The Pros and Cons of Independent Publishing: Part Three

Welcome to final article of a three-part series on the pros and cons of independent or self publishing. This is an honest discussion about what you need to consider before deciding which route is best for your publishing goals and skill set. We’ve already examined overall concerns by detailing the positives and The Pros & Cons of Independent Publishing: Part Threenegatives of each type of publishing in Part One. We analyzed royalties, earning potential and business concerns in Part Two. Now, in part three we'll look at the many decisions you must be prepared to make if you choose to indie publish your work.

Is Your Book Ready?

This question is important for writers seeking to publish traditionally or independently. However, if you’re not querying editors or agents, who very clearly let you know if they think your book IS NOT ready, it’s possible you may leap to publish independently before you should. This happens a lot! Rushing to publication can result in books that are poorly edited, poorly formatted, poorly promoted etc… It will impact your sales and your reputation as a writer.

Indie Publishing Advice: Don't Rush to Publication!

So how do you know if your book is ready?

Enlist some help!

Utilize critique groups, beta readers, and the appropriate editors. Critique groups can be a crucial first level of assistance as you write your book. We’ve talked about the importance of critique groups here on this blog before in: Critique Groups: What to Expect While Building Trust and Critique Groups: Powerful Tools for Writers

Editors are also crucial. If your critique group includes astute editors, you are lucky. Most of the time you will need to hire editors to make sure your work is as good as it can be. We often do not see the mistakes or lapses in our own writing. There are generally three types of editing: Development or Substantive Editing, Copyediting, and Proofreading. An article by Christine Keleny explains these three types of editing well.

Beta readers are also important. These are the early readers of your completed work after all of your main editing is done. I joke that you need to pick these people carefully and make sure you include people who won’t be afraid to hurt your feelings. (It’ll be good practice to develop a thick skin in advance of receiving actual book reviews.) Learn more about beta readers in this previous post on manuscript readiness and in this Publishers' Weekly article on making the most of beta readers. 

You’ve done all this? Now it’s time to hit the publish button?

Not so fast . . . there’s more . . . so much more.

The Mechanics of Independent Publishing

Beyond the Story

While your story may be done, your writing (and related) homework isn’t. Before publishing you’ll need to create the sections you’ll include at the beginning of your book (front matter) and at the back of your book (back matter).

Beyond the Story - The other things you need to self-publish your work.

You’ll need to obtain an International Sellers Book Number (ISBN). You may want a Preassigned Control Number from the Library of Congress. You may wish to register your work with the US Copyright office. As you format (particularly for ebook and nonfiction) you will need to create a Table of Contents (TOC). The other information is up to the author, like any dedication or acknowledgments, a message from (you) the author, a glossary or character list, or a list of other books in the series. 

Crucial Components

You’ll have to decide if you’ll hire someone to help you with following items or go it alone. If you have a background in graphic design, you may be able to design a beautiful book cover or layout your interior pages. But if you don't have those skills, it is best to hire a professional.

Book Cover Design

Interior Layout Design (ebook/print)

Book Description

Choosing the proper Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC) code categories and keywords for your subject matter.

Self-Publishing Decisions

The Publication Process - Decisions

You might not realize that there are many decisions remaining about HOW you will you bring your book to market:

Will you publish in ebook format only?

Will your ebook be exclusive to Kindle or will you distribute your book widely to other platforms like iBooks, Nook, Kobo and more?

Will you utilize an ebook aggregator or distributor like Smashwords or Draft2Digital?

Do you want a paperback or hardcover book, or maybe both?

Will you use the print-on-demand technology of services like IngramSpark and/or KDP Print or go directly to an off-set printer?

Is an audiobook in your future? If it is, do you want to use the ACX platform or produce it independently?

Each of these decisions will require that you research and become familiar with the options available so you can compare royalty rates, services, ease of use, set-up fees/price, and more.

How Much Should I Spend to Publish?

I was once asked at a conference, “How much does it cost to independently publish a book?”

My answer was, “That depends. It could be nearly $0 or it could be $1000 or $10,000.” (Although I don’t recommend the $10,000 route.) Truly, if you are a whiz at design/formatting and you understand a lot of the background work like ISBNs and BISAC codes, you could publish your book for very little money. However, most of us require the assistance of some professionals to present our work in the best possibly way. It’s a balance between what you know how to do, what you’re willing to learn, and what you’re willing to pay someone for their services.

Personally, I pay someone to design my cover art for $400. Additional art included in my books was also paid for at a reasonable rate. I paid to have the interior of my first book designed by CreateSpace (big sigh – I miss those people) for about $300. I’ve since learned how to format my own interiors both paperback and ebook. (However, this is a chore I kind of dislike and might pay for again in the future.) I learned how to do everything else as I went.

I highly dislike (dare I say **hate**) the predatory nature of some services/companies who make oh-so-much money “helping” authors publish their books. Be careful that any company you work with is reputable. Here are a few resources that let you check on companies: 

*Alliance of Independent Authors – rating of independent publishing services

*Preditors and Editors

*Just Publishing Advice (article on spotting scammy practices with a lot of great links) 

I hope that you have found this three-part series a helpful guide to begin your publishing journey! (And, yes, this is just the beginning because we haven't even touched on marketing and promotion.) 

Don’t hesitate to ask questions or share your own experiences in the comments below! – Valerie

For more in-depth help, check out my Independent Publishing Blueprint course HERE. 

Quick links to the other parts of this series:

Part One: Indie Publishing Pros & Cons

Part Two: Indie Publishing Earnings & Business Concerns


Good stuff, Val. So concise. I can't stress enough your first point--make sure your book is "ready." Hardest thing to do is swallow your pride and listen to someone who tells you your book is NOT READY. Find honest, insightful beta readers, trust a qualified editor, revise your a$$ off!. :-)

Then maybe, just maybe, hit the publish button.


Hi Chris, All those revisions. So much work, but it pays off! I remember celebrating the fact that my first draft of a book-length work was complete with no idea how much work was left to come. You have to celebrate those milestones or you'd go crazy during the long process to hitting that publish button! - Val

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