Pitfalls of Self-Publishing

Friday, August 03, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 7 Comments

The pitfalls of self-publishing are the stuff that writers’ nightmares are made of. Printing and publishing requires a lot of personal investment. And by investment, I’m referring not just to money, but also to all the time spent coordinating with, talking to, and bargaining with publishers. And as a writer, I shall share my own experience regarding self-publishing.

Horrors of Self-Publishing

In the above photo, you can see the approved layout laid on top of the final book print. The margins are not alike. This may seem minor to you, but imagine a cover page that does not appear in the center simply because an unapproved edit passed by the publishing house. (Thankfully, the publisher was more than gracious in approving a reprint. I knew him personally – that helped smooth things out. I can’t imagine what would have happened if the same thing happened to me with another publisher!)

In my case, the owner of the publishing house was kind enough to oversee the printing himself. He has saved me from a major migraine. This article is therefore dedicated to the guys who made the book a reality – and who made sure it came out perfectly! Red heart

The above example is just the tip of the iceberg for many other writers. There are many things than can go wrong when you decide to self-publish. After all, the book being printed is something that the publisher does not have to sell, so ensuring quality may not always be a publisher’s priority.

Self-Publishing: Logistics Nightmare

No matter how many how-to guides you read on indie publishing and book writing, you will never be prepared enough for the pitfalls of self-publishing. There will always be the unexpected monkey wrench, the one thing you thought would never happen but did. Based on my own experience as a writer, I share with you the many things that can go wrong when you self-publish a book – and what you can do to make sure luck is on your side.

  • Many publishers won’t care about the meager money you bring in. Every printing press has big clients who bring in thousands to millions of money. If you want to self-publish a book for just a few hundred copies, you are not a priority. I have personally shopped around and talked to several well-known publishers who print on demand – almost all of them never followed back when I asked for a quote.
  • You might incur losses instead of earning from self-publishing. It costs to have a book edited, proofread, and printed. The cover also necessitates the services of a layout artist. Aside from that, you need to hold a book launch. All the side expenses might even cost more than the actual publishing expenses!
  • Some publishers will be hard to contact even after you have agreed to publish with them. The printing press is busy. You will find yourself spending the entire day getting a hold of the marketing head or the person in charge. Good luck when you’re trying to contact a publisher successfully the first time!
  • A printing press will seldom admit they made a mistake. So, you’ve agreed on a specific book size. The sample came in the mail and it was the perfect book! You are bound to say yes and send them the down payment. A few days after, the hundreds of copies you ordered are at your doorstep. Surprise, surprise: they are NOT what you ordered. Yes, this happens a lot. Seasoned authors will tell you that a printing press seldom admits they made a huge error. To cut losses, a publishing house will attempt to smooth-talk their way into a compromise – as in a compromised book, that is.

Where there are people, there will always be human error. It’s a fact of life. Always speak with respect – but be firm. Always point out the errors – but make reasonable demands. Writers deal with a lot of crap and knowing how to deal with it properly sets apart the professional from the amateur. Speaking of writers, you might want to read on why writers hate bloggers (and why the feeling is probably mutual).

And to those who are curious, the book above is entitled Virtues: The Substance of Mankind – and if you want a copy, feel free to order!

Yes, these are just a few of the headaches you are likely to encounter when you self-publish a book. The road to a well-printed book is full of bumps and your butt will feel them all. Thankfully, there are things you can do to ensure that self-publishing does not turn out as the nightmare it threatens to be. And don’t worry – there may be publishing houses who are unwilling to compromise, but some want nothing but the best output for you. Stay tuned for my blog post in a few days and I will share tips on how to deal with publishers! Find me on Twitter or Facebook if you want instant updates on my blog posts. Now, here’s my question: if you were to publish a book, what would it be about? Answer this question in a comment!

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!


  1. That was insightful. When I became active in Goodreads, I "met" newbie and indie authors and I could just imaging how hard it is for them to self-publish. Maybe that's why most opt for producing digital copies instead, but even that has issues with formatting, then again it would be easier to edit since it's not printed.

  2. If I will publish a book it's all about nature.I really love nature,I'm a nature lover

    Ms.Tess,you're absolutely a good writer..nice article...

  3. Hi Stef you are one brave soul in embarking into the very dangerous road of self-publishing. But may I ask you this are you doing this for passion or for commercial reasons? May questions may sound elementary. However, I want to know your deeper reasons. Thank you in advance.

  4. Nickle, you're right, it's much simpler to publish online. However, there are still many Filipinos (especially those a little older than us) who can't navigate the dangerous waters of the internet. ^_^

    Ruben, I'm not Tess - I'm Stef. Miss Tess is a different person, mind you. :) Thanks again.

    Orly, the book is actually not mine. It's a book that I edited and I was hands-on with the whole publishing process. But the book author's reason behind the book is that she wanted to make a book that would share the different stories of virtues that she saw/ heard from her friends. A noble reason, if you ask me.

  5. That sort of undermines my trust in print companies for self-published authors. The point of the final book print is that the actual books should look like it. I hope the cover was ok tho.

  6. I remembered all those years dealing with printing press for school paper. Actually, if you don't really push them, they would slack on the printing. Post-editing process is such a headache and even how many times you proofread, there are still some errors that you'll miss out.

  7. Unsugarcoated Reviews, I share your views. I feel like any "final" copy should look exactly like the books to be delivered to you. Everything went fine eventually, so no more worries. :)

    Franc, so you know how hard it is to have something printed! Haha, you're right, it can become a big headache. That's why it's important to choose a printing press that values you as a customer, no matter how "small" a client you are. :)