As I mentioned in my intro to this blog, I did land a publishing contract, but it fell through and after years of trying to find another publisher and/or agent without success, I was left wondering where to go from here.
It was after much thought and deliberation that I decided to self-publish; and I’m very glad I did. However, self-publishing is not for everyone. Whether or not to self-publish can be a hard decision for authors to make for several reasons. In a situation where you, the author, will be taking all the risks (versus a publishing company investing their time, money and effort into you and your book) many struggled to overcome the “cons” of self-publishing when considering their options.
For me, I had a hard time overcoming the fear that my book would not be taken seriously by anyone. A lot of people attach a stigma to self-publishing, viewing it as a “last resort” for wanna-be authors who couldn’t sell their book to a “real” publisher. I won’t deny that there is valid reason for this view toward self-publishing. Especially with the growing popularity of print-on-demand sources and vanity presses, almost anyone can publish a book (some of which really do lack in polish and merit). So I really struggled with whether or not my book could gain due attention and credit if associated with the common misconception that self-published = crap.
I also worried about how I would get my book out there to readers. I was confident I could get the word about my book out to a local market, but how on earth could I get it into the hands of the thousands of readers I hoped would want to read my book? Publishing companies work through distributors to get their books onto the shelves of bookstores and retail stores alike, but as an indi-author, it would be nearly impossible to grab the attention of sales outlets like that without a lot of work and A LOT of money.
One of the biggest “cons” that authors who are thinking about self-publishing face is the potential cost of undertaking such an endeavor. In order to get your book(s) out there, it is going to take money. How much money depends on what route you decide to go (traditional or print-on-demand), but either way, there are a lot of aspects to self-publishing that could cost a pretty penny and there is no guarantee you will ever see a return on your investment.
To start, some authors may need to hire a professional editor if they truly want to put their best work out there. One of the reasons self-publishing gets such a bad rap is a lot of authors are hasty in putting their work out and their book is riddled with grammatical errors, typos, choppy story-lines etc. Investing in an editor’s help could make all the difference in the success of your book.
Self-published authors are also responsible to the layout and design of both the cover and interior pages. If you do not have the skills and/or software to do that, you will need to hire a designer to put your book together for you.
Then there is the cost of printing the books. Whether you choose to use a traditional publisher to print in bulk or use an online, print-on-demand source, there will be some cost involved (granted, print-on-demand sources are usually much less, and can even be as little as the cost of printing and shipping a proof of your book, but it could get more expensive if you opt to purchase “packages” or plans that will offer you more benefits down the road).
There is also a great deal of TIME that goes into self-publishing a book. From research to marketing and everything in between – it all falls on the author’s shoulders and can be a bit overwhelming to handle on one’s own. There really is a lot to learn about publishing and it is wise to invest your time in learning the ins and outs of the how to publish a book. You’ll find there is more to it than meets the eye.
A lot of these aspects can weigh heavily on an author’s mind when considering self-publishing, but if you can overcome the fears and doubts and are confident you have what it takes to get your book out there (and have the funds to make it happen), there are a lot of benefits to self-publishing, too!
There is a certain sense of satisfaction seeing your book through from start to finish. You don’t have to worry about someone making any changes to your book or representing it in a way that you disagree with. You have complete control over your book and, to some, that benefit in itself is worth cutting a publisher out of the picture.
Also, when self-publishing, you can move at your own pace. Deadlines are a handy thing to set up for yourself, but if a family emergency comes along or you just need to take a break, you can put your book to the side until you are ready to move forward. On the flip – you don’t have to wait on someone else to get things moving forward. Most publishing companies promise publication anywhere from 6 months to TWO YEARS after you sign with them If you are publishing the book yourself, you can have it out in a matter of a few weeks! (side note – I recommend taking your time, though – make sure you have everything you need and that your book is as polished as it can be. Most often, people who rush to publish their book later wish they had given themselves more time).
Another major benefit to self-publishing is that you don’t have to share the profit! No matter who publishes your book – the only way money is made is by marketing the book – which falls heavily on the author. Even if you are signed up with a label, you have to put a lot of work (and money) into marketing your book. Publishers will list your book in their catalog and group it in with some general marketing, but they won’t necessarily push your title unless they feel it really is the next big seller (which is rarely the case when some publishers put out hundreds of titles a year). Publishers expect authors to take on the primary marketing responsibility themselves. After all – it is YOUR book. Some authors don’t even consider going through a traditional publisher because they are confident in their ability to produce and market their books and don’t like the idea of someone else making most of the money off of their talent and hard work. That is not to say you can get rich quick (or at all) if you self-publish because you have all the up-front fees and continued business expenses to consider, but a bigger return per sale certainly helps reward you for all your efforts.
One last benefit to self-publishing – if your book does well on the market, it may catch the attention of a publisher and you may end up getting that publishing offer after all.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question, “Should I self-publish my book?” You, as the author, simply have to weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself what risks you are willing to take and how much time, effort and money you are willing to put into your book. Just remember that, unfortunately, authors who self-publish ARE taking a risk. There is no guarantee that your book will sell or that people will respond well to it. It will take a lot of work and a lot of dedication (and possibly a lot of money). But, if you are confident in your book and your ability to get it out in the market, self-publishing is a good option to consider. There are so many different directions you can go with self-publishing that just might pay off. If, at this point you are still considering self-publishing as an option, I’d say you’re on the right track and highly recommend you purchase a “how to” book like “The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing” by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier. Also, look into publishing resources like Createspace.com to learn more about print-on-demand publishing options.
Whatever you decide, just make sure you are completely comfortable with your choice. Trust your gut. If you have any doubts, just wait. Continue to explore your publishing options and seek out other advice from industry experts and authors who have experience in both aspects of publishing.