Self-Publishing Independent Publishing Traditional Publishing

Each of these three forms of publishing is different and each is viable in today's publishing world. But there is so much confusion about what they provide to aspiring authors worldwide, that I decided to address this for you today. Take what you will and leave the rest, but this perspective comes from first-hand experience in the industry.

Self-publishing: Actually, this is the murkiest water in which to swim. TRUE Self-publishing means, you create a true publishing entity, buy your own ISBNs from RR Bowker, and take all the responsibility for layout and design of your book, you find a printer, you are responsible for all marketing andyou are alone in the publishing world. To people who are skilled in graphic design and thrilled with taking risks, this is an invigorating endeavor. Companies that use the come-on "self-publish your book" to attract authors do the authors a true disservice for one reason: the author never truly owns his ISBN, and therefore, the way his book is produced, marketed and how he receives royalties is out of his control. There are many large self-publishing mills that accept anyone and exploit the innocence of writers.

Here is what one author told me this week:

I self-published 24/7 or Dead through one of the large POD firms, not an experience I would wish on my worst enemy. 13 galleys later, I still have uncorrected mistakes in my text but finally gave up because my publicist had booked PR appearances and I needed the book. I've visited your site and it appears to be a place where I could self-publish again, with your support. Am, I reading this correctly?

Here is how I replied to her:

"Well, there is so much misinformation about "self-published" books, and large POD firms are among the loudest perpetrators of misinformation. Nightengale Press is a true publisher using print on demand technology to get the books printed.


Nightengale Press and 55,000 others can't be all wrong. Some independents keep a very narrow focus and publish only one or two titles a year. They reject lots of authors, looking for the one or two they want for their year's quota. They usually function very much like a traditional publisher, in that they take on all publishing costs, but often these are supported by grants with certain guidelines, and therefore stringent limitation. Some independents publish more titles, still within a clearly defined and often limited scope for one genre only. These publishers also function very much like a traditional publisher, however, they also reject lots of authors, looking for the numbers they want for their year's quota.

Nightengale Press does charge a modest fee for our services, yet, we take no money from the book sales until our authors have re-paid their investment. And we have many support services for marketing, not the least of which is our great affiliate program --- our most successful authors use this to great advantage. There isn't a better "deal" in the industry, and it is all because I am an author and believe with every fiber of my being that the author should get paid FIRST and FAIRLY!

The decision to self-publish poses this dilemma:

ARE YOU AN AUTHOR OR A PUBLISHER? Author? Or Publisher? That is the question. Jan Nathan of Publisher's Marketing Association said this after BEA in mid-May: "On a somewhat discouraging note, we met with many, many authors on the floor who chose to print their titles with Print on Demand houses, and were told by these houses that they were the publisher of their title, when in fact they are only an author with the POD house."



Print on Demand is a printing technology, NOT a publishing status. I find the misconception that because a publisher uses POD technology to produce books the books they produce are somehow inferior, or they are somehow scamming the authors they serve hugely problematic.


A publisher is a person/business which seeks good authors, produces their books, assists to some degree with the promotion of the book, and builds a reputation through the ethical management of those authors and their work.


An author is a person who writes and publishes his work --- one way or another. Once a writer, always a writer - but not always an author. An author can be a publisher---thanks to POD technology and the self-publishing boom. However, generally, a publisher knows good writing when he sees it, but he may not be a writer, and he may not choose the best writers to publish.

How the work is produced has NOTHING to do with the quality of the writing. It has EVERYTHING to do with the marketing of the writing, and this is where the traditional publishing community is so threatened:

There is NO LIMITATION to good writers getting published. Every good writer can get published --- even if they self-publish as a first step. What good writers cannot get alone is GOOD MARKETING. There are pitfalls and scammers everywhere in the publishing industry, waiting to take advantage of the writer who is unaware, uninformed or unable to discern the value of his own writing.

THE BIG FIVE TRADITIONAL PUBLISHERS MISS THOUSANDS OF GOOD WRITERS. They have to. The must take only those they can reasonably bet on --- it is like a horse race --- there are the favorites (best-selling authors) who nearly always win the race. Then there are the yearlings, the writers who are new to the industry, and who know very little about the race, but they run like crazy in the pack. These are the writers who become self-publishers. Then there are the long-shots, and they are the ones even the big publishing houses can miss ---- the writers who have something very new to say, or a new way to say it that doesn't quite fit the mold. SOME PUBLISHERS --- apparently the "POD houses" Jan is referring to ---are not even clear on the subject themselves.

To tell an author that he is the publisher of his own book when he is not the owner of the ISBN on that book is a clear misrepresentation. But because a publisher uses POD technology doesn't make him a bad publisher --- in fact, most of the 55,000 or so small publishers in the USA couldn't do what they do without it. The costs of offset / traditional publishing are too great at the outset., tens of thousands of dollars, and even the big guys don't spend their money on the unknown author (who becomes more a number than a person in that realm, by the way).