Self-Publishing – is it a Good Idea For Me?
The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
What is self-publishing?
If you don’t want to wait for literary agents or traditional publishers to say ‘yes’ to publishing your book, then self-publishing is another great option.
There is a lot to learn if you decide on the self-publishing route, and although you can do it all yourself for free, you should try to set aside a publishing budget for elements of the process. I’m talking editing and cover design for starters.
Both self-publishing and traditional publishing have their advantages. But before you commit to either, you really need to know what you’re getting yourself into.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, so it’s important you do your research.
Keep reading if you want to find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing. Knowledge is power, and this info may just help you to decide on which is your best option.
What are the advantages of self-publishing?
There are so many advantages of self-publishing – that’s why there are a plethora of different choices and publishing platforms available for aspiring authors – here are a few of the top names:
- Amazon – Self Publishing | Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
- Lulu – Online Self-Publishing Book & Ebook Company | Lulu
- IngramSpark – IngramSpark: Self-Publishing Book Company | Print & Distribute
- Draft2Digital – Draft2Digital
These platforms allow you to upload your paperback and ebook versions, and in return for undertaking the publishing, printing and distributing responsibilities, they take a percentage of your book royalties.
So let’s take a look at some of the advantages of publishing your own book, shall we?
This is one of the biggest reasons why people choose self-publishing over the mainstream route. Having the final say over your book’s content, jacket cover, blurb, marketing efforts, and price has to be one of the biggest advantages of self-publishing.
With Amazon KDP, for example, you will receive 60% royalties on your paperback and up to 70% royalties on your ebook. When you compare that to the traditional route, where you’re likely to receive less than 20% (in some cases much less), this has to be another great benefit of self-publishing.
Full Ownership of Your Intellectual Property
Retaining full ownership of your book is another advantage of self-publishing. When you sign a contract with a traditional publisher, the book in all its forms (ebook, hardback, paperback, audio etc) belongs to them.
When you self-publish your book, it only takes a few days or weeks to turn your first draft into a published book that is for sale all over the world. It isn’t quite the same as traditional publishing, where the publication process can take months if not years to complete.
What would you rather see on your kitchen table? Your book? Or a pile of rejection letters you’ve waited months/years to collect?
Now, to play Devil’s Advocate here, let me explain why self-publishing isn’t a good idea for everyone.
What are the disadvantages of self-publishing?
It’s not as simple as just putting your book up on Amazon (or any other platform)
Much work needs to go into self-publishing, and there is a logical process to follow. So if you’re not prepared to invest your time or money into learning what comes when (and how to do it), you may prefer the traditional publishing route.
Self-publishing is a long-term project
You can’t just publish your book and wait for the royalties to roll in. You will need to become an authorpreneur and treat your book journey as a small business if you want to enjoy some level of success and book sales. I always tell my authors that once my work is over (I take care of everything from proofreading through to publishing and a launch marketing kickstart), it’s their turn to take the reins and market, market, market.
You’re in charge of everything
In essence, you become the Editorial Director of your own publishing venture. You’re in charge of everything from sourcing freelancers to help with particular parts of the process (editors, proofreaders, graphic designers, typesetters) to taking responsibility for the finished book and ensuring you keep marketing the Billy-O out of it once you release your baby into the world.
If you’re doing everything yourself, you will need to set aside some time each day to work on the publication process. The downside of doing this is that you may reach a stalemate. You can easily become bogged down by the process, the conflicting advice online, and it’s easier to give up when you’ve got no one to be accountable to. All these symptoms are exacerbated when you have little time to invest in the process.
There’s a lot to learn
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of conflicting information online about self-publishing and it’s tricky to find the best advice. My advice would be to read through everything you can directly from the horse’s mouth. So if you’re using KDP, familiarise yourself with their excellent resources – the KDP University has webinars, videos, articles and guides KDP University (amazon.com) that will help you every step of the way.
It can cost you thousands
As with every industry, there are some sub-standard self-publishing ‘companies’ out there who charge thousands for publishing mediocre-looking books that are riddled with errors. Don’t ever feel pressured into saying ‘yes’ to a sales rep who, after receiving your tentative enquiry, won’t stop badgering you. It’s not a decision to make lightly.
Is self-publishing a good idea for you?
Considering the self-publishing process will eat into your free time, energy levels and possibly your bank balance, go into it with your eyes wide open. Consider the following:
- your ultimate goal – do you want to give up your day job and become a full-time writer/author? If so then I’d say, yes, self-publishing is a good idea for you. You’ll be dedicated, committed, and happy to learn the skills you’ll need to make a long-term career out of it.
- your deadline – if writing has been your lifelong dream and you’ve spent years writing your book, then I’d say self-publishing is a good idea for you. Waiting around for a traditional publisher to give you a lucrative offer may see you doing nothing but wait for years. Self-publishing means you can publish your first book and start working on your second and third in that time.
- your personality – are you a go-getter with enough energy and enthusiasm to see you through the entire publication process? Or will your enthusiasm wane when you hit the first obstacle? If that sounds like you then I’d suggest you should hire someone like me to help you through the process.
- your outlook – many people still (wrongly) think there’s a stigma attached to self-publishing. If that thought lurks in the back of your mind, then you might be better off trying the traditional route to begin with.
As you can see, I think self-publishing will work for you if you are realistic. You need to be committed to seeing the project through from start to finish. You need to view obstacles as growth opportunities. You need to realise that your royalties won’t just magically appear – you will have to put the work in after you’ve published your book too. You need to believe in yourself and your book.
Self-publishing is most definitely a learning curve, but it’s a totally worthwhile learning curve if you’re in the author business for the long haul. As I always tell my authors, self-publishing and selling books is a marathon, not a sprint. Think The Tortoise and the Hare.
You need to approach self-publishing with the mindset of starting your own small business. Run your author journey like a business – goals, deadlines, targets, marketing, and attracting readers are all as important as writing the book.
My top 10 tips for starting your self-publishing journey
- Commit to your decision (and don’t give up at the first obstacle).
- Decide which print-on-demand platform you want to use (which looks the easiest for your skillset?).
- Research the self-publishing process (remember, you can download FREE EBOOK! 7 Steps to Publishing on Amazon for First-Time Authors (podia.com).
- If you’d like to learn the process, find someone who will work 1-2-1 with you and teach you the ropes as you go. Message me if you’d like to find out more about working this way.
- Determine your budget and spend it wisely – definitely on proofreading/editing and a book cover designer, for starters.
- Find your publishing freelancer – editors/proofreaders for authors, typesetters, ebook formatters, and self-publishing consultants (and go with recommendations/reviews over a random Facebook search. Oh, and always check testimonials).
- Set a deadline and stick to it.
- Make a plan with daily/weekly tasks and goals.
- Monitor your progress each week – take baby steps if you have to; it’s still progress.
- Follow self-published community groups on social media so you can ask questions or read through KDP’s community pages to educate yourself during the process.
When it comes to self-publishing, there’s much to consider. So do it wisely. Start with a list of pros and cons if it helps. Oh, and you could help yourself to my other FREE EBOOK! Rookie Self-Publishing Mistakes – The Top 6 Slip-Ups ALL New Authors Must Avoid! (podia.com).
Want to share your thoughts on whether self-publishing is a good idea for you? Pop a message in the comments box below.
Further self-publishing articles by Michelle: