in Distribution

The Biggest Problem With Self-Publishing, And How You Can Fix It

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Anyone who’s ever weighed the choice between indie publishing and traditional publishing knows that the biggest problem with self-publishing is the stigma associated with it.


Every year, we see that the public’s conception indies as badly written, edited, and designed is fading away. But it’s not gone yet.


Ultimately, your one book will not change reader’s assumptions about indie books, but you can certainly challenge them. The best way to do this? Produce the nicest, prettiest, most high-quality book you can.


The reason indie books are of bad quality is because their authors rush and skip steps. They don’t solicit help when they need it. They don’t invest in their baby the way you invest in a house, or a child’s education.


Even if you’re an awesome self-editor, have betas and CPs until you’re blue in the face. And THEN pay an editor (who works in your genre) to edit it again.


Then proofread. Then run it through Grammarly. Then print it out on paper and proofread it again. Pay someone else who loves the CMS as much as their mother to proofread it a final time.


When designing, use high-quality images for the cover. And a font that is easy to read and won’t make your readers want to poke their eyes out with a fork. Make sure you’re following layout conventions. They’re there for a reason. Don’t let someone bad at Photoshop anywhere near your cover. Refined is better than ridiculous or boring.


When it comes to printing and releasing the book, don’t just go with KDP Select because it’s free. Go with whatever distribution option is the best for your book, your goals, and your audience. Some of you might need offset printing. Some might only need an ebook. Some might need traditional distribution, and others will sell by hand.


Each book and each author has their own highest path, and taking the time to figure that out and really get to know the publishing process is what will make your book stand out. You’ll stand out amongst your fellow indies, and amongst your traditional counterparts.


Readers, how else do you recommend beating the self-pub stigma?

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  1. Once again, the theme is, “If you can pay OTHER PEOPLE enough money to ‘FIX’ the crap you think is good, you MIGHT have a tiny chance, because you CAN’T do anything right. I mean, let’s face it: no writer knows as much about writing as the self-appointed experts who can’t even agree on what constitutes a proper edit for an American novel in a British market, though they ALL insist they are right and give them your money. Where out there, might I ask, is the expert who would tell me, “There is no market for this material right now.” No matter how much money or effort goes into ‘polishing’ and marketing. The problem with self-publishing right now is the proliferation of opportunists positioning themselves in the stream of aspiring authors, like bears hunting salmon, and stripping the unwary hopefuls of what is likely their last borrowed, desperate money, in the hopes these charlatans can guarantee them success. The association of these practitioners depends upon their promotion and support of each other, in the same way real professionals would. The giveaway is that NONE of them caution the prospective clients as to who can be trusted and who can’t. They are prohibited from exposing frauds because the same charges can be laid at their own door. Until someone comes up with a reliable way to weed out the vermin, the entire crowd must be held suspect.

    • Ben Lunt,

      Yes, there are people serving independent authors who make promises and don’t deliver. I wouldn’t condemn the whole industry for the actions of the worst.

      I haven’t self-published anything yet. When I do I’ll determine the help I need and assess potential providers with the same tools I use to evaluate financial advisors, auto salesmen, home repair contractors, and horse traders. I’ve had good luck finding help in these fields, and hope my luck holds when I think I have a book to sell.

      I know people who have been burned. I also know a couple of guys who have written top selling self-published books, and say they could not have done it without professional help.

  2. Every year, we see that the public’s conception [of] indies as badly written, edited, and designed is fading away. But it’s not gone yet.

  3. I have been traditionally published through a small publisher and also have self-published. The only reason I self-published is because I had exhausted all routes with a particular book and had hit a dead end. It was complete. It wasn’t half bad. Why not give it some life?

    My expectations were very low. But I still wanted to make sure it was well-edited and that I had a decent cover. I think those two things go a long way in elevating your book. Be professional! Take your time! Don’t rush to publish. Oh, and write a good blurb.

  4. I totally agree with the article. The main problem about self-publishing is that it has started, let’s face it, with vanity publishing. And that’s not really a bad thing, of course it had to start like this! I mean, no serious writer would have tried it in the early days just like that.

    But now, I see so many exceptional indie authors who put a lot of time, energy, fantastic writing and money to create some of the best books I’ve read, that I feel sad for them that this stigma still exists… Not really among readers (readers don’t care), but among their peers (and I don’t know which one is worst).

    Let’s just separate: on one hand, you’ve got the vanity publishing stuff. And that will always be there, there will always be people putting badly produced content out there just because, now, they can!
    But on the other hand, you’ve got true “author publishing” (love that name, I think Orna Ross from the ALLi started calling it like that). And these authors should be acclaimed for what they do and achieve. I’ve founded Reedsy for them, and in only a few months we’ve already had several traditionally published authors making the jump to author publishing through us. That, to me, is the really exciting thing that’s happening today in the book industry.

  5. I’m proud of what I self-publish. I do mostly print books for a niche market, and do the whole process myself, only my printer might make useful suggestions now and then as regards binding and paperweight etc.

    What we self-publishing people are NOT proud of is books that have a certain look about them because self-publishing companies have done, for example, slick covers that might get a knee-jerk sale but don’t represent the book.

    New self-publishers need confidence and are inclined to take all advice. But it is their own efforts and own individuality that sell the book. It is the self-publishing companies that label the book “self-published.”

  6. i feel the article mentioned the SECOND biggest problem with self-publishing.

    The biggest problem with self-publishing, even for the brilliantly edited and written book, is to have it spotted by any reader–more difficult than locating a single, specific Ajax can at the 10-acre town dump (the old cleaner can tossed out by the housekeeper; the one that contains your grandmother’s well-hidden diamond wedding ring).

    When every crazy uncle with a self-help book, every cousin who wants to memorialize their pet parakeet, and every scorned lover who wants revenge posts a manuscript to Amazon, typically written in a single weekend and featuring a cover hand-drawn by a tattoo-artist friend who owes them a favor, the Ajax can is all but impossible to find.

  7. I agree with everything you said in this article. I would add one thing… write something people want to read. Know your target audience.

    By all means, hire an editor. Have at least one editor go through your story.

    Self publishing is not free. Spend the time and money and effort necessary to produce a good, well written story.

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