We're almost done with our series on publishing! Let's take a look at an option we haven't talked about yet: self publishing.
Give me freedom, or give me death!
Okay, forgive my dramatics. But there is a strong polarization in the writing community surrounding self publishing. To help explain that, let's look at the history of publishing, and some of what we've learned so far about the industry.
For a long time, the publishing industry was seen as the gatekeepers of the book industry. If you remember from our earlier post about the Big 5 Publishers, there's a LOT of hoops to jump through to get published.
For a while, this worked because publishing was EXPENSIVE. No one would print and bind just one book because of the exorbitant cost involved. So unless someone had a LOT of money lying around, you really couldn't just publish your book. You also would have to try to sell it to the bookstores, and ain't NOBODY got time for that!
The debut of ebooks and ereaders changed all that. Just about anyone with a computer and Internet access could format what they'd written into an ebook. However, the stigma of publishing your own work has persisted somewhat.
And now, with advances like Print on Demand, a self publisher can also sell physical books in addition to ebooks. There are also ways for self publishers to find an actor to record their work as an audiobook.
Why the stigma? Let's look at that history above. Remember how before your options were pass the gatekeepers or pay for your own? If you did manage to pay for your publishing costs, that was called using a vanity press—working with a company that would "publish" your book in exchange for the production costs. Since these books didn't pass through the gatekeepers, they were viewed as inferior to a "real" book.
And in many cases they were. There were also cookbooks, memoirs, and other pieces published that were very niche, where they just weren't comparable to a mass market book. Overall, it meant that something done by a vanity press just wasn't as polished or professional as a real book.
Many writers feel that self publishing is little more than a cheaper version of a vanity press—and that an author hasn't really succeeded until they've been chosen by a publisher.
Wait—it sounds like self publishing is BAD!
No—quite the opposite.
Authors who choose to self publish do so for many reasons. And while there is no longer a gatekeeper in place to guarantee the quality of the product (something many of us have learned when browsing on our Kindle), there are plenty of fantastic books that are professionally published by the authors. And it's allowed a greater variety of books on the market—especially books targeting niche audiences, using more diverse characters, and expanding and mixing genres.
Self Publishing gives authors more freedom and control
If you self publish, you can choose your own cover, or even help design it. You can set the price point for your book, promote it like you want, and publish when you want.
Traditional publishers usually like to schedule books at least a year apart, so that they don't compete with each other for sales. Some prolific self publishers release a book each month, or prepare and publish an entire trilogy or series at once. This makes sense in the world of Netflix, where entire television series are released at once and we (the consumers) binge content.
Self Publishers can make more money on their book
Let me qualify that: the ability to make more money when self publishing does exist, but is not what happens to everyone.
Basically, when you self publish, you get just about all the profit from the sales. For most distributors, that's 60-70 percent of the list price of the book.
However, you also take on the publishing costs of the book—and also have to plan for any litigation expenses (such as protecting your copyright) as well as marketing costs.
And with how easy it is to self publish, the market is oversaturated, making it difficult to get your book to stand out.
However, the control and improved revenue really appeals to some authors.
And if I want to try self publishing...how do I get started?
Research, research, research. Learn as much as you can before you take the plunge. I say this because unless you're successful, most publishers aren't interested in republishing a self published book (or author, sadly).
Save and plan ahead—you should be ready to pay for at least one (if not two or three) rounds of editing and a proofreading pass as well as a cover artist.
Make friends with a lawyer who can help you with any legal questions (or, if not friends, be ready to pay for one if necessary).
Thanks for joining us for our publishing series! Join us next week when we go over how to accept a rejection professionally, the last post in this series.
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