Self-publishing is creating and distributing your work without taking the traditional publishing route. Instead of approaching a traditional publisher, you create and edit the manuscript by yourself (or with the help of freelancers) and publish the final product online, such as on Amazon or Apple Books.
More and more authors are choosing to self-publish rather than traditionally publish, and for good reasons. There are many benefits to self-publishing, from greater creative control to flexibility to higher royalties.
However, there are also some drawbacks, which we’ll explore later.
It’s wise to make an informed choice if you’re thinking about becoming a self-published author.
In this article, we’ll help you decide whether or not you should self-publish your book. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of self-publishing and how they compare to the traditional publishing process.
Is self-publishing worth it? The pros and cons
Your work is uniquely your own. All artists understand the importance of the relationship one has with their creative work.
It’s a special relationship involving care and compassion for your passion project. As such, you want to do right by it.
Self-publishing is popular and has a lot of buzz these days, but does that mean it’s for you? Are you prepared to do the work it takes to successfully self-publish?
If you’re unsure which route to take, consider the pros and cons of self-publishing outlined below.
There are many advantages of publishing your own work as opposed to relying on traditional publishing houses.
1. Greater creative control
One of the main reasons an author self-publishes is the level of creative control involved. When you approach a traditional publishing company, your manuscript is passed on to many hands.
It must meet many requirements, not only in terms of quality but also concerning that particular publishing company’s values and ethics. Editors, designers, and marketers influence the final product, which bothers many authors.
When you self-publish, nobody gets to tell you what to do. You have complete creative control over your work, from its content to its structure to its overall appearance. It’s also up to you to decide the format you would like to publish. You can opt for e-books and audiobooks as well as traditional print.
2. Higher royalty rates
Traditional publishers pay authors royalties from their book sales.
Generally, an author who publishes with a traditional publishing house can expect a ten to fifteen percent royalty rate for each sale. The remaining 80-95 percent of the sale is not to the author but to the publisher or the distributor (if those are separate entities).
Compared to self-publishing, traditional publishing royalty rates are incredibly low. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is a top-rated self-publishing platform and offers royalty rates to self-published authors from 35 to 70 percent of a sale.
Unlike the traditional route, you still retain the rights to your work.
3. Fast process
You may have spent months or years writing your book, but you’re ready to publish once you have a finished manuscript and a cover design.
When you self-publish, you can get your book live on Amazon or other bookstores in a matter of days, and often even faster.
On the other hand, if you approach a traditional publishing house, you may end up waiting anywhere between six to eighteen months to get your book on shelves. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the publisher will accept your manuscript in the first place.
The sooner you can make your book available to the public, the sooner you can earn from it.
4. Low cost
Self-publishing does not have to cost a lot of money. Of course, you’ll have to spend time writing your book, and we all know that time is money.
Still, there are no extra costs to writing and publishing through a self-publishing platform other than the cost of living and writing.
That being said, there are circumstances in which you may find yourself spending. You want your book to be the highest quality it can be.
There are millions of competitors and thousands in your niche, so it’s essential to produce high-quality work that stands out. So, you might want to spend money on freelancers who can assist you in the creative process.
Again, freelancers are for hire, and it’s worth paying for their input if you want your book to stand out.
Some authors intend to write several books as part of a series rather than one standalone piece. If a traditional publisher likes your book and believes it will be successful, they may offer you a book deal.
Such a deal would come with more incredible benefits than those offered for a single piece of work.
Sounds great, right? The problem is that book deals often involve deadlines.
You’ll need to work with the company throughout your writing process and update them on your progress. You’ll also need to have each book finished by a given deadline.
When you self-publish, no such deadlines exist. Nobody calls or checks in to see where you are with your book, so there’s no pressure.
As a self-publishing author, you can take all the time you need to create your book. This offers the freedom to play, explore, and write the book you want.
There are always two sides to every story. Now that you know the pros of self-publishing, it is only fair to also know its drawbacks before you finalize your decision on how to get your work out to your readers.
1. Labor and cost
When you submit your finished manuscript to a traditional publisher, they oversee editing, proofreading, design, formatting, and illustration. These are costly endeavors, and those who choose to publish often do so to avoid traditionally the labor or costs involved.
In addition, with a traditional publishing deal, you may be eligible for advance pay and an attractive book deal. That is not an option for self-publishing.
When you self-publish, all creative aspects of your book come down to you. That’s one of the pros we listed earlier, but the downside is that creative work can be time-consuming.
If you’ve already chosen to self-publish, it may be because you want to get your work out as fast as possible. You may not want to spend that extra time editing, proofreading, and designing.
2. Harder to get noticed
The number of self-published books on Amazon is in the millions. As such, it’s harder for self-published authors, especially first-timers, to get their work seen.
The traditional route means your publisher will advertise and market your book for you. In addition to doing that work, larger publishing companies already have the reputation necessary to make an impact.
Amazon is one of the most popular companies in the world, and Amazon’s bookstore claims the same popularity. With the right marketing approach, well-crafted taglines and meta-descriptions, and a clearly defined target reader, you can get your work seen by millions.
However, print is still a popular and often preferred medium for readers. When you work with a traditional publishers, they take care of distribution.
They can distribute large volumes of your book in print to bookstores, which gets your book on real-life shelves.
Printing large numbers of your book will be incredibly costly, especially if you wish to print hardback. Self-published authors typically don’t pay upfront print costs but instead opt for the print-on-demand (POD) services offered by most self-publishing platforms.
4. Awards prejudice
One of the most significant selling points for any book is its number of awards or nominations. Unfortunately for independent publishers, self-published books rarely get considered for prestigious book awards such as the Booker Prize or the Hugo Award.
Still, there are awards for indie publishers, such as the Eric Hoffer Book Award or the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
Remember that your book doesn’t need an award to be considered high quality; however, accolades are one of the best marketing tools.
How much does a publisher make?
You can’t determine how much you’ll make from self-publishing your book until you get it out there and start making sales.
Many variables influence your book’s success, such as its relevance and unique aspects compared to the thousands of similar books available.
Still, if you were to sell the same amount of copies of a self-published book as one that was traditionally published, you would make much higher profits from self-publishing.
As mentioned earlier, ten to fifteen percent is a standard rate for authors who approach traditional publishing houses. With self-publishing, you have the chance to earn up to seventy percent of your book sales.
If you want to make significant profits from your work, you’ll need time, energy, and money to make it the best it can be.
Consider your target audience when choosing whether to self publish or traditionally publish- are they clearly defined? How will you reach readers if you don’t know who you’re writing for? And if you can’t reach readers, who will buy your book?
Consider also the fact that you’re asking readers to pay for your book. What is about your book that is worth paying for? Understanding these answers and marketing with them is vital if you’re looking for actual earnings.
Self-published books are a great way for new authors to start making a profit from their work. If you’re a first-time author, don’t expect your finances to skyrocket when you self-publish.
There is a lot of competition in the self-publishing world, and only the highest quality work offers a reasonable return.
Still, if you’re looking for a way to make some passive income and you’ve got a few book ideas at the ready, self-publishing may be a wise choice.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question ‘is self-publishing worth it?’ – it all comes to you, your needs, and your preferences as an author.
Hopefully, the pros and cons outlined above will help you make a more informed decision about your next step as a soon-to-be-published author.