Authors: 5 Reasons to Self-Publish Your Next Book

Over the last couple of months it occurred to me that about a dozen of my friends, relatives and acquaintances are in the process of writing a book—a science fiction novel, a how-to manual, a business resource, a cookbook, and a fiction novel based on actual events being just a few examples.  Because of what I currently do for a living (Marketing Director for a mid-tier training and publishing company) a number of them have asked me for advice.  This post represents a compilation of the conversations I had with each of them.

5 Reasons to Self-Publish Your Next Book will act as Part I in what will likely be a three-part series written specifically for budding authors.  In Part II of this series I will cover exactly HOW to self-publish, and in Part III I will dive into what many consider to be the Holy Grail of the self-publishing world—marketing your own book.

With the above in mind, here are 5 reasons you should avoid traditional channels and self-publish your upcoming best-seller:

Reason #1: Self-Publishing is Not Nearly as Difficult As You Think.  If you break the process of creating a book down into smaller pieces, publishing really only involves four things: 1) writing, 2) editing, 3) designing a cover, and 4) printing.  Assuming you can handle the first one, good freelance editors and cover designers can be found online, or through a local Liberal Arts school, or even among your group of friends.  In terms of printing, every major metro area is home to at least a half-dozen shops that specialize in printing short runs of self-published books for a very reasonable price—often around $4 per copy.

Reason #2: Publishing Companies Don’t Actually Do Anything. Any new author who signs a deal with a large publisher eventually comes to the same conclusion: “My publisher did nothing for me.”  Sure, they may have helped with a cover design and donated a few hours of editorial time, but what should you realistically expect to receive in exchange for giving up 90% of your money and 100% of your intellectual property?  Unfortunately, very little.  In most cases, all of the responsibility for marketing and promoting your book (the part you REALLY need help with) will fall squarely on your shoulders. Unless, of course, you consider being added to an already over-crowded catalog as “marketing.”

Reason #3: You Will Make More Money. The standard royalty arrangement most publishers offer their first-time authors is between $.75 and $3.00 per copy sold, depending upon the type of book—fiction writers getting the low end of the scale, and authors of high-priced technical guides cashing in at the higher end.  But when you self-publish, your royalty arrangement is much more attractive.  In fact, it can be expressed in this easy-to-understand formula:

What You Put in Your Pocket = Sale Price – Printing Costs

In the Fiction world this formula can easily equal $5 per copy (assuming a $9 sale price and $4 to print), but where it really begins to pay big dividends is in non-fiction, where technical guides and manuals can sell for between $30 and $50 each.  Even the heaviest-hitting authors who work with publishers don’t clear $25 to $45 per book.  But hundreds of self-publishers are doing just that . . . and more.

Reason #4: You Will Spend Less Money. After investing thousands of hours (or possibly your entire life) writing and editing a book, do you really want to spend your own money traveling to trade shows and speaking events to promote it?  This is exactly what a publisher will ask you to do . . . if they even care enough to tell you.  But if you self-publish, dozens of free or low cost marketing opportunities become available to you—opportunities we will talk more about later in this series.  And when your marketing efforts actually work and you start selling books, you won’t be forced to buy them back from the publisher first.  You can simply pull a few more out of the box in your garage.

Reason #5: A Publisher Will Never Care As Much As You Do. When it gets right down to it, the number one complaint I hear from people who work with a publisher is ”They just don’t care about my book.”  But why should they?  These firms represent hundreds of titles, and only start to ‘care’ when an author demonstrates the ability to make them hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.  If your book represents your life’s work, wouldn’t you rather have a publisher who is passionate about your book and has a vested interest in its success? Publishing on your own is almost always the better choice.

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