How to Navigate the Overcrowded World of Self-Publishing

If you want to self-publish a book, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of hucksters wanting to “help you.” They promise the impossible–that for a small upfront fee you will have Total and Complete Control, your book will enjoy worldwide distribution, and you will keep 100% of your royalties.

Crowded pidgeons

Some of these companies seem enormous, appearing in Google ads on every webpage and YouTube video. They promise the world for next to nothing, but you wonder how much they really care about quality. Others seem small and hokey. Some may have an attractive webpage and look great, but still seem to promise the same thing as everyone else.

Your book is your baby–you don’t want to entrust it the 15-year-old kid from down the block who smells like pot and swears he won’t bring his girlfriend to help him babysit. You also don’t trust the snake oil hawker offering the cheap and easy solution to your publishing problems. Searching for a good self-publisher is too much like being assailed by timeshare salespeople in Cabo when all you want to do is get to the beach.

What’s a serious author to do? How do you sort through the crowd to find the self-publishers who actually love books and authors? Who really care about each book they publish as if it were their own? Who don’t view their business as a book farm?

How do you find a company that is more than a vanity book mill, who provides the quality of a traditional publisher with the control and profit margin of self-publishing?

To help answer these questions, I’ll post a series of insider tips, including:

  1. What does “keep 100% of your royalties” really mean?
  2. Will they meet you face-to-face?
  3. Do they care more about volume or quality?
  4. How will different companies distribute your book?
  5. Will anyone help you market and sell your book?

If you have any specific questions, leave a comment and I’ll answer them for you.

It really is a marvelous thing to be in control of your own book. The stigma of the “vanity press” is wearing away as more brand name authors like Seth Godin seize control of their message and their medium. Companies and non-profit organizations are reaching more people with their products and messages by publishing their own books, and excellent authors are making more money by publishing and selling themselves.

So be encouraged. There are plenty of excellent people out there who love authors and the art of breathing life into books who can help you. Just don’t settle for the cheap and easy solution without doing your homework first–it will do more harm to your message than not and it may also cost you more in the end. You and your book deserve the best. Never doubt it.


Caleb J. Seeling began working in the publishing industry in 2006. He founded Samizdat Publishing Group in Denver in 2009, which houses two imprints (Conundrum Press and Samizdat Creative) that publish between 20-30 books altogether each year. He is the Director of the Certificate in Publishing for the Graduate Studies in Creative Writing program at Western State Colorado University. An active member of several publishing and arts organizations, Caleb is also a social entrepreneur, finding ways to serve the greater community and disadvantaged youth through strategic partnerships with organizations such as Colorado Business Committee for the Arts and Youth on Record. 


In early 2013 I approached Steuben Press on a book project I'd hope to get off the ground. I was referred to them by another business entirely, which I think is a credit to how Steuben Press is seen amongst their competitors. The project was a 120 page, full color art book that came out amazing. They under promised and over delivered a great book which I’m happy to report is already on its third printing. I have and would recommend Steuben Press to my friends and other self-publishers.

– Ian Robert McKown, Colorado

See Ian’s incredible artwork and buy his book at