The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

Special article about self publishing.



If your goal is to be a published author, you need to understand the different publishing options available to you and the advantages and disadvantages of each. There are two principal classifications of publishing: non-subsidy and subsidy. Non-subsidy is the traditional form of publishing where a commercial publisher pays you to publish your book. In a subsidy relationship, you pay to have your manuscript published.

Commercial, Non-Subsidy Publishing

In a non-subsidy relationship, professional editing, cover design, printing, binding, distribution, and promotion are provided to the author at no up-front cost. Authors may receive an advance on royalties and ongoing royalties will range from 5% to 10% of the book’s cover price.


– Market credibility
– No up-front expenses
– Professional design, editing, and production
– Distribution
– Marketing and promotion


– Time spent pitching agents and publishers
– Expectation for self-promotion
– Some loss of control and rights over the book

Subsidy Publishing

There are a variety of subsidy publishers such as pure subsidy, vanity presses, hybrid publishing, and POD (print on demand). In a pure subsidy publishing relationship, the author shares upfront costs with the publisher for design, editing, printing, stocking, warehousing, and distribution. After the publisher’s costs are recovered, the author receives a percentage of the sale of the book. A vanity publisher formats, prints, and binds the book completely at the author’s expense, offering no editing, marketing, or promotional services. The publisher’s revenue sources strictly from the author, not the book. Hybrid publishing is a relatively new business model where the author pays the publisher to edit, cover-design, typeset, print, publish, distribute, and promote the book. Authors first recover their investment by receiving all the royalties off the sale of the book. Then the publisher and author share ongoing royalties. In POD publishing, the author assumes the entire cost of printing, marketing, and distribution. Digital publishing enables print on demand and ebook formatting.


– Faster time to market
– Control of the book project and rights
– Some distribution (primarily through hybrids)
– In some cases, author retains all proceeds off book sales


– Stigma of being self-published – Up front expenses
– Limited distribution
– Limited support in design and editing
– Limited promotion


The best outcome for any author is with a non-subsidy publisher. Even if unsuccessful in your pursuit, the discipline of developing a book proposal and pitching it to agents and publishers before writing the manuscript has great merit: It will help you sharpen your book concept, give you a structure to write against, and force you to develop a thorough marketing plan.


John Fayad is The Literary CoachTM, offering essays, workshops, and individual consulting to aspiring and experienced authors. John’s creative tips and techniques help authors formulate their book concepts, develop their book proposals, and achieve their dream of becoming published authors.
John Fayad

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