HomeDiscussion GroupsSelf-Pub U5 Things Every Author Needs to Hear Before Self-Publishing a Book

24 replies and 10 participants in topic. Last update: 1 year, 3 months ago.

Every so often I am asked what one piece of advice I would give an author who is seeking to self-publish a book. It’s really hard to boil down everything an author should know about self-publishing into one piece of advice, so I’m going to cheat a little and say that my advice is to listen to these five things that many authors don’t really want to acknowledge, but should hear.

1. There are people who will take advantage of your lack of knowledge about the self-publishing business.

On the one hand, it’s getting harder and harder to differentiate between companies in the self-publishing industry that truly have your best interests at heart and those whose best interests lay squarely on their own bottom lines.

On the other hand, with the Internet at our fingertips, it’s never been easier to find reviews—good and bad—about companies and people who provide self-publishing services. Truly, one can no longer plead ignorance when it comes to deciding which company gets to work with you on your book.

Here’s how you can look beyond the great customer testimonials on the company website. In the search bar of Google or Bing or whatever, type in the name of the company you are researching along with the word “reviews” or “scam” or “complaints.” It’s kind of fun to see what comes up. Unless you’re doing this search after you’ve already paid the company money, in which case I apologize for provoking that sick feeling in your gut….

Some other possible red flags:
• “Free” ISBNs where the self-publishing company grants you one of their ISBNs without explaining to you that they are now the publisher of record and not you;
• Not receiving the full royalty to which you are entitled;
• Self-publishing companies that seem to be associated with a traditional publisher, giving them some credibility;
• Companies that ask you to submit your manuscript for approval and/or pay to have your book “published,” giving you the sense that you’re getting your book published by a “real” publisher.

And never, ever forget that you are the customer.

2. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Planning extends to self-publishing. And planning to take the advice of the first self-publishing company you find on Google, even if that company happens to be 1106 Design, is not a plan.

Part of your plan should be to find a company (or companies, or persons) that provides the services you need to publish your book independently. But that should not BE your plan. Your plan should include research into your book’s viability, the competition, cover and interior design of books in your genre, and into the self-publishing industry itself—how exactly do you plan to get this done?

Planning should include some goal setting (personal and business goals – do you want to make money, use your novel as a launching pad to a series of books, is the book part of the marketing strategy for your consulting business, or is your book a legacy piece for your children?). Setting goals helps you identify your budget and the types of services you require. Then you need to research the best way to find those services. And you need a budget. And a marketing plan. And, oh yes, plan to write your book too!

3. Get paid like an Indie Publisher, not an indie author.

Ah yes, the things they never tell you. When you publish through a self-publishing company (sometimes called a subsidy publisher for reasons that will become evident, who actually publishes the book? Is it you? The company? Are you getting “royalties” from the company or are you getting the correct profit per book (sometimes called “publisher compensation”)?

Indie Publishers make sure their per book profit is calculated like this:


…while indie authors tend to get “royalties” from companies that use an equation something like this:


Don’t forget that you need to deduct all of your fixed costs from your royalties or publisher compensation. Those are the costs to prepare the book for publication.

If you decide to be an indie author, understand what you are getting for the “Company Share” slice of your profits. Take this matter seriously; the amount can add up to dollars per book. “Subsidy companies” subsidize their low upfront costs by taking some of your profits. “Pay me now or pay me later,” as the saying goes. Some companies will charge you an arm and a leg up front AND take their share of your profits, so make sure to be very clear on the calculation and what services you are receiving.

The easiest way around this is to be an Indie Publisher. Purchase your own ISBN. Be the publisher of record on your book. Only deal with companies that encourage you to set up your own account with IngramSpark or CreateSpace so that the publisher compensation comes directly to you and not via another company that sends you “royalties.”

4. If you have to cut corners, perhaps now is not the time to self-publish.

We are the first to admit that doing it right costs money. But, you are in control of what “doing it right” means to you because your definition of “doing it right” depends largely on your goals, your plan, and your budget.

If you are self-publishing a family memoir for your children and you have a small budget, then you will try and do as much as you can by yourself or by reaching out to friends and family for assistance.

However, if you are publishing a book as part of your company marketing strategy, you want to make sure the book’s quality (or lack thereof) does not reflect badly on you or your business. In short, you’ll need to throw money at it. And if you can’t, then research ways to fund the book (e.g., crowdfunding) or consider whether a book is a realistic part of your business marketing strategy at this point in time.

Think of it this way: Traditional publishers set out to make a profit. They only take on and invest money in books they think will sell well and increase their bottom lines. That’s why so many books get rejected. If you’re the author and even YOU aren’t willing to invest much money into your book, what’s that saying?

5. You will have to market your book.

I wasn’t sure where to put the emphasis in the above sentence. Should it be “YOU will have to market your book” or “You WILL have to market your book?”

Either way, marketing is essential to your book’s success. No one else is going to do it for you, unless you have the budget to hire someone to help you market your book. And even then, you’re going to have to be the person doing the book signings, giving the talks, encouraging libraries to take your book, schlepping your book to local indie bookstores, going to conferences and book fairs, handing out bookmarks, writing your blog posts, and the other myriad tasks that fall upon the author’s shoulders. Incidentally, if one day you realize your dream of being published by a “real publisher,” you’ll STILL have to market your book.

Again, if you choose to be an Indie Publisher and treat your book like a business with a budget and profit expectations, then you will know that promoting your book will have a direct impact on meeting your profit goals.

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Started by: BookWorks Team  • 

All great points, Michele! Like any other entrepreneurial endeavor, if you expect to succeed you must educate yourself, learn your market, be able/willing to invest the necessary resources and be prepared to put in continuous, sustained effort to support the growth of your business over the long-haul. Because self-publishing is a business, and requires a business plan and mindset if you’re serious about your goals.

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Started by: 1106 Design, LLC  • 

Glad you agree, team.

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Great article.

Started by: Carole P. Roman  • 

Great article Michele. People barrel into self-publishing without knowing or planning beyond writing their book. You have some interesting points to consider before you even choose a way to publish.

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Started by: 1106 Design, LLC  • 

Thanks for your reply, Carole. I see you have enjoyed great success as an author and are now sharing your expertise with others. I’m glad to meet you!

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Nice to meet you too

Started by: Carole P. Roman  • 

Nice to meet you too! Loved your article. I learned a lot.

Profile photo of Aislinn  Kearns
Started by: Aislinn Kearns  • 

Good article! I completely agree.

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Started by: 1106 Design, LLC  • 

Thanks for your comment, Aislinn. Please spread the word. If enough of us speak up, fewer authors will fall victim to the scammers.

Profile photo of John L. Nunes
Started by: John L. Nunes  • 

Your post was most informative. Knew and re-learned some of your points. Bet many of your readers are of the same opinion.
Your post made me realize that I’m in denial. Meaning I’ve turned a blind eye to the fact that many indie publishers take advantage of authors.
I have a completed suspense/thriller novel, thoroughly edited by two pros. Last summer and fall, emailed 60-some queries to traditional publishers and pitched to agents at two writers conferences.
I went the Amazon route with my previous thriller/suspense novel…Kindle, CreateSpace. My first novel was self-published with a POD that has not existed for several years. Bad choice on my part.
I’m more than ready to publish. Can you please recommend a few indie publishers? If you are not comfortable with a public response, my email…

Ex-newspaper reporter, media/public relations director for three San Diego universities and one of the largest community colleges in the nation.

  • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Profile photo of John L. Nunes John L. Nunes.
  • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Profile photo of John L. Nunes John L. Nunes.
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Started by: 1106 Design, LLC  • 

Hi John. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I’m happy to post a public reply because 1106 Design exists to teach authors that they don’t need ANY so-called “indie-publisher” or “self-publishing company.” YOU are the indie publisher, and as such, should control all aspects of your publishing enterprise without the “help” of unnecessary middlemen.

When I say without the help of middlemen, I’m not suggesting you should do everything yourself such as editing, cover design, interior design, etc., unless you are highly skilled and experienced in these areas. Expert help is needed to make any book the best it can be.

The middlemen I’m referring to are self-publishing companies who do nothing more than upload your book to IngramSpark (something you can do yourself). Instead of deducting the retailer’s wholesale discount and printing cost and paying you the balance, they manipulate the numbers to take a portion of your profit for themselves on every book sold…forever. I don’t know about you, I prefer to pay for necessary services once, not until the end of time. 🙂

Self-publishing companies lure authors in with emotional buzzwords and low prices, but the whole arrangement is an elaborate deception that pays them very well indeed. They use this revenue to dominate the search engines so legitimate, honest experts like 1106 Design (and many more) are unlikely to be found by authors searching for “self-publishing” information.

I invite anyone interested to download my free book, “Publish Like the Pros: A Brief Guide to Quality Self-Publishing and an Insider’s Look at a Misunderstood Industry” at Consultations are always free.

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Started by: Your Book Your Way  • 

Nice article. I like your idea of acting as a publisher – or, at least, thinking like one. You should know how much you can make per book before committing to anyone. I do a lot of speaking engagements, on how to write and publish your first book (in fact, I have one coming up next week), I hand out a resource listing – I’ll make sure to include Bookworks and this article in my listings.

Rich Mintzer

Author and Ghostwriter

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Started by: 1106 Design, LLC  • 

Thanks, Rich. I’m glad you found the article helpful and worth sharing. Please let me know if you’d like to submit a guest post. Our blog posts are featured in our weekly newsletter as well. Anyone interested can subscribe at

Profile photo of Fred H Rohn
Started by: Fred H Rohn  • 

Very helpful information – I can relate to these points. As I get ready to publish my second book, I will pay closer attention to this advice. Thank you!

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Started by: 1106 Design, LLC  • 

I’m glad you found the article helpful, Fred. Please let me know if we can help with your next book.

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Started by: Fred H Rohn  • 

Thank you!

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Getting Money On a Low-Profile

Started by: Angel Matthsblood  • 

I have a problem about where to start, and I hope that someone can help me with this. The thing is, I recently graduated from high school, and today’s education system didn’t teach me how to balance a check, open a bank account, or deal with finances in general. I need to know if someone can help me with opening a bank account without having them reveal my real name to others, and how I can effectively gain money from my book once I’ve purchased its ISBN and registered it for copyright with the US Copyright Office.

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Started by: BookWorks Team  • 

Hi Angel, Kudos for taking the first steps toward publishing your book. You are right that you need to get your fundamental “base of operations” set up (like a bank account) before moving on to the specifics. Here at BookWorks, we have a wealth of information about what it takes to successfully self-publish a book. Not to sugarcoat it, but there’s a lot to learn. We recommend you start reading the excellent articles archived under Expert Advice. Some of it may not make sense right now but everything you learn will help inform the next. You may also consider hiring a book shepherd/coach or self-publishing consultant when you get a bit further along.

As far as setting up a bank account, I’m afraid we can’t help you there, but I’m sure there is someone in your circle who might be able to lend a hand. Why not just set up an appointment with someone at your local bank or credit union who can walk you through the requirements. Since you already knew to register your work and procure an ISBN, we’re confident you’ll get there. Two other “must do’s” are a professional editor/proofreader and cover design. We have articles in the archives that will point you to options even if you’re on a budget. There is no simple, easy answer to how to make money on a book, but you’ll get a good idea by reading posts about your author “platform” and anything under “Marketing”, since not even bestselling authors can sell their books without it. Good luck and keep us posted.

Profile photo of John L. Nunes
Started by: John L. Nunes  • 

Great piece, Michelle. About to self-publish my 3rd novel. Second one with Amazon/CreateSpace. Newest novel with Ingram Spark. IS seems to be legit. Customer service helpful, but they’re flooded with phone calls and emails, making response times problematical.
Over the years, I’ve made a few mistakes, but I’m much better at planning earlier with marketing. Still plenty of room for improvement. And still experience difficulty through the self-publishing maze. Not so user-friendly – in many cases.
Ingram Spark is thorough in getting authors going on search engine optimization, asking authors take the provide a key words and phrases list as well as brief summaries of each your book’s chapters.
What’s your take on Ingram Spark?

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Started by: 1106 Design, LLC  • 

Hi John. Self-publishing is a lot easier than it appears at first glance if you get the right advice. IngramSpark is not only “legit”, it’s owned by Ingram, the largest book wholesaler in the US (and perhaps the world). There are only two POD printers who feed the online retailers. The other is CreateSpace, owned by Amazon. Stick with these two companies, maintain control of your files (meaning hire your own experts for editing and design), buy your own ISBNs, and you’ll be all set. If you have more questions, contact me directly at Initial consultations are always free.

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Started by: John L. Nunes  • 

Many thanks, Michelle. You’re a straight shooter and well-informed. I’ll continue to follow your blog, etc. Time well spent.

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Started by: 1106 Design, LLC  • 

Thank you very much, John. The nuns who taught me are dead, but they’re still watching. 🙂

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Exceptional article

Started by:  • 

Thank you for writing an article that tells the truth cleanly and plainly. So many of us get into this business with very little knowledge and not nearly enough research. I agree that it is supremely important for the Indie Author to understand that he or she is the Publisher. On my website, we even emphasize that fact.

Again thank you for such a wonderful article, and for some great information.


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Glad you enjoyed the article

Started by: 1106 Design, LLC  • 

Thanks for your kind words, Stormy. At 1106 Design, it’s always our pleasure to help authors make good decisions!

Have a great summer,

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Niecy M

Started by: Niecy M  • 

This is incredible! I’m somewhat guilty for lack of research on publishing companies. I chose a company based off of the number of books that I had previously purchased which displayed their logo. However, you stated very pertinent information that I was not aware of and I thank you royally for your time and expertise.

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Started by: 1106 Design, LLC  • 

You’re very welcome, Niecy. Please share with other authors you know. We all win when authors are informed.

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