Independent publishing I: Why & Basic mechanics

Why publish independently of academic presses and trade publishers?

1.  So you never again hear yourself complaining that the Press:

  • did not provide good copy-editing
  • took too long to bring out the book
  • did not promote the book after it was published
  • provided low royalties.

2. So you can get a small or side project out as a book while you work on a major book project (which, in order to get hired or promoted, you may do through an academic press).

3. So you can build up your own network of copy-editors, graphic designers, and book designers and funnel work to them.

Why not?

1. You do not have time, interest, funds, or contacts for editing, design, or marketing.

2. In order to get hired or promoted, you need the book to be  done through an academic press.

3. Library of Congress will take your book but leave it uncatalogued, i.e., without an LC call number.  Libraries are less likely to purchase the book.

4. ebrary will ignore your attempt to get the pdf of your book added to their collections and libraries can’t make it available.

5. Journals may choose not to review a book that is not from an academic or big-name trade publisher.

Basic mechanics of independent publishing

0. Buy Marcus’s Independent Self-Publishing: The Complete Guide for helpful detail (c. $20). In brief:

1.  Decide on your budget for publishing a book.  (If you set this at, say, $2000, you will probably need to sell 400 copies to cover costs.)

2. Register your publishing business (including register it with your local town hall, start a checking account, and designate one of your credit cards for charges to be made) (c. $40).

3. Purchase 1 or 10 ISBNs from ($125 or $250).

4. Make a contract with Lightning Source to print on demand in the USA (and, if desired, in Australia and UK).  (Print on demand means that you do nothing to have the book sold through online retailers, but can get copies for a little bit more plus shipping to retail yourself [or to give away].)

5. Arrange for the manuscript to be copy edited and then revise it (c. $1000).

6.  Arrange for a designer for the book’s interior and cover (c. $400).

7. Get a preassigned control number from the Library of Congress (  (You have to send them a copy once it is printed.  It may or may not be cataloged by LOC.)

7. Submit the inside of the book to Lightning Source as a pdf/x and the cover using one of their templates; review the proof that will arrive in a week or so; then give the go-ahead for publishing (c. $100 for set up and proof, $60 for listing with Ingrams, and $12/ISBN per year).

8. Set up retailing (incl. payment of sales tax to state government).

9. Undertake marketing (described in future posts).


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

One Response to Independent publishing I: Why & Basic mechanics

  1. Items 3-5 under Why not? were added in 2015 based on experience with publishing 3 books.

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