In this video, Janet Syas Nitsick and I talk about the pros and cons of self-publishing.
First, the cons:
1. You have to take care of everything yourself.
Whether it’s formatting, editing, cover design, publishing, keeping record of your earnings, etc, you are doing it all on your own. Now, you can hire people to help you with these things, but ultimately, this is all up to you. No one is going to hold your hand and do it for you.
2. You have to be careful with bookkeeping.
While publishers keep track of sales and hand out royalty statements, if you self-publish your book, you will need to be diligent in keeping track of your earnings. Another thing you need to keep track of is your expenses. You are a small business owner, and you happen to be your own publisher. So you need to think like a publisher and make decisions that will benefit you as a writer but also as a business person. This kind of thing doesn’t appeal to everyone.
3. You are all by yourself.
Say Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc removes your book. You are the only person who can go to Amazon on your behalf to try to get it back up. Granted, you can have author friends, readers, a lawyer, etc. go to these places, too, but there is no publisher who can stand up and take care of the situation for you. This is, ultimately, on your head. Because if a reader contacts the online bookseller and asks about the book, the bookseller will tell them, they need to contact the publisher (which is you) to deal with this. Then you will have to figure out how to get the book up on the bookseller’s site through their support email. I’ve had to deal with this a couple of times (in three different sites) in the past few years, and it is a headache. But it’s one of the things you have to do if you want the book up for sale on that site.
Now for the pros.
1. You have full control.
For people who love doing things themselves and being more hands-on with their book, this is a huge benefit. You get to decide what goes into your book and what doesn’t. It can be as long or as short as you want it to be. You can make it into a series or leave it as a standalone. No one is going to tell you what to do with your book.
2. You get to design your own cover.
Granted, you might hire a cover artist. I do these days, but I go in with the images I want to be used on the cover and tell the artist how I want things to look. Sometimes the cover artist has a better way of doing it than I envisioned, and I’ll go with their input. But it’s ultimately up to me on what my cover looks like. So become familiar with different royalty-free stock photo sites (www.dreamstime.com, http://www.shutterstock.com, http://www.istock.com, just to name a couple), and periodically browse through them. Add pictures to your lightbox from time to time so when it’s time to get the cover, you have done the bulk of the search.
Of course, you don’t have to have any images on hand when working with a cover artist. The controlling part of me loves to do this. But you might be more comfortable having the cover artist do the searching through the pictures. Either way, it’s your choice.
3. More royalties per book sale.
Depending on how well you sell, this may or may not be a big deal. But when you publish the book yourself, you are keeping most of the royalties off that sale. Publishers will take out their cut. They need to stay in business in order to do that. They have to pay taxes, make a profit to stay open, pay editors, pay cover designers, pay formatters, pay someone to bookkeep, etc. When you self-publish, you do all these things yourself, and that is why you keep a higher percentage of the royalties.
4. You determine your deadlines.
The good news is, you can publish the book whenever you want. You can sit on it and wait for a while or you can put it out there as soon as you’re finished getting it ready for publication. You don’t have to sit and wait for the publisher to be ready for it.
If you need to, you can push the deadline back, which means you don’t have to rush to finish a book if it’s not ready. This is a huge pro when you consider all the “this ending was rushed” reviews out there. You can take your time and get it done right.
Another nice thing is that you can decide to do a pre-order or not. Some people like to have everything done and ready to go then wait for a month or two while they are building momentum for the book. Or, if they want people to know the next book is due out at a certain time, they will have that on pre-order so as soon as someone is done reading Book 1, they can pre-order Book 2 while Book 1 is still fresh in their minds.
Personally, I love self-publishing. The pros outweigh the cons for me. I understand it doesn’t for everyone, and that’s fine. I think a lot of it depends on the author’s personality, how comfortable they are with doing things on their own, and how much experience they have.
Also, remember this isn’t an either-or thing. You can self-publish and traditionally publish. There’s no reason why you only have to choose one path. I decided to become a hybrid author to get the experience with a traditional publisher, though I wanted a small one because keeping the bulk of the control is important to me. So the size of a publisher will vary from author to author as well.
The important thing is that you don’t get stuck in thinking you have to do it one way just because someone told you to. You should pursue the path that you most want to do.