Self Publishing in Australia:
One Woman's Story

Note from Steve: Helen Ross is a children's book author with experience self publishing in Australia.

She has been kind enough to prepare this account, which not only serves as a How To to self publishing in Australia, but also serves as an excellent guide - and dose of reality - for self publishers anywhere.

A proper self publishing effort is many faceted, time consuming and will require a great deal of initiative on your part. Know what you're getting into!

Why did I self-publish?

I didn’t want to be dependent on a publisher deciding whether my book was marketable or not. Also I believed that I could take on the many roles of researcher, publicist, distributor...due to my skills and experiences.


I read as much as possible on self-publishing, and looked objectively at the pros and cons.

After years of research, one of the clearest books that I have come across is Self-Publishing Made Simple – The Ultimate Australian Guide by Euan Mitchell. All relevant contacts mentioned below can be found in the Useful Contacts section of this book – suitable for the self publisher self publishing in Australia.

I also acquired approximate quotes from printing companies, before making the final decision to go ahead to self-publish.

One thing I have learnt is to be super organised and to plan your marketing strategies in advance.

The following is a general process that I followed for my first children’s book, ‘Ten Yellow Bananas,’ released April 2006. Even though some of the following are Australian contacts and my target audience is children and their parents, teachers, etc. the process may give assistance in looking outside the square and developing your own plan.

After making the decision to self-publish:

  • I visited an accountant
  • Registered a business name
  • Acquired an ABN number (Aust Bus No)
  • Set up a bank account
  • Read any material related to writing as a business


Issues to consider (not necessarily in this order):

  • Editing & proofreading: I tried to save as much money as possible so asked fellow teachers to check my punctuation and grammar.
  • I completed a short InDesign and Photoshop course. I was informed that InDesign is preferable than using a Word program. However, I found the knowledge of layout, bleeds, design, colour processes confusing so found an excellent student graphic artist who charged student rates. ‘Self-publishing made Simple’ also outlines the differences between off set printing versus digital printing costs but I relied on my graphic artist’s advice.
  • Cover design: As I illustrated the book we adapted the cover from one of the illustrations then conducted weeks of target marketing for feedback.
  • I visited book shops to gain ideas on prices. I recommend to set the RRP (recommended retail price) early in the process in order to apply for an ISBN and CiP (National Library catalogue number).
  • Whilst waiting for these, I worked on my copyright page, dedication page, and
  • Back dusk cover
  • I also aimed for a mid March book release (in 2006) and had to plan ahead to meet trade magazine deadlines, etc.

Printing Process

  • I acquired four quotes and asked to see different card stock. I decided on a thicker art board than normally used as well as a cello glaze for the cover as it was more durable and attractive.
  • Type of binding - saddle stitched; burst bound or perfect bound
  • Most printers recommended saddle stitched considering the book was aimed for young readers (more durable).

Marketing and Distribution

  • I registered with Nielsen BookData/James Bennett Data Collection at least 2-3 months prior to my book’s release. Free listing.
  • I advertised in Thorpe-Bowker’s AB&P (Aust Bookseller & Publisher Trade magazine)
  • Deadline was early February for the March edition.
  • One week before release, I placed an ad in Thorpe-Bowker’s Weekly Book newsletter
  • I set up a website and organised credit card payment with Redhen
  • then submitted site to major search engines
  • Book Launch: Think outside the square. Unless you have a name it can be difficult to acquire much sought after media attention. I held my book launch at an annual local ‘Harmony Day’ event which normally attracts local media attention. I also conducted a media blitz including the local newspapers, local radio and TV stations. A photographer did turn up and my story appeared a fortnight later in the local newspaper. Also placed notice in community billboard section of newspaper (free)
  • I contacted Angus & Robertson (large Australian Bookstore) for their distributor’s details, then contacted each distributor
  • I immediately began door knocking – local gift shops, book stores, local libraries
  • Worked every Sunday in April at a large community market to gain exposure.
  • Soon found my niche with libraries and pre-school centres
  • Sent off copies to children’s book magazines
  • Sent off copies for competitions, again for exposure. One example: The Writers Digest Awards
  • Joined Copyright Agency Limited, Public Lending Right (PLR) & Educational Lending Right (ELR)
  • Registered with the main library suppliers in Australia eg. James Bennett P/L, Peter Pal...

Marketing strategies in progress

  • Establishing Australia wide email library list for promotion
  • Establishing mail out list of all kindergartens in Brisbane, Australia for promotion
  • Continue door knocking on bookstores, gift shops
  • Contact state schools and similar
  • Continue working on gaining media publicity
  • Continue to look outside the square

With all that said. Would I do it again? Yes, and I did, with the release of my second book, ‘Santa is in the Chimney’ in September 2006 . It was a little easier and quicker. I am now working on my third book, a compilation of humorous children’s poems to be released in 2008.

I am learning all the time and I have learnt that you can’t please everybody. Also just because your book may not fill all the prerequisites for book distributors, does not mean that the public and your target audience (in my case, children, parents, teachers. etc) don’t enjoy it.

Motto: Constantly think outside the square and remain positive. Continue to learn.

© Helen Ross 2007

See how Helen markets on the web. Read an account of Helen's first self publishing in Australia effort.

Back to self publishing.

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