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What Is Self Publishing?

Simply put, self publishing is when an author chooses to publish a book or other creative work without going through a traditional publishing house.  These can be produced either as e-books or as physical copies through short print runs or print-on-demand (POD) services.  

Self publishing is becoming increasingly popular for a number of reasons including, but not limited to:

  • Control over creative decisions
  • Quick turnaround times between submitting the manuscript and publishing
  • Possibility of larger earnings

Traditional Publishing

The traditional publishing process follows a fairly consistent pattern.  An author writes their book and decides to submit their work either directly to a publisher or through a literary agent who helps sell the manuscript to different publishing houses.   

When a publisher accepts books for publication, they craft a book deal with the author and take on the risk associated with publishing a book.  These risks include all the up-front costs like marketing and paying for professional editing and graphic design to create the cover art.  Because these publishers distribute your book, it’s more likely that a book published through traditional publishers will get shelf space in a brick and mortar book store.  However, in general, authors will only receive 8-15% of revenue in royalties with each traditionally published work.  Additionally, this publishing process can be time-consuming – often taking a year or more before a book is published.

Self Publishing

When choosing to self publish a book, an author takes on the marketing, editing, and promotion themselves. With the extra work, though, the self published author receives greater rewards with the potential to earn up to 70% of gross sales.  Self publishing authors also keep creative control over their work, making decisions about cover art and editing themselves.  Some companies, like A&A Printing and Publishing, help authors self publish by providing editing services, cover design, and offering marketing services for an extra charge.

Self published books also reach readers much sooner – often just two to three months – since there are fewer gatekeepers between the book and the retail market.  This means that the self publishing author needs to manage the details of publication themselves to ensure their readers are getting a high-quality product.

What Are Self Publishing Companies?

A self publishing company is one that helps authors through the self publishing process.  In addition to printing books, they enhance the self publishing experience by offering additional value-added services like book cover design, marketing, book formatting, and professional editing.  In almost all cases, the author pays for these services up front.  Authors should do their research when selecting a company as some lack clarity in what’s offered and quality varies between self publishers.  Generally speaking, self publishing companies fall into two categories:  retailers and aggregators.


Retailers do what it sounds like – they publish and provide a platform for writers to sell their work.  Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo, and Apple’s iBooks are all online retailers that offer a platform where a writer can self publish a book and make it directly available to readers.  Some offer e-book only publishing, while others also offer print copies as well.


A self publishing company that uses the aggregator model where an author submits their book and the company then sends it to retailers and libraries.  Self publishers with this model include Smashwords, Lulu, and BookBaby.  Again, authors should be aware of what each platform offers and the difference in price between retailers’ and aggregators’ services.

Many authors decide to use a combination of both types of service.  Ultimately, though, self publishing authors have to research how the audience for their books want to read (e-reader/tablet, print, or audio) and how that audience typically purchases their reading material.  This market research will help writers decide what kind of self publishing services will best suit their needs – and help drive book sales!

What’s The Difference Between A Self Publishing Company And An Indie Publisher?

As mentioned above, a self publishing company provides a platform for authors to have more control over the publishing process.  They often provide additional publishing services to help writers to reach their publishing goals. 

Indie publishers, or independent publishing houses, are part of the traditional publishing industry.  They follow a similar path to publishing: sign book deals with authors, provide editing, cover art, etc….  However, because these small presses are not one of the big 5 publishers, staff can often form more personal relationships with the authors they work with.  Indie presses also have more freedom to publish works that are unique or have niche audiences.  Examples include Coffee House Press and Red Hen Press.

How Did Self Publishing Become So Popular?

The technological advances of the 1990s and early 2000s allowed authors to self publish to a much wider audience.  With the advent of print-on-demand technology and e-readers like Apple’s iPad and the Kindle from Amazon, self published authors became much more visible.  

The allure of retaining creative control over their book as well as the greater likelihood of people buying and reading it is very attractive to writers since most manuscripts submitted to publishers never see the light of day.  A larger share of the profits adds to the appeal of self publishing.  Also, the self publishing route often gives an author a global market for their book through online sales.

The Future Of Self Publishing

The question of ‘What is self publishing?‘ will continue to evolve as preconceived notions about what publishing success looks like change.  The next wave of change in book publishing looks like it will bring author-entrepreneurs to the forefront.  These “authorpreneurs” take control of their writing business by combining multiple methods of engaging their audience:  direct-to-reader models, e-book subscriptions, and of course, choosing to self publish.  The future may also see authors who share an audience deciding to combine their marketing efforts. But books? They’re not going anywhere.

So let A&A printing help you get started on publishing your books! Also check out our post on Tigers Share Their Tales.

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