In 2012 I was a snob. I believed that self-publishing was for amateurs, and any writer worth her salt would get a deal with a traditional publisher.
Six months into 2013, my perspective flipped. Not only was I an advocate for self-publishing, but I created a business to work with self-publishing entrepreneurs.
So why do I think you should self-publish your book?
I discovered that, once a book is accepted by a traditional publisher, it can take up to 3 years for your manuscript to make it to print, depending on their existing backlog, marketing schedule, and organisational issues.
By contrast, once you’ve finalised your content, you can have your self-published book printed in a matter of weeks or months. Generally, the only thing that holds up the self-publishing process is the author.
I realised self-published authors can access the same resources of publishing houses (literally)
The reason self-published books have a bad reputation is because they look self-published.
They aren’t professionally designed, they haven’t been edited and they’re printed on cheap stock.
However, due to the wonders of the internet, self-publishing authors can easily access the same resources as publishing houses. We can hire professional editors, cover designers, and typesetters. We can take a book we like to a printer and get them to recommend the stock we use based on the book we like. We have all of the resources we need to make a self-published book look, read and feel like it was professionally published.
And why do I say literally? Because the traditional publishing industry is in a downturn.
Publishing houses are going out of business or merging at a faster rate than ever before, and this means they’re downsizing their in-house staff and relying on more and more freelancers. So who knows, the freelance editor or cover designer you hire could have edited books or designed covers for Penguin, Allen & Unwin or Random House.
Self-published authors keep more of the profits
Authors who take the traditional route typically receive a royalty between 7% and 12% per book (so if your book retails at $24.95, you can expect a royalty between $1.75 and $2.95). That means you need to sell a lot of books to earn a living.
When you self-publish, you keep a much higher percentage. The authors I work with typically take one of two routes – they produce a physical book, hiring an editor, designer and typesetter. Then they get a certain number of books printed and sell these at events or through their website. Once they have made back the cost of creating the books, they get to keep all profits.
The second route is using a print-on-demand service. These services allow online book sellers to stock your books and, when someone buys one, they print a copy and send it out. In this case the print-on-demand service takes the cost of printing from the book price, which leaves the author with about 50% of the sale price (depending on the size of the book). For a $24.95 book that’s $12.48 profit a book.
You still have to do your own PR
One of the frequently touted benefits of traditional publishing is that the publishing house will manage your entire PR campaign. Unfortunately, while they’ll do some marketing for you, publishing houses have many books on their plate, and the ones they’ll be pushing are the ones by established authors which are more likely to become best sellers (and make the publishing house more money). Just think, if a book by an unknown, first-time author came out in the same month as the unpredicted eighth Harry Potter book, which would you want to promote?
This means that, even if you publish with a publishing house, you still need to research all the regular media that might be interested in your book, build relationships with journalists and industry leaders, stay up-to-date with current events in case there’s something you can comment on, organise public appearances with bookstores and relevant associations, pimp out your social media profiles, and more.
So why self-publish? In my view, if you’re doing all of that work anyway, you might as well get a bigger slice of the pie.