Is self-publishing right for you?

woman on laptopI have previously written about the rise of self-publishing. The phenomenon has made quite an impact on the world of publishing this past decade. It has transformed some areas of fiction to a significant degree. But in your area of the world, is it right for you? There are some key topics to consider as you make some important decisions.

The Pros and Cons

Traditional Publishing

Pros

  • The publisher has done all this before. They are not inventing the wheel.
  • They have established sales and marketing channels.
  • Many times, their company name brings an imprimatur of recognized content and prestige.
  • Lower or no costs to you.

Cons

  • The publisher will want the final say in some/many items like cover design, title, marketing, expenses.
  • Dealing with the sometimes labyrinthine system within a large publishing company can be a challenge. There may also be possible or frequent changes in the personnel you work with.
  • You may be “just another project” to them.
  • What you earn may be marginal. The publisher makes “all that money” and you only get a small portion.

Self-Publishing

Pros

  • You are in the driver’s seat. You get to make all the decisions. (Hmm. This might be a con too).
  • You control the message and the marketing.
  • You get to keep “all of the sales” you make.
  • You can move quickly if you come up with a great idea to market or sell the book.

Cons

  • In many ways, you are inventing the wheel, at least for your project. Having trusted self-publishing partners can lessen this.
  • Trial and error may mean mistakes that might not easily be undone or turn out to be expensive
  • You get to keep “all of the money” from each sale, also that means you get to shoulder all the expenses!
  • Your project might likely have more limited distribution in established sales channels due to your size or experience.
Hard Costs of Each Model

Writing the book, or content creation, costs the same whichever model you choose. Assuming your work is all original and you write it all yourself, the cost is just your time. After it is complete, edited to the best of your ability, and having been reviewed by your colleagues, this is when the question of costs kicks in.

I get asked a lot, “How much does it cost to self-publish a book?” I respond by asking, “How much does it cost to go on vacation?” Depends, right? There is no easy answer for costs.

Are you going to edit the work yourself, or hire an editor? Are you going to just have an eBook or a print book? Print book: one color black softcover or color coffee table type book? Will you market it by email to a few friends, or place a Super Bowl ad? There are so many variables it is difficult to give one answer.

I can say this: scrimping with many items sometimes is not best choice. In the end, you get what you pay for.

Essential Skill Sets for Each Model

Let’s look at the skills necessary for each model:

Necessary Skills for the Publishing Model

Once your manuscript is final, I would say the key skills to working with a publisher are:

  • Being able to work within an established system.
  • Being organized and good at deadlines as well as follow up.
  • Being a squeaky wheel if you are being ignored or if you book is not receiving proper “care and feeding.”

Necessary Skills for the Self-Publishing Model

Of course, the tasks above are important, but there are some other particularly important skills that are necessary to self-publish. The most important are being willing to market, sell, and promote your book. Other key tasks are marketing, sales, and promotion. But the most important ones are marketing, sales, and promotion. And don’t forget marketing…

All kidding aside, in my experience most authors are excited to create their content or write their book, but most are not interested in marketing and promotion. For many of us, it doesn’t come naturally. If you choose self-publishing you need to fully embrace marketing, sales, and promotion. If you do not, there are consequences. If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it?

Spend as much time in the run up to self-publishing your book as writing and editing. Better to over prepare in this area, than leave it to chance. In my experience, most books do not “sell themselves.”

Also, did I mention the importance of marketing, sales, and promotion?

The good news is if you choose to self-publish, there are many partners or vendors that can help with bits or pieces of process, or all of it. They can smooth the road and help guarantee a quality product meeting industry standard. Of course, their work costs money. If you choose to use a partner (and I strongly suggest you consider one), then you have to put these costs in perspective to the traditional publishing model.

The decisions are complex and nuanced. I welcome comments on this blog entry, or to reach out to me to discuss your circumstances. Good luck.


John BondJohn Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting. He works with individuals on publishing and writing projects. Schedule an initial complimentary phone call at Publishing Fundamentals. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. He is the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.” Contact him at jbond@riverwindsconsulting.com.