With the barrier to having a publisher sign a new author seemingly high, especially without prior success or experience, are there any good author-funded alternatives out there to the repeated mailing of manuscripts out to additional publishing houses after facing rejection?

As a businessman, especially since I have a bit of savings, and since I am familiar with the practice of procuring investors for other types of ventures, is there a way I could put up $10k of my own money with $25k from other sources to help grease the wheels of this process? If the book doesn't become popular, I understand the risk, but I'm willing to face that possibility.

Since someone will no doubt bring it up -- no, I don't mean some kind of random run on a POD website like Lulu or whatever. I'm asking about a reputable company taking on the mechanics of getting my book into Borders, and/or wherever else possible.

  • 1
    So are you looking for marketing, rather than self-publishing? I'm not clear on exactly what services you require.
    – HedgeMage
    Dec 14, 2010 at 18:48
  • You could become a publisher. If you find other people, who have experience or you are willing to learn it yourself, you can publish other authors and yourself. You wouldn't be the first one doing this. But I'm not sure if this is easier than the traditional way ... Dec 14, 2010 at 22:30
  • @John - I doubt creating a new publishing house from the ground up would be easier than getting a single book published. Plus, you'd still have to convince the booksellers that your small publishing house's books are worth stocking. That's going to be hard until you can show some sales.
    – sjohnston
    Dec 14, 2010 at 23:01
  • @Hedge - basically, I'm looking for a publisher to take on a book, but wanting to know if there's such a concept as me helping to back the venture with them. Dec 15, 2010 at 5:04
  • 1
    Borders and the other big box booksellers are generally unwilling to take indie press or self-published books, and there's basically nothing that you can do about it. There is no self-publishing service that can really get you into those stores, and any service claiming otherwise is probably a scam. Dec 19, 2012 at 16:14

7 Answers 7


What you're thinking of is vanity publishing. A vanity publishing house is one that will publish your book, but you pay all of the costs. You pay for the marketing, the editing, the cover art, etc. Basically all they do is print the book and put it in stores for you.

And to be honest, if you go this route, you're going to be laughed at in the publishing world. Money is supposed to flow to the author, not the other way around. If you then decide to go into traditional publishing, they most likely won't count that book as a prior publishing credit, since anyone with a couple thousand dollars can have their books printed.

If your book isn't good, a traditional publisher isn't going to take it on no matter how much money you wave at them. Not only does the publisher need to be able to sell the book, but they need to maintain their reputation. If they start publishing poor quality manuscripts, they'll get less submissions and their sales will drop as well. So unless you plan on funding them with quite a bit of money, they're not going to blink.

  • 1
    This looks like the answer I was requesting. However, I'd like to hear more about exactly what a vanity publisher does to get your book in stores..? Dec 17, 2010 at 18:08
  • 1
    @QuickerSnarkerBacker From what I understand, "not much". Their primary selling-market is the authors who they vanity-publish, to whom they will sell copies they can then give or sell on. There may be books printed and ware-housed, but in general vanity publishing is more full of "don't go there" than not.
    – Vatine
    Dec 19, 2010 at 11:42
  • 3
    And actually, they likely won't even put the book in stores. They'll get it into some industry registry of books in print. That's it. Shelf space is precious, and almost all stores only carry what has a chance to sell. Of course, "as a businessman" you'll easily see that. Vanity publishing has no chance there. Dec 19, 2010 at 14:20

I just joined the site, so you may have already acted on this, but I would definitely recommend going with self-publishing, as long as you don't use a subsidy or vanity publisher. You can go to sites like Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, or Barnes&Noble and find information on self-publishing e-books or go to CreateSpace for print books. All of these options are free and can allow you to get a finished product out to the public in much faster time than a traditional publisher. Each of these options will allow you to publish for free, so there really isn't a cost factor involved.

In addition to that, you can get much higher royalties by using any of these services than you would with a traditional publisher. You would also be better off than using a subsidy publisher, because you don't pay for these services. You might want to spend a little money to get a good book cover and to have someone professionally edit your book, but you should be spending that money anyway if you were using a subsidy publisher. Below are some ranges for these types of services.

Book covers: $50-$300

Editing: $75-$500 (depends on size of book)

I have two fantasy novels that I self-published over the last few months, and I have already recovered the money I spent on them for book covers and editing. There are a whole lot of authors who are starting to go with this self-publishing model, and I highly recommend it!

  • Welcome aboard :)
    – Standback
    Jul 20, 2011 at 9:51

I suspect the sort of company you are looking for isn't out there, but I will happily retract my answer if someone can point out an example. I would be interested to find out such a company exists.

What you're looking for seems to be along the lines of the standard self-publishing model, but with two caveats:

  • The ability to attract investors for a book
  • The ability to get the book into the big chain stores

The problem is that both investors and chain stores want some level of assurance that the book can sell enough to make them money. The author being able to afford a few thousand dollars is not a good indicator that his/her book will be successful. I don't see how a company could attract investors or get books placed in chain stores without a strong editorial process to sift out the books that will sell.

However, if their submission process is just as rigorous as the traditional publishers, why would anyone want to go through it when the traditional publishers offer the same thing for free?

  • 3
    +1. The real sticking point is getting into the big booksellers, since they pretty much categorically refuse to deal with self-publishers, and without them your chances of breaking even on any investment is very slim. Dec 14, 2010 at 19:32

If you're willing to take a rather unorthodox approach, you could try using a micro-investment service like Kickstarter to attract investors. This isn't the full-service company you're looking for, but it could get you some venture capital to put toward publishing and marketing costs.

  • What I need is the step after that, since I've already got (at least some) of the capital covered. Where would I go when putting the money "toward publishing and marketing costs"? Who to ask about that stage of things? Dec 17, 2010 at 18:07
  • @Quicker - I'm afraid I don't have a good answer for you there.
    – sjohnston
    Dec 17, 2010 at 22:59

I see this question is over 2 years old so you've probably already made a decision and gone one way or the other, but for the benefit of others who come along:

There are three issues to consider:

  1. Getting your book physically printed.

  2. Getting your book listed in on-line sellers, like Amazon and Barnes & Noble's website.

  3. Marketing your book.

  4. Getting your book stocked in bookstores or department stores with a book section.

As to #1 and #2, this is easy these days. There are several companies out there, like CreateSpace, Lulu, and Lightning Source, that will print your book with a trivial upfront investment. I forget the exact numbers and I'm sure they change but they're like $50 or so depending on which company and which plan you choose. They will then get you on Amazon and other on-line sellers with little effort and little or no expense.

But these places don't do any useful marketing. Some will do marketing for extra fees, but in my humble opinion the marketing options they offer aren't very useful. It's up to you to do any marketing on your own. You can create a web site, take out ads in magazines, get a booth at conventions, go door-to-door, whatever.

Getting a self-published book into bookstores -- assuming you're not already a well-known author -- is extremely difficult. I've been on forums where self-published authors talk about the efforts they've gone to to get in bookstores, and there's lot of talk about how much work they did and how many contacts they made and how many encouraging conversations they had, but very few actually got their books on shelves. Most of those who did were people who got a specialty store to carry their book rather than a bookstore, like somebody who wrote a book on collecting antiques got it an antique shop. Frankly, unless you have reason to believe you have a special in, like your brother-in-law owns the bookstore, I wouldn't waste my time. Concentrate on other avenues. If you get to the point where readers recognize your name, then work on the bookstores.

  • I've even read about cases where publishers dropped authors after they found out the author had previously self-published some of his/her works. On the other side, you have Amanda Hocking, who got a traditional publisher after she made millions through self-publishing, but she's more an exception to the rule than anything else.
    – Tannalein
    Dec 20, 2012 at 1:12

I'm in a similar situation, with a background in business, some savings and an understanding of how I would approach such a project were it in my comfort zone (i.e. in my company).

$35k is probably too much - you'd lose the better part of it without recognising the ROI unless you have a clear, structured plan all the way down the process. I've chosen to work with Type&Tell, which is a self-pub spin off from Bonnier. They impressed me at the London Book Fair over competitors for several reasons:

  1. they have a good reputation as a publishing house and have clear expertise from the mothership
  2. they offer clear, concise services and are approachable if you're not sure what you need
  3. they don't take royalties, which means you pay upfront and manage your own risk afterwards

My background is online advertising and large-scale lead generation so I'm comfortable running my own marketing. Therefore I was looking for a company who could offer just the final editing, design and logistics of my book. Total costs to get it to market will be ~$7k which includes marketing materials.


Have a look at the standard and co-publishing contract options available across John Hunt Publishing's large array of imprints.


I've published with them and worked with them for a while before moving on. They do what they say they will do. And the rights deals are comparatively favourable.

There's a lot of useful information in the regularly updated publishing guide on their website:


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.