In books, self-publishing refers to the process whereby an author organises the production and distribution of his or her own book, rather than using an external publisher. Many self-published authors describe themselves under the wider umbrella of independently published (or indie).
Due to their low cost and relative ease of production, eBooks are the most popular format used by self-published authors. Typically, authors publish their digital content using retailers' direct publishing platforms such as Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and Kobo Writing Life. Other popular methods include content aggregators, which deliver eBooks to a variety of retailers, and authors hosting eBooks on their private websites.
Print-on-demand (POD) services are a popular choice for self-published authors because they represent low financial risk. The books are literally printed on demand, with services charging the consumer and paying the author a fixed fee from the sale, once costs have been deducted. Historically, self-published authors used to finance small print runs of their books, but this is unpopular now due to high start-up costs.
Although by no means as popular as eBooks, self-published audio books are growing in prominence.
Home printed books with either stapled or sewn spines are still popular in some circles, for example among poets. Hand made books are also used to solicit feedback prior to professional print runs and eBook distribution.
Noteworthy Self-Published Authors
- Barbara Freethy
- Amanda Hocking
- Hugh Howie
- E.L. James
Comparison to Vanity Publishing
A number of people confuse self-publishing with vanity publishing, whereby an author pays an external organisation to publish his or her book. This comes from historical circumstances where authors' options were limited to either attracting a publisher on merit, or paying for one, with the latter being seen as the (greatly) inferior option. However, the advent of digital publishing platforms and eventually POD services gave authors additional options. Greater royalties and control led many authors to choose self-publishing rather than go through the process of looking for an agent and publisher.
Accusations of Inferior Quality
The ease of self-publishing has allowed people to publish books regardless of quality, which has tainted its reputation. However, a large proportion of self-published books have been produced with the same level of care as their traditionally published counterparts.