Self-Publishing Reasons To Be Cheerful – Part 2


There are many variables and choices along the self-publishing road, whether an author decides to use author solutions companies like AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Infinity, Xlibris, Mill City Press or the many others using POD (print on demand) technology. Some publishing overlords will snipe from the hedgerow on our road and argue and catcall to us that these companies are simply the modern version of the vanity presses so prevalent from the 1970’s through to the late 1990’s. For the worst of them – take away the POD print technology and Internet and it is hard not to disagree with that argument; empty vessels with loud and powerful marketing departments hell-bent on one sole objective – the prosecution of their services rather than the sales of an author’s books. Perhaps the strong sun beating down on us on this long road is getting to us already and we are being a little too demonstrative. After all, these companies are there by definition to sell services not books. We must never confuse them in the blistering sunlight with book publishers. Real book publishers exist to produce and propagate the sales of books. And unless an author solutions company financed by their authors can hand on heart claim to have the sales of books as its primary commercial focus, then they can never claim the precious garland that reads ‘Publisher’.

But let us not cast the hand of generality too easily because along our road to self-publishing we will pass dwellings of many kinds to the left and right. The grand gardens which surround the traditional publishers are all too familiar. How we tried so many times when we first started out on our journey and dreamed of publishing a book. We just wanted to push open those large gates of stately publishing houses and rap upon their heavy doors. With Heaney’s stubby finger prodding and digging into our backs, pushing us closer to the door; with Platt’s rasping pen clutched tightly in our hands, we tapped gingerly on the timbers; with Wilde’s Bravado we brought an ear up close and heard the rustle of a thousand pages of literature flicked through by eager fingers inside. We wondered if those eager fingers might actually be flicking through the pages of that manuscript we pushed through the letterbox so many months ago. Perhaps, perhaps, but no… We knew we could have made it better, kept at it and written it beautifully until our own fingers were blood-cracked from the weariness of pen and thoughts humming in our heads. ‘Nietzsche and Thelma Go to Louisville’ was a shit title anyhow…should have called it ‘Nietzsche and Oscar Go to Paris’.

If we look hard enough along the road we will also see some detours. Old wooden signs both mock and cajole us at the same time. Signs that say ‘Vanity’, ‘Love thy Self’, ‘Walk This Way’, POD For Hire – No Job Too small’, ‘Publisher For Hire’, ‘Printer For Hire’, ‘Come In, We’re Open’ and finally, ‘YES WE CAN’. I wonder why Barack Obama is stretched out on a deck chair at the side of the road. “You never answered the kid. How much does self-publishing cost an author?” he asks.

In truth, much depends on the amount of work an author is willing to take on. There is plenty of work to choose from. The road to self-publishing is paved with as many opportunities as obstacles. One option available to an author is to use services like Lulu, Createspace, Blurb or work directly with a fulfilment printers like Lightning Source, Booksurge, RJ Communications ( or Bookmasters. If an author has learned some design skills and has an eye for good layout, then on line publishing software offered by Lulu and Createspace can be ideal and not only does an author have the choice in deciding how much of the design and book production work to take on, they can do it themselves or utilise the individual bespoke services provided. An author can choose to go a step further along the road and register their own publishing imprint, obtain a block of ISBN’s and use one of the available fulfilment printers like the above mentioned Lightning Source.

To answer Barack Obama’s question, yes, it can be done, but to do it properly, I do not see how it can be done well for anything less than £500 ($800), and that would include ISBN’s, LCN, legal deposit, on line distribution and print set up with whatever service is chosen.

That of course takes us along the road of self- publishing to the point of having a print on demand book available to purchase. It assumes the book is already well edited, and does not include any promotion or marketing; the area a commercial publisher will actually spend the highest amount on when a book is published. The promotion and marketing of a book is still a long way down the self-publishing road. Critically, an author needs to get the first crucial steps right in preparing and producing their book. If not, then the self-publishing road ahead is going to become increasingly covered with oil and glass, and ultimately, we may never stir Barack from his deck chair.



  1. sheila851 said:

    I published a middle-grade mystery with Infinity Publishing. I was very pleased with the end result. They were very helpful and responded to questions within 24 hrs and I liked the finished product, which they print on their own equipment. I would use them again.
    I sold close to 300 books by selling in my town, and heard very positive responses especially from the children 9-12 years old.
    I was under the impression that even authors published by standard companies had to do much of the legwork.
    It seems obvious that if you are a new, older author, if you want to see your book in print, you must do it yourself. How many rejection slips can you stand, especially if it takes 6-12 months for a reply? The system is a monopoly geared to youth and repeat authors of best sellers. I gave up!!

  2. Mick Rooney said:

    Hi Sheila,

    Thanks for posting your experiences. I would agree that Infinity are know to be a strong and reputable POD publisher. The are also unusual in that as you point out they do the printing in-house.

    I don’t entirely agree with you when you say that ‘standard’ publishers are not really for ‘new, older’ authors who submit manuscripts. A writer can start writing, and writing well at any age, young or old. J K Rowling is a case in point. And remember, every commercially published author was once a ‘new’ author.

    Though, I take your point well. The period of time taken for consideration of a book by a publisher is outlandish, not to mention that most published books can take anything from 6 to 18 months before the hit the hight street bookstores. From the time of an author submitting a manuscript to a publisher, even when it is accepted, can take more than 18 months to 2 yrs before it sees the light of day.

    Nevertheless, following the normal commercial path to publishing can help to teach an author valuable lessons in patience, dedication, and the feedback to hone their writing talents. Too often, I find that an author considering self-publishing is more influenced by an impatience to ‘see their book in print’ than the countless rejection slips collected along the road.

    The system of publishing certainly does have to change. In particular, the long held elitist rules of submission ie, the practice of publishers frowning on authors who submit to more than one publisher at a time. Why not, I say, don’t literary agents court multiple publishers with an MS all the time?

    One of the most common things I hear editors at publishing houses bemoan is the slush piles they have to wade through week in week out, yet, these same editors claim to know within a handful of pages if a manuscript is going to suitable and good enough to publish within a few pages. So, if this is the case, why does it take so long?

    Publishing is no different to many other facets of business. Every company wants to shift as much of the ‘dog work’ off somewhere else if they can. Hence, 90% of medium to large publishing houses use a literary agent as their ‘screen’ and will not entertain an unsollicited MS. They know a reputable literary agent will also not submit a manuscript unless it is professionally edited and as near as possible to publishing standard. This is now the norm, but it was not always the case. The youth of today have far greater literacy skills than say the youth of 30 years ago. And I bet many are more savvy about skills like selling, promotion and the publishing industry in general.

    regarding publishers monopoly being geared toward repeat authors of best sellers – well, I think it is not so much a publisher looking at repeat best selling authors, but rather their doggedness in trying to repeat best selling formulas of novel and non-fiction theme. again, this is something which has changed with publishers. There was a time when publishers were far more independent in editorial thinking – more about creating trends, genres and literary movements, than benignly following whatever sells well.