Navigating the modern business of book publishing

Self Publishing Part 1: For Fun or Profit?

There’s a huge amount of speculation around the decline of traditional publishing now that digital printing, online retail, eBooks and digital marketing are allowing authors more opportunity to go it alone. While the fate of traditional publishing is a topic for another day, the fact is that more and more authors are now deciding to self publish their work. Once considered the back-up option for rejected manuscripts and fringe literature, self publishing is becoming an increasingly mainstream path for authors who want complete financial and creative control over their books.

There are several reasons why someone might decide to publish a book but I tend to group them in these three categories:

  1. Vanity Publishing – the author just wants to see their words in print or create a book for a limited audience with no intention of making a living from the book
  2. Credibility Publishing – the author makes a living in another field and intends to use their book as a marketing tool to lend credibility to their professional profile – profits from the sale of the books are welcome but not essential
  3. Professional Publishing – The author intends to earn a viable income from sales of their book and become a full-time or part-time author.

Obviously, if you are reading this post then you are more likely to be in the 2nd or 3rd category. So for our purposes let us assume that when we talk about self publishing we are intending to sell books for profit – the rest we’ll call Vanity Publishing. It is worth keeping in mind, however, that in the book trade the term “self publishing” is associated heavily with vanity publishing. With every man and his dog now able to use vanity presses such as CreateSpace to flood Amazon with POD and eBook versions of their unfiltered, unedited ramblings, it’s no surprise that self published books are still plagued by a stigma of amateurism. It’s therefore very important to set your book apart from this perception by avoiding the Vanity Presses and treating your venture as an independent publishing business.

As the product manager of Brumby Books (one of the few book distributors in Australia who still work with single-title publishers), I received dozens of submissions every week from self published authors seeking distribution for their books. After considering the quality of the book itself, the next most important factor for me in deciding whether to distribute a self published book was always the professionalism of the author:

  • Is the writing up to a commercially acceptable level?
  • Has the book been professionally edited?
  • Has the author set up their own independent publishing imprint or simply used a vanity press?
  • Are the production values, format and cover of the book up to a marketable standard?
  • Is the price of the book appropriate and has the author factored in all of the costs?
  • Which sales and distribution channels would this book be appropriate for?
  • Does the author have a strong marketing plan?
  • Is the author able to drive publicity?
  • Will the author be able to continue to maintain sales long term?

I believe that these are questions that all self publishers need to consider and investigate before financially committing to print runs and distribution agreements. Over the next few weeks I am going to explore all of these questions in greater detail to give new authors the information they need to plan their self publishing business.


Go to:

Self Publishing Part 1
Self Publishing Part 2
Self Publishing Part 3
Self Publishing Part 4
Self Publishing Part 5
Self Publishing Part 6

Tagged as: , , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: All Posts, How to Self Publish Series, Self Publishing

4 Responses »


  1. Self Publishing Part 7: The Consonant Gardener – The Three C’s of Internal Book Formatting « Fiction et al
  2. Self Publishing Part 4: Who’s really publishing your book? The changing face of Vanity Publishing | Fiction et al
  3. Self Publishing Part 3: Spinning Straw into Gold – The Magic of Editing | Fiction et al
  4. Self Publishing Part 2: Every great author needs a great publisher | Fiction et al

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

About Richard

Richard Bilkey has been selling, marketing and distributing books for over ten years, managing independent bookshops, a major online retailer and, most recently, one of Australia's largest Independent Book Distributors, Brumby Books.

Contact Richard directly at
%d bloggers like this: