3 Must-Ask Questions BEFORE Self-Publishing Your Book

Your book is finally done and it’s time to start looking at your publishing options. Yippee! I give you full permission to break out the champagne and celebrate. You’ve earned it!

I firmly believe that while you can self-publish your book, that doesn’t mean you should take the DIY route. Self-publishing means that you, the author, retain control of the rights, the marketing, and major publishing decisions. You can retain this control without learning how to code eBooks or set up beautiful layouts for print books!

When you’re choosing a company to help you self-publish your book, there are three things you need to evaluate before signing a contract and making a payment.

3 Must-Ask Questions BEFORE Self-Publishing Your Book Share on X

1. Do they offer editing?

It’s the utmost rudeness to your reader if you don’t have your book professionally edited before publishing. Let me say that one more time:

Pay. For. Professional. Editing.

I don’t care how good you are or how many times you’ve read your book, there are errors that you’ve gone blind to. You need to pay (yes PAY) for a professional to edit the manuscript.

This can be done as part of the publishing package (this is what I do: all my publishing contracts include a round of copy edits) or done separately. When you’re evaluating your publishing partner, ask what, if any, editing they offer. Not all self-publishing companies offer editing (and not all editing is created equal) so you want to make sure that you’ve got an editing plan in place.

Another caveat on editing:

There’s a big difference between a structural edit (are all the pieces in the right order) and a copy edit (grammar, spelling, punctuation.) Many of my VIP Book Writing Mentorship authors do not need a structural edit because we did it during their VIP work with me. And some do – because the book had a more free-form process during writing.

Regardless, ALL books need to have a professional editor work their magic on your grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

2. Do you retain the rights to your book?

As a self-published author, YOU retain all rights to your book. If the publishing partner you’ve chosen has a contract that says anything different (like they have the rights for three years) then this is not a company you want to be using. They’re not actually a self-publishing partner, they’re a Vanity Press.

Run away.

You want to retain all rights to your book. That way, if you’re ever approached by a traditional publisher, a movie producer, etc. you have the rights to your work so you can enter into an agreement.

3. How are commissions structured?

Let’s face it, Amazon’s payment terms are pretty sweet: up to 70% of the list price of your eBook, directly deposited, monthly, into your bank account. Of course, there is fine print around that, but at its heart, it’s awesome.

If the self-publishing partner is taking a cut from your book sales, that’s not a great deal. If the commissions are paid directly to them and then you’re paid later… not a good deal. You should be hiring this “publisher” as a service only. You’re paying them to format your book and get it ready for publishing. If they load it to Amazon (or any other online retailer) then the account should be in YOUR name with YOUR tax information.

Think of it this way:

You pay somebody to detail your car. They take it away filthy and they bring it back clean. Maybe you pick it up from the carwash or maybe they park it in your garage for you (the difference between handing you back a manuscript READY to be published and creating your publishing accounts and loading it for you.)

Regardless, it’s still your car – they have no rights to drive it whenever they want!

That’s what you’re paying for: somebody to clean up your manuscript and get it ready to be published. Not to make money from your sales.

Publishing books is one of my favorite parts of my business. I call myself a publisher, but the bottom line is, I’m not, actually. I don’t buy rights, I don’t take commissions on book sales, and I don’t run any author’s commissions through my account. I do all the work FOR you – so you don’t have to.

One other thing I’d like to mention:

All these services that help you publish your books have contract or an agreement that you sign. Don’t just sign (or click!) but read that thing!

If you’re ready to have that conversation about publishing your book, I’d love to chat with you! Apply for a Discovery Session.

Check back next week for the companion article where we look at book promotion and a (bestseller) book launch.

Kim Galloway
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