Before You Pay to Self-Publish

Self-publishing is a viable way to go if:

  • you have a specific publishing goal in mind
  • you understand the pros and cons of being your own publisher
  • you’ve researched the self-publishing firms carefully
  • you’ve found one that will help you meet your goals at an affordable price.

Whatever your goal, remember that when you self-publish you will have to make all of the decisions, big and small, and pay all of the bills.

You can do this entirely on your own, by hiring an editor, printer, a PR firm, and so on, or you can use a self-publishing company that offers many services.

You can also use a self-publishing firm just to handle the production and distribution of the book, and hire other individuals or companies to take care of the editing, marketing, and other services.

But no matter which route you choose, make sure you do the following:

  1. Do your research – Find out all you can about the company and their services. Go beyond checking out their websites. Check the firm’s credentials and reputation carefully. Scour the web looking for independent reviews of self-publishers, good and bad. Read books such as Mark Levine’s The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. Ask your friends and acquaintances if they’ve worked with any of the firms.
  2. Get everything in writing – Don’t rely on what you’re told by any company, or what you see on the website. Have everything put in writing, and read the contract carefully. You’re going to be spending money—perhaps a lot—and entrusting your work to the self-publisher, so it may be a good idea to have an attorney review it as well.
  3. Check all the charges carefully – Even if you’ve selected what seems to be an all-inclusive package that covers everything you need, there may be extra charges for revising the manuscript, Photoshopping photos, etc.
  4. Find out who owns the rights – You want to make sure you retain the rights to your manuscript or you can easily get them back. You also want to know who owns the rights to other items such as the cover design, art work, interior design, and PDF format of the book.
  5. Stay on the job – Don’t assume that everything is taken care of once you sign the contract and send in your manuscript files. Many self-publishing and printing-only companies do a nice job of creating the physical book. But the difficult part is getting people to notice and purchase your book.