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WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 2

Help for writers

Choose Your Self-publishing Route

Joanne Phillips

When I started my research into indie publishing way back in May 2012, there were so many routes open to authors it was mind-boggling. I made pages and pages of notes and distilled all my research into a useful spreadsheet comparing the most prevalent options. Now I can narrow down the options to two main routes:

1. Do it all yourself
2. Pay someone else to do it all for you

Neither of these routes are as simple as they sound, however. For a start, doing it all yourself doesn't mean literally doing it all - it means sourcing the skills and services you need from individual suppliers. Editing, proofreading, cover design, printing - this is the route I have taken, and there are both pros and cons (explored below). Equally, paying someone else to do it for you won't actually cover it all - there are some things you simply can't buy. You still have to get out there and sell your book! Plus, there is a marked loss of overall control and manageability in taking the second route. So, let's look at them in a bit more detail:

Option 1: Putting the ‘self' into self-publishing

What some might call the true indie route, if you choose this path you will be the project manager of your book.


  • Total control! While route 2 also offers control over such aspects as cover design and (to an extent) the size and feel of your book, there are limitations. If you go it alone you get to choose everything - trim size, paper thickness, typeface, cover image and style (some publishing solutions companies have limited access to design), price, royalty, where and when it's sold, e-formatting design, listing categories, keywords ... OK, I'll stop now. You get the picture. Total control means you choose your own editor and cover designer - or you can do it yourself, of course. Total control means the end product is exactly the way you want it to be.
  • Instant information. With Amazon KDP, for example, the indie author gets instant feedback on sales and downloads; Lightning Source (LS) and CreateSpace (CS) also provide regular reports on paperback sales. This is important for a number of reasons, not least of which is that you can track marketing activities and see which, if any, are working.
  • Monthly royalty payments. Many author solutions companies pay royalties six-monthly. This is, if you don't mind me saying so, not so fabulous. Amazon, Lightning Source and CreateSpace all pay monthly (Amazon: 2 months in arrears; LS: 3 months in arrears). As an indie author, it's important to be in control of this stuff.


  • Total control! That's right, it's both a blessing and a curse. With complete control comes complete accountability and a lot of stress. If your proofreader is a bit rubbish and misses tons of errors it's your fault because you chose them. If you do your own cover, or approve a bad design, ditto. So many decisions to make can be overwhelming - which is why lots of authors do chose to have a company help them out and hold their hands through the process ...
  • If you do decide to go it alone, in my current opinion, there are really only two options for printing in the UK. (There are, of course, many options, but these are the main two my research has thrown up.) Lightning Source and CreateSpace are the go-to POD printers at the time of writing. The only main difference between the two right now are that CS don't offer a matt laminated cover, and that they send author copies from the US which means costly shipping if you reside elsewhere. BUT they get your book for sale on Amazon much quicker, and their upload process it very easy to use, and it's free. Lightning Source are fast and efficient, and they will list books with Gardners for possible book shop distribution (you have to get the shops to stock, of course).

Option 2: Throw a bit of money at it

Now let's look at the pros and cons of route 2 - choosing an author solutions company. Well, what do they do, exactly? The short answer is pretty much everything; the long answer is more complex. Worse case scenario, you could end up spending £thousands and have a product that is no better (or possibly worse) than if you'd taken the route above. Many companies use Lightning Source for POD printing so there's no difference there. You'll most likely be paying an all-in sum that will (should) include editing and proofreading and cover design - but you have no control over the quality of these. Some companies offer distribution - Matador have a very good track record of this - but you will have to pay for the printing of all those copies up front, of course. Will you break even? This is something you will need to investigate fully.


  • Expertise and hand-holding. If you choose a really good company you will have the benefit of someone's publishing experience and a colleague to bounce ideas off. Many authors are too close to their books and make mistakes with cover design, say, or in the final edit. A reputable company will mimic the values of a good trad-publisher and ensure your book is of the best possible quality.
  • Distribution. As mentioned above, if you choose a company with a proven track record in distribution - and choose to pay for it - you will get your book into bookshops. Without super-human effort, this is almost impossible for the indie author going it alone.
  • Delegation. The most important thing for a writer to do is write, and if you choose the assisted route you'll have more time to write the next book because someone else will be doing all the legwork for you. Until you've been through the process yourself it's impossible to imagine how much work true ‘indie' publishing involves, so you might want to consider this aspect seriously if you're short on computer skills or time.


  • Cost. Well, of course it isn't cheap! Expect to pay around £800+ for a basic package (and if it includes proofreading and cover design it should be at least this - beware of companies that are too cheap). Then add on extra costs for additional services. Some companies ask you to pay for warehouse stock (for distribution) - this can run in the £thousands. As a minimum you'll need six copyright library copies and a few for yourself - POD is the most cost effective printing option. Many authors who have used a self-publishing company have incurred upfront costs of between £1,500 and £3,000. Work out how many books you'll have to sell to get this back.
  • Loss of control. As we talked about above, if you hand over control to another company you lose something, even if it's only access to sales figures. Remember to ask the questions about reporting and royalties before signing up, and be sure to get a proper written agreement of what the self-publishing company are offering for their fee before you hand over any cash.

WritersServices Self-publishing offers a well-established assisted self-publishing service, as well as its highly-regarded copy editing and proof-reading services.

WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 1: What is self-publishing?

An explanation of self-publishing as it stands today, introducing the term ‘indie' and a brief overview of routes to market for indie authors.

WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 3

EbooksDigital bookstore selling wide range of ebooks in 50 categories from Hildegard of Bingen to How to Write a Dirty Story and showing how the range of ebooks available is growing. How to Sell on Amazon: An overview of the KDP platform and what it offers to indie authors.

WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 4

How to format for Kindle

WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 5

Ebooks: Distributing to Other Eretailers

WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 6

Cover Design Know-how: Tips from a top designer on how to make your indie cover look professional and stand out from the crowd.

WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 7

Print On Demand for Indies

WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 8

Ebooks: Pricing Strategies for Indie Authors

WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 9

Marketing and Promotion for Indie Authors: Online

WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 10

Marketing and Promotion for Indie Authors: Offline


Joanne Phillips lives in Shropshire, England with her husband and young daughter. She divides her time between writing novels and freelance indexing. She's the author of commercial women's fiction Can't Live Without and The Family Trap, and the Flora Lively Investigates series of cosy mysteries. Can't Live Without was an Amazon top 100 bestseller in 2012 and her books regularly appear on category bestseller lists. Joanne blogs about writing and publishing at

Connect on:
Twitter: @joannegphillips

Other articles by Joanne Phillips on the WritersServices site:

The Business of Writing
The Ins and Outs of Indexing
How to Market Your Book Online