like a great many of the un-initiated, I too went with Publish America for my first book. At first, I was elated that a so called traditional, royalty paying publisher wanted to publish my book, but when I held the finished product in my hand, I was horrified.

    No editing, was the worst of what I saw. As a new writer, I had no idea about editing. I figured that if the spelling was correct, then the manuscript was good to go.

    It wasn’t until after I had signed the contract, that I discovered a world of information online in the form of writing and critiquing groups. Trust me, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but a lot of knowledge is priceless.

    After my first novel was released, and I discovered that the marketing and promotion of it fell to me, I made the decision NOT to promote it. PA was not going to make money off of me. I was ashamed of my book. NOT the story, but the rest of it. The POV, the tenses, the editing or lack thereof. The story is unique, one of a kind, and of that I was particularly proud. But, even that pride was overshadowed by the stigma that attached itself to my book. It was POD.

    Now just why a technology should cause such an uproar, is beyond me. It really is a wonderful tool and one those big guns need to start utilizing. It will save them thousands of dollars in warehousing fees for those unsaleable bios and memoirs they insist on publishing.
    But, I’m getting off track here.

    For my second novel, I refused to allow PA to touch it. I shopped it around, and landed an agent. She was a good agent, but patience has never been one of my virtues, so waiting for her to find a publisher just didn’t work for me. But, more that was the notion that when she did find one, it could be anywhere from eighteen months to three years before my book hit the stores. As I said, patience is not a virtue for me.

    So, I chose to release my agent from her contract and go with self-publishing. Most folks think that term is a death knell, but is it really?

    My book is available through Ingrams, as well as Baker and Taylor. Any book store in the world can order it, if they so choose. I have control over the discount I give to booksellers, I have control over the price of the book and I own the rights to it. Unlike PA’s seven year contract, where they hold all rights to the book, with self-publishing I can pull my book from them at any time. If I happen to get a movie deal out of the book, all of the profits are mine. I don’t have to give the publisher fifty percent.

    The quality of a self published book has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and there are some, like Star Publishing that actually screen the manuscripts sent to them. If a book isn’t quality, then they won’t accept it, regardless of the fact that they charge the author for publishing. And why? Because they and a couple of other subsidy publishers are trying to erase the stigma of self published books.

    In due time, it will become as hard to get a manuscript accepted by a subsidy press as it is a traditional publisher, and the stigma will be erased.

    As a new writer, at least in the published sense, I am still learning. My first book, “What the Heart Wants” is a good book, with a unique storyline and likeable characters. The fact that it is my first almost excuses the mistakes I made in it. My second book, “Dark Ridge” is far and above a better book. Good, strong characters, a good storyline, better written. Between the two, I have had about a dozen short stories accepted for publication in anthologies, and magazines. I’ve even been paid for a couple of them. So, I am growing as a writer, and even developing a fan base, albeit a small one. But, in all things, one must crawl before one can walk.

    I think the self published route was a good fit for my second book. I don’t regret my choice to do it. Because, for one, it is already available, and when my next book, the sequel to Dark Ridge is finished, people will hopefully be acquainted with the characters and will look forward to its release.

    The way the major houses operate these days, afraid to take a chance, afraid to step into the 21st century, they are missing out on some terrific writers and some wonderful books. But, their loss is the small presses and the subsidy publishers gain.

  4. Linda says:

    I wanted to invite all of you to pop over to a couple of blogs that further this discussion and addresses other issues facing authors worldwide. Please check out: and

    And I would also like to invite you all to visit my blog for a book tour, via blogs for Dorothy Thompson, relationship expert and advice columnist. Dorothy is the foremost expert on the Soul Mate phenomena and she is dropping by my blog for a Q&A session on the 18th of Nov.

  5. Anna says:

    I’ve read only a handful of self-published books, so admittedly my experience with them is limited. However, all of those books needed the heavy hand and red pen of an editor before they could be palatable. As a result, I refuse to read any more self-published books. I don’t care if you think you’re the next great writer destined for a Nobel prize — get a friggin’ editor who is not related to you before you publish anything.

  6. * Have you self published? No, not yet. I am leaning this way more and more, though.
    * What are your experiences of it? None yet, but I have read a couple of books that were self-published. They were very good!
    * What are the benefits that you have received? None yet, except the enjoyment of good books.
    * What are the disadvantages or challenges that you’ve experienced? None yet.
    * Why do writers self publish? Getting a publisher interested is difficult if you haven’t already published something. Also, I believe some people do it because they have a special market in mind, like their family.
    * Is it advisable for a writer to publish their books themselves? I think so.
    * Are there any famous writers who have self published? Haven’t studied the issue, but I bet there are.
    * Have you read a book by a self published writer? Yes; several.
    * What did you think of it? It was good!
    * Are self published books inferior to those produced by mainstream or commercial publishers? Not in the least! I’m sure some are, but then, I won’t be reading them.

  7. Brian says:

    I’m currently at the the stage of presenting my book to literary agents here in the UK. Naturally, I’ve had a few rejections but I’m still going to run with this method for the time being.

    I looked at self-publishing and can’t decide if all methods of this route are vanity or just a potential headache. All the same, folks like LULU seem to get a good rap while Authorhouse appear to be the scum stain on the bath of resources that are available to potential authors.

    Don’t get me wrong, self publishing seems to have a decent place in the market and has turned out some great book but I think that there is the danger of any method that involves avoiding literary agents and publishers becoming a poisoned chalice.

  8. In December of 2002, my wife, daughter and I were in Paris (my first time) and visited the museum of the great Symbolist painter, Gustav Moreau (1826-1898), in Montmartre. It’s situated in the house of his parents, where he lived most of his life, and where he built two huge ateliers on the top floor, one above the other connected by a spiral staircase, and where his massive trove of giant and small paintings, watercolors and pencil studies are on display, open to the general public as well as to avid students of his rigorously classical style taken wing in visionary flights of a similarly meticulous imagination. His own students included Matisse and Roualt and briefly Odilon Redon, and he had traveled in his youth with Degas to Italy, a journey that inspired his style from then on. His paintings were beloved by the Surrealists, with their bejeweled surfaces, their fantastic architectures done in minute detail, and their majestic mythic and mystic scope. There’s a photograph of Salvador Dalí on bended knee at the base of the famous spiral staircase that connects the two attic ateliers. It seemed overwhelming that Moreau bequeathed his entire works, many of the giant canvasses sketched in but not finished before his death, to France and its people, in perpetuity, as a gift of his lifetime’s achievement. This was his gallery, the absolute massive cavern of his imagination, left behind for all to enjoy.

    I came out of the three or four hours of our visit inspired to return home and edit my own manuscripts of poetry (totaling fifty seven at the time of this writing, October, 2005) and make a concerted effort to get them published, to see them into print. Something about the establishment of Moreau’s permanent gallery ignited my own desire to establish my body of work in poetry in the world before boarding the Blimp of No Return. My book-long manuscripts in their folders and Velo-bound two-sided versions, piling up on my shelves, were almost whimpering to be put into book form, “Print me!” the way the giant plant in the Little House of Horrors kept repeating, “Feed me!”

    So, keeping in mind what a friend and genius poet guru, Mexican poet Marco Antonio Montes de Oca, once said, as we crossed the traffic-crazed Avenida de la Reforma in Mexico City, that publishing has to be the natural and reasonable extension of writing poetry at all, to complete the circle of the creative act, I have undertaken the task of publishing my work under the imprint of The Ecstatic Exchange, and my books as part of The Ecstatic Exchange Series.

  9. I have been writing all of my life, and although I think that traditional methods of publishing are important and useful, I also believe that self-publishing has a legitimate place in the industry. I has not been fully realized yet, but neither was blogging or even the world wide web itself at one point.

    People increasingly want information more quickly and they want it delivered to them in more sophisticated methods. In addition to writing, I’ve been a Librarian for about six years. The bottom line for me is not whether a book was self-published or traditionally published but whether or not people will read it.

    There are plenty of traditionally published books that I would consider worthless, yet millions of people read them. So, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Ultimately, the readers decide if something is worthy of praise. The real challenge for the self publisher is getting the word out about his or her book.

    I have just published my first novel, The Golden Scrolls, and so far, the readers have given good reviews. Does that mean I can quit my job and collect royalties? Probably not, but it is a beginning.

  10. Troped says:

    One thing that publishers (and only publishers) can accomplish is market research. But if you’re smart, there’s a way for you to accomplish that as well. Namely, distribute your work on the internet for free! Musicians have been realizing the power of this for a while (Do you know who OK Go is?). Distributing your work online as a blog or on sites like can help you to figure out if there’s enough of an audience out there to spend $1500 on self-publishing.

  11. We should take care not to conflate self-publishing with being published by a p.o.d. publisher. I became an author-publisher in order to publish books neither conventional presses nor p.o.d. presses would do, because they were too long (two are 740 pp), complex (mix of many different numbers of columns and of Japanese with the English)or odd (the first had almost 1,000 translated haiku, all about sea slugs). Though published by top publishers in Japan, I prefer the freedom to style books as I please and earn 3-10X more per book than I received in royalties. The only problem is p.r.. Mass media reviews tend to have 1), out-of-date rules about date (see what R.A.L.P.H., says about that!) which I, who must sell my books from the moment they are published (poverty demands it), cannot comply with, 2) out-of-date rules about hard-covers or the use of p.o.d. printing (which is not the same as paying a p.o.d. publisher), and 3), little or no access to outsiders – just try to get through to editors by e-mail! All I can say is “Rise, Ye Sea Slugs!”

  12. I’m a self published author that utilized Infinity publishing. I’m now working on my second project as we speak to be released in April of 2007. Most people dislike self published authors and it’s hard to obtain a review from most companies when you market yourself.

    However, I’m proud to be a self-published author and I love marketing and selling my books to the public (proud to say not one dissatisfied reader). My reasons for not utilizing/waiting on a Literary agent is because they take too long to respond. Publishing companies are the same or are backlogged. If you want to know more about my book, about me and future projects, go to my website, I look forward to all comments.

  13. Jane says:

    Hello Everyone,

    Self publishing is great. Just choose the best company that suits you and has editing, etc.

    As for those people who look down, it is so easy for them to look down. That’s all.
    Don’t get discouraged.

    My friend had a traditional publishing contract. She only got it because she knew someone working in the publishing company. They screwed her and the final product.

  14. Diane Saks says:

    My only real problem with iuniverse is that since they moved to Indiana, they don’t communicate well with us when the sales are not good. There is no monthly sales report issued unless you sell something that month. When was in Nebraska, they used to report us two months later, like we just had March and they would let us know what our March sales were like in May, whether we sold any books or not. The Quarterly sales came a little later like Q1 Jan, February, March was ususally calculated by the end of May whether we had any sales or not. I invite all of you to email me if you have any royalty problems from . I don’t know about you, but I want things back the way they were

    Please contact me at dsaks I want to send hard copies of as many requests for monthly and quarterly reports placed on a schedule.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] The Leicester Review of Books is conducting a survey on the views both readers and writers have on self publishing and self published books. […]

  2. […] Since September, the Leicester Review of Books has been conducting a survey to find out what readers and writers think of self-publishing and self-published books. […]

  3. […] It was published in the United States in September 2006 and is currently available worldwide. I self-published the book using The Golden Scrolls is about a kingdom on the brink of an unfathomable darkness that was creeping closer to them and consuming everything in its path. Other kingdoms had already fallen, and the people of Cor were awaiting a Chosen One who would find the long lost Golden Scrolls. These scrolls contained the only remedy to the darkness that plagued these people. […]

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