The Shell Game of Self-Publishing

Publishing for many authors has turned into a shell game. Finding the truth, what works, what doesn’t, has become difficult for the new author. Seduced by the possibility of making money, the pay-to-publish crowd is raking in huge moneys, as it moves the shell around.


I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a zillion times: yes, dear author-to-be (and those already published), there is a difference between self-publishing, vanity presses, pay-to-publish, a small press, and independent publishing. Don’t mix them up. Don’t get confused.

Use Wikipedia as an initial guide:

“The terms “small press”, “indie publisher”, and “independent press” are often used interchangeably, with “independent press” defined as publishers that are not part of large conglomerates or multinational corporations. Defined this way, these presses make up approximately half of the market share of the book publishing industry. Many small presses rely on specialization in genre fiction, poetry, or limited-edition books or magazines, but there are also thousands that focus on niche non-fiction markets.”

In selling your book

Did you read that? One-half of the market share of the book publishing industryDo you understand what it says/means? It means most authors today whose objective is to be successful create a small or independent press. They create their own “imprints”—publishing houses only on a mini scale. Authors find that books breed books, more will come. As a small, independent press, all can be published under their publishing house.

FACT: “Small presses “should not be confused with “vanity presses”. Vanity or subsidy presses usually require payment by authors, or a minimum purchase of copies.

FACT: Small presses make their profits by selling books to consumers, rather than selling services to authors or selling a small number of copies to the author’s friends.”

Vanity presses and the “pay-to-publish” crowd often prey on the would-be and naive author. It’s a maze out there and it all there hype about creating books for a few hundred (to sometimes thousands of dollars) sounds ducky when the right jargon is pitched at you. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid the likes of Author House, Author Solutions, and their offspring and kin. Publishing predators.

FACT: “The majority of small presses are independent or indie publishers, this means that they are separate from the handful of major publishing house conglomerates, such as Random House or Hachette. The term ‘indie publisher’ should not be confused with ‘self-publisher’, which is where the author publishes only their own books.”

FACT: The small press, indie or independent publisher IS NOT THE SAME as self-publishing … which is what vanity press is all about. There is not the commitment mentally, financially, even spiritually, that those who create the Vision for themselves as authors do who support their Passion to carry the book project through and are enveloped with the Commitment of their time, energy and money.

Many who get sucked into the vanity, pay-to-publish and self-publish routes do it because:

1 they don’t know better;
2 they’ve been bamboozled;
3 they don’t think/know there is another option; or
4 they think that this is a way to start out with minimal moneys, not knowing that they, in turn, become a money pit for the company they sign up with.

As the creator of a small/independent press, you own it all, from the ISBN to the rights to do what you want and with who you want to work with.

Do yourself and your book a favor. If you want to start small, while you learn about publishing along with what to do and what not to do, use either CreateSpace or Lightning Source as the “tool” to get your foot in the door. Both are POD-print on demand operations; both have the bells and whistles beginner authors need; both have windows to get your book into readers’ hands. When you are ready to transition to your own imprint or another option, you won’t be held hostage. Always a good thing.



2014_JBriles-1Judith Briles is known as The Book Shepherd a book publishing expert and coach. She is the Founder of Author U, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the 80s. Judith is the author of 31 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (ForeWord Indie/Fab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences.

Become part of her inner circle by joining the Author’s Ark and exclusive monthly webinar and coaching event. Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Unplugged, a two and 1/2 day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2015, the dates are August 27-29th.  Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Author U – Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Toginet Network at . Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU and Judith Briles – TheBookShepherd on Facebook. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at