From the Archives: “Quality and Control in Self-Publishing”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: November 14th, 2008 ]

A very informative article was recently published outlining one author’s success self-publishing over traditional publishing, most notably in terms of higher net royalties on book sales. In fact, the case study recorded significantly higher royalties on a lower quantity of book sales along that self-publishing route.

The book pricing advantages of self publishing is no stranger to this blog, nor the increasingly successful population of authors who follow that path. But this particular article also mentioned that writers should never have to pay for publishing upfront.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen authors who have been pulled in by that concept, but end up publishing an often poorly produced book sold back to them at highly marked-up costs. (Publishers are businesses and need to make money, after all.) So that model really only puts poorly produced books right back in the hands of authors, not readers.

The successful alternative does involve upfront publishing fees, which opens a direct contract between authors and publishers including quality, professional production on books that are competitively sold in the marketplace, where readers buy books. Make sure your self-publishing choice includes those things like cover design, interior formatting, and full distribution. Also, as I’ve mentioned before – and the significance here is worth the redundancy – make sure your publisher offers pricing flexibility (control) and 100% royalties on book sales.

I hope that helps. Have fun and keep writing…

– by Karl Schroeder

Well, Karl’s not wrong. He wasn’t wrong all the way back in 2008–nine years ago!–and he’s not wrong now. (Of course, this will come as no surprise to those of you who have read some of his backlist posts for Self Publishing Advisor.) Quality is determined by many independent and interrelated factors, and one of the most important of those factors is control. Control of the artistic process, the publishing process, and the distribution process too. Lose your access to influence any of these three steps, and you’re at risk of spending money you didn’t anticipate on processes over which you have very limited control.

quality infographic

I love this infographic from Empathy Lab, because even though they specialize in e-commerce and responsive web design–subjects only tangentially relevant to our interests–they have spent years putting together quality infographics representing ways in which to both qualify and quantify their systems and products. Here, they’ve created an infographic by which any business might measure quality, based on a flexible framework which incorporates everything from inputs, outputs, values, and employees.

While this may not be the most finely-tuned visual for self-publishing, specifically, many of the principles here helpfully capture the spirit of what Karl first wrote in 2008: You must first decide what your priorities are, and how quality is both a product of and a shaping influence upon, what you do. Only then can you decide how much money to invest, and where to invest it, in the self-publishing process. A hint: For most of us, it’s going to be some sort of up-front cost which gives us access to premium publishing services and full royalties, full creative control, and full authority on what happens to our books–because this is your brand, after all.

Take a moment to let Karl’s words sink in, and spend a little time with Empathy Labs’ infographic. See if you can sketch out some thoughts on how your own book and publishing experience is coming together–and let us know how that’s going! We’d love to hear from you and be a resource for you.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, Share this:
Like this:Like Loading... Related