Back to top arrow

5 paths to Self-Publishing

… and the risks that come with them!

  1. The Vanity Press Path
  2. The Team Recruitment Path
  3. The Hybrid Publishing Path
  4. The Print on Demand Path
  5. The Paid Marketing Path
  6. Weighing in the Pros & Cons
  7. Conclusion

1. The “Vanity Press” Path

(Left to Right) PublishNation, PublishingPush, Reedsy

Should I use this service?

These sites are high risk for beginners in self-publishing.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

If you decide to use this service, look out for…

  • Vague descriptions of what your package includes.
  • A ludicrously low price. (This could indicate either hidden costs, missing features, or poor quality.)
  • A horrifyingly high price. (Scammers will charge a lot more to appeal to those sceptical of the low price.)
  • Whether the site is all-inclusive. (Some sites don’t include printing or distribution.)
  • Who has control of your manuscript. (It should always disclose that it’s you!)

2. The “Team Recruitment” Path

(Left to Right) Reedsy, Scribeophile, Fiverr

I mentioned Reedsy, Scribeophile, and Fiverr, in the Package Site portion of the article already, so I will be using them in this portion of the article in detail. I’ll start with Reedsy.

Reedsy is a team-building site; these types of site have been around longer than the package building websites have been, with Fiverr being around since 2010. Both sites are fairly similar, being you end up searching for the services you want, are in direct contact with the service provider, and assemble your book using what they provide, be it a stunning cover, or editing work. Scribeophile, however, is different to these two sites.

Scribeophile is exclusively meant to be used for editing and is free, but it makes use of “karma points” in order for you to submit your work for critique/editing. You’re also limited to how much of your work you can submit based on your points, and gain points by doing critique/editing on others submissions. You can pay for a premium account, whereby karma points don’t really matter and you can submit chapters for critique/editing, plus you get discounts on other editing software and services. I’ve only added it to this portion of the article because, in a way, you’re still enlisting someones else’s help to get your book publish-ready. The bonus to Scribeophile is it doesn’t really cost you anything but time to get help refining your manuscript.

Back to Reedsy; the prices are more expensive than Fiverr, but the people who are registered on the site are all professionals from publishing backgrounds.
You could make use of this site for hiring just an editor, or hire multiple people to assemble your own team, but aside from this, it isn’t clear what else you actually get from the site. You could end up with a fantastic manuscript and cover, but nowhere to print it at the specifications you paid all that money for. I also found the site a bit chaotic and confusing to use, but that could just be the ADHD in me.

The final site in the picture is Fiverr; costs vary on the individual you’re hiring, just like Reedsy, but the skill level of the person you’re paying for may not be professional, and the price you pay is no assurance either. You could be paying a hefty amount for editing work from someone who claims they are a professional but you could just end up either losing your manuscript to a scammer or being given poor quality work. Unlike Reedsy, Fiverr does not veto the people who join their sites as service providers, so there are absolutely zero guarantees.
As usual, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Printing-wise, you’ll have to do a LOT of exploring. It’s better to go local when it comes to printing, as shipping fees will be much lower, plus you might be able to visit the factory and help speed up the quality control process, resulting in a shorter turnaround for printing your projects. Note that printing sites will usually have a high minimum order amount, usually around fifty to two-hundred and fifty copies, so you should be prepared to have somewhere to send or store those books ahead of time.

You also need to watch out for sites that are meant to be just printers; many vanity press sites have rebranded themselves as just a printing service, and they may try to swindle more money out of you.
I needed hardbacks of my book series, Specimen G-13, and sent quote requests to seven printers who claimed they were situated in the UK; all but one of them gave me a quote instantly. The last one, called GateKeeper Press, didn’t even give me a quote. They just sent me an e-mail asking to book a consultation, along with a sales pitch for other services they could offer me. Turns out they weren’t just a printer and were actually an incognito Vanity Press.
Before you invest in a printer, make sure it’s not a vanity press in disguise; look for reviews of the service, and see if they offer more than just standard printing (if they do, they’ll more than likely be a vanity press.)

Should I use this service?

These sites are medium risk for beginners in self-publishing.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Enlisting individuals to edit your work professionally, or craft you a wonderful cover, based on nothing but their profile, is always a risk. The financial loss, however, is significantly less than relying on the Vanity Press sites as you are spreading the cost out over different services, rather than throwing it all in one place.

You also have the additional safety-net using these sites if you get in contact with other self-published authors and ask them who they would recommend for the service you need. You can also ask authors if they used a vanity press, but you’ll often find that they don’t.

If you feel that you are happy handling most of the book publishing process, like creating an account on a printing site and such, then finding your own editors/cover artists from Reedsy, Fiverr, or elsewhere, isn’t a bad option. Just be sure to do your research on who you’re planning on paying to do the job!

If you decide to use this service, look out for…

  • A ludicrously low price. (This could indicate poor quality. Not always the case, but be sceptical.)
  • A lack of reviews, or lots of 5-star ones with no comments. (Likely a scam account.)
  • Little, to no, samples of their work. (You need examples of what you are paying for!)
  • over-use of stock content/photos. (Likely a scam account that sells stolen content, and might steal yours!)
  • People who don’t respond to questions. (No info on their page? Not answering questions? Likely a scam account.)
  • Vanity Press masquerading as a printer. (They’ll be more likely to have hidden fees and hard-sell other services.)

3. The “Hybrid Publishing” Path

(Left to Right) TCKPublishing, BookPress, Boyle&Dalton
  • Submissions must be reviewed and vetted by someone in the company, including production quality checks and editorial checks.
  • The publisher must publish as its own imprint and use its own ISBNs, just like traditional.
  • They must manage the rights of the works they publish.
  • They must manage distribution services or hire a distributor for their authors’ works.
  • Authors who sign with hybrid publishers must be paid a higher royalty than that of a standard traditional publisher.

Should I use this service?

These sites are medium risk for beginners in self-publishing.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If you decide to use this service, look out for…

  • What your contract says about your creative freedoms and rights.
  • The amount of money you will be required to invest in a project.
  • How much of the workload is tasked to you. (Are you doing all the work? Then there’s no point using them: go print-on-demand instead!)

4. The “Print-on-Demand” Path

(Left to Right) LuLu, Amazon KDP, Blurb

Should I use this service?

These sites are low risk for beginners in self-publishing.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

If you decide to use this service, look out for…

  • Them asking you for a deposit, or “insurance” payments. (Print-on-demand sites should never ask for this. Those that do are vanity press disguised as print-on-demand.)
  • Distribution restrictions that may apply. (eg. Kindle Unlimited requires your ebook to remain exclusive to KDP.)
  • Localised restrictions. (Barnes & Noble, for example, do not post to Europe so you cannot order book samples if you live there.)

5. The “Paid Marketing” Path

(Left to Right) Fiverr, Reedsy, GoodReads

Should I use this service?

These type of services are all high risk, regardless of author experience.

Rating: 0 out of 5.
  • Paid reviews sites and services have no guarantee and may result in financial loss, books being pulled from retailers, or you being banned from online stores as a seller. I do not advise you to use them.
  • Paid Giveaway sites have no guarantee and can result in financial losses. Use them at your own risk.
  • Google and Facebook ads can be pricey and also have no guarantee.
  • Book bloggers are a great source of reviews and constructive feedback on your book. Most will also write their reviews for free providing you give them an “Advanced Reviewer Copy” (or ARC) to use.
  • Social Media is an ideal place to host your own giveaways, virtually for free. All you have to pay for are the books themselves, and shipping physical copies to the winners. No 3rd party involved means less money is spent.
  • Offer your books to your local newspaper, book club, and friends, in exchange for a review.

Weighing in the Pros & Cons

Vanity PressLeast amount of work.
Quick turnaround.
No querying required.
Agents not required.
Hidden fees.
Easy for scammers to exploit.
No quality guarantees.
No creative control.
No security over your manuscript rights.
Little to no support after the book is printed.
No revenue from the service provider.
Team RecruitmentComplete creative control.
Agents not required.
Large amount of work.
Easy for scammers to exploit.
Teams are usually temporary.
Printing can be expensive.
Hybrid PublishingQuick turnaround.
Security over your manuscript rights.
No querying required/unsolicited submissions are permitted.
Agents not required.
Some support after the book is printed.
Fairly large amount of work.
Little to no creative freedom.
No revenue advances.
The contract may be hard to break out of.
Print on DemandComplete creative control.
Agents not required.
No querying required.
Quick turnaround.
Security over your manuscript rights.
Environmentally friendly.
Very large amount of work.
Time-consuming making print-ready files.
Little support from the service provider.
Distribution restrictions may apply.
Paid Marketing(I couldn’t think of any.)Paying for marketing of any kind is a huge gamble, with no guarantee of it working.
Security over your manuscript rights.
Advances in revenue (varies by publisher).
Support after the book is printed.
No financial investment needed.
Least amount of project work.
Widest distribution reach (online and high street).
Literary Agents are required.
No unsolicited manuscript submissions.
No creative freedom.
Slow turnaround.
The contract may be hard to break out of.
  • Look for a publisher that has a diverse range of authors and book types. Querying will be a lot less difficult if your chosen publisher is accepting of those who are LGBT+, neurodivergent, disabled, or of other ethnicities. It helps if the publisher is very open about their stance on human rights; publishers who show little or no positive views on diversity and human rights are more likely to gatekeep.
  • Use Twitter and follow the “#PitMad” hashtags. These are times querying authors are looking to do quick pitches of their book, which absolutely any publisher can view without needing to write a long query letter. Interested agents/publishers will leave likes on the pitch, and may even get in touch to request a partial or full manuscript to examine.
  • Request constructive feedback from fellow authors on your query, manuscript, and target publisher. You can get that query made super appealing by having fellow authors look it over to see if it hooks them, and adjusting it accordingly if it doesn’t. The same goes for your manuscript; ask your author friends to help out with the synopsis if you’re struggling (we all know how painful a job that part can be!)
    Also, don’t be afraid to ask other authors what their thoughts or experiences are on a certain publisher; it’s better to know ahead of time which publisher will be your friend and which won’t be if you’re a diverse author.
  • If you want to start as self-published and later pick up traditional publishing, use a pseudonym for your self-published works. Some authors and publishers may say they’re not snobs to folk who went self-published, but there is still a stigma surrounding the practice and discrimination still happens in the industry. It’s better to protect yourself if you do plan a future within traditional publishing.


Vanity PressHigh Risk. Avoid.
Team BuildingMedium Risk. Use Caution.
Hybrid PublishingMedium Risk. Study your Contract.
Print on DemandLow risk.
Paid MarketingHigh Risk. Avoid.
Traditional PublishingMedium/Low Risk. Study your Contract.

The content of this site is protected by Copyright.