{Guest Post} The Write Way to Go Green When Self-Publishing

Words are my life and my livelihood.  As an Author, who just released her first full-length fiction novel (yea!), I’m ready for the world to read my words.  But with an environmental conscience I was very concerned about the potential for waste in the publishing industry by creating my book.  Many standard Publishing Houses purchase pallets full of print copies that get shipped off to the Author.  That would mean crates of dead trees sitting in my garage collecting dust and forming a little bubble of guilt around my Green heart.

Recycled Silver Necklace by Peaces of Indigo

I’ve been writing fiction since age fourteen when I started handwriting in my first spiral bound notebook.  Since that day I’ve wanted to write a full-length book and I even started a couple along the way (including one when I was sixteen that I read now and giggle at!).  I’ve been writing poetry since I was sixteen, journaling for well over twenty years, and blogging for about five.  All of this writing pushed me towards wanting to publish more and more every day.  But I’m old school and I like the feel of a real live book in my hands, in fact I don’t even own an eReader as most of my books are taken out from my local library.

There’s an old adage that goes “everyone has at least one book in ‘em” and I tend to agree that it’s true.  As a community of entrepreneurs we all have special gifts, skills, tips and creativity to share with the world.  I happen to write fiction and I do it for a living but other people might be photographers, how-to gurus, crafting geniuses, poets, bloggers or stay at home moms and dads longing to write a memoir.  All of those ideas and more make for a great book that can sell in the public sphere.

But all of us care about protecting the planet and I think it’s safe to say that having a thousand books sitting around, no matter what the topic or who wrote it, is hardly eco-friendly!  This was a serious point of contention when I started shopping my manuscript.  So I decided to take a break from approaching Agents and do a little research.

Accordion fold Zine by Natures Art Melbourne

Did you know that traditionally printed books account for the destruction of over 30 million trees each year?  According to ePublishers weekly “We can estimate that one tree yields enough paper for 62.5 books.”  Remember, Authors can receive a huge number of books upon publication – up to 1,000.  That means each Author would have an estimated sixteen dead trees in their garage!

I started thinking about my own book and how I didn’t want to become a part of that destruction unless it was absolutely vital.  That I really wanted to try to be responsible to the planet but still make my living as an Author who sells and can support a book tour (difficult with an eBook).  That’s when I started researching print on demand (POD) companies and self-publishing.

My book is currently sitting in electronic pdf format on the POD site Lulu, not as sixteen trees in my garage.  Every time someone buys my book just one book is created.  A much better solution than my needing to buy 1,000 advance copies!


Recycled Circuit Board Bookmarks by Debby Arem Designs

There are a lot of self-publishing options out there for books of all types.  Photographers and visually creative types, like those putting together a wonderful how-to guide for crafters, might find that Blurb works for them.  Those who want to publish a book of favorite recipes might find that the eBook publisher Smashwords would be a nice fit.  As an Author of traditional genre fiction though, I needed a book publisher.  And I wanted them to be eco-conscious.

I chose Lulu for the following, impressive, sustainability reasons:

  • There is zero material waste in their manufacturing process.
  • The print size doesn’t have to be reset for each new book as their sizes are standardized.
  • There is no unsold inventory – each Author can purchase just what they need for their personal sales and all other transactions are completed individually.
  • Shipping by Lulu direct without the Author as a “middle-man” ensures lowered emissions and fuel costs. (In my research I discovered that, many times, the Author will need to do the shipping to larger stores meaning double shipping & wasted resources)
  • Orders are shipped locally – here in the western U.S. my orders are fulfilled in Oregon but if you purchase in the northeast I guarantee your order will be shipped from a much closer facility.
  • Last week Lulu was holding an Earth Day Contest for print books where they’d plant one tree for every book entered and they were planning to plant up to 6,000 trees!

Upcycled Zine Pouch by zJayne

For me, traditional paperback was the right way to go but I had to ensure that my impact would be minimized and Lulu was able to make this happen. 

Do you have at least one book inside you?  Have you considered publishing, either traditionally on paper or an eBook?  What are some of the ways you could imagine saving a tree or emissions in the printing and shipping process?

To shop for the items seen in this post please visit:



For more information on my novel, Ripple the Twine
My Goodreads Author page

For more information on eBooks and self-publish on demand services visit:

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  1. Thank you so much for writing this. My mom is right now on her own crusade to write a book about her view as a mother watching a child suffer (that would be me). We have both been told to write a book about all we have been through. I have spoken to high school classes and have even written my own blurb for my doctor’s office in the hopes of helping others. My mom is writing it more for herself than for publishing, but I think it could be something that could help other mothers and children suffering with something in their lives. I know my writing has inspired others and given them hope and the understanding they aren’t alone, but this has the ability to change lives for those suffering and feeling lost.

    I’m looking into Lulu for hopefully her book if it’s published! Thank you again!

    • Erin that sounds like a very personal story your mom has to tell, and how wonderful she’s looking to do so through a book. I firmly believe that writing is the best therapy on the planet. You can say and do whatever you like… Mad at someone? Kill a character! Too shy to talk to the cutie you just met? Have your main character say & do the perfect thing! So much inner insanity can be worked out on the page…even if it IS just for yourself. You say your writing has inspired people, have you written a book? Would love to know what kinds of work you do with words! Thanks for sharing and let us know if/when your Mom gets her book out!

      • thank you Jenn for the inspiring words! I can email you what I wrote for my doctor’s office if you like? you can email me at antiquetochic@gmail.com and I’ll send it to you. My mom has always told me to write a book; she loves my writing and I’ve been helping her with her book. I’ll absolutely let you know if/when her book is out. I have a feeling it’s going to be a while though. She’s only at about 3 pages right now! In time…

        • I’d love to check out your work Erin, thanks so much! I’ll email you now :-) Hey, every book starts with the first word right? She’s 3 pages further along than that :-)

  2. kanelstrand says:

    Oh, I have more than one book in me! And I have been taking step after step (though baby steps indeed) towards the first one. My way for saving the planet is to make it an e-book. Thank you for all the information and good luck with your book!

    • Yea! I love hearing about other Writers! You’ve got me curious now what type of book its going to be. Baby steps are still steps in the right direction, the book I just released had the early character development done in 1999 :-) Keep at it and keep us informed when your eBook is out. Thanks for reading & commenting!

  3. Very interesting article with lots of points I’d never realized! I’m saving up to get your book and now it will be even more special knowing that it was printed just for me :-). Thanks for sharing this great article.

    • Thanks so very much! I was so excited that POD is a Greener option but I want to go even Greener next time & contact publishers that utilize alternate paper types (100% post-consumer recycled) and inks (soy based). I totally appreciate you checking out my book! 😀

  4. Great post Jenn!
    I have a confession to make. A little while back I posted to the group that I had a project I was going to be working on. Well I’ll let the cat out of the bag here, it’s a book!
    I too have have been looking at self publishing and lulu looked good.
    I will post more about it to the group soon.
    Thanks for this post :-)

    • Beth this is such great news! There are so many options out there for Authors these days its tough to choose. Funny thing is that most of my indie Author friends questioned me for using Lulu because the royalties are lower than bringing my stuff to the local copy center and having a couple hundred copies made. But for us Greenie types it isn’t just about selling books…I wanted to be able to stand behind the method as well. Can’t wait to hear about your book project. What kind of book is it (fiction, memoir, how-to, etc.)? You’ve got to let us all know the details! I love supporting other indie Authors so I’ll look forward to your post :-) Thanks so much!