Recently, I’ve come to realize some authors are simply confused about the self-publishing business. Many are holding onto some of the popular misconceptions, while others have the whole business of self-publishing completely wrong, thinking of self-publishing as a last resort, or for books that can’t sale. I think there are plenty of authors out there who are missing out on this option of book publishing because of the longstanding misconceptions about it.
- You have to pay to self-publish
- You self-publish when you can’t sell the manuscript to “real” publishers
- Self-published books are poor quality
- Self-publishing costs too much money
- Self-published books don’t sell
- Self-publishing means no physical books
- Self-publishing is a hobby and is not a business
- Self-publishing is FREE. If you pay to get your book published that is called Vanity Publishing or Subsidy Publishing. From my experience, this form of publishing is just another way for people to take advantage of novice writers. Yes, I fell into that trap at the beginning of my career. However, I learned from that. You should not have to pay to be published.
- Self-publishing is not a last resort for many. You self-publish when you decide you want to make more money on your sales, make your own creative decisions, and become your own boss (because as soon as you sell your first book you are legally considered self-employed).
- Self-published books are comparable to traditionally published books when it comes to quality. Not ALL self-published books are poor quality and full of errors, though a lot are. Only because it’s become so easy to self-publish that more people are exploring this option and they’re doing it more often (faster). So pretty much anyone could do it, which means some writers who don’t develop their skill or don’t see a need to purchase great cover art or editing services click “publish” much sooner than they should have. However, we shouldn’t assume all self-published books are crap, just like we shouldn’t assume all traditionally published books are perfect.
- You could self-publish at no cost. However, self-publishing does require financial investment if you want to sell your book, but the return could be much greater if you know what you’re doing. You are responsible for cover art, formatting, editing, marketing, and marketing materials (i.e., website hosting, bookmarks, business cards, etc.), however, in most cases you earn a higher percentage of royalties (i.e., up to 80% on Kobo, 70% on Amazon DTP, 60% on Smashwords, 60% on ARe and Omnilit, and 40% on Barnes and Noble’s PubIts!). Which means more money back in your pocket. Also, keep in mind, being traditionally published requires an investment too as you are now required to market your book.
- Self-published books sale very well. Sometimes you have no idea if the book you just purchased was traditionally published or self-published. Sometimes just browsing Amazon a book jumps out at you and holds your interest. In fact, a lot of the books sold on Amazon and on other online bookstores are self-published books. This is the case because of the increasing amount of authors who are turning to this option.
- You can acquire physical copies of your self-published book. With print on demand (POD) services available to indie authors, it is now easier and faster than ever to get your book into print and to print out as many or as few physical copies of your book as you want whenever you want. Amazon’s Createspace is a popular and free POD platform as is Lulu. They just deduct a percentage from each sale.
- Self-publishing is most definitely a business … if you choose. Sure, some people self-publish their family’s cooking recipes into a cookbook just for family members and close friends, some self-publish their book of poetry just to have a personal memento to pass down generation after generation. Yes, for some, self-publishing is a hobby and nothing more. But for many others, it is definitely a business. And for a handful of authors, it’s their livelihood, their means to make a living, for such indie authors as; J.A. Konrath (thriller writer), Amanda Hocking (YA, paranormal author), and Hugh Howey (science fiction author).
What Self-Publishing is NOT:
Just like traditional or e-publishing, self-publishing is not:
- A get-rich-quick scheme. You cannot publish a book and become a bestseller within a short amount of time without working hard on promotion, platform, and investing money on marketing and materials.
- A fast path to superstardom. You will not become famous and be interviewed by Oprah within a short amount of time without working on your craft, learning the business, and putting in hard work.
- A means to quit your day job. Because of the reasons above. Don’t quit your day job until you are making a steady amount of money to cover your living expenses and you are consistent for more than a few months. In fact, I personally, would not rely solely on writing as a single source of income because it is so inconsistent. One month you can make 5000 sales the next only 1000. The success of a book varies and sales are unpredictable.
What Self-Publishing Requires:
You will not become rich and famous overnight. Self-publishing, like any business, requires:
- Hard work (blood, sweat and tears)
- Skill (knowledge, education, know-how)
- Investment (time and money)
- Concentration (focus, planning, strategy)
- Willpower (determination, mental strength and perseverance)
- You make ALL the creative decisions. From cover art design, to the font of the interior text, to the release date. It’s all you.
- You control the sales price. You can set a price and change it at will. You can even set the price to free (with some distributers).
- You earn more money. You make a higher percentage back on royalties.
- You keep ALL rights. The rights to your book including digital, film, audio, etc., are yours forever.
- You take all the credit. If you do become a bestseller and sell your film rights to a major movie company, you can bask in the joy of doing it all yourself.
- You are responsible for everything. You have to correctly format your book, upload your book, proof it, set prices, manage prices, market it, promote it, and the list goes on. Remember, it’s all you.
- You must invest. You pay for cover art and editing (and sometimes formatting if you choose). With traditional publishing and e-publishing, the publisher pays for cover art and provides editing free of charge. “Free” unless you take into account that they’re getting 50-90% off of your sales. *You are “technically” paying for these services including; marketing, distribution, formatting, etc.
- You market solely. Sure, you must market your book if you are traditionally published or self-published, but self-publishing means you are doing it all on your own. That means, you must balance out marketing your book, working the day job, raising the family, writing your next book, managing an online social profile, branding, etc., with little or no help unless you pay for marketing services out of pocket.
- You take all the blame. If something goes wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself.
I can go on and on about self-publishing, and I will touch on it again in forthcoming posts. What about self-publishing interests you or horrifies you? What questions do you have about self-publishing? I’ll do my best to answer in a future post.