If your book or novel doesn’t fit into a well-defined mass market box that the large publishing houses cater to, you may find yourself researching smaller publishers. In today’s world, that seems to mean e-publishers.

So, now that you’ve been offered a contract from an e-publisher you’re ecstatic. It feels great to say, “A publisher wants to publish my book.” But once you come off that high by reading the small print, your euphoria is replaced with questions. Reality sets in. What, exactly, does signing with an e-publisher do for you that self-publishing does not? Or is there an advantage to self-publishing over signing with an e-publisher?

Now that self-publishing without upfront fees, through Lulu, for example, is available and many e-publishers are either dispensing with an automatic print run, charging you for print, or making print dependent upon number of sales, it’s time to examine what exactly an e-publisher does for you versus self-publishing. So, let’s take a closer look at each scenario.


You now have a publisher’s name to announce. You can tell everybody, “I’m published by “so-and-so.” In return, the e-publisher may:

  • Provide a web site
  • Format the book during production
  • May or may not edit the book and you may or may not agree with the edits
  • Provide a cover
  • If print, they will provide the ISBN and get your book into Amazon and Barnes and Noble, although some e-publishers charge a fee for print
  • Determine the release schedule
  • Bond with other writers with the same publisher
  • Draw traffic to your book by readers of that publisher if similar in genre
  • May or may not provide your book in print
  • Insist you spend time promoting, including participating in author chats


You have to go it alone. Sometimes you will be dismissed as being “self-published” and reviews will be harder to obtain. In return, you can:

  • Create your own web site presence
  • Control the schedule
  • Design your own cover, including the ability to use the cover in promotion
  • Format your book design during production
  • Edit as you wish or hire your own editor
  • Set your own price above POD fees, although ISBN packages may set price too high
  • Determine availability in electronic and/or print
  • Retain the rights to sell to one of the big publishers
  • Control promotion of your book and not have it listed in areas you deem inappropriate

You may have noticed that it really comes down to how much you’re capable of or have the desire to do yourself. Especially if you have your own web site, and the professional editing, graphic, and production skills. With self-publishing you will have to get your book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, which will require the purchase of an ISBN or the ISBN package that Lulu provides. But the additional distribution fees may raise the price of your book to a point that will not sell. Or you could self-publish with Lulu, without purchasing the ISBN package, thereby, setting your own price.

But self-publishing may be worth it if you have your heart set on seeing your book in print and the e-publisher has set a certain number of sales before they will put it in print. Note: some types of books do not sell as well in e-format and will never get enough sales to then move into print. The e-publisher will retain the print rights for a set amount of time and you’ll have to wait for them to expire before you either sell them to another publisher or self-publish it yourself anyway.

Only you can determine which publishing method is best for you and your book. But, whatever method you choose, promotion is really going to be up to you.