3 Hard Truths About Self-Publishing

Sep 6, 2023 | Book Publishing

Self-publishing has exploded in the last decade. Bowker indicates that ten times as many books were self-published in 2021 as in 2011. Part of the reason is that self-publishing has become easier and easier to do.

Self-publishing has a lot of benefits. Authors like the control self-publishing gives them over every aspect of their books. And self-publishing authors can bring their books to market faster than they could with a legacy publisher.

Despite the articles and books about how wonderful and easy self-publishing is, you should be aware of some hard truths.

Self-Publishing Costs You Money

You can eliminate the publisher, but you can t eliminate the things a publisher does, at least not if you want a book you can be proud of that makes a difference for readers. Every time you confront a task that a publisher does, you have three choices.

You can perform the task yourself. That’s great if you have the skills and experience. If not, you have a learning curve to climb, and your work product may not be stellar.

You can eliminate the task. Sometimes that’s impossible. Someone must print your book, after all, and someone must design the cover. But there are tasks you can eliminate. Many self-publishing authors eliminate professional editing. That saves you money, but you risk having a manuscript that brands you as an amateur.

You can hire someone to do the task. Of course, that will cost you money.

Freedom Isn’t Free

You get to make all the choices when you publish your book yourself. That’s heady stuff until you realize you must make choices about things where you have neither expertise nor experience.

Let me put that in another way. Every decision you make without knowledge or expertise is a crapshoot. You may get it right or you might get it wrong. The risk is that you will get it horribly wrong.

If You Want Your Book to Make a Difference, People Must Buy It

No matter how good your book is, it won’t make a difference to you or anyone else if no one buys it. Guess what? That means it’s up to you to market your book.

You can do the marketing yourself. That will cost you time and some money even if you have the expertise to do it well. You can decide not to market your book and trust to luck. The odds are against you. Or, of course, you can hire people to help you market effectively.


Ten times as many books were self-published in 2021 as a decade earlier.

Self-publishing has become easier in the last decade.

You can eliminate the publisher, but you can’t eliminate everything the publisher does.

Self-publishing costs you money.

Self-publishing gives you freedom, but that freedom isn’t free.

If you want your book to make a difference, people must buy it.

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