Writers and readers all want the same thing: to hear a story be told. But it can be extremely challenging to get new stories out into the world.

More and more authors are turning to self-publishing to regain control over their writing. However, most authors don’t know all the steps that are required to successfully publish a book, such as copyediting, page layout, design, analysis of the market, and appropriate marketing strategies. This is why some public libraries have stepped in to offer self-publishing programs. But even with this assistance, some authors and librarians have concerns. How can these library self-publishing programs be improved to better help authors publish their works?


In her 2016 study, “The Role of Public Libraries in Self-Publishing: Investigating Author and Librarian Perspectives,” Heather Moulaisan Sandy surveyed authors in the UK and US in order to better understand the motivations and concerns about self-publishing. The results showed that 55% wanted to write as a hobby, and 80% wanted to share a story that was worth being told (Sandy 2016). Ninety percent of authors also expressed a strong desire to produce high-quality writing; they stated that “it is important to create superior work in terms of writing mechanics, story arc, design and layout, and so on” (Sandy 2016, 902). Out of all of the respondents, none mentioned having any concerns about cover design and page layout, which are aspects of the publishing process that traditional publishers, and not authors, normally handle. However, one area that seemed to be lacking in the authors’ knowledge of the publishing process was marketing; none of the authors had concrete marketing strategies, and only 2% were aware enough of marketing strategies to suggest that they would rather leave marketing worries to a traditional publisher.

Along with surveying authors, Sandy also surveyed librarians in the UK and the US. The survey that the librarians received focused on library programs to help authors self-publish. The librarians’ biggest concerns related to cost of equipment, staff, and publishing services. The librarians also expressed concerns about the legalities and usefulness of such services. At the end of the survey, the librarians were asked about the knowledge needed to support self-publishing programs. Most of the respondents expressed a need for more guidance and examples from self-publishing programs that were already firmly established. 

“In order to produce high-quality books of lasting value and worth, self-published books need to undergo some of the rigors of traditional publishing, including copy editing, page layout and design, market analysis of the topicality, and timely and appropriate marketing strategies.”

—Heather Moulaison Sandy


According to the study conducted by Sandy, self-publishing is a topic with many aspects to improve and develop. On the one hand, as programs and services for self-publishing become increasingly available to authors, the authors gain more control over their writing. However, the quality of publications may decrease because authors do not have the same training that traditional publishers do. On the other hand, libraries with self-publishing programs want to help improve quality by improving their programs, but they are also in need of further training. This means that both authors and librarians who wish to participate in such programs need more knowledge about the publishing process in order for a self-published book to become a success. The results of this study indicate one possible path forward: libraries with self-publishing programs could focus more on marketing and writing quality and refine those skills to better help authors produce high-quality works for their intended audience.  

To learn more about the bigger picture of self-publishing and self-publishing services, read the full article:

Sandy, Heather Moulainson. 2016. “The Role of Public Libraries in Self-Publishing: Investigating Author and Librarian Perspectives.” Journal of Library Administration. https://doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2015.1130541

—Morgan Heath, Editing Research


Find more research

Take a look at Eliza Gutke’s Editing Research article for more evidence about the importance of producing high-quality material: “Why Editors Matter.” 

Read Abby Haralson’s Editing Research article about the need for someone to review your work: “Get Another Set of Eyes—Why Self-Editing Doesn’t Always Work.”