Share Tweet

Self Publishing and E-Publishing as Compared to Mainstream Publishing

Benefits of Self Publishing
  • Author retains full control of all aspects – layout, cover, content, design, paper quality, market, price, and timing of production, print run sizes etc. In mainstream publishing the author has little control over the details and could wait months or even years before receiving any return from a submitted m/s.
  • There is the enormous satisfaction of seeing a project completed from start to finish.
  • Many talented authors never get past the reject letter stage; self publishing can offer a step into publication and, if the sales go well, the financial rewards can be far greater than mainstream publishing.
  • Many NZ printing firms offer small print runs so books can be printed on demand. The printer retains a PDF file of the book on their computer for future runs. If a mistake is found then the author can correct it before the next print run. Mainstream publishing doesn't have this benefit because they print in bulk to keep costs down.
  • The author who self publishes cuts out the middle men and can either sell direct to the bookseller at wholesale, or direct to the public for an even greater return. They can also market via their own website or through the E-shop if their printer has one.
  • Printing overseas can mean even more profit per unit.
  • In NZ there are several printing / publishing firms that provide services to authors who wish to self publish and they are extremely helpful with sharing advice and contacts that minimise the pitfalls. PublishMe has their own E-shop where authors can market their books. PublishMe also take books to the international book fairs for authors. Find out more at
  • Once the book is in print and has a sales record, it can be marketed to an agent or mainstream publisher as a completed unit. This can be advantageous in gaining a contract either locally or overseas.


  • Not many authors are experienced or knowledgeable enough to handle the design, the editing, marketing, and other areas that qualified staff at mainstream publishers manage. If they don't utilise the advice of a professional self-publishing firm, the author could end up producing a second rate book full of mistakes that doesn't look good and doesn't sell.
  • There is the initial financial outlay to have the book printed and the risk that the book won't sell. Marketing costs are also areas where the inexperienced could fall down. There is no guarantee that the author will make any profit.
  • Small print runs cost more per unit than larger runs so the profit per book is less unless the author takes the risk and orders a large run believing they can sell them all.
  • If the author has no business experience then the accounting and tax side of self-publishing could be a problem. Most retailers pay on the 20th of the following month, some prefer to pay as they sell, so this could create problems of cash flow for the author who does their own marketing.
  • There have been negative perceptions regarding self-publishing. Some people in the writing world think of it as ‘vanity publishing' and dismiss the author because of it, however this perception is changing and many well-known authors are turning to self-publishing. It is a risk the author takes and has to be weighed against the benefits.

 Benefits of E-Publishing

  • A much cheaper option than self-publishing and a much faster method of publication than either self-publishing or mainstream publishing. Check out
  • The author can rewrite or update the text as often as they need to should an error be found. With mainstream publishing, once the book is printed then that mistake is there for the entire print run.
  • Higher royalties through E-publishing than self-publishing because there are no printing costs.
  • With E-publishing the author retains all the rights and has the option of going to a conventional publisher or other media such as film or radio later.
  • On an ecological level, producing an e-book rather than a mainstream book, saves paper, ink, freight costs, space and much more and is of greater value to the environment by comparison. Mainstream publishing has had a considerable negative impact on the world's timber resources.

 Disadvantages of E-Publishing

  • Popularity of e-books is still much less than paper books at the moment, so sales are lower.
  • Authors are responsible for all the ongoing marketing of the e-book.
  • Many people perceive the e-book to be inferior to the traditional paper book because, like any new innovation, it takes time for people to accept the value of it.
  • Quality control is up to the author who may not necessarily be very good at it.
  • The risk of piracy.


699 - 0 - 0 - US

Michelle MacKinnon was born in New Zealand, in 1957 and she lives with her husband in Palmerston North. In 2008 she published a double award winning novel called Escape from Eden and in 2009 she published an award winning children's picture book called Bluebell Mary. Michelle has seven children, three adopted and four by birth. Since her training as a General and Obstetric nurse, Michelle has been involved in many different vocations from beekeeping, alternative medicine, and hobby farming, to accounting, marketing, and voluntary counselling. Writing has been a lifelong passion and in 2008 she completed a Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing at the Whitireia Polytechnic in Wellington, New Zealand.