The definition of self publishing companies

There’s a lot of confusion right now about this whole DIY (do it yourself) publishing thing. The internet is partly to blame because it allows anyone with an opinion to publicize their thoughts, regardless of accuracy. The publishing companies themselves are also partly to blame, because this new realm of self-publishing or POD (print-on-demand) publishing is still so new that companies are jockeying for position, awareness, brand recognition, and author loyalty — all the while trying to find a widely accepted term that accurately describes what the companies do.

More on that tomorrow, as SELF PUBLISHING SELF HELP WEEK continues.  Topics already discussed are the two different publishing business models, and the 3 paths to publishing. Now we’ll look at some commonly held labels for internet publishers to see if they are applicable, or even accurate…

The problem is, each company is slightly different, so applying an general label to any of them is apt to be partly wrong. While many perform some of the same tasks, many also differentiate themselves in some manner. For authors trying to find the proper company for them, a good tactic is to focus more on the differences between each company, not the similarities.

Even the concept of self-publishing itself is cause for some confusion, because different people have different definitions for what constitutes “self publishing.” As a result, companies and authors are now trying to draw a distinction between “self publishing companies” and “print-on-demand companies” – even though such a distinction does not help very much.  Why? Because many “print-on-demand companies” are also “self-publishing companies.”  And, by the same token, many “self-publishing companies” use print-on-demand.

Self Publishing Companies

Most companies that refer to themselves as “self publishing companies” utilize print-on-demand technology, further supporting the notion that trying to create a distinction between the two terms is futile.  In fact, almost all references to “self-publishing companies” refer to companies that use POD almost exclusively.  Where they differ from “print-on-demand companies,” apparently, is by emphasizing the “self” portion of the term.  In other words, by some definitions (as faulty as they may be) a “self publishing company” leaves everything up to the author all by himSELF or herSELF.   

This is a faulty distinction.  Even though a website may appear to remove the “human touch” from the publishing process, all self-publishing companies that are referenced as such have humans working on each book behind the scenes, in some manner or another.  An internet website publisher that doesn’t allow you to submit your manuscript electronically via the web isn’t drawing a distinction for itself. Both “self publishing companies” and “print-on-demand companies” should allow this type of functionality at this point in the internet revolution.  Companies that do not or cannot technically offer manuscript uploads are probably technically limited in all areas, and should be reconsidered.

Print-on-Demand Companies

Equally confusing is the distinction of “print-on-demand companies” who still offer self-publishing services, but do so via print-on-demand technology.   Well, that isn’t much of a distinction, because all so-called “self-publishing companies” also use POD technology.   

If there is any validity to the distinction, it’s this:  there are print-on-demand publishing companies that act more in the capacity of “conventional publishers” in that they solicit submissions, vet manuscripts, publish only those they feel they can profitably sell, and may even offer authors an advance against future royalties.  In other words, the only difference between some so-called “print-on-demand companies” and traditional New York publishers is the use of POD for the printing.   Granted, this is not the majority. The majority of “print-on-demand companies” are also “self publishing companies” and vise versa.

More confusing still is that some writer forums and blog postings refer to “self publishing companies” as “print-on-demand companies” if the company helps the author in any way, through the assignment of an author representative or advocate or other such human contact.   Presumably the distinction here is that, since a human is assigned to help the author, the author is no longer “self” publishing their book and therefore the company cannot be a “self-publishing company.”    Ultimately, this is all a matter of semantics.

It is for this reason that self-publishing companies (or is it print-on-demand companies?) attempt to counter this confusion by coining terms that they can try to brand and own.  “Indie Publishing” is a new one, suggesting “independent publishing” – but that’s also inaccurate because an author acting independently would not be working with a company.

Outskirts Press currently uses the term “full service self publishing” to describe itself, as it seems the most appropriate. Authors receive full service, professional  assistance while still maintaining all the rights, control, pricing flexibility, and customization that comes from self-publishing.   Is it a term that will eventually make the grade as the new publishing industry finds itself? Only time will tell. But it’s working well for our authors in the meantime…  We try to feature this competitive comparison here on our website:

Want to experience full service self publishing for yourself?

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