Should self-published authors create their own publishing house identities?

There’s a long tradition of authors forming their own publishing houses to publish their own works. Look at Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s, or Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press–both cases of authors publishing their own works. Or check out Louis L’Amour who self-pubbed as Lusk Press, which was his own concern. If you look further back, to the old times, self-publishing was the rule, not the exception. For a while there publishing was in a stage where the entry capital was just too large for any old person to publish their own works in anything resembling a professional format. It’s clear now that we’re in a different world.

Readers–some readers–report feeling cheated or deceived when they find out an author they are reading isn’t really published by a small press out of, say, St. Paul but is really just the author slaving away behind a business name. These readers feel that the imprimatur of a proper publishing house is a mark of pride, of legitimacy, that self-pubbed books lack. 




I spent seven years working for a giant multi-national publisher. Big publishers care about one thing only: money. If that means throwing a ton of resources (read: people) at a project to make sure it’s done right, that’s what will happen. If it means taking a manuscript directly from an author and publishing it without even a proofread (which I was literally ordered to do, more than once) then that is what will happen. Where I worked Management had little profit matrices drawn up for every book listing how much they expected to recoup from them. Many books were published as loss leaders, which is to say they were published because the company *had* to publish them for whatever reason (contractual, market presence, copyright maintenance), but which brought in almost no money. 


Can you guess how much attention the loss leaders got?

The idea that just because a publisher prints a book it somehow has the stamp of quality (or even has been proofread) is false. There are publishers who push terrible books out, who charge authors to publish books, who don’t give a damn about quality. There are also publishers who care deeply about their work (Hi, Small Beers Press!) and put out magnificent books.

There is no easy filter to tell if a book is quality except by reading it.

Pretending that an author running their own publishing identity is a lie is giving way too much credit to publishers.


3 thoughts on “Should self-published authors create their own publishing house identities?

  1. I was under contract with a literary agent for two years before we dissolved the relationship. Publishers just weren’t biting. I then started an indie publishing company with two other authors and have no regrets!

  2. Reblogged this on So, I Read This Book Today and commented:
    The wonderful Jacqueline Sweet is a well reviewed and well loved author of paranormal romances, especially the Bearfield Series, and a contributing author to “Shifters in the Spring” and other anthologies. This article makes exceptionally good points about publishing, publishing houses, and the false ideas people have about the legitimacy of publishing houses over self publishing. It all comes back to what I have harped on for years. As authors, getting to know one another, supporting one another, and helping readers to understand what publishing is all about, whether indie or house, can only help you to get your books out in front of the reading public. And gain a loyal following!

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