Jennifer Dinsmore Editorial
Free Your Words
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Search the blog for posts on grammar, storytelling, and the publishing process.

 

The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

Welcome! Have you been considering self-publishing? It’s an attractive option for many reasons, including having more creative control over your writing career. What’s more, with new technologies there is an ever-evolving ability for authors to creatively market their work and get their books into the hands of readers.

Which route you choose should not be taken lightly. Although both give authors the opportunity to share their voice with the world, traditional publishing and self-publishing come with their own set of Pros and Cons.

Set yourself up for success by knowing these advantages and disadvantages. With this latest post in my publishing series, I hope to help you get to a decision as to which is best for you. If considering a career in self-publishing, below are a few things to think about.

THE PROS OF SELF-PUBLISHING

Self-publishing isn’t exactly new, but it’s certainly a whole lot easier now than just a decade ago. It fulfills the dream of holding your book in your hands, or knowing you can connect with readers at the click of a button.

Thankfully, the stigma around self-publishing has begun to lift and is now seen as a viable and validating route for authors. Although it is just as much so if you publish traditionally, the “authorprenuer” life is preferred by many for the following reasons.

1. CREATIVE CONTROL

Top of many lists is the ability to retain complete creative control. You will have the full and final say in layout, cover design, format, marketing—literally every aspect of the publishing process is up to you.

Publishing houses typically decide all this based on what they feel works in the market, very likely without (much) input from the author.

2. PICK YOUR OWN TEAM

Not all publishing professionals work in-house. There are thousands of freelance editors, book formatters, and cover designers to from which to choose and help realize your creative vision.

It can be overwhelming, but remember you can shop around. Many editors do free samples, and designers should have portfolios of their work. Hire those you feel a connection with, and who want to work with you to make the product you envision.

3. REACH READERS, FAST!

While professional services do take time to complete, traditionally published authors wait for an average of two years before their book goes to print. Publishing companies are always thinking a season or two ahead.

Independent authors, however, can publish a book within a few months. Or, for ebooks, as soon as the file is uploaded. For a list of resources, see the last in the series How Do Self-Publishing Authors Get Book Deals?

4. MORE (AND MORE FREQUENT) PAY

After initial upfront costs, independent authors can make up to 100% profit on their books instead of the 10 to 15% offered by publishers. And you decide when you get paid!

Traditionally published authors earn royalties on their sales only once they have earned out their advance. (Read more on that here.) These checks may only come once or twice per year, however, as you are dependent on the publisher’s schedule.

5. THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS YES!

Face no rejection from acquisitions editors or agents. Once you have your product how you like it, simply go ahead and publish.

6. KEEP YOUR RIGHTS

Publishing contracts can vary widely, so it’s important to know to what you are entitled. The Association of Canadian Publishers is a great place to start.

While you will always retain some rights over your work as its creator, you must give others to publishers so they have the ability to sell your work, perhaps option it for television or film, or offer it to foreign publishers and secure a translation deal.

7. PUBLISH NICHE TITLES

Created a how-to guide to colouring Easter eggs? Perhaps you’ve compiled an anthology of local, unpublished writers and want to sell it in local stores. Publishers and agents are unlikely to take on such specific titles. The market simply isn’t big enough to justify the cost.

Fortunately, self-publishing allows you to produce beautiful books on a budget, or print-on-demand and sell to those you know would pay.

THE CONS OF SELF-PUBLISHING

While all these are great reasons to go the independent route, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering self-publishing.

1. COST AND (POTENTIAL) FINANCIAL LOSS

Sure, you get to hire your own team—but you also have to pay them. Often before you’ve even made your first sale. You may also experience financial loss if your first title doesn’t sell well and you don’t earn your initial investment back.

Traditionally published authors are at least guaranteed their advance. If finances are a large concern, traditional publishing may be the better option, where houses pay for this by taking a cut of the royalties.

2. FINDING THE RIGHT TEAM

Know who you are trusting with your words. The exact cost of professional services vary, with each having their own preference for setting rates. Overall, be sure you invest in vetted professionals. Look for professional credentials, client testimonials, and ask for samples to be sure of their skill and work ethic.

Sadly, there are those who seek to take advantage so it is worth doing your homework.

3. YOU ARE YOUR OWN AGENT

As mentioned in the first of the series, agents are your first number one fan. They are there to coach you along the publishing process and, often, support you along your entire career.

The team you hire can only get you so far in providing their specific services. But this isn’t to say you can’t develop a close relationships with editors and designers, and work with them throughout your career. You certainly can, and this can help you run a smooth and successful business as a writer.

4. YOU ARE ALSO YOUR OWN PUBLICIST

Marketing your book takes time and know-how. You should have a website and be somewhat active in at least one online community, to help build your author brand/platform. Again, this can be overwhelming, especially with ever-changing algorithms that affect product and website placement and the size of the audience reached

The amount of marketing support even traditionally published authors receive can vary. Debut authors typically get less marketing attention, for example, as the publisher’s budget for the title will not be as large as more established names.

5. ARE YOU READY TO RUN A SMALL BUSINESS?

Because this is basically what independent publishing is, hence the term “authorprenuer”. All the above considerations are hard to organize by yourself.

If you don’t find this appealing, then this path may not be for you.

6. COMPETITION

Gaining visibility, generating sales and reviews, and really starting to build a brand and make some money is difficult. What’s more, on sites like Amazon, this may even affect how far up your title appears in search results.

Independent authors also can’t simply get libraries and bookstores to stock their book once its published. Some larger bookstores chains may do consignment, stocking your book but taking a small cut of the sales.

SO … DO YOU PURSUE SELF-PUBLISHING?

Why not? But do it because you’ve weighed the pros and cons of each route. I encourage every writer to take the time and learn the industry. This will let you make the best decisions for your unique career. Remember, your voice is unique and worthwhile.

Above all, keep creating!

Jennifer