Four Questions Before Self-Publishing Your Book

Four Questions to Ponder About Before Self-Publishing Your Book

  • Are you self-publishing your book? Are you sure this is not vanity publishing?

Self-publishing is not vanity publishing. Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain and William Blake had self-published their books. Self-publishing has been around for decades and is a stepping stone to get your book published while vanity publishing is a scam. Some vanity publishers disguise themselves as self-publishers and others call themselves as traditional publishers. However, they are not both. You should learn to spot them.

A vanity publisher is one who asks you a ‘contribution’ towards publishing your book and also shares in the returns from sale of the book. They do nothing to edit your book and do not help in marketing and distribution of your book. In fact, many distributors refuse to work with vanity publishers. They do not care whether your book sells well because they have already made money from the hefty contribution that you have paid them. Keep away from these vanity publishers. They will only destroy your image as a serious writer.

There are firms that help you self-publish their book. There is a huge difference between these firms and vanity publishers. These firms clearly state the money involved in editing your book, designing a cover and publishing print copies. They charge you for the services that you avail. They do not share in the earnings from the book.

A traditional publisher will not charge you for editing the book, cover design or printing. He will invest his own money in the book because he expects your book to sell and give him returns towards the money, time and effort he has invested in the book.

  • Do you want to see your book in book stores?

Self-publishing a book only in e-book format will severely restrict the reach of the book in an Indian market. This is because a vast number of people still prefer print books in our country. If you put up your book for sale on a Print-on-Demand (POD) publishing forum, the price of the book steeply escalates. This pushes down sales as most people would think twice before picking up an expensive self-published book. I am giving a general picture here. There are many success stories but they are exceptions. If you have the money to invest in printing the book, it would make sense to print the same but then, the problem of distribution arises.

Traditional publishers have a strong distribution network and the book reaches all corners of the country/world. To put it in simpler terms, the book can be found in bookstores. This is very difficult—expensive and challenging— for a self-publisher to achieve.

  • Are you sure your book is ready for the public?

The most disappointing thing about many self-published books are the glaring errors in them. Most self-published books do not go through a stringent regime of editing. However, this is not the case of most traditionally published books. Books with conspicuous spelling and grammatical errors are not even chosen by the publishers. Even the chosen ones go through various stages of editing. This is one of the reasons why many readers prefer a traditionally published book to a self-published one. (Again, there are many exceptions to this rule. I am only talking about the general perception of the public.)

If you opt to self-publish your book, set aside some amount of money to get your book edited by professional editors.

Beta-reading and opinion from friends matter but they cannot replace substantive editing, copy editing and proofreading by a professional. Also, invest in getting the book cover designed by an expert. It is the first thing that catches the eye of the reader. I do need to retract my earlier statement here. Self-publishing, if done in the right manner, does cost money.

  • Are you clear about what are you expecting from your book?

The reach of a traditionally published book is directly proportional to the depth of the story, the quality of writing and the popularity of the author. In spite of delivering fabulous stories in sparkling prose, most self-published authors never reach the heights—either in fame or finances—that they deserve. Print publicity, presence in literary festivals and publicity in radio and television remain beyond the reach of most self-published authors.

Understanding these two options is important to make an informed decision regarding the path that you choose. If answering these questions made you decide in favour of traditionally publishing your book, get your query letter and book proposal edited by a professional before submitting to the agents and publishers.


Archana Sarat is a freelance writer and author since the last ten years. She shuttles between Chennai and Mumbai and loves both cities. Her works are published in various popular newspapers and magazines like The Times of India, The Economic Times, The SEBI and Corporate Laws Journal, The CA Newsletter, Me Magazine, the Science Reporter, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the Vengeance Anthology, among others. A Chartered Accountant by qualification, Archana has decided that she would keep cooking up tales as long as she can get away with it. Her debut novel, Birds of Prey, is a psychological crime thriller and has been gathering acclaim for being a gritty and gripping read.

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