Stages of Writing: Post 7 (Self-Publishing)

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.

23 Comments

  1. Constance says:

    Great post. I have to agree. The pros outweigh the cons.

    Constance at http://www.constanceburris.net

    On Sun, May 31, 2015 at 7:14 AM Self-Published Authors Helping Other

    1. 😀 I love self-publishing. My only regret is I didn’t spend more time in the past writing more books so I would have had a head start by the time the Kindle and Smashwords came around.

  2. Hello Ruth Ann, Great article. I have not yet published my book. Would you consider recommending a self publishing company for me? Thank you, in advance for any recommendation that you can make. Sincerely, Richard

    1. I would recommend publishing your book yourself on Amazon’s KDP (https://kdp.amazon.com), NookPress for Barnes & Noble (https://www.nookpress.com), Kobo Writing Life (https://www.kobo.com/writinglife), Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com), or Draft 2 Digital (https://draft2digital.com). There is no fee to publish at any of these places. They take a portion of the money when you sell a book. For example, if your ebook is $2.99 at Amazon, you get 70% off that sale and Amazon keeps the rest. Each place has its own %, but it is very reasonable compared to what a publisher would take. You can also use Smashwords or Draft 2 Digital to upload to all the channels for you, except for Amazon. I think you have to go to Amazon directly. But you can use Smashwords or Draft 2 Digital to upload to the other places (Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and smaller ones).

      I would not pay a small publishing company to do the stuff for me. The fees are not worth it, in my opinion. (I used to use small publishing companies and never made back the money I paid them.)

      You upload the books yourself. It’s a pretty easy process. The hardest part is the formatting and cover design. Smashwords and Draft 2 Digital have a list of people who can help you with both of these things if you want to hire out for them. At Smashwords, the link to find formatters and cover artists is https://www.smashwords.com/list. At Draft 2 Digital, the link to find cover artists is https://draft2digital.com/partners/. (Draft 2 Digital didn’t come up with formatters, but they did come up with an editor.)

      Of course, you can do the cover and formatting yourself. It’s up to you and how much control you want over your book. 🙂

      I hope that helps!

      1. Ruth Ann, Thank you so much for taking the time to give me such a great answer. I really appreciate it. This information was very helpful to me. Sincerely, Richard

  3. storywrtr says:

    This is a lot of helpful info. I have really enjoyed this series. So many things I hadn’t thought about before taking the self-pub plunge. Thanks for this!

    1. I’m glad they’ve been helpful! If you have any questions, please ask. 😀 We love to help out whenever we can.

  4. I love it, too–the freedom and control is the most important thing!

  5. ronfritsch says:

    Good post. Some writers say they want the validation a publisher provides. With the growing acceptance of self-publishing, though, this thinking may be on the way out.

    1. I think you’re right. The validation no longer means the same thing it used to. The walls between readers and writers have broken down, and now the readers are the source of validation instead of publishers.

  6. You know me. I have to have the control. I actually like doing my own formatting and uploading. And I have a good cover artist to work with. And I like to keep my royalties since I have so few of those. LOL

    1. I like being able to do everything. That way if I have to, I can. I still format and upload myself, but it is nice to have a cover artist take over the cover for me. 🙂

  7. Jennifer Calvert says:

    Really helpful article! I’ve been looking into self publishing so this post is fantastic.! Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I appreciate you sharing it, and I’m glad you found it helpful.

  8. Jennifer Calvert says:

    Reblogged this on INK AND QUILL and commented:
    Great article on self publishing!

  9. Jennifer Calvert says:

    I really enjoyed this article, I had to share! ReBlog on https://jennifercalvertwriter.wordpress.com/

  10. kingdom777 says:

    Thanks. I’ll be self-publishing this year and I really appreciate your advice.

    1. I’m glad I could be of some help!

  11. cav12 says:

    I am enjoying the self-publishing journey and it’s great to be captain of your ship. The only draw back is when the editor sets you behind the schedule you’ve set for when you want to publish your book! You need to factor in their time and availability before deciding when to publish. Learnt that one the hard way followed by heart palpitations!

    1. That’s true. Editors have their own schedules, and sometimes people bump projects back on them, which cause them to be late or they get a project that ends up being more work than they anticipated. (Of course, there are other reasons, too.) Life is unpredictable. I’d say, like editors, the same could happen with cover artists and formatters (if authors pay out to them to do those things). There was even a time when Amazon took my book off sale for a few days while it was “investigating something” someone contacted them about. This turned out to be a false flag and the book was put back up, but knowing a book can get taken down at any moment and you don’t even know why was highly unpleasant, to say the least. Amazon’s not the only one I’ve had issues with. There was also B&N and Kobo, which pulled down a couple of my books that I had distributed through Smashwords. I had to upload the books directly to those places to get them back up because the Smashwords support team didn’t resolve the issue. Then Kobo didn’t have a book released on the date I set it to be released when I had it on pre-order. These set backs happen in so many different ways. As authors, we can do our part, but it’s up to the other people to do theirs. If I didn’t love the control factor so much, I would have given up long ago. 🙂

      1. cav12 says:

        What a headache Ruth! I feel for you. I must admit, I received an email from Kobo regarding duplicate books which coincide with Smashwords. Need to sort that out when time permits.
        You are right about cover designers, etc. We are at the mercy of their time too. It is one vicious cycle. I guess we need to go with the flow and I need to be more flexible! ;D

        1. It’s like any other thing in life. There are pluses and minuses to it. 😀 The end goal is worth it. It’s nice to be able to control the content of your work.

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