Skip to content

Independent Publishing – The 30,000 Foot Overview

I've been an independent author/publisher for several years. There are many things to be considered to successfully publish books. Here are some observations from my own personal experiences

You need to write a good book that people will want to read. Then you need to go through a process of several rewrites where you actually craft the book into a marketable form. It is highly advisable to hire a third party, professional editor. A friend or relative will not tell you what needs to be fixed to make the book better because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. A professional editor can work with you to help make the book sellable in a way that retains what you want to say. Over a million titles are published every year and a poor book has little chance of selling well or even at all.

Printed books should to be designed and typeset in a way that is pleasing to the eye and easy to read. A cover, whether for a printed book or an eBook, must be created that will entice people to click on it when they’re browsing through an online site or pick it up and examine it in a physical store. This is extremely important because people do judge books by their covers.

Creating a winning cover requires graphic design skills as well as an understanding of the book business and marketing, along with a little psychology. If you possess the tools and background, you can do this yourself. Otherwise, it pays to hire professionals. Like the established publishing houses, independent publishers must know what they can do themselves and when to work with partners.

You must choose a printer and a distributor. There are two choices for printing your book.

The traditional printing option is the offset press. Digital files containing text and images are etched onto aluminum plates as an image. The etched areas receive oil based ink while the non-etched areas are coated in water. The plates are placed on metal rollers that spin and transfer, or offset, the ink to rubber rollers that then contains just the ink in the form of the image. There is a set of metal and rubber rollers on top to print one side of the page and a second set on the bottom to print the other side. Paper from large rolls pass between the two rubber rollers as a web to transfer the ink to the top and bottom of the pages that is later trimmed into sheets and bound into books. Printing this way is very fast and cost effective per page, however, there is a startup cost to make plates for each page. Because of this, offset printing is generally used for print runs of 500 books or more at a time. These are stored in a warehouse and shipped when orders are placed. The cost of subsequent runs will be lower because the plates can be reused many times.

A new technology called print-on-demand (POD) has arisen in the past few decades. This uses the same technology as laser printers to place ink on paper. The startup cost is low because the printed image comes directly from a digital format, usually an Adobe PDF file, without the need to create metal plates. However, the cost of each page printed is higher and the printing process is slower. Print-on-demand can produce many books at a time or just a single book. This gives independent publishers great flexibility. As the number of books can vary, books that are created with POD are often produced after orders are placed and the run is just for the number of copies in the order, reducing upfront costs for publishers and eliminating the need to store books in a warehouse. However, because the process costs more per page than offset printing the price per copy will need to be set higher or publishers will need to reduce their profits below that of books printed in offset presses in order to compete in the market.

The question of which to use depends on how much money a publisher can invest at the start. One advantage of POD is that changes to the text or images of a book are done electronically, can be made quickly and will appear in the next run. If changes are made to books using offset presses, new plates will need to be made and paid for.

Both color and black and white books can be printed with either process by running the paper through four printing stations. Each station prints one ink color; cyan, magenta yellow or black. This is referred to as CMYK with the K representing black. These four colors are overprinted on the paper and blend together to render full color images.

You can sell books directly to stores yourself on consignment where you order and pay for the printing and shipping and then hand deliver or ship copies to stores who have agreed to carry them. This makes you the distributor. Accepting books on consignment means that stores only pay you if books are sold, thus eliminating their risk and offering an enticement to carry them. For each copy sold, stores will give you the cover price less a wholesale discount. The discount rate is usually 40% of the cover price.

Stores will generally not keep your book on their shelves indefinitely. A book that does not sell takes up space that more popular books can use, so stores may want you to take back unsold copies after a period of time, depending on the policy of the store. This is usually six to twelve months. You will need to pick up these unsold copies or ask the stores to ship them back to you. Stores will usually require that you pay for shipping. You can also ask them to destroy unsold books, a process called pulping. If you do this, it is best to require the stores to tear off the cover of the unsold books and mail them to you for verification. You won’t get paid for unsold copies but if the books are destroyed you won’t incur shipping charges that might be greater than the price of the book.

If you enter into an agreement with a book distributor, stores can order from them. For POD books, a distributor will pay you for copies sold less printing costs, the wholesale discount to stores and a distribution fee. The printing cost of books produced on offset presses are paid for in advance so the compensation is only reduced by the wholesale discount and distribution fee.

Having a distributor greatly expands the range of where your books are sold; across town, across a country or around the world. Contracting with a distributor relieves you of the effort to ship and track book sales, however most distributors offer few marketing services beyond listing books in a catalogue. It is a good idea to contact booksellers directly and ask them to stock your titles. This can be done by sending emails, making phone calls and mailing paper tip sheets that announce the book, its description, an image of the cover, price and ordering information. People are often inundated with emails and a piece of paper arriving in the post sometimes gets their attention better.

Most retailers will not stock a title, whether on consignment or through a distributor, unless unsold copies can be returned after a certain period of time. As with consigned books, the period a store keeps your book on the shelf will vary depending on their policies. When POD books handled through a distributor are pulped, authors will be charged the cost of printing the book. When books are physically returned, whether they are produced using POD or on an offset press, authors will be charged for shipping.

Offering returns worries some authors who fear they will need to pay large printing and shipping fees. Since the time I began publishing, only a single copy has been returned.

Some companies both print and distribute books. These include Ingram, Lulu, Draft2Digital and Amazon through its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service. There are others that can be found with an Internet search.

For some of these, such as Lulu, Draft2Digital and Amazon, you can just upload a Microsoft Word file and they will handle layout and design for a printed book or eBook. You can also use free tools provided by these companies to format books. For paper books, a Word file can deliver unsatisfactory quality. You will get a better result if you use the formatting tools provided by the printer or third party programs like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress to create PDF files that are uploaded. I do not recommend Microsoft Publisher as it was designed for things like flyers and not books. Another alternative is to hire a professional book designer to layout and typeset the book.

These companies often offer cover creation tools, but it is a good idea to ask someone experienced in creating book covers to either design one for you or be available to consult with you when using one with these services.

Whether you consign books yourself or use the services of a distributor, you should still send your books to a professional editor if you want people to buy them and encourage their friends and acquaintances to buy them as well.

Companies like Lulu, Digital2Draft and Amazon don’t charge upfront fees. For eBooks they, they keep a master file and send digital copies to consumers when they buy one, then pay you a percentage of the price.

Some online retailers now offer subscription models where consumers pay a monthly or yearly fee and can download a set number of books during that period. Authors are paid according to the number of pages consumers read or the amount of time spent reading. In a subscription model, up to ten copies of a title must be read to the end before the author earns the same amount of money that would come from the sale of a single eBook, making subscription services adventitious for retailers while greatly reducing the compensation for authors.

For paper books, companies like Lulu, Digital2Draft and Amazon only print copies when orders are placed using POD. As with eBooks, you receive a percentage of the sales. These percentages differ from company to company.

All distributors will usually pay 60 to 90 days after sales are made no matter what their business model is, so you should budget for this.

I use KDP for Kindle editions of my books where I get 70% of the cover price but I chose a different POD company called Ingram-Spark to print and distribute my paperback and hard cover books (Even though KDP and Draft2Digital produce paper books, they only print paperbacks and not hard covers which are preferred by libraries because they are more durable. Lulu does print both paperback and hard cover books). Ingram-Spark is a division of the Ingram Group that is the largest book distributor in the western world with tens of thousands of bookstores and libraries as clients in multiple countries.

Like Lulu, Draft2Digital and KDP, Ingram-Spark offers print-on-demand. There is a setup fee per title with Ingram-Spark but I belong to an organization called the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). Through them I am able to both setup and revise titles with Ingram-Spark for free. This alone is worth the modest yearly IBPA membership fee that includes excellent webinars on publishing and co-marketing opportunities.

The reason I use Ingram-Spark instead of KDP for my printed books because I want my books to be more widely distributed than on just Amazon in order to sell them to other retailers like Barnes & Noble and Walmart, libraries and independent bookstores where I am able to hold events such as book signings and readings. None of these will purchase books from Amazon, even if you select world-wide distribution in KDP. The reasons for this are that Amazon does not offer a large enough wholesale discount to other stores or libraries and, for booksellers, Amazon is a direct competitor.

Set the price of each book so that it makes enough return on your investment in terms of money and time but doesn’t discourage readers from buying it. I compare prices of books in similar genres and sizes to mine and price within that range.

For international markets where there is a choice for specifying prices in different currencies, I base the price on U.S. dollars and look up the average exchange rate for each jurisdiction over the last three months, then round the resultant price up so that the last two digits are 99 cents.

Exchange rates vary hourly and by using an average I account for fluctuations over time. In pricing for currencies other than the Unite States it is best to round up because you will never receive the full exchange rate due to fees charged by banks and other financial institutions.

There is a strange psychological aspect of humans such that when we see something priced at $9.99 and the same product priced at $10.00, we buy the $9.99 item thinking that we are saving a whole dollar and ignoring the fact that we are actually only saving one cent. This has been shown in multiple experiments. You will always look like you are offering a bargain when the price ends in 99 cents.

You may want to adjust your price periodically as printing costs and exchange rates can change.

If you are distributing through anyone other than Amazon, you need to set a wholesale discount. This will include the distribution fee, shipping costs and a margin of profit for the booksellers. A discount of 40% will get your books listed in most online stores. To get them into libraries and physical stores you should set the discount to 50% or 55%. If you do not, the book may not be carried. A 55% wholesale discount is divided between the distributor (15% which includes the cost of shipping) and the stores (40%). If you offer a 45% wholesale discount, stores are left with just 30% of the retail price which may be enough for an online operation but will not support a bookstore with costs like rent, utilities and staff salaries.

A book on an online website or a shelf in a store can be easily overlooked amidst the mass number of books available. To get your book noticed, you need to market it. Marketing involves advertising, interaction on social media, personal appearances, getting reviews, sending press releases, appearing on podcasts, contacting bloggers to write about you and your books, establishing you as a brand and other activities.

You can hire marketing firms and publicists to do this but they can get very expensive. Doing this yourself can take a substantial commitment of time. Marketing can consume up to a quarter of your time each week. Some marketing is free and some costs.

Book reviews are important and you should contact reviewers four to six months before a book is released as reviewers often already have a backlog of books and will rarely be able to get to yours right away. A book goes from new release to backlist status after six to nine months. Many reviewers will not accept backlist books.

Be very careful of paid reviews or arrangements with other authors to review your book if you review theirs. This violates Amazon’s policies and can result in every review of your book being taken down from Amazon and Goodreads, which is owned by Amazon. It can also get very expensive very quickly and you can’t always predict what kind of review you will get or how wide the distribution of the review will be. What a reviewer says and how much influence they have applies to free reviews as well but you aren’t out any cash. Those who offer to always give a good review can raise red flags with Amazon who want reviews to be honest and organic and come from people who bought and read your book. I always purchase a Kindle edition of any book I review, even if one has been provided (I don’t review every book I’m sent). In regards to eBooks; Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Apple know how many pages a consumer reads and whether or not they finish the book.

You can create an online presence on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. You can buy advertising in general media and on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. Press releases to media such as bloggers, newspapers, magazines, radio and television, can get you noticed as these outlets are always looking for items to place between other news. Public appearances in person or online help you build your brand and sell books. You can contact book bloggers to arrange for reviews and interviews to get you and you book known.

I realize this is a long explanation but it is important to know what you are getting into or you could spend a lot of time and money and get poor results. It may not seem like it but this is the 30,000 foot overview. There are many more details to learn.

---

David A. Wimsett has released four books through his independent publishing company, Cape Split Press. His fifth book, an illustrated edition of his women's historical fiction novel, will be released in June of 2021 and the sixth will be the final instalment of his epic fantasy series for Christmas of 2021,


A method for uploading illustrated MS Word documents to KDP

If you have an Amazon KDP account, you can upload a Microsoft Word file of your book with the title page, copyright page, endorsements and the text directly to KDP as long as it does not contain illustrations.

If your Word file contains illustrations, such as a logo, maps, drawings, photographs or the like, you must take extra steps to create a file that can be uploaded to create a Kindle edition with all of those elements. This is one method that works for me. You will need to manipulate files, but this article will guide you through the process. These examples are from a Windows computer. If you are using another brand, you will have to use its control keys, applications and menu selection, such as pressing the Command key on a Macintosh instead of CTRL.

Create a Word file of your book and insert the images you want at the places where you want them to appear. Here is a pretend novel with some photographs.


Not exactly a best seller, but it will suffice for our purposes.

As you write you book, save a copy as a standard DOC or DOCX document file. Stop and save your file every hour or so. This will assure that you don’t lose your work if the computer crashes or you run out of power when unplugged.

In this example, we will use the file name My Great Novel.docx. We will store this in our default Windows Documents folder. This is your master copy where you will make all future edits. One of the great things about publishing online is that you can change the book after it is released, upload a new copy, and from that point forward anyone who downloads the book will see the changes. If Kindle users have selected to accept revisions, the new copy will appear on their Kindle reader or their desktop or mobile app automatically.

Let’s use the File Manger or equivalent on your brand of computer to inspect the Documents folder where the file is stored. Click the File Manager icon along the bottom of the screen.


The File Manager will open. Select the Documents folder from the left hand window pane. You will see the file for the book in a list along with the type of file it is and the date it was created. The kind of file is shown as Microsoft Word File under the Type column. If you don’t see the menu on the top of the screen, press the ALT key and it will appear.


For this exercise, you will need to display the files in this folder using Detail view. Click the View tab in the meny and click the Detail button. By default, file extensions associated with applications loaded on your computer, such as docx for Word documents, are hidden. To display the file extension with the file name, check the File Name Extensions box. At any rate, you will always be able to tell each file’s kind under the Type column.


To prepare the file for uploading to KDP, return to the Word window and click the File tab, then Save As. A dialog box will appear.


From here, you can specify the folder to save the file to, give it a name and specify the format the file is to be saved as. Select the file format Web Page Filtered by clicking the Save as type drop-down box. Make certain to select the filtered option and not the other web sections. When you save the document, it will create a file with the same name as the document file but with a file extension of HTM. It will also create a new sub-folder below Documents.

Close Word and go back to the File Manager.


Notice that we have two files named My Great Novel, but they are not the same. One is the original Microsoft Word Document file with a DOCX file extension (hidden in this view) and the other is a Firefox HTML Document with a hidden file extension of HTM. I use the Firefox browser. If you use another browser the Type will be different. For instance, in Chrome, your default browser, the file type will be Chrome HTM Document. If you check the File Name Extensions box under the File tab, you will see the file extensions as part of the file name.

The sub-folder My Great Novel_files under Documents was created automatically. It has the same name as the file with the characters _file added at the end. This sub-folder contains all of the images in the original document file saved as JPG files. This extension represents a specific format for holding images. It’s official name is the Joint Photographic Experts Group. Let’s double click on this new folder to see what’s inside.


Here we are looking at the sub-folder in the Large Icons view so we can see what the images look like. Every image that was in the original DOCX document was stripped out and turned into a JPG file. Each was given the name image with a sequential number appended to it.

The HTM file contains only the text of the book and links to the sub-folder where the images are stored. We need to put the text and images together in a single file that we can upload to KDP. First, highlight the HTM document in the Documents folder and cut it. Then paste it into the sub-folder that has _files appended to the end of it. In this example, the sub-folder is named My Great Novel_files. You will see a warning when you do this.


This is telling you that the HTM file has embedded references to images in the sub-folder. We will take care of this in a moment. Click Cancel to close the warning.

We now have the HTM document file and JPG image files together in one place, but they are not yet linked together yet. Open the HTM Document file.


Notice that we see the text but the images are missing. This is because there are special markers in the HTM file called image tags that tell the browser where to go in order to find the pictures. Because we moved the HTM document to the sub-folder My Great Novel_files where the images are, it is now looking for another sub-sub-folder below the current one to find the photos. We need to open the HTM document file with a text editor to make adjustments. We will use Notepad, though you can use any text editor. Do not open the file with a word processing program such as Word. Word processing programs add invisible formatting character that will make the file unreadable by a browser. Here is what the file looks like when opened in a text editor.


This is the internal Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) code that tells a browser how to display the page. Don’t panic! There is no need need to know how to write HTML code. You only have to change one thing.

HTML code is made up of text and control tags. These are bound by the less than and greeter than symbols < >. One of these control tags specifies the graphic images to be displayed. Text and images are what are displayed in a browser. Tags tell browsers how to format those text and images.

All eBooks, both Kindle and ePub, are just modified HTML files. KDP will build a Kindle edition of your book from the HTML file that you upload.

We only need to change the tag that controls the placement images on the page. That is the image tag and it is written as <img. Click Edit on the Notepad menu and then Search. The search dialog box will appear.


Enter <img for Find what and click the Find next button. You will be moved in the file to the first image tag.


Notice that the characters for <img have been highlighted. Image tags contain attributes that control how the tag will behave. Look at the line below to the attribute named src that stands for source. It tells the browser where the image file is stored so it can retrieve it and place it at this spot on the web page. There are other attributes such as width and height that tell the browser the size of the image, but you don’t have to worry about them.

In this case, the src attribute is telling the browser to look in a sub-folder named My%20Great%20Novel_files for a file named image0001. The characters %20 represent a single space to the browser and the slash character / separates the folder name from the file name.

Because we moved the HTM file in the same folder that contains the images, the instructions given to the browser causes it to look in another folder below My Great Novel_files that it thinks is also named My Great Novel_files. No such folder exists. That is why we didn’t see the photos. The browser could not find the non-existent folder so it left blank space holders where the images should have been displayed. We have to tell the browser to look in the same sub-folder where the HTM document is located in order to find the images.

Use the mouse to highlight the characters src=“My%20Great%20Novel_files/image.


Click Edit and Replace. The Replace dialog will appear.


Because you highlighted the text to be changed, it will automatically populate the field named Find what. If not, select Edit and Paste when the cursor is in this field. Type src“=image in the field Replace with. This will look for the text that directs the browser to a sub-sub-folder and replace it with a reference to the same folder where the HTM documents resides. Click Replace All to make the change for every image tag. To confirm this, search for <img again.


The src= attribute points to the file image0001 with no reference to a sub-folder, so the browser will look for the image file in the same folder as the HTM document.

Close notepad and return to the My Great Novel_files sub-folder. We see the HTM document and the image files together in one place.


If we open the HTM document. We will see the text and photos together.


Now, we have to put these files together into a format that can be uploaded to KDP by placing them inside a ZIP file. I use WinZip, but you can use any ZIP program including the one that comes with Windows 10. The ZIP file will now be in the folder using the same name as the HTM Document but with a ZIP file extension.


It is this ZIP file that you upload to KDP. Amazon will unzip it and put everything together in a Kindle edition. Upload your cover art or select one from KDP. Once your text and cover are uploaded, make certain to check the result by launching the previewer. Page through the entire book to make certain that it is formatted correctly. If you find an error, go back to the original DOCX document and make the necessary adjustments. Then follow the steps above to produce a new ZIP file and upload that.

You can also use this ZIP file to produce MOBI and ePub files on your local computer using programs like Calibre.

By following these steps, you will gain control over the look and feel of your Kindle edition to produce a quality book.

If something stands out in your writing, remove it

Crafting a novel takes place through the process of rewriting the book. The first draft is only a framework of the story you want to tell. Some beginning writers run their first draft through spell check and send out the manuscript, thinking they are finished. This is a mistake.

Even this article has gone through eight rewrites. After putting down ideas I wanted to discuss, I reread and edited the first draft, changing words here, taking some things out there and adding new material where it was needed. This was followed by a second edited draft with more changes as I looked for the exact words to use while making certain that the points I wanted to express were clear. After the eighth draft, I posted the article.

Of course, you also need to check for misspellings, typographical errors, missing words and other grammatical problems. I’m always shocked by how many times I can reread a manuscript I’ve written and come across a sentence such as, “They walked into building” when I intended to write “They walked into the building.” My mind subconsciously added the word the each time I read the piece. Sometimes these things go undetected until after the manuscript goes to my editor.

This is one of the reasons why anyone who intends to write professionally must hire a professional editor and not just have a friend or relative look over the work. Your friends and relatives may not be trained and experienced in editing manuscripts and they will usually tell you that the writing is wonderful because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Worse yet, some writers send out manuscripts without having anyone else look at them.

Those who want to write on a professional level must invest time in rewriting. Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

There are many things to consider when rewriting. In the end, the writing itself must disappear to reveal only the story and the characters. A book can present themes and ideas, but without a story that involves readers in the characters, the book becomes a lecture and not a novel.

When readers pause to say, “Wasn’t that a clever turn of phrase”, they are taken out of the story and slammed back into their ordinary lives, dispelling the suspension of disbelief that is essential in storytelling, which must immerse readers beyond distraction.

Here is a good rule of thumb. If, in rereading your work, you come across something that stands out and causes you to become conscious of the writing itself, remove that word, phrase, description, piece of dialogue or characterization. If you noticed it, so will your readers. The story will stumble and any points you wanted to make will be interrupted.

Professional writing is not an academic excursive in showing off how much you know about writing craft, it is using the craft of writing to reveal the material with such impact that the physical presentation becomes invisible. Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama, says to “Kill your darlings.”

Writers may believe that they can’t remove material because they might not be able to think of something else. In truth, writers have an inexhaustible source of material within themselves and their imaginations to create new prose that describes characters and situations. Others hope to impress readers by demonstrating a command of language. This is like drawing a set of gorgeous drapes across a picture window and blocking the view from outside.

You are the first editor in a rewrite, and you must be ruthless with yourself. Fight your ego if it tells you to keep material that does not serve the telling the story or the revelation of the characters.

David A. Wimsett is the author of Beyond the Shallow, a novel of a woman overcoming prejudice and searching for herself amidst rumors of the selkies from Celtic mythology, and Dragons Unremembered: Volume I of the Carandir Saga, a fantasy epic set in a world of gender equality where women and men have the same rights, opportunities and authority. The second volume of the saga, Half Awakened Dreams, will be released on September 21, 2020. He is a member of the Writers' Union of Canada and the Canadian Freelance Guild.

Is independant publishing for you?

At one time, there were only two ways for an author to get a book in print; through a traditional publishing house that covered all the costs and paid writers royalties or by paying a company to print copies for a fee.

Traditional publishers offer important services such as editing, cover design, marketing and distribution to book outlets. Authors are paid up front with an advance on royalties, which is important cash for writers. Large publishers also have resources to broker movie deals. But, it is difficult for a writer to get a publisher to accept a books or to convince a literary agent to represent it. New books must be written to the highest level of quality. That has always been true. There is now a new consideration, return on investment. It takes the same effort to publish a book that will generate $50,000 in profit as it does to publish one that will bring in $1,000,000. People working in the publishing industry have a deep love of books and delight in discovering new authors, but it is a marginal business and economic factors influence the decisions of publishers.

Before her death, literary giant Ursula K. Le Guin was honored at the National Book Awards. In her acceptance speech she said, "Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship."

For decades, the only alternative to traditional publishing houses was for writers to pay companies a fee ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars to have their book printed. This was not publishing, just printing. Editing, marketing and advice were not included. Writers had to do all this themselves. Many people used this service to print personal memoirs that were given away to friends and family, though there were writers who distributed their own books, sometime door-to-door, because bookstores would not stock them and reviewers ignored them. Such writers may have had 4,999 books in their basement because their mother bought a copy. As a result, these book printing companies came to be referred to as Vanity Presses. Few writers who used these services employed professional editing. As a result, quality suffered.

Two decades ago, a new form of publishing emerged, self-publishing. There have been self-published books before, but they were rare. Self-publishing to the mass market began when Amazon introduced its Kindle eReader device and began accepting manuscripts directly from authors. Amazon does not charge fees to writers. Authors simply uploaded their manuscript and cover art. Amazon takes care of formatting. listing and distributing books. Amazon pays up to 70% of a book's retail price to the author. Self-published authors do not pay fees to literary agents, which can be up to 20% of the author's royalty. Perhaps the most alluring thing is that self-published authors have complete control over their books. Amazon now sells Kindle, paperback and hard cover books from self-publishers. Other bookstores, even chains, have begun to accept self-published books and reviewers are looking at them.

But there is a stigma associated to self-published books. They are not taken seriously by some. Many literary awards will not consider them and grants that are available to authors whose works are represented by traditional houses are not given to self-publishers. There is the impression that writers self-publish their work because they are not good enough to attract a publisher. That perception is not necessarily true. Established authors, such as David Mamet, now self-publish. If readers do not know that a great novel is self-published it would compare favorably with volumes from big name houses.

Still, there is some ground for concern. Far too many self-published books are poorly written. They are not professionally edited and contain typographical and grammatical errors. Plots can be inconsistent and even incomprehensible. Dialogue may be unbelievable or juvenile and characters can be shallow. Such books and authors serve to reinforces the prejudice and stereotypes around self-publishing. Grant providers and contest judges dread the idea of slogging through poorly written material.

Today, a new movement is forming, independent publishing. Sharing many of the aspects of self-publishing, independent publishers take on the same roles practiced by traditional publishers. They assume the risks of hiring professional editors, cover designers, printers and distributors. They market the book or hire people to do so. Like self-publishers, Independents do not pay agent fees. Some independents only publish their own work while others publish the work of many writers as well as their own. The main difference between self-publishers and independent publishers is the degree of commitment and professionalism they exhibit. The books are not released until they pass rigorous quality checks.

Independent publishers heed the advice their editors, cover designers and other professionals they hire. These people know their jobs and bring an objective perspective to the project. My editor doesn’t just check spelling, missing words or wrong words. She performs fact checking and examines the structure and logic. In one scene, a character opened a window. Two paragraphs later the already opened window was opened again. My mind had looked at that scene dozens of times and missed this mistake. My editor caught it and much more. She suggested better ways to say things.

Even though I was the author and the publisher, my editor had the final say as to when the manuscript was complete. That was our agreement, the same as at any traditional press and was absolutely necessary if the book was to meet professional quality standards. This didn’t mean that I automatically accepted every suggestion. We had several discussions where I had to defend a phrase or a scene or a character. An editor's job is not to change the author's themes. Rather, it is to point out how writers can express those themes more effectively.

I also had to contact bookstores (chains, independent and online) and libraries to make the book available. I had to organize book readings and signings and place advertising in newspapers and social media along with blog posts. I was responsible for setting up an author’s page on Amazon and Goods Reads. I established Twitter and Facebook accounts. I put out ads on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.

That is what an independent publisher must do in order to produce world class quality. Nothing else will do in the marketplace.

Independent publishing is not for everyone. It is a full time job to get a book in print and requires a willingness to be involved in the business end of publishing. Some authors just want to write and let others handle the details. For them, a traditional press is the best solution. Writers who are willing to get fully involved can find greater monetary rewards and satisfaction in making the decisions.