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Self-publishing is a method of publishing a book as the author, without the use of a publishing company.

While music and visual arts can also be self-published, this is the book publishing section of our guide so we will focus on self-publishing books. This is a method in which authors write a book, arranging for the elements of the publishing process, such as editing, designing, and formatting, without the assistance of a publishing house.

Authors who opt to self-publish their books have full control over the process and higher royalty rates. While they may have to front the costs of printing and anything else that they may want to outsource, such as editing, they usually maintain full rights over their work. Self-publishers oversee the entire publishing process, from the beginning to the end. They do so at their own expense but maintain full ownership of their book rights.

Traditional book publishers purchase certain rights from the author in order to publish the work. This relieves the author from having to front the costs of publishing but, in return, the author gives up some of the rights over his work. Traditional book publishers are the gatekeepers, in that they determine which books they will publish, as well as the extent to which a particular book will be promoted.

Self-publishing used to be more complicated and expensive than it is today. Prior to the introduction of print-on-demand technology, self-publishers would have to engage the services of a printing company or vanity press, which was expensive, sometimes complicated, and carried risks.

Print-on-demand technology, utilized by Amazon and other online book retailers, allows for books to be printed after orders are placed, eliminating the cost of storing inventory that may or may not be sold. Several small presses have replaced or are supplementing their traditional printing equipment with print-on-demand equipment. Several academic presses, university presses, and bookstores are utilizing print-on-demand services, as well.

In the past, and to a lesser extent, even today, a stigma has been attached to self-publishing. Traditional publishers are highly selective about what they will publish. Most manuscripts submitted to a publisher are rejected. When accepted, submitted works are assigned to editors and proofreaders, who will refine the work further. Without this support system, self-published books are likely to be sub-standard by comparison. However, many authors use services such as beta readers, critique groups, and professional editors to provide these services, and some of them have enjoyed success equivalent to those produced by traditional publishers.

In order to be published by a traditional publisher, an author must first engage the services of an agent whose task is to find a publisher willing to publish the work. At that point, the editing process could take a year or more. Because of this, speed is a major advantage of self-publishing. When using print-on-demand, the disadvantage of upfront start-up costs can be eliminated. Self-published authors maintain artistic control over their work, and they can expect to receive a larger percentage of the profits.

Disadvantages to self-publishing include the fact that there is still a stigma attached to it, as self-published books are often equated with vanity presses. Another difficulty is in finding shelf space in retail bookstores. Even when using print-on-demand services, self-published authors will have to pay the cost of advertising and marketing, either in time or money. A significant drawback to self-publishing is that without the legal teams engaged by traditional publishers, the risk of someone plagiarizing self-published works is higher.

Self-publishing a book can be rewarding for a number of reasons, and it can be the only option available for most people. However, there are disadvantages that should be considered.

Keep in mind, also, that many subsidy publishing houses, as well as vanity presses, market their services as self-publishing, and this is not always an accurate representation. When the author retains control over the publishing process, as well as full rights to his book, then this might appropriately be considered a self-publishing resource. Otherwise, it's a subsidy publisher. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with that, but subsidy publishers are not self-publishers.



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