I get a lot of people asking me questions pertaining to self-publishing. I see a lot of blog posts about it too. I also read a lot of comments from people who haven’t landed an agent and figure self-publishing is their last resort. I thought I’d add my own opinion into the pot.
Self-publishing is a business decision. A viable career path. It should not be treated as a last resort, but a well thought out, planned business decision. Although there are still some stigmas attached to self-publishing, no longer is it completely shunned. Self-publishers are winning awards, selling thousands of books, hitting lists, being offered contracts by major publishers to reissue their work or future works. And most importantly–readers are loving their work.
But there is a downside to the popularity (dare I say latest trend?) of self-publishing–and I’m going to be completely honest with you. Self-publishing WILL NOT make you a millionaire overnight. It WILL NOT make you an instant best-seller. It may not even make you a hundred dollar-aire. When you make the choice to self-publish a story, DO NOT do it for those reasons.
I began my journey into self-publishing in December 2010. I’d received rights back from my publisher on three novellettes that I chose to put out as a combined anthology. December 30th, I published it. That first month (consisiting of 2 days) I made a big fat zero. It didn’t really phase me because the small press I’d pubbed with had sent me checks for $8 and $16 per QUARTER (my opinion on small presses vary…). I figured that was the way it was for a first time author. I had nothing to lose. The next month I made $151. Wow! Sweet! I can take my family out for a nice dinner! The month after I made $194. I was in shock. I’d not made that much in an entire quarter with SEVEN novellas with my publisher. I took back all my rights from that particular publisher, severed ties, and put them up myself. On those re-issued books I still make a couple hundred every month. For me, it was a good decision. I had more power over those books and a few more bucks in my pocket. I made a TON more than I was making at a small press that seemed more like a book-mill than a viable publisher interested in advancing my career (again another post…).
DO NOT get me wrong, I DO NOT down publishers! I have an incredible relationship with two of my publishers and hopefully a third soon.
My business decision was to keep my hands in all the pots. I am traditionally published and self-published. I have since put out novels into the world myself, as well as sending them to my publishers. My trad books increase the sales on my self-pubs and my self-pubs increase the sales on my trads–example: I had a book published in Feb 2012 with one of my publishers. I was ranking in around 60,000 – 100,000 on Amazon. After a couple of my new self-pubs came out, that just so happen to sell exceptionally well, I am now ranking between 5000 and 9000 on that trad book. An increase in sales nearly ten-fold.
So what is my advice? Don’t knock both worlds. They can both be viable, successful options. You just have decide what is the best choice for you and your particular book. You have to ask yourself, where do you see yourself going? How do you want your career to progress? How much control do you want over your books and how much work are you willing to put into it? Do you want to just write, or are you capable of handling a heck of a lot more?
What are the main ups and downs I see? For me, some of the ups are also the downs. So here goes…
- More power, more power, more power. But this isn’t an option for everyone. You have to really have the desire and put forth the effort to be successful. Deciding to self-publish a book makes YOU the author, both an author and a publisher. You have to hire (or trade) editors, copy editors, beta readers, cover artists, formatters. Learn the ins and outs of uploading. Contact reviewers, set up blog tours, pay for advertising (if you’re so inclined). You write your back cover copy and pick your own titles.
- Quicker pay-out. With self-publishing, you are paid every month, two months after the close of the month. So for book sales in January, you will receive your check/deposit aft the end of March.
- Higher royalties. For the most part royalties are higher, but in some cases, they aren’t. You can make 70% royalties at Amazon, but only if your book is priced between $2.99 and $7.99, if not, then its 35%. Also depending on the country its sold in, you make between 35-70%. If you choose to sell your book for $0.99 then you will only make about $0.35 a copy. You’d have to sell an awful lot.
- Which brings me to price point. You can choose your own prices. You can put your books on sale. In some cases you can make your book free for a period of time. Having the ability to play with price point helps you to figure out which price sells the most for you.
- Exposure is tougher when your self-pubbed starting out. If you have many books out, and a following, it becomes easier. Starting out, no one knows to look for your book. There are millions of books on Amazon–how will they find yours? You will have to work hard to get your book noticed, but once it is, you may find your book sells itself to thousands of readers.
- A downer… There is still a stigma, however much it is shrinking. When you tell people you’re self-pubbed, if they haven’t been educated, or read any good sp books, they will give you funny looks. Or they might pat your hand and say, “That’s nice, dear,” believing this is only a hobby for you. Be prepared to have a thick skin in this department. On the upside, you can educate them! You can hand them your book and show them that sp-ing a book doesn’t mean its a crappy book.
- Another downer… Many in the industry, including other authors, will think you took the easy way out. That you don’t have what it takes to make it in this business, that you are a “reject”. Brush it off. There have been and always will be, people in your life who think they are better than you and know better than you. You must have confidence in yourself and your work, and not let people like that make you doubt yourself.
- You get to choose your release dates! When you’ve finished your book, instead of waiting a year or more, you can upload your book that day (if you’ve made it as perfect as can be!) That is the one thing I’ve really loved doing. Choosing the release dates based on my schedule/time/holidays and knowing two months later I’ll get paid, has been extremely liberating.
- Gives less marketable books a chance. Publishers are ruled by markets. If there is a book–no matter how good–that doesn’t fit with the market, it will be rejected. Not all writers, write to market. Some of us write what we love. For example, my latest novel, A KNIGHT’S VICTORY, won a couple awards. BUT it was rejected by many publishers/agents. The reason–the romance was already established when the story begins. Its a reuniting, tragic tale, one in which I enjoyed seeing how my couple who’d been torn apart would be able to get back together, even though the conflicts seemed insurmountable. Because it couldn’t be marketed as a romance, due to them already being in love, I chose to put it out myself. So far, its selling decently, and I’ve heard from several readers that they are loving it. As an author, your job is to bring stories to readers. For me, the reader is the most important critic, and so I truly am grateful I can bring them books that may not be acceptable to a publisher per se.
- Freedom to choose your own schedule. This goes along with the choosing your own release dates. I like that I am accountable to myself and my life. Deadlines can be insane and sometimes cause you to miss important events. Even with self-publishing, you can still run into deadline issues, but for the most part, you’re the one who chose the schedule. I had a friend who missed Christmas this past year due to a deadline. I never want to be in that position.
- Other books by this author… You’ve seen this in books right? Publishers, for the most part, will only list the books you’ve published with them. This doesn’t sell any of your other books, and why would they want to? They are making money for themselves. With your own books, you can put ALL of them on your list!
- Contests/Reviewers, may not accept your book. This is not too much of a big deal to me because I don’t enter very many contests and I know which reviewers will accept my work.
- Organizations are now recognized self-published authors as published. RWA now lets a self-pubbed author who has earned $5000 join PAN–their published author network. Novelists Inc., will allow you to join if you’ve made $5000 on two novels. I’ve heard some people balk at the high numbers, but honestly, I don’t think they are high. To me it shows you are serious and have made an effort to create a good book that is selling well. Let’s face it, if you chose to self-publish as your career model, you have to have an income. Authors need to to stop accepting that making a few hundred dollars a month is adequate. Its long been ingrained in any artists’ mind that they should not expect much until they die. Starving artists and all. And yet there are those who do not accept that, and make a good living doing what they love–creating. I for one, will never accept that I should slave over a novel, literally wringing blood, sweat and tears into it, and then make pennies on it. I can’t live off of that, and if you can, well, then give me your tips!
Got questions? More ups and downs? Feel free to ask/comment, I’ll do my best to answer 🙂
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History Undressed: www.historyundressed.com