Are You Ready for the Self-Publishing Revolution?
What is self-publishing, and why should you be looking at this as a viable option?
Self-publishing is not the same as the so-called ‘vanity’ publishing, and it has come a long way since the early days of Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, James Joyce, and William Blake. Or more recently, Jennifer Wilson, Amanda Hocking, and Andy Weir. It is now understood to be a perfectly respectable way to get your book into the marketplace.
In fact, because getting published by mainstream publishers can be so tricky, many authors are choosing to self-publish in the first instance, just to get their foot in the door. A high-quality self-published book shows that the author is ambitious, serious about their craft, tenacious and organized.
Some of the many benefits of self-publishing include having greater creative control and increased royalties. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Stop asking permission – you don’t need it. Stop waiting to be chosen – choose yourself. Traditional publishers only take on work that they believe is worth investing their own money in, where they feel confident that they will make a return when the book hits the shelves. This is precisely one of the reasons why it’s so difficult for brand new authors to get published. The publishing house does not want to gamble and must be sure that the book will sell. Taking responsibility for your own publication means you can build your confidence as a writer and side-step rejection letters and all the discouragements of waiting to hit the publisher ‘lottery’.
Total creative control over content and design.
You are your own publisher – so you make all the decisions about scheduling, marketing, packaging, and PR. You have more responsibility, but you also get to keep more of the profit. Traditional publishing houses work with their writers to edit, design, and distribute their books, but also only offer tiny royalties in comparison. This brings us to…
If you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 on Amazon, for example, you can get a 70% royalty. The royalties for traditional printed books usually fall into the 7-25% bracket, mostly averaging 10%. You would need to sell far fewer e-book copies in order to make the same amount of money with self-publishing. Also, when self-publishing, you not only get to keep 35-70% of the royalties, you can also choose how often you publish.
Faster time to market.
Most traditionally published authors will only have one book published a year, if that. As a self-publishing author, you could follow the example of Amanda Hocking, who started off suffering a long series of commercial publishing rejections. By 2010, she had written a total of 17 young adult paranormal novels. Every one of them was rejected by the commercial publishing houses. Then she decided to self-publish her novel, ‘My Blood Approves’. She started to see success fairly soon, so she quickly published three more books in the series.
Or take Andy Weir. Rather than attempting to offer his book to traditional publishers, he instead decided to post chapters of the novel on a blog page. Much to his surprise, the chapters gained a fan-base and people started asking him to publish it as an ebook. ‘The Martian’ almost immediately became a #1 Amazon bestseller, and shortly afterward Weir signed dual multi-million-dollar book and movie deals with Crown Publishing and Twentieth Century Fox. What was originally a self-published ebook went on to sell over three million copies, and its Oscar-nominated movie adaptation grossed $630 million worldwide.
Sell in any format in the global market, as you retain the rights.
Many traditionally published books are not available outside of their country of origin or country of publication, despite their authors having sold ‘World English’ rights for all their formats. Formats include audiobooks – and many authors have also sold their audiobook rights, but the books never get converted into audio versions.
Publishers take audio rights as part of a contract and then they don’t end up recording it, leaving a gap in the market and effectively blocking the author from benefiting from the audiobook potential income. You don’t want that to happen. Either keep your audio rights or specify the length of time the publisher will have to exploit them before the rights automatically revert to you.
Use self-publishing to get into the ‘game’.
Once you have established yourself as a viable and lucrative author of self-published ebooks, publishers and agents are likely to approach you. This is highly preferable to sending off your manuscript, waiting for a long time for anyone to come back to you, only to have your work rejected time and again. Rather than facing rejection from the big commercial publishing houses, initiating your own success reverses the power balance and empowers you as the writer. This also means being able to negotiate much better deals than a first-time author with no evidence of sales.
Niche ebooks can reach a bigger than an expected niche audience.
What the Kindle did when it launched in 2007, was to give readers the ability to enjoy digital books in the same way they currently enjoy their print books. It appealed to aging readers who liked the ability to enlarge print, and to travelers and commuters who wanted a portable library. Amazon wanted to offer readers more options, so they launched KDP Publishing, allowing any writer anywhere in the world the ability to create and publish an e-book with no upfront costs.
By 2011, e-books were firmly established as part of the reading landscape. This new landscape gave the authors scope to expand their niche interest groups. So, if your passion is firmly in a niche category, you will find your niche audience (and fan-base) online long before you have to face nil sales in a big commercial bookstore.
Flipside: There’s no prestige, kudos or validation by the industry.
Most literary prizes don’t accept self-published books, and most literary critics for mainstream media won’t review them. Don’t let this put you off. Not being eligible for the Nobel Prize for Literature is hardly a reason to not allow your work to ever see the light of day. It’s worth remembering that even the longest journey starts with just a single step.
You will need to budget upfront if you want a professional result for your ebook. Editing, proofreading, cover design and correct formatting for your chosen platform/s are all going to be non-negotiable. You would most likely have to have spent something on professional editing before submitting to a commercial agent anyway or at least be spending on books and courses for writers. Everyone spends money on their hobby, so whether you’re dancing or writing or mountain biking, most people are happy to spend their money on something they love. Don’t skimp on your book.
It’s difficult to get print distribution in bookstores.
Once you have self-published, if you have chosen to get physical books printed, it may turn out to be nearly impossible to get any of the big mainstream bookstores to stock your book. Instead, you could use Print on Demand through Createspace for example, so that your print books become available on almost all online bookstores instead.
Know your audience.
Self-publishing your books, poems, graphic novels, etc., can be a viable career option. E-Publishing is giving back creative control to authors, but to be successful, you must know who your readers are and give them more of what they want.