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How Self-publishing Works

The Big Picture

Photo courtesy Clearing Skies Press Author Walter Roark with his kids Meghan and Shannon

What does self-publishing really mean?

On the most basic level, it means that in addition to writing, you take care of all the things that a publishing house (Random House, Bantam, Wiley, etc.) would. That doesn't mean you literally do everything personally -- you don't see too many writers running a printing press, for example. It means you bring in all the necessary help to create a book, and you finance the entire project (either with your own money, or with borrowed money).

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In other words, self-publishing means you run and finance a small business dedicated to producing and selling a single product: your book (or books, once you get going). In most cases, the business's goal is to make a profit over time -- to create a product that sells well enough to cover the expense of creating it, and then some.

This business venture breaks down into three broad stages:

  1. Actually writing, editing and illustrating the book
  2. Prepping the book for printing, and getting it printed
  3. Selling the book

Each one of these stages involves many individual steps and decisions, as we'll see.

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