Oh, you self-published?
I get this question a lot, usually accompanying that face. The face that says: “You couldn’t get a publisher to take your book.” And annoyingly, I always feel the need to explain myself, as if self-publishing is a lesser option.
Well, I’m here to tell you:
- Self-publishing is NOT a back-up plan!
- Self-publishing is a valid option.
- Self-publishing is a good business decision.
- Self-publishing is a choice to keep your story in your control.
I’ve been so blessed to meet many other writers who chose the self-publishing route, and they have inspired me to write this post.
Just to clarify, this isn’t going to be a scathing attack on traditional publishing. Traditional publishing has always been and remains a good option. There are tons of writers who only want to pursue this avenue and more power to them! No one is coming for traditional publishing, so don’t @ me.
I started exploring the option of self-publishing a couple of years ago. I read blogs and watched several videos from authors who went both routes. I learned a lot of things that surprised me and totally nudged me in the direction of self-publishing.
Some things you may not know about traditional publishing (especially for new, unknown writers):
Creative Control: You give your book-baby to the publishers, and they get to decide what’s changed, when (or even if) it’s published, and the cover design. I know, I can hear you. “No! Some publishers let the writers be very involved in the process!” Yes. SOME do, most don’t. In the end, THEY get the final say in the finished product (unless you’re J.K Rowling. Are you J.K. Rowling??)
Poor Profit Margins: As a self-publisher, you get between 50%-70% of the royalties of your cover price. Traditionally published books get about 8%-15%. And I get it, a lot of people helped get your book all shiny, and they need to get paid. But, I HATE when an ebook costs over $10, so I’m not interested in selling my book for that price. With self-publishing, I can sell my book for way cheaper and still make more money. It’s a win for me and my readers. Example:
- Traditionally published ebook costs $9.99. Author’s cut= $0.99
- Self-published ebook costs $3.99. Author’s cut= $2.40
Publishers Control The Cost/Sales: As mentioned above, I hate expensive books. I really want to be able to get my book out there, into readers hands, for a reasonable price. I control how much my book costs with self-publishing, and that’s super important to me. Slight caveat with hardcovers/paperbacks: Physical books are hecka expensive to print, so those cost as much or more for self-published authors.
Marketing: Publishers aren’t going to do the Marketing for you. Contrary to popular misconception, publishers aren’t going to market your book for you. Unless you are a celebrity, they are going to expect you to do the lion’s share. You are going to be expected to promote on social media, have a website, a blog or youtube channel, everything to build your brand. They will help, but if you’re a new writer, they often don’t help a lot.
Rejections: Getting Rejected doesn’t mean your book sucks, but you’re going to get tons of them. The querying process is painful, and it can destroy a writer’s confidence forever! Publishers are looking for what’s trendy at the time, so your book might be excellent, but if it’s high fantasy and you’re not Brandon Sanderson… sorry! The publisher isn’t interested.
The downsides to self-publishing:
- It’s super affirming to be chosen by an agent/publisher. It can give a confidence boost, and for a lot of writers, it’s a moment they’ve dreamed about for years!
- Statistically, you have a better chance of “making it” as a traditionally published author. But, let’s be fair, at least part of that is because of the over-saturation of the self-published e-book market. Anyone can self-publish, so there is a lot of un-edited, underdeveloped trash.
- No help with marketing. Yes, you still have to do most of it when you traditionally publish, but any help is great!
- Networking. If you traditionally publish, your publisher likely has some pretty big author friends who might just throw you a bone and write you a book blurb.
So, there you have it, my thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing… at least for now.
Check out my featured post on Renee Gendron’s blog. I talk all things Critique Partners, so you don’t want to miss it!