When deciding to self-publish it is in your interest to gather as much information as possible about the process and possible pitfalls. Finding the right self-publishing service is essential for the successful production and distribution of your book. Services can vary greatly in quality and do not automatically handle things like copyright, design, distribution or marketing – as a self-publishing author you will need to be your own sales, marketing and publicity team! The Australian Writer’s Marketplace contains a comprehensive list of self-publishing services that include editing, proofreading, distribution, design and illustration and printing.

Self-publishing requires you to take commercial as well as artistic concerns into account. You will need a budget you can afford, a clearly defined market and a distribution plan. If publishing a print version, you will also need to decide on a printer. Some printers will include things like design, distribution and editing. Others won’t offer any of these services.

Thorpe-Bowker publishes SelfPublishedAuthor, a website dedicated to providing the tools, advice and research to guide writers through the self-publishing process. Other valuable resources include the Australian Society of Authors’ short papers Introduction to digital self-publishing and Paying for publication: points to consider, which outline questions to ask before you commit, red flags and publishing business models.


Vanity publishers

Publishing is a highly competitive industry, with literally tens of thousands of Australians who either have written or are thinking of writing a book they would like to see in print. However, wherever there is great demand, (think of the amount of people who squander money on dubious weight loss programs), there are people who will take advantage of that demand for financial gain.

Not to be confused with other legitimate types of self-publishing, vanity publishers should be avoided. Both vanity publishers and legitimate self-publishing companies charge fees to authors to publish their books. However, the difference is that self-publishing companies offer transparent quotes and do not ask the author to assign or license any rights to them.

Vanity publishers offer very low returns on sales to authors, despite the author paying for production of the book (sometimes these returns are as low as 10% of the RRP, which is what an author might receive when a traditional publisher bears the full financial risk). A true self-publishing company will offer a higher return (say 80% of the RRP on books sold via their website). Vanity publishers also frequently require authors to license their copyright (as though they are a traditional publisher) under terms that are not author friendly. These kinds of contracts are often difficult to terminate, meaning the author’s rights are tied up for a long time.



E-publishing is another option for self-publishers wishing to get their work out to readers. Because there is no printing involved, e-publishing means your book can be in the reader’s hands in weeks instead of months. This also means production costs are lower. However, because of the nature of e-publishing, it is important for the author to self-promote and market their work in a way that will get them noticed. Unlike books in a bookshop, it is rare that someone will stumble across an e-book by accident. See our E-books resource sheet for more information.


International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

When self-publishing, it’s important to make sure your book gets an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), as many bookshops won’t stock your book without one. An ISBN is a unique, 13-digit number that ensures your book can be identified throughout the world. It also enables libraries and booksellers to control stock and process orders. The ISBN forms part of your EAN number (formally Australian Product Number), which is used on barcodes for books. To apply for an ISBN, contact the Thorpe-Bowker ISBN Agency. Alternatively, many self-publishing companies will provide ISBNs as part of their services.


In our bookshop

Self-Publishing Made Simple by Euan Mitchell


Further resources

Australian Society of Authors <>
Department of Fair Trading in NSW <>
How to Make and Market Ebooks and Print Books by Euan Mitchell
Thorpe-Bowker <>


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