Punk Rock Publishing: Do It Yourself

I propose a motion: let’s change the name of self-publishing or indie publishing to ‘punk rock publishing’, and recognise its ideology of doing it yourself and rejecting the establishment and all of those glorious punk rock traditions. Right? Way cooler. A hundred times cooler.

Now that’s out of the way, I’m going to talk a bit about punk rock publishing, because it’s something I’ve a bit of experience in. There are a lot of reasons people choose to do it themselves, and also a lot of misconceptions about it, so let’s debunk the latter while discussing the former, all at once. Multitasking.

random computer gif

Misconception #1: People self-publish because they can’t go the traditional route.

For some people, self-publishing is a route that they pursue because they’re fed up of rejections from agents and editors. That’s true. That doesn’t mean they’re not good enough for ‘traditional publishing’. People do choose to self-publish because the traditional publish route isn’t a viable option, but that’s for all sorts of reasons. 

1) They don’t follow genre, so their book is hard to categorise. A lot of publishers are wary about taking on books like this, so it can be a reason to self-publish.

2) They’re writing in a genre or category that’s difficult to market because it has a small audience. Case in point: poetry. It’s exceedingly hard to get a poetry collection published traditionally, but very easy to do yourself.

3) They don’t want to hang around. Self-publishing is a lot quicker, and while it can still take time for one’s efforts to pay off, it’s still faster than the traditional route, which has a lot of waiting around.

Misconception #2: Self-published books are lower quality

This isn’t entirely wrong. Writers who go to the punk rock route by definition don’t have the benefits of the publishing house, which has editors, cover designers, formatters, proof readers and the like. But that doesn’t mean what they’re churning out is rubbish.

The writer needs to write well, that’s true. They need to proof-read their work. They should ideally have a cover created professionally, not by a friend using MS Paint. It might be worth hiring an editor, rather than relying on critique partners who may not be very experienced.

At the end of all that? It’s a book. The one you buy from the shop with the publisher’s mark on the spine is also a book. Look really hard, and tell me if you can tell them apart.

how bout that

Misconception #3: Traditional publishing is the only way to make your name as an author.

It’s not. There are benefits to it, absolutely. It’s far easier to get your books into libraries and bookshops if it’s being churned out by Penguin than if you did it all yourself. But doing it yourself can allow you to build up a dedicated reader base, and that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? In fact, they might even be glad you’re not traditionally published if that cuts the waiting time between books.

The way to make your name as an author is to write good books and to encourage word-of-mouth to sell them. That’s basically it. It helps if you’re famous like me, of course, because I’m pretty sure people would buy anything I wrote without questioning it too much, but I’m Tony Stark. Not everybody gets that chance.

arrive with crowdsthere are boring book launches and then
there are Stark book launches

Misconception #4: Self-publishing means you can only publish e-books.

Absolutely not true. Seriously. Where are you getting this information from? It is easier to publish e-books by yourself, sure. You upload a Word document (how quaint) to Kindle Direct Publishing, it sorts out the formatting, you upload a cover and you’re done. You don’t even know how to format stuff, although it helps if you do.

Print copies are more complicated. You need to choose a distributor. Are you gonna go with CreateSpace and sell your soul to Amazon? What about Blurb, or Stark On-Demand Books?

Depending on which you choose, formatting will be easier or harder. You may need to design a wraparound cover, which can be more difficult, although sometimes using your Kindle front cover and a plain coloured back cover can work (quick tip for you). You might have to worry about mirrored margins and page numbers and contents pages.

But ultimately, print-on-demand makes it just as cheap to produce print books than e-books, so you can start selling paperbacks like the most traditionally published of all traditionally published folks.

Side note: here’s the kid who has been disturbing the Twittersphere by pretending to be me, which is absolutely absurd and unbelievable (we’re dealing with it) with a paperback copy of her third poetry collection, printed by Blurb:


Therefore, friends, if you think your best option is to go it alone and do it your way, I encourage you to go forth and be punk rock publishers.

Just don’t tell Pepper I’m egging you on, because she thinks I’m a bad influence. -- Iron Man

The YAvengers Twitter account saw activity this week from JARVIS as well as the rest of the team. You’re missing out if you’re not following it.


  1. Oooh, punk rock publishing sounds super awesome in this way! I think we've all had some bad experiences with punk rock publishing—these people either can't spell or can't write or seem to manage Amazon but nothing inside a word document. But, to be fair, we've all had bad experiences with traditionally published works as well! There are going to be some people who probably should have spent more time revising in both areas, but there's also going to be awesome people as well, and that's the part we should be proud of and supportive of. :D

  2. JARVIS is awesome. (I am a fan of JARVIS. Do not spoil Age of Ultron, please; I have not seen it yet...)
    I think that after I graduate from college I want to be an editor at a publishing company. I'd be helping new authors polish up their drafts. (Also I'd be reading new books long before anyone else got to. *grin*) I'm not sure if I'd want to go the traditional way or otherwise when getting published myself, though.