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How to Choose the Best Self-Publishing Approach for Your Book

How to choose the best self-publishing approach for your book is about knowing what you and your book need help with, from whom, and when. As an indie author in charge of your own book project, you’re actually in business for yourself. Therefore, it’s helpful to approach the creation and production of your book — the product of your business — as though you were a business owner.

We work with authors who are at different stages of writing and production on their journey to self-publish. Many come to Ingenium Books knowing what they want next, but not really knowing what it is that they need next. Figuring this out, with a business mindset, involves identifying the best system and approach for you and your book.

Your Best Self-Publishing Approach

Choosing the right approach is a core decision and one that should be taken at the outset of writing. It will impact your ROI (return on investment), your enjoyment of writing, and it will determine your chance of success. So which approach is best for you? That depends on who you are, how much you know about writing, publishing, and running a business. Take a careful look at yourself and be honest in answering these questions: What skills do I bring to this project? What will it serve me to obtain help with?

Approach #1 = Go Solo

Approach #1 means you do all the work yourself. (Not recommended.)

You might save money, but this is not the best self-publishing approach and it will not increase your chance of success. Quite likely the opposite. And this approach is the most difficult. Some would say also the most foolhardy, as every author needs at the very least a professional editor and proofreader. And a professional cover design. Perhaps you believe you’ve got a great visual eye — your grade school art teacher told you so — and you can muddle through designing a “good enough” book cover. On and on it goes, through all the writing and editing and proofing and layout and formatting and design and distribution (exclusive? or wide?) and marketing.

Many indie authors don’t know there are options other than going solo. They may buy and read self-help self-publishing books to try to learn the ropes. Power to you, if this is your chosen route. Often, at the beginning of one’s author journey, there aren’t any other options because you don’t have the money to hire other experts.

This model, though, is not for most authorpreneurs. It will take the longest time, and the quality of the end result will only be as good as what you, alone, can produce. Going solo means you do not benefit from others’ expert opinions, expertise or collaboration.

Approach #2: Be a Project Manager

Approach #2 means you do some work yourself and hire suppliers to help you with a variety of tasks. You’ll become the project manager, not simply the author. Interviewing, hiring, managing timelines, working through the impact of delays or unexpected roadblocks, providing feedback, setting priorities, handling invoices and payments to multiple suppliers, and trying to keep it all together.

Self pub Approach #2

This approach works quite well for many indie authors. It can produce a better product than Approach #1. However the cost, in both dollars and stress (yours) is significantly higher.

Approach #3: Engage a Full-Service Partner

Then there’s Approach #3. Here you’ll hire a single, trusted supplier who becomes a partner in the project. Like you, they believe in your book. They get to know your project, your goals and objectives — perhaps even better than you. This model means engaging one self-publishing services partner who can do everything you can’t or don’t want to do through the entire spectrum. They have the experience, knowledge, systems, and their own team to bring your book idea to fruition.

There are variables, of course. A single full-service partner doesn’t mean you have to hand over the writing reins. This model might include ghostwriting, but doesn’t have to. It might include author coaching, but it doesn’t have to. Your single self-publishing services partner has been through the exercise before, knows how to avoid common pitfalls, give you advice and options, and they manage the project and team while you focus on doing what you do best.

Self-Pub Approach #3


This model will have a price tag that looks larger than Approach #1 or #2. But when you add up all the little contracts in Approach #2, mix in the reduced stress and anxiety and comfort knowing things haven't fallen through the cracks, PLUS you see the quality... well, you tell me.

When you choose the right full-service partner, and not a vanity-publisher in disguise, you’ll be better off in the long run. The cost-benefit analysis will show you that the results in terms of quality of product, enjoyability of the process, and reduced stress levels will be well worth your investment. Your ROI will be higher with this option.

This is the model that works well for those who are busy with another business, raising a family, or working on a few projects at the same time.

A Wee Real Life Example

S/V Ingenium

A few years ago we were preparing our sailboat, Ingenium, to go back in the water after hauling out (bringing the boat on land) for some major repairs. We had work done on the keel, fixed a few engine issues, and we were now ready to sand the bottom to prepare the surface for new paint: a special underwater ablative paint which is used to minimize the build up of algae and barnacles. A daunting, uncomfortable and ugly job, to say the least. 

Boni and I had done this before on our own, Approach #1, donning the hooded white full-body suits, goggles, and face masks, and holding the heavy, vibrating sanders up overhead for hours. We vowed never to try that again.

The following year we decided to adopt Approach #2, and while that was better, in year three we came to our senses and adopted Approach #3. The work was done in half the time. The quality was at least twice as good. 

Boni and John Bottom Sanding

It freed us to continue working on developing our business (Ingenium Books, where we breathe life into ideas for indie authors of nonfiction) instead of being stuck and dusty and dirty and sore for a few weeks.

Yes, it did cost more in dollars, but much less in stress (our stress), as well as much less in time. Coupled with the progress and accomplishments we made on our business while the work was underway, there simply was no comparison as to which approach gave us the best ROI.

It’s Your Author Business

You’re in the driver’s seat regardless which approach you determine is best for you and your project. Like any other kind of business, these are the decisions that determine how high and how far you can go.

The writing and publishing process is multi-faceted. Each author’s experience and aptitude is different.

The point is not to blindly settle for performing all the tasks on your own before you consider the business implications. There are many skillsets required to professionally create and publish a book. Marketing, cover design, proofreading, formatting and layout, sales and distribution. These are areas of your business that need to be addressed professionally if you wish to produce high quality books with high quality results.

What do you think?

About the Author John Wagner-Stafford

John is co-founder of Ingenium Books, a serial entrepreneur, and accomplished creative project producer. John’s creative & entrepreneur accomplishments include professional musician (saxophone, vocals); recording engineer with artists like Peter Frampton, Celine Dion, Pat Metheny, and Leonard Cohen; soundtrack producer for film and television; trainer and coach to the sound mixer team at MSNBC when the New York-based network went live for the first time in 1997; producer of notable video games such as Prince of Persia, Myst IV-Revelation, and Splinter Cell IV-Double Agent; COO during the startup phase for KANDY Outdoor Flooring Inc., licensed realtor in two Canadian provinces; a master canoeist; and ASA-certified sailor. John is co-author, with his wife and business partner Boni Wagner-Stafford, of Rock Your Business: 26 Essential Lessons to Start, Run, and Grow Your New Business From the Ground Up.

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