Friday, September 20, 2013

To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish...

Post by Kerrie

To self-publish or not to self-publish is a big question and one I get asked all the time. The answer, however, is one that has to be decided by the writer.

The good news is we live in an exciting time because we no longer have to rely on the gatekeepers (literary agents and publishers) to get our books into the hands of readers. The stigma of self-publishing is fading and the opportunities available to us as writers are vast.

First off, we need to set some common ground here. Consumers desire for books is not going anywhere. People still want books to read. They may be reading those on a e-reader, but they still want books.

According to the Association of American Publishers sales of hardcovers rose 1.3% in 2013 to $5.06 billion, and trade paperback sales increased slightly, up 0.4%, to $4.96 billion. In addition, total e-book sales rose 44.2% in 2012, to $3.04 billion. Those are some encouraging numbers, especially the e-books sales.

But what about self-publishing? According to Barnes and Noble, 30% of NOOK customers purchase self-published content each month, representing 25% of NOOK Book™ sales every month.

Consumers are clearly fine buying self-published books. In fact, when they are browsing books online, they probably don't even know the difference.

So when you are deciding whether or not you want to go the independent route, here are some things to keep in mind. I have put together this chart that compares traditional publishing and self-publishing.

The reality is that publishing a book through the traditional channels takes much longer and your royalties are much smaller. By self-publishing through a Print on Demand (POD) company like CreateSpace, you have the control over how quickly your book comes out and the royalty for you is much higher per book. But understand, you are responsible for all aspects of the publishing process and there may be costs involved.

If you decide to take control over your publishing destiny, please keep these things in mind.

1. Have your book professionally copy edited. You owe it to your reader to provide them with a clean, properly formatted, professional looking book.

2. Hire a graphic designer for the cover. Readers do judge a book by the cover and you want your to stand out from the crown (in a good way).

3. Be prepared to market your book. Books don't sell themselves. Figure out your strengths and utilize those. If you are great with social media, go that route. If you love talking to groups of people, then arrange book events. Don't try to do it all. Find what you do well and focus on that.

4. Think of it as a business. In order to find success with self-publishing you need to approach it like a business. You have to shift gears from  creative writer to entrepreneur.

5. Learn the ways of booksellers. Bookstores get approached daily from self-published authors who want to sell their books in their bookstore. Many now have policies in place and may even charge for you to have a book signing. Learn the bookseller side of the business so you understand how it works and you are more prepared when you approach your local bookstore.

BONUS: Have fun. This is your book after all and the fact that you put all that time and effort into publishing it, deserves to be celebrated.

I could go on and on about this topic, but I think this gives you enough to think about for the time being. If you do have more questions, and want to talk more about self-publishing, I do offer hourly consulting, plus some supported self-publishing packages. You can visit my website for more information.

I helped two authors self-publish their books this year if you want to check them out. (It was not intentional to have each title contain "under" it just happened that way  :-)  )

Under the Staircase
Under the Broom Tree
Have you ever self-published a book? Thought about self-publishing?


Nathan Lowell said...

Nice recap, Kerrie!

I'm a full-time author and self publish all my books. I've been approached by the Biggest of the Bigs to publish my work with them but the contract offerings would have 1) required me to continue doing most of the marketing, 2) remove my existing works from the shelves months before the new editions would be available, and 3) get a day job to support my writing habit.

There's a lot I'm willing to do for my art, but none of those are on the table.

Kerrie said...

Nathan, thanks for chiming in. You are the perfect example of how to do self-publishing the right way. :-)

Dean K Miller said...

Thinking of self-publishing a couple of different projects. The time and money upfront come and go, but maintaining the rights, that's forever.

John Paul McKinney said...

Kerrie, Thanks.I'm self pulishing my novel, "Charlie's Angle," which should launch later this month or early October. I'm doing it with Create Space. I was hesitant at first knowing that editors at traditional publishing houses are very careful. So I paid for an evaluation from Create Space. It was well worth it. It not only quelled my fears; it also demonstrated a number of ways in which the book could really be improved. Now I'm excited. JP

Kerrie said...

Dean and John Paul, I look forward to reading your books. I agree Dean, maintaining the rights is definitely a plus to self-publishing. John Paul, I will be using CreateSpace as well for an upcoming essay book and I have helped a few authors publish books with this platform. It is very user friendly and they have great customer service.

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

I am traditionally published. I took a shotgun approach and considered selfpublishing, and had a deadline. I received my offer from my agent on the deadline date. I'm very glad I did not selfpublish. Working with my agent's assistant showed me how to edit and improve my book so that the published version would be much better than what I had. Your chart should include a content editor as well as a copy-editor. I know several authors who have gone into selfpublishing after having been traditionally published, and they all hire a content editor. They also had a following to begin with. Your timeline for publication is for print. Most publishers are offering ebook first contracts. The time line for my first book to release was 9 months, and my agent negotiated back to back to back releases. So my second releases 6 weeks after my first, and the third less than two months after that. I used that time not only to write the next book, but to build my social medial platform. When my debut novel releases, it spent the first three days on the Amazon bestseller list.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Kerrie! I like to refer to myself as a midlist self-published author. I do pretty darn well. Give me a few years and I will be quitting the day job and supporting myself on my writing. But that's the point: in a few years. I sometimes think that authors who rush into self-publishing think it's a magic bullet and that they will be the next E.L. James. The big thing I tell people thinking of going Indie is that it's a TON of very hard work that will only pay off if you think of it as a long-game.

But boy is it fun!

Kerrie said...

Ellen,thanks for sharing your experiences and insight. You are right that a good content edit is important along with a copy edit. It is good to know that publishers are releasing ebooks before the print versions in order to cut down on the timeline for the book release. Congratulations on the release of your book and good luck with it! :-)

Merry, good luck on your self-publishing journey. I absolutely agree that many authors see self-publishing as a magic bullet. As with anything in writing, there is no magic bullet. Self publishing is a great option for writers willing to put the time into creating a well-written, well-edited book and then doing the work to market and then write more books.

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