It’s a question we hear a lot. What is self-publishing? The next question we hear, usually straight after, is ‘Is that what people do when they can’t get their book published by a ‘real’ publisher?’ The short answer is ‘no’. The longer answer is what this article is all about.

First of all, in publishing terms there are the big five: Penguin Random House, Hachette, Schuster & Schuster, Harper Collins and Macmillan. You’ll notice that Bloomsbury (JK Rowling’s publisher) doesn’t make the list despite the worldwide success of Harry Potter. That gives you an idea of just how much power the traditional publishing houses have. It is every authors dream to be published by one of these companies. The dream will come true. Your books will be adored by millions. Your stories turned into multi-million-pound movies or a ten-part series on Netflix. That’s the dream. The reality is somewhat different.

If you send your manuscript to one of the big five, or even the big twenty, it will almost certainly end up in their slush pile, where it will languish, never to be seen again. If you get an agent and they send it to a publisher there is still no guarantee that your book will be chosen. You have to think like a publisher. They are looking to invest in something with a substantial financial return in exactly the same way that music companies and film studios do. They want the next Lee Child, James Patterson or Joe Wicks. You have to face a certain reality and wonder if it’s going to be you. You should not to be dissuaded, far from it. Marlon James is a good case in point. In 2014 he won the Booker Prize for his book ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’. The road was long and hard though. His first book, ‘John Crow’s Dead’ was rejected seventy times.

It is this process that makes authors consider self-publishing. That’s not to say it is ‘vanity publishing’. We’ll discuss this in another article. Self-publishing should be professional in its approach and in the product. With this in mind, what is self-publishing? It is where the author takes the financial risk and reward for bringing their book to the public. It’s highly important to consider the reward as well as the risk as many people only think of the financial cost at first. These are the same people that ask the question ‘What if it (whatever the thing) goes wrong?’ The attitude must be ‘What if it goes right?’

Late last year David Goggins launched his book ‘Can’t Hurt Me’. Although he was offered a publishing deal, he decided to go down the self-publishing route. The result was that he sold 820,000 books in six months. He worked diligently and intelligently and put a lot of money behind it, but he has been very successful. By contrast if you publish your book and don’t do the work on the marketing, you will still have the same 300 books you originally had a year after publication – and no one wants that.

If you work with a reputable company, they will be able to take care of all the hard part of publishing for you. That’s the editing, the proof-reading, the layout of the book, cover design, registering the metadata with Nielsen, turning your manuscript into an ebook and a paperback, getting your ISBNs and even the barcode. They should also be able to help you with the marketing whether it’s offline or online and help you to develop a fan following. Some companies will even sell and distribute your book for you and get it into bookshops if that’s where you want to sell your books.

The most important part for you, as the author, is to retain your copyright and make sure you have control of your royalties. Amazon pay these monthly direct into your account, Smashwords pay via PayPal and I recommend that your publishing company follow the Amazon model and also pay your royalties direct into your bank account on a monthly basis.

That then, is self-publishing. You become a business and your products are your books. This can lead to public speaking events such as conferences, literary festivals and private bookings. It could also include book signings or author events. Your book is a gateway to a new future and this is the case with novelists, poets and non-fiction writers. You will also develop your fanbase and sell lots of books.

As always if this has inspired more questions contact us at 3P Publishing on 01536 560410 or email We look forward to hearing from you.

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