Finding a traditional publisher today as an author is more difficult than ever before. Although book stores are everywhere, the traditional printed book is falling out of favor. It takes innovative ideas, usually an agent representing a work on behalf of an author, and a lot of luck before review boards to have a real book published by a traditional publisher. That’s why self publishing has become a go-to method of creating a book for authors who can’t break into the traditional market.
Self publishing has numerous advantages to be considered, but there are some substantial disadvantages that must be evaluated for everyone. It isn’t for everyone, so here are some of the key points to consider.
What Are the Pros of Self Publishing?
1. Authors stay in complete control of their work.
There aren’t any outside influences that can essentially “blackmail” authors into changing characters, plot points, or the information a book contains in order for it to be published. Self publishing allows authors to keep full artistic control over every aspect of the creation process. This includes the cover artwork as well. It means the book can be published as it was intended to be published.
2. Bookstores will often accept self published books.
The issue here is that the books must be able to be returnable. If print-on-demand books are purchased and then forced to be held indefinitely, it is rare to have an order placed. Many publishers will offer returns so that bookstores will accept books, but this comes at an added cost to the author. It may also mean that royalties which were paid from the bookstore purchases may need to be returned.
3. Electronic formatting happens automatically.
Many self publishing arrangements today contain provisions to create an e-book of the story being published. This allows for online downloads to occur from popular sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, just like a traditionally published author would receive. These downloads go through specific sites that can be published or promoted so that sales can occur and royalties generated.
4. Distribution rights can be negotiated independently.
Maybe a traditional publisher doesn’t want to take on the risk of publishing a book, but they don’t mind taking on the smaller risk of distributing the book. Having a regional or national distribution agreement independently negotiated for a book can help an author achieve similar success without the need to deal with the headaches of meeting the content expectations of the publisher. There is more work to do in self-promotion along this avenue, but there are also more profits to be had as well.
5. You can often choose your payment schedule.
Royalties are generally paid out for self publishing that occurs through print and e-media on a monthly basis. Some arrangements have quarterly royalties. That’s still better than the traditional medium, however, which generally offers 2x per year royalty payments. Royalties in a traditional arrangement can also be as low as 6%, whereas some royalty arrangements from self publishing can be as high as 70%. Authors can also directly sell their own works to earn money whenever they make a sale.
6. Authors can generally control the aspects of the price.
Even if hardcover books are being self-published, authors generally have some control over how much the price of the book is going to be when it hits the market. If they believe that they book may sell better at a lower price, then they can set the lower price and take a smaller royalty in the hopes of making a bigger overall return through more sales.
7. Anyone can do it.
Self publishing can happen right now if you have a manuscript in place. Unlike the 18 months or more that it can take a traditional publisher to bring a book to the market, you can have an e-book of your manuscript in place and ready to sell in as little as 72 hours. You can also implement changes to the pricing structure and other components of the document when needed so that a product that is as close to perfect as possible can be presented to potential readers.
8. It can be used to attract the attention of a traditional publisher or literary agent.
There are thousands of manuscripts read every day that are rejected simply because they are bland, predictable, or formulaic. Of course every author has these criticisms said about their work, but published authors have one advantage: they have an established brand. Their work my be bland and formulaic as well, but people are attracted to the value of their brand. Self publishing allows authors to establish their own brand and that can be attractive to traditional publishers if proven because it eliminates risk on their part.
What Are the Cons of Self Publishing?
1. It can be expensive.
The problem with printing real books is that there is a specific cost associated with the effort. Even paperback books can be upwards of $1,000 to complete the setup process. That doesn’t include any editing costs, graphic design costs, or marketing costs that must be taken in order to get people aware that the book even exists. Everything might be under the author’s control, but there are a lot of expensive tasks that must be controlled.
2. There are few guarantees of profit.
If you’re a first-time author who wants to get published, then self-publishing is more of a resume building tool than anything else. Self publishing can lead to great success for people who have established names in their communities already. For those who don’t have that established name, there aren’t many ways to establish that name besides spending a lot of time marketing the book.
3. Some publishing arrangement require authors to sign over their rights.
Although authors get to remain in control of the artistic elements of their book, certain publishers may require the writer to sign over some specific rights to the book. One of the most common issues is the provision that an author will not take their book to another publisher. This even includes traditional publishers, which means if interest does get generated by their work, there are no avenues to take advantage of that. The self published book must stand on its own.
4. The reading audience is generally limited for a self-published book.
Self publishing may allow authors to get their work published and onto the market, but the actual reading audience that is interested in the book will generally be a niche audience. The best chance for success in this medium is to research what the reading market wants and to craft a story based on those wants. Unfortunately many authors do this in reverse. They write the story and then they see how it fits into the market.
5. There will always be fewer sales.
Self publishing accounts for less than 10% of the overall book market. There will always be fewer sales when it comes to books that have been self published because there is no control process. Authors generally believe their work is pretty awesome, but the general marketplace may completely disagree with that assessment. Far too many readers have spent money on really bad self-published books to jump at the thought of another “good” idea. Authors might have the best story in the world, but the term “self-published” will automatically keep a number of people away.
6. You have to do every bit of the marketing.
If you want to have your book reviewed, then you’re going to have to create a press release to submit to newspapers, magazines, and TV media. That also means paying for a printed copy of the book to send to the reviewer with no guarantee that any press will be generated from the cost. Mailing, faxing, and even the time it takes to conduct an interview if it happens will always be on the author’s dime. Keep this in mind: a great interview doesn’t always translate into a book being sold.
7. It is easy to fall into the trap of vanity publishing.
Vanity publishers will print thousands of copies of a book for a fee and that’s it. There is no help beyond that because they’ve already made their money. The end result is a stack of books that winds up sitting in a basement somewhere, collecting dust and mold because they won’t sell. It is easy to be overconfident as an author, believing that everyone will love a book. This trap often means big costs to the author, a great looking book, and a loss reported on the tax return at the end of the year.
The pros and cons of self publishing bring about a lot of financial risk to the author, but more control over the outcome of a book. The key to take away from this is to do research about what people will want to read. If you can create stories that are attractive based on proven data you’ve obtained, then your chances of success will skyrocket.