Pay-to-Publish or DIY?

Within self-publishing there are two general routes to take.  These two routes have lots of different names and different terminology associated with them, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll call them Pay-to-Publish and DIY.  


The analogy here is hiring a contractor to do your home remodel vs. doing it yourself.  If you hire a contractor, you’ll pay a bit more, but someone with more experience than you will be managing each step of the process.  Are there bad contractors out there?  Yep!  Are there good ones too?  Of course!  Pay-to-Publish (often referred to as hybrid or vanity presses) is like hiring the best contractor you can and hoping for the best.  

Pros of Pay-to-Publish

  • Someone experienced with self-publishing will guide you through the entire process.
  • You will maintain control over design decisions.  You’re paying the company to do the work, but you will be able to give your approval.

Cons of Pay-to-Publish

  • Pay-to-Publish companies can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.  Your profit margin may be lower than DIY publishing.
  • You won’t get any help marketing or promoting your book.
  • The publishing company makes their money whether your book sells or not, so they have no vested interest in your project. 
  •  Many people consider these types of companies to be scams.  This is because these companies will frequently trick eager authors by saying something like, “Our editors have reviewed your manuscript and think it has great potential!  We’d like to offer you a contract for publication!” when in reality, these companies will publish any book submitted to them, regardless of quality. 
  • These companies frequently charge authors much more to produce the book than they can expect to earn in sales.

DIY Publishing

DIY publishing is just like a DIY remodel!  You’ll try to do what you can yourself, but at some point in the process, you’ll likely come across some things you simply don’t have the skills to do!  (Plumbing anyone?)  So, you’ll have to vet and hire professionals/freelancers to do certain tasks for you.  Some DIY remodels turn out great!  On the other hand, some end up looking slightly less than professional.  It’ll be the same with your book!

Pros of DIY Publishing

  • You will maintain control over all design and editorial decisions.
  • You can customize your book completely!
  • Hiring illustrators, designers, etc. individually allows you to be in control of your budget and negotiate prices at every stage.
  • You control the timeline for production and publication.
  • Depending on your expenses, there is potential for you to keep a larger percent of your total sales.

Cons of DIY Publishing

  • Because you ARE the publisher, you will have to operate as a legal business, collect sales tax, carry inventory, etc.  
  • Full control over everything also means full responsibility and legal liability for everything.  
  • You won’t get any help marketing or promoting your book.
  • If you aren’t experienced in publishing there will be a LOT to learn!

Ready to get started? At Home Author is run by three certified teachers (including me!) who have been in your shoes and can help walk you through the process. Check out our personalized coaching services, self-paced video courses, and FREE resources!

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