A manifesto for self-publishing companies

A manifesto for self-publishing companies

"Self-publishing companies have long been seen as sharks in the publishing waters," writes Ronan Colgan. And we learn today that Kobo chief Michael Tamblyn—whose company includes the major indie platform Kobo Writing Life—will join Alastair Horne and Emma Barnes in presenting manifestos at The FutureBook 2015 Conference. Colgan has opened Carrowmore, a startup for independent authors. An unusual twist: Colgan is also a traditional publisher, the MD of The History Press Ireland. Colgan counsels that self-publishing should match traditional houses with "the same level of respect" for authors. No disagreement from Tamblyn, I'm sure.—Porter Anderson

Conference update: Publishers and writers, we expect to close Author Day bookings today. Hurry to secure one of our last seats for 30th November at 30 Euston Square.


'Sharks in the publishing waters'

Self-publishing companies have long been seen as sharks in the publishing waters, preying on the optimism or lack of industry knowledge of authors. There were reasons for this reputation. But publishing is an entire industry fueled by optimism, and self-publishing is growing at a faster rate than ever before.

So is there a place for new companies to offer services to self-publishing or independent authors, and do to so fairly and with dedication and skill?

We think so, and would offer this manifesto for self-publishing companies.

Be more than a printer

There is more to being a publisher than a printer, and there is more to being a self-publishing company than offering to print books. Authors should be able to avail themselves of copyediting, proofreading and proper cover design. If you can’t offer these to your author, you can still advise your authors of their importance and point them in the right direction.

Be transparent

Authors who avail themselves of the services of a self-publishing company should know how much everything will cost before work begins, and this cost should be final. This should apply to copyediting and to cover design as well as every other service offered. There should be no hidden costs or vagaries.

Be knowledgeable

If an author comes to you with a query about a particular genre, be it children’s publishing, YA fiction or graphic novels, know what the print or marketing trends are, or what other elements are important for them to know. If you don’t know, research it.

Your author is paying for your industry knowledge as well.

Be honest

Not every book will be a bestseller, and not every book is written with that as its goal. But be honest about the success stories of other self-published authors, and acknowledge that while it might be easier than in the past to reach readers, it can still be hard and may not always work.

When an ISBN is registered, it appears on thousands of databases online. Authors should know that this is an automatic data feed, and does not mean their book is available in that many bookshops.

Be respectful

Traditional publishers provide support for their authors in all sorts of ways, from encouragement to wise counsel when they can offer it.

There is no reason that a self-publishing author should lose out on that same level of respect just because an author is choosing to pay for your time. 


This is an entry in our series of more than 30 "Five-Minute Manifestos" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones revisited his call for the FutureBook community to reflect on five years of the digital dynamic, "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response has been robust, and we thank all our manifesto writers. See their articles here.

We're happy to announce that Emma Barnes and Alastair Horne have been chosen to present their manifestos at the FutureBook Conference.

Their presentations are two high points in an engaging range of perspectives from many parts of the industry.

  • Please plan to join us on 4th December at The Mermaid in London for the fifth-anniversary FutureBook Conference
  • And bookings now are closing for our inaugural Author Day (#AuthorDay) in central London, 30th November, the kick-off to a week of #FutureBook15 events. A wait-list will be provided.

As we add more in this series, our most recently published #FutureBook15 manifestos are:

Main image - iStockphoto: Roibu