Saturday, August 18, 2018

Guest Post by Shawn Robinson: An Overview of Self-Publishing, Part 2

Note from the RW Team: To give our writers a small hiatus, we are welcoming author Shawn Robinson to do a 5 part series on self-publishing over the months of August and September. We hope that this will prove very useful, especially to the teen/indie authors in our audience.  
 Next week will bring our usual Monthly Wrap-up post written by Keturah Lamb. In the meantime, please give Shawn a warm welcome! 

You managed to get through the first blog! Congratulations!

In this second blog, we want to start exploring some of the foundational "stuff" that you will need to understand as a Self-Publisher.

(Editors Note: Foundational "stuff", in this context, is what types of publishing platforms are available). 

If this is all new to you, it might seem overwhelming.  Don't worry, the overwhelmingissness (I'm sure that's a word) will pass and this will all become clear in no time!

Offset Printing

It used to be that if you wanted to self-publish a book, you had to find an offset printer who would print your book for you.  The printing would, hopefully, be high quality, but we're talking thousands of copies.  The nice thing was that you could potentially get a book printed for around $2 (or less). 

The not-so-nice thing was that you needed to print about 5000 copies in order to get a price that low.  

That's a lot of money to shell out, and it's a lot of storage.  For perspective, I get about 26-28 books in a case.  5000 copies is nearly 200 cases of books.  Picture that stored in your bedroom.
If you thought, "Maybe I'll only print a few copies for myself and some friends and if the book is poorly written I'll also get a few copies for my enemies," you would end up paying a HUGE amount of money per copy.

In addition to this, once you had your books, you (as the Self-Publisher) would have to find a way to get your books out to all the stores and more!

This is a huge challenge for authors... 

Print-On-Demand (POD)

Fortunately, someone had the bright idea to try something called, "Print-On-Demand" or POD for short. What this means is that the printer only prints the copies that you actually need.  Both Amazon and Ingram (see below) do this and it's great.  You no longer need to print 5,000 copies.

Here's how it works:  Your book is up for sale on Amazon, but Amazon doesn't actually have any copies of your book printed (just a digital file).  Someone comes along and orders your book.  Amazon simply prints one copy of your book and ships it out to those people!

The great thing is that the cost isn't bad at all.  For that same book that might have cost $2/copy for 5000 copies through an off-set printer, you can now print one copy POD for around $3-$3.50.  Now, Amazon takes a fee as well for distributing your book in addition to the printing cost, but it's far preferable to the old, "buy 5000 copies and try to sell them yourself" option.

The eBook Option

One of the other great parts of self-publishing today is that you can publish your book as an ebook as well as print.  This generally involves using some software or websites to create the epub (general ebook file) or mobi (kindle) file.
I won't go into this in much detail, but some options for making your ebook files include Scrivener, yWriter, Calibre, Pressbooks and Kindle Previewer. 

Again, we live in a time with many great opportunities for Self-Publishing.

All right, there is one more thing we need to explore when it comes to the foundations of Self-Publishing:

Vanity or Subsidy Publishers

A Vanity Publisher or a Subsidy Publisher is a company that will help you publish your book for a fee.  This can include anything from editing to cover design to distribution.

Sounds great, right?

The downside is that they charge a ton of cash for their services, and, in the end of the day, you can do most of what they offer yourself for free or for very little investment.

Here's how Vanity Publishers work (more or less): You pay for services such as setting up the book, cover design and distribution.  When you're done, you typically get 5-10 copies of your awesome looking book and away you go.  Unfortunately, if you want more copies of the book, you're looking at a lot of money per book and it has to be ordered through them or, if you put it on Amazon, you can order it like a normal customer.  Unfortunately, they will also charge you so much that you will often have to set your book up for sale at $15-$20/copy in order to make a profit.

Vanity Publishers certainly have their place.  If you have a ton of disposable income, do not want to do the publishing work yourself and only want a few copies, they are ideal. If you want to save a bit of money, don't mind the work and hope to sell copies en masse, then you should avoid Vanity/Subsidy Publishers.

You should research to make sure they are a legit company, but, assuming they are, go for it. They will not identify themselves as a vanity press, you will need to be able to recognize them for yourself (or google, "Is ??? a vanity press?").

One more caution.  If you're thinking of going with a Vanity/Subsidy Publisher, consider carefully the services they provide.  For instance, if they say they will get your book out there and make it available for tens of thousands of book stores and libraries and more...that's great, but not all it's cracked up to be. You can do that yourself for free by using Amazon and Ingram.

It's always best to do the work yourself if you can.  I would, personally, advise you to avoid a Vanity or Subsidy Publisher.  

In Conclusion...

There you have it!  The Foundational Stuff of Self-Publishing.  In our third blog, we'll talk about two of the big Self-Publishing Services out there.

Meet the Orator:
Bio and author picture are sourced from Author website ( Used with Permission.

I’m a writer, a husband, a father, a Christian, a hiker (or at least I was till some recent health problems), a lover of coffee, a biker (not the cool kind, but the kind that rides around on an old motorcycle and has a blast) and someone who enjoys watching movies with my sons and playing cards with my wife.

I have written (so far) four books. One is a book of short stories, the other three are a series (Arestana series). They are geared to younger readers and I have a blast writing them! You can check out my books here:


  1. Very helpful! Thank you. I wasn’t sure what the types of platforms were for self-publishing before, but this post was very informative!

  2. This is is all very interesting! Enjoying this series. :)

  3. Great tip on googling a press to see if it's a vanity press!