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Self Publishing vs Indie Publishing

Working with Salespeople vs Navigators vs a Sherpa

What is “self publishing”?
“Self publishing” is book publishing that is:

  • not done through a traditional publisher.
  • when an author pays for a “self publishing” company or publisher to publish their book.
  • done by an author wanting to retain their publishing rights and control their book as their own publisher.
  • done through a free or inexpensive service that makes books and/or eBooks available through one or more distribution channels and divides profits among authors, distributors, and retailers.
  • all of the above.

There are many ways to define self publishing. One way is to consider who you’re working with on your journey. You might be working with:

  • A salesperson;
  • A navigator; or
  • A sherpa.

The differences in these roles are vast and costly. It’s best to be aware with whom you’re working and their role in your book’s success.

A salesperson is most easily defined by the duration of their work with you. Once you’ve agreed to a particular publishing package represented by a so-called “self publishing” company, you’re likely to lose touch with a salesperson. They’re working on commission with one goal: to sell you a publishing package. From that point on, you’ll be working with any number of other people whose goals are to move you from the package level to the next investment level, buying additional products and/or services. These businesses are built through volume sales.

A navigator is quickly defined by the initial conversations they have with you. The navigator should share your passion for reaching whatever destination you’ve identified. A navigator will likely stay with you through the process, like a project manager. They may or may not be paid on commission. If you’re curious ask. Hopefully, the company they work for will be as interested in helping you reach beyond getting a book “out there” and want to help you reach greater success. They build their business through positive word of mouth … just like authors do.

A sherpa is someone who assumes responsibility for your book at every step of the process. Their goal is to help you and your book reach the pinnacle of success. This individual is concerned with your editorial integrity and completely edits your book. They will carefully proof your design so that you don’t have to. They’ll review the print-ready files and proof before your book goes to print. They hand-hold you and your book through every step of the publishing process to make sure you reach the summit of your desired success. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there is no self publishing service available anywhere that includes the guidance and protection of a sherpa. Only in a traditional publishing model is there anyone who resembles someone like a sherpa. That person is your acquisitions and title editor.

No matter which kind of self or indie publishing model you choose, no one will care more about your manuscript and your book than you. Even though you pay for editing, you must proof your edited manuscript. When you pay for design work for your cover and/or interior, you must proof your design files. When a print-ready proof is offered, you must give it a last proofing pass. When your books arrive, you must give the finished product approval before you sell them to your readers.

Writers who choose to self-publish and buy a package from a salesperson are NOT handing off all responsibilities to that person.

Authors who indie-publish with the help of a navigator will be their own publisher and thus, must stay involved at every stage of the publishing process.

Only the author whose manuscript is bought to be published may choose to relax and let the company that’s paying them some of their book’s profits take the reins.

If you don’t have the good fortune to sell your manuscript to a traditional publisher, be ready to remain vigilant for your book and for yourself. Your success and that of your book will largely be up to you.