Writing for a Living: Should You Self Publish?

I hope you’ve been enjoying the series of HotHive tips about writing and publishing.
ChoiceinlifeTip 6. is about ‘Going it alone – self-publishing’.

Nowadays, it is relatively easy to publish your own book and there are many people who are dispensing with the publisher altogether. With online printing options such as lulu.com and the amazing technology of print on demand printing it is now affordable for just about anyone who has a book inside them to get it out there into the public domain.

Self-publishing literally means that you create your own publishing name (or imprint as it is known) and make your own book using whichever method you can. Books can be laid out using software programs such as Word, although they won’t look like the ‘real thing’. For this you need to work with a book designer and/or typesetter who uses the professional standard software such as Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress. You then need to apply to the ISBN agency for a set of ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers). These numbers are the key to the publishing door and without one of these linked to your imprint no one will know your book exists.

Here we look at the pros and cons of taking the self-publishing route.


  • You can publish a book without anyone else approving it – you don’t have to sell the idea to a publishing company.
  • You can self-publish a book quickly – you don’t have to wait to fit into other people’s schedules.
  • You remain in control of the way your book looks and its content.
  • You won’t be assigning any publishing rights to anyone else, so you can continue to do whatever you wish with the material after it’s been published.
  • You will get to keep all the profits from any sales of the book – instead of receiving a very small royalty from a publisher.


  • Without the expertise of a publisher you will need to put a team of people together to help you. If you want a good quality book, a designer, an editor, a typesetter and a proofreader will all be required to help you.
  • Self-publishing is a time consuming affair and it may prove to be quite a distraction from your day job.
  • You will have to find funds to invest in the project without any guarantee of a return on that investment.
  • It is very hard for self-published authors to get taken seriously by the book trade, as the route to the trade is through the wholesalers who don’t like talking to authors.
  • Without a publisher it can be hard to find out whether you’ve written the ‘right’ book and to see objectively whether there is a market for the book.

Hothive’s Publish Your Book! day on 10 September is designed to help people look at the different publishing routes and decide which will work best for them. And if you want to find out more about writing for a living, buy Commercial Writing: How to Earn a Living as a Business Writer, currently just £10.39 on Amazon.

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1 Comment

  • There are different levels of do-it-yourself when it comes to self-publishing. For the least money and most hassle, you can deal with everything, including typesetting. Keep in mind, though, that it’s a terrible idea to do your own design unless you really know what you’re doing.

    If you’re willing to invest more, you can find your own typesetter/cover designer, but still handle nitty-gritty details like getting the ISBN.

    For help with everything (including stuff you didn’t know needed to happen), you can hire to a self-publishing company to take care of all these details for you.

    You’re still on the hook for marketing your work, though! A self-publishing company may be able to give you good advice about this if they focus on post-publication issues, but you’ll be the one to implement the strategies. Expect to spend as much time marketing your book as you ever did writing it.

    Oh, and don’t forget to get copyediting. Trust me on this. 🙂

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