What Kind of Self-Pub Are You? A Questionnaire and Tips for Maximizing Your Self-Pub Style

by | Jul 2, 2014

By Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas

What’s your self-pub personality type? That’s right—there’s more than one!

Maybe you see yourself as one of a kind, and therefore you won’t be thrilled to be lumped into a category with others. On the other hand, you might see yourself as a member of a tribe. Your common traits and goals help establish your identity, and you won’t like the idea of being placed in a sub-group.

As editors, we’ve had the opportunity to work and interact with a variety of self-pubs. And over time, we’ve identified some distinct self-publishing styles and approaches. Below, we’ve narrowed our findings to four self-pub personality types.

Take our quiz to find out what kind of self-pub you are.

Note: Results may vary! You may discover that you don’t fit neatly into one category. That’s okay. This questionnaire is designed to get you to begin thinking about how you approach self-publishing and where editing fits into the scheme. We’ll summarize the characteristics of your type, and add some tips and resources that will help you get the most from the editing and production process.


  1. What is the most important feature of a published book?
    1. The story or message has to be compelling
    2. It has to be highly appealing to many potential buyers
    3. Impossible to narrow to a single feature—everything is important
    4. Depends on why the book was written, but overall it has to be professional looking
  2. What are you mostly likely to do after you get a story idea?
    1. Start writing—the story or structure will emerge on its own
    2. Start writing from the beginning and systematically work through to the end
    3. Sketch a loose story outline and begin writing at any point in the story, as soon as possible
    4. Create a detailed story outline before writing, with most things worked out ahead of time.
  3. What steps are you most likely to follow to get your book from idea to published?
    1. Draft, rewrite (x3), publish
    2. Write, proofread, publish
    3. Draft, edit, publish
    4. Draft, revise, edit, proofread, publish
  4. How do you handle the editing part of the self-publishing process?
    1. I self-edit. I may ask a critique partner or trusted friend to read my book.
    2. I self-edit and use beta readers.
    3. I use beta readers for the revision stage and an editor to polish the final product.
    4. I only use an editor.
  5. What do you do with the feedback you get from critique partners, beta readers, editors and readers?
    1. If I get feedback, and it’s not what I expected, I freak out and stick the book back in my drawer for several months.
    2. I only make the changes I agree with.
    3. I take some time to think about the changes before I make them. I might even research some of the suggested changes to see if they’ll actually make my writing better.
    4. I make nearly all of the changes an editor suggests because I’ve hired an editor to tell me what I don’t know.
  6. How do you tell if an editor is a good fit for you?
    1. I don’t use an editor.
    2. I send a chapter to several editors and ask for a sample edit from each of them. If I hire an editor, I base my decision on the sample chapters.
    3. I ask fellow self-pubs for recommendations and go with a recommendation.
    4. I scour professional editing databases for an editor who’s an expert in my genre.
  7. What kind of editing are you comfortable with?
    1. No editing. My story, my words. You shouldn’t mess with art.
    2. I’m open to suggestions about how to make my story better, but please don’t touch my words.
    3. I want to know what will make my story better, and I’m fine with suggestions for cleaning up my writing.Tell me what I need to do and I’ll try and fix it.
    4. Fix it for me.
  8. How likely are you to use tech tools to improve your writing?
    1. There are tech tools that can help me to improve my writing?
    2. Tell me what tech tools I should consider. If they’re free or low-cost, I’ll take it from here.
    3. If you apply the tech tools to my writing, and teach me what the results mean, I’ll try to make the changes they suggest.
    4. Not likely. I prefer that my editor run the tech tools on my writing, and apply the changes they suggest.
  9. How likely are you to use a style guide to polish your writing?
    1. What’s a style guide?
    2. I’ve heard about style guides, but I don’t use them.
    3. I try to follow the style guide that fellow self-pubs or my editor recommends.
    4. I let my editor pick a style guide. My editor will ensure that my book follows that style.
  10. How much are you willing to pay for an editor to edit a 300-page book?
    1. $0 — You can’t mess with my words—my story will carry itself.
    2. Up to $300 — Give me feedback on a chapter, and I can apply your advice to the rest of my book.
    3. $750 — Read my whole book and make suggestions for improvement. Do as much as you can for me within my budget. Copyedit a sample chapter so I know how to clean up my writing.
    4. $1500+ — I’d like the best possible outcome for my book project.

What type of self-pub are you?

If most of your answers were:

  1. you’re an Optimist
    • for you, it’s all about the writing
    • you have a great story to tell, and you’re eager to dive right in
    • you’ll give self-publishing a try, see what happens, and hope for the best
    • you have a long list of books that you can’t wait to get started on
    • you figure you’ll get better with practice—your next book will naturally be better than the last
  2. you’re a Do-it-Yourselfer
    • you’re hungry for knowledge and you scour the internet for info because you want to understand every aspect of self-publishing
    • you’re not afraid of the more technical aspects of self-publishing
    • you want control over all stages of the publishing process
    • you like to keep costs down by doing things yourself
    • you might look for low-cost services
  3. you’re a Collaborator
    • you work to your strengths by doing what you know you can do well
    • you tend to get help for things you don’t know how to do
    • you want to participate in every aspect of the publishing process
    • you can’t think about possible future writing projects until this one is all tied up
    • you don’t necessarily want a career in writing—you want a container for this one important book
  4. you’re a Project Manager
    • you know there’s a lot to know, and don’t know a lot (yet)
    • you know your limitations
    • you hire experts to help with those things you don’t know how to do, or that aren’t the best use of your time
    • you’re business savvy—efficiency is important to you
    • you have the resources to build a publishing team

Types and Tips

So, how did you do? Any light-bulb moments? Remember, this is all in good fun, and as we said, you may straddle more than one category. Our hunch, though, is that you’re probably more one type than another. What follows are a few tips that will help keep you on the straight and narrow while still remaining faithful to your own personal style.

You’re confident in your story and your storytelling abilities. You might be a bit intimidated, though, by everything that goes into the self-publishing process. Editing? Yes, you know it’s part of the process, but the story is what matters. And you’re still not sure about allowing others to edit your work. For you, editing might not extend beyond self-editing or revising, but it’s important to know that you could be limiting your options. Revising is the best you can do with your own writing with some or no feedback. Editing is the best that someone else can do with your writing.

The more you know, the more confident you’ll be when making decisions about everything from editing to cover design. Where to begin? Right here, at The Book Designer website, where there are carefully curated posts about editing and self-publishing.

If you prefer an all-in-one package for getting started with editing and self-publishing, we recommend Joanna Penn’s Author 2.0 Blueprint, available free at The Creative Penn. She covers topics like first draft, revisions and editing, and explains the differences between these tasks. The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself, by Susan Bell, offers practical tips for self-editing and case studies of famous writers and their editing practices.

As the name implies, you’re all for doing it yourself! Truthfully, though, it doesn’t always make sense to try to handle the whole process of self-publishing alone. How many of us can say we’re skilled in writing, editing, designing a book interior and creating a great-looking book cover?

The good news is that you can accept help from the pros and still do it yourself. How? Avail yourself of some of the many tools designed for self-pubs: Print and ebook interior and cover templates from The Book Designer will take care of two of the most difficult aspects of book production for self-pubs. There’s also Joel Friedlander’s free resource,10 Things You Need to Know About Self-Publishing.

And, for true DIYers, check out the editing macros you can use to fix common problems in your writing. Also, watch for our forthcoming book, You’ve Got Style: A Self-Publishing Author’s Guide to Ebook Style, which outlines tips and tools for copyediting your book.

You have a clear vision of what you want from your finished book. You know and respect your audience and you’re certain that your message will resonate with them, too. What’s more, you also know your own limitations—you can’t do it all yourself.

When it comes to writing, you don’t necessarily want a career, you want a container for your ideas—they need to be arranged and packaged in the best way possible to meet your readers’ needs. You have an idea of the kind of help you need, but you still have many questions.

Finally, you want to both understand and participate fully in the process, and Corina Koch MacLeod’s Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast is the book that will help you do that. It steps you through the process and clearly defines the revising, editing and proofreading tasks involved along the way.

Project Manager
You understand well that self-publishing your book will involve many hands. You’ll need an editor, book designer, proofreader, cover artist—and perhaps publicists and marketing consultants as well. Whoa. That’s a lot of balls in the air! But you’re business savvy, and you love nothing more than orchestrating this kind of operation.

To stay on course, you need to know what the role of each participant is. Once you know what everyone is doing, you’ll make decisions with more confidence and you’ll also see where there might be bumps in the road.

You’ll find, too, that there are many tasks you can do yourself, and that these are both fun and rewarding. For a comprehensive guide to self-publishing, Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch explains the process clearly. For a discussion on the role of editing in the self-publishing process, consult Sarah Kolb-William’s book, The Indie Author’s Guide to Book Editing: How to Find, Hire, and Work with the Right Editor for Your Manuscript.

That’s it—our first foray into self-pub profiling. Don’t be overwhelmed by the long list of resources. They’re there to guide you, to dip in and out of as needed when questions arise. Also, try stepping outside of your usual pattern. Explore resources and tips from the other profiles and see if doing things a bit differently improves your results. Self-publishing is a process, after all, and it’s likely that you’ll improve over time.


Photo: bigstockphoto.com. Amazon links contain my affiliate code.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Corina Koch MacLeod

    Ha ha! You didn’t self-edit first?

    Thanks for providing us with questions you would ask. What do readers think of Jamie’s questions? Feel free to weigh in.

    I think it’s great that you know that there’s more than one kind of editing. Not all self-pubs know this, at least not at first. And that’s fair. There’s lots to know. (We wrote about this topic in a previous post on this blog).

    As for your response to question 8, we didn’t account for the super tech-savvy self-pub did we? Perhaps a better answer for b) could have been:

    b) I have my favourite writing tech tools. I’m open to learning about new tools, though, especially if they’re free or low-cost, or if they help me to do something more efficiently.

    What do you think?

    This answer may not capture everything you’ve said about tech tools, but I’m trying to remain consistent with self-pub types we established in this post. I’m right with you about tech tools being intuitive, though. It plays into efficiency, doesn’t it?

    I’m glad you’re enjoying this blog series. We’re enjoying it, too!

  2. Jamie

    For the style guide, you need another option; the answers listed assumes an absolute noob. I’ve had Strunk & White as well as Turabian since I was a teenager. The newspaper I work for has its own style guide, and we diverge from the [industry standard] AP style guide in some instances. I’ve written my own style guide for my fantasy.

    You need an answer that assumes the writer knows about style guides, has a preference, and may choose or not choose an editor based on that preference (e.g., I would never hire an editor who insisted on AP style for fiction). Or, an answer that assumes a writer who knows about style guides but doesn’t have a preference or doesn’t consider the editor’s preference to be a deal breaker.

    Question 6 has answers that don’t fit the question. The answers listed in that question would be appropriate for “How do you FIND an editor?” The only answer that does fit the stated question is B, but there are other possible options. For example–you might look at their portfolio before you get an editing sample; or you might ask about their process. You might want to know where they stand on whether the editor or the writer has the final say. Some writers are looking for partners, others are looking for mentors, others just need a second pair of eyes. The writer would evaluate the fit based on those needs.

    For 4 I self-edit continuously, I get betas for the revision, and I would use an editor for the final polish.

    Number 8 could use another option as well. I’m a techie and I don’t wait around for others to tell me about software/gizmos; I seek them out on my own and evaluate them according to my own needs and preferences.

    Based on the description of the different kinds of self-pubbers, I’m a project manager. I follow the Miles Vorkosigan principle of not doing myself what I can get an expert to do for me, with the caveat that the expert is doing something that I can’t easily learn to do at the standard that I want it done.

    • Corina Koch MacLeod

      Thanks for your thoughts, Jamie.

      I’m delighted that you see yourself as techy. I was hoping this post would bring techy self-pubs out of hiding. Carla and I have had this ongoing conversation about writers’ comfort with tech tools. Are most self-pubs techy? Not so techy? What do you think?

      You’re clearly not a stranger to style guides! And you’ve written your own—good for you. As you’ve pointed out, there are many style guides available to writers. The Chicago Manual of Style is a popular style guide that addresses style issues pertaining to fiction and nonfiction, but it’s one style guide among many. It’s enormous—over 1000 pages. We know that not everyone will have the time (or desire) to page through Chicago or explore various style guides, so we’re currently writing a least-you-need-to-know style guide in the hopes that we can simplify style for self-publishing authors. Stay posted.

      You’ve suggested that a couple of our questions could use different answers. That’s fair. It’s difficult to capture or anticipate how everyone would like to respond to a question. We based our answers on our experiences with the self-pubs we’ve worked with. I’d like hear your perspective, though. What answers do you think would work better for Questions 4, 6, and 8?

      • Jamie

        Thank you for gracious response. I hope the following is not too wordy, I had no time to write it short :)

        For 4 I’d add “all of the above.”

        I believe 6 should really be broken into 2 questions, one for content editing and one for line/copy editing. I say two questions because some authors do just fine with beta readers and self-editing, and so only want a line editor or a copy editor but not a content editor. Others might already have a copy editor but no beta readers and want a content editor instead. So,

        6a) How do you evaluate a content editor?
        A) Ask them to critique a scene/chapter/synopsis
        B) Interview them to see if they’re aligned with you on story and craft issues (e.g., what makes a good character arc)
        C) Find out if they work in your genre. Are they used to Tolkien, Helen Fielding or Sara Paretsky?
        D) Get reviews from past clients
        E) Find out where they stand on suggesting changes vs. rewrites – do they know this is YOUR story and it’s YOUR say, or do they want you to write THEIR story?


        6b) How do you evaluate a line/copy editor?
        A) Get a sample edit of a scene/chapter
        B) Ask to see their portfolio
        C) Ask ACT/SAT style questions re: which sounds better and has greater clarity, sentence A or sentence B?
        D) Find out where they stand on suggesting changes vs. rewrites – do they know this is YOUR story and the final says is YOURS, or do they want you to write THEIR story? ;)

        For 8 the questions I ask –

        A) Does this help me do something faster/better than the alternative? I abandoned Diigo for Evernote because Evernote saves the entire web page, not just a link to the page. That helps me do research without worrying about dead links later.
        B) Will I avoid an expensive–in time or money–problem by using this? For example, Scrivener vs. Word when generating usable epub files.
        C) Is there good documentation or support for this software/hardware? If I see reviews indicating that setup is not intuitive and the directions are poor to non-existent I may skip it even if it’s free**. If I know something has a broad user base and there are lots of tutorials/guides/user forums I’m willing to chance paying for it.
        D) Who is the target audience for this? Beginner/Intermediate/Expert? This answer has consequences for how easy the software/hardware is and whether or not you can get help easily or if you have to hand over your first born.

        **I consider having to call or email tech support a Bad Thing. Non-techie writers might prefer calling tech support to wading through the forums.

        Happy Independence Day! I’ve been enjoying these new features here at the Book Designer.

  3. Lexi Revellian

    The free version. I really only need it to catch repeat words. Also, I like to be in profit with the sale of the first ebook.

    • Corina Koch MacLeod

      Spoken like an authorpreneur (this term was coined by Joanna Penn, I think)! The Pro Writing Aid plug-in is available through subscription, and that can add up.

  4. Lexi Revellian

    Will do, Corina. But I think it’s a mistake to take any of their suggestions too seriously – I dread to think what sort of prose would emerge if I managed to get rid of all the pretty colours and wriggly lines in Pro Writing Tool. Ditto Autocrit, which I used to use, and I’ve turned off Word’s grammar hints. I’m better at grammar than Word is, dammit.

    • Corina Koch MacLeod

      Good point, Lexi.

      After you run any writing tool, you need to assess what the tool is telling you. The macros we recommend in this post require you make decisions about the words they highlight in your writing. Tools can only point things out, it’s up to you to figure out what it means.

      Having said that, there are some writing tools I’d no longer do without. Some tools can catch things that aren’t humanly possible for me to catch. I think a number of my editing colleagues would concur.

      As for Word’s grammar check, I’ve disabled it, too (most editors I know have done the same). It’s not at all helpful. If a tool isn’t serving you well, disable it, or bend it to your will!

      Just curious… do you use the free version of Pro Writing Aid, or the Word Add-In?

  5. Lexi Revellian

    I’m mostly bs, which is accurate.

    But you didn’t have my answer for 8: e. Yes, I use tech tools. (I use Pro Writing Tool for my word echo habit. It’s free and I’d recommend it.)

    • Corina Koch MacLeod

      I love writing tools. I believe that some writing tools can help you to write smarter. You can view the tools I’m currently investigating at Tech Tools for Writers. I’ll be sure to investigate the tool you’ve suggested, too. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Jennifer at WriteKidsBooks

    Looks like I’m a DIY type, but then, I knew that already. :-)
    If other DIYers are interested, I recently put together a 14-(baby)-step ladder to self-publishing your own children’s book that might be helpful. Even other personality styles might enjoy seeing what’s involved; it’s not as scary as you think!

    • Corina Koch MacLeod

      I can relate to the DIY self-pub type as well. I want to try everything, mostly so I can understand how everything works.

      Sometimes, in the process of learning how to do something, I discover my limitations. That’s okay. I also discover those things that I can do well.

      You make a great point: once you understand how self-publishing works, it can be less scary than it first appears to be. Often, it’s a matter of getting the right information so that you’re not overwhelmed by all of the information on offer. The resources in this post are a great place to begin.

      Having said that, getting your head around self-publishing is a huge undertaking for some. There’s a lot to consider if you want to create a terrific reading experience for your readers. And, as the old adage goes: You don’t know what you don’t know. Sometimes, asking for help from an “expert” can give you the information you’re missing. As a DIYer, you can take that new information and try it yourself. You know you will!

      Best of luck!

  7. Becky Lewellen Povich

    I could’ve used a few “None of the above” answers! Here’s how I did:
    3 each D
    3 each C
    3 each B
    1 each A
    I’m a very optimistic person, but not the kind described here. I would never give self publishing a try, hope for the best, or think my next book will be better.

    • Corina Koch MacLeod

      We kind of set you up by asking you to pick the answer that best describes you, didn’t we?

      Your results indicated that you have characteristics of each of the self-publishing types. That is possible. Just curious… in the Types and Tips section of this post, which of the recommended resources are you likely to consult first (if you had to choose)?

  8. David Todd

    Sorry, I’m not getting something.

    The answers are all bullets on my screen. Are they supposed to be a, b, c, d from top to bottom?

    Also, in the guide to what kind of self-publishing writer you are, all I see is “If most of your answers are” with nothing before each type that follows. Judging from other comments I suppose the Optimist is mostly “a’s” i.e. the first answer listed, etc.

    I’m looking at this in IE at the office. Possibly some graphics are blocked. Or maybe we’re just supposed to make some assumptions as to what you intend.

    • Carla Douglas

      Hi David,

      Sorry about that! I think it’s an IE issue, and we’re looking into it at this end.

      In the meantime, you should be able to view the post — as it’s meant to be viewed — in something other than Internet Explorer. I’m viewing it in Chrome, and it’s fine.

      Hope this helps! Feel free to check back in when you’ve had a chance to view it properly.



  9. Yvonne Hertzberger

    I landed between a C and a D. Perhaps I would be more D if I did not already have an editor I respect and work well with.

    One question, though. It says C’s do not see writing as a career. How did you come to that conclusion? I ask because this does not ring true for the writers I know who, in my estimation, are great collaborators but DO see writing as a career.

    • Carla Douglas

      Thanks for your comment, Yvonne.

      So, you’re a Collaborator/Project Manager — do those profiles match how you see yourself?

      Regarding your question about writing as a career. We said that the Collaborator doesn’t necessarily want a writing career, but your point is well taken. Lots of people in this category will be career writers.

      Our point, though, is based on our observation that often this kind of self-pub has a career elsewhere — as a teacher, health practitioner, lawyer, for example. They have information they’d like to share broadly with their clients and with others, and a book is the ideal way to reach them.

      The reason they know their audience so well is because they’ve been working in the field for some time. I guess we could also have indicated that those who don’t necessarily want a career usually publish nonfiction titles.

      I hope that clarifies our message — because I think collaborators make wonderful career authors!


  10. Greg Strandberg

    Good idea! I got 4 a’s and 3 each on b’s and c’s.

    #10 kind of got me. I’d love to pay someone to edit a few of my books, it’s just that it costs so much.

    I think it can be a Catch-22 for many authors. You’ll pay for editing when you make enough money from your books to do so, but maybe you’ll never make enough until they’re edited.

    • Carla Douglas

      Hi Greg,

      Thanks for your comment — and for generously sharing your results! Sounds like you favour a mix of styles — and that’s a good thing. One reason we chose the quiz format was to get authors thinking about their own style and habits in the self-publishing process. You can’t try a new approach until you’re aware of what your usual one is!

      And you’re right about the Catch-22 — but by developing more revision/self-editing techniques and using beta readers, self-pubs are making their mark!




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