If you read much on trends in publishing then you’ve seen posts by authors who have managed to get their books edited, designed, and uploaded and are now making a decent income from the sales of those books (usually ebook editions). They figured out how to publish their own books and now advocate that all authors use the same process, even to the point of denigrating anybody who uses a different process or any company that offers a different process.

At the same time, do-it-yourself (DIY) publishing gurus of various kinds are pitching their classes and courses and books and retreats where they will teach you the latest techniques for writing, publishing, and marketing a book, and many of them resort to denigrating alternative providers. And of course the people responsible for marketing the various ebook and self-publishing platforms advocate that authors learn about and adopt their systems (and they denigrate alternative platforms and systems).

As a result of all this advocacy and denigration, aspiring authors are finding the world of publishing rather confusing and a bit disheartening. Perhaps that is a good thing, or at least the ongoing commentary (dialog is hard to find) can provide a more realistic perspective of what to expect and raise awareness of some of the pitfalls to avoid.

Since I help lead a couple of self-publishing services companes, I advocate purchasing our services and believe doing so is a good decision for many if not most aspiring authors. While there are many authors who are ready, willing, and able to use a DIY process to publish their books, most authors determine that they need some assistance along the way due to a shortfall in one or more of those three considerations: readiness, willingness, or ability.

You may be a good candidate for DIY publishing if the following are true:

  • you have written your book (ready)
  • you have the time to publish your book (ready)
  • you have the financial resources to publish your book (ready)
  • you have the knowledge to publish your book (ready)
  • you have decided to make publishing your book a priority (willing)
  • you have the initiative to publish your book (willing)
  • you have chosen to spend time doing publishing-related tasks in addition to writing (willing)
  • you have an aptitude for publishing, marketing, and managing other people (able)

However if those statements do not ring true for you then another alternative may be a better fit for you and your goals. Many aspiring authors just don’t have the time, knowledge, or money to publish their books and have decided they would rather not figure out how to acquire them. We tend to make similar decisions when it comes to building a house or repairing a car—we choose to outsource some tasks in life so that we can focus on others.

In addition to determining if you are ready, willing, and able to publish your book, it is also important to determine if DIY publishing is the best option for your particular book. Some of the edgier fiction genres now have ebook sales that are 50% or more of total sales and therefore they may lend themselves better to DIY publishing than nonfiction categories and other fiction genres that are still dependent on print copy sales through bookstores for 50-90% of their sales. Getting books into bookstores is one of the most difficult tasks for DIY authors and giving up 50-90% of the market can make accomplishing a goal of being a top author in a category difficult.

The ability to get books into bookstores is rare even for publishing service providers. While most providers can get books set up with online bookstores, on ebook platforms, and with wholesalers so stores can order those books, few actually proactively sell books to bookstores because bookstores can only carry a few thousand titles and can’t possibly consider buying each of the hundreds of thousands of books that are self-published each year. Stores just don’t have the time to determine which self-published books to carry and which to avoid and so many have a policy to avoid them all. They count on traditional publishers to provide the vast majority of books that their customers will want to read.

As we considered how we could help aspiring authors overcome this hurdle, we realized that we need to utilize the resources of our parent company, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, to sell and distribute books by our authors to bookstores. We do this in two ways:

  1. We monitor the sales and reviews of titles we help authors self-publish to recommend the top titles for acquisition by Nelson or Zondervan. Acquired titles receive all the benefits from being traditionally published including sales and distribution to bookstores.
  2. We recently launched Elm Hill which offers publishing packages that include sales and distribution into local bookstores.

The lines between DIY publishing and traditional publishing are vanishing. In reality, there is a spectrum of options from pure DIY to old fashioned traditional. The desire to have books in stores where 50-90% of the sales still happen and traditional publishers’ awareness of market trends is spurring the development of hybrid models that blend DIY and traditional. I believe that most authors will discover that a hybrid model provides the best of both worlds.

Do you have any questions or concerns? Shoot me a message via the About/Contact page and I’ll do my best to help.