Should you self-publish or work with an established publisher?
Have you been dying to share a story with the world? If so, you may wonder if selling your masterpiece to a publishing company or trying self-publishing your work would be better.
In every facet of life, you find advantages and disadvantages. So, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it’s the same way when publishing your book.
Today, we will explore six arguments favoring self-publishing and why you might scrap the idea.
Publishing your book is easier today than ever before. Authors no longer rely on a glossy publishing house that takes over the process and mails out checks. Today, you can regain control, which also comes with a more significant commitment to your project.
Some of the best-known platforms where you can conduct this process include the following:
- Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), an Amazon company
- Barnes & Noble Press
Google it, and you will find dozens of companies that can help you get that finished product. Each varies in payout terms, distribution, and more. Do your homework.
But this blog post is not about the best companies for self-publishing a book. It’s about the pros and cons. So, let me not get sidetracked. Let’s examine whether you will publish your book or rely on a publisher to assist you.
Pros of Self-Publishing a Book
Let’s start on the positive side of things–the “pros” of publishing under your brand or name.
1 – Enter the market at your pace
Taking control of your project allows you to dictate how you get your story to market. You retain control and will decide on every detail, from setting up schedules and milestones for yourself to the publication date.
Conversely, when you submit your manuscript to a corporate publisher, your project sees the light of day under its timeline.
2 – Retain creative control
In addition to controlling the project’s timeline, self-published get to retain all creative decisions.
If you spent months or years imagining the final output, you might like this idea. However, if you prefer more guidance on how the cover should look, you might prefer to work with a company that will guide you throughout the process.
Remember that they make all the decisions once you sign up with a publishing house. If thinking of entrusting your book to the care of strangers makes you feel awkward, you might prefer to go alone.
3 – Keep a more sizeable percentage of the profits by self-publishing
Let’s be clear upfront. Writing a book is not a get-rich-quick enterprise. It takes many books sold over many years of business to accumulate significant funds for most people.
That is not to say you won’t have a runaway best-seller your first time out of the gates. It can and does happen. However, that is not the reality for most writers.
If you want to keep a more significant percentage of the profits of your creation, then you’ll love the idea of self-publishing. The royalties paid out by each platform vary by miles, so do careful homework before you start the publication process.
Remember that a corporate publisher takes over every facet of your job, from editing and production to distribution and shipping. All that work comes out of your take. If you are willing to invest some time and money and hire a freelance proofreader and formatter, you will earn more by doing it yourself.
4 – You will receive funds monthly
Most self-publishing companies offer you a monthly payout on your book sales as long as you meet a minimum threshold, for example, a $25 minimum.
On the other hand, a traditional company pays you twice annually. This schedule equates to starvation for many writers and is a final nudge into a DIY publication strategy.
5 – You determine your book’s shelf life
Most authors feel surprised when they learn that their book has a relatively short shelf life–the time bookstores will let it remain on the shelf until it sells.
When you use a traditional publisher, this fact means that your title will quickly go to the markdown retailers if they don’t move fast, and your royalties will wither into almost nothing.
This challenge is especially concerning for first- or second-book authors who might struggle with scheduling book signings, finding a following, and building sales.
However, opting for self-publishing means that you can work with independent sellers directly and work out better terms. Or, if you fulfill orders from you, you work through the stack of books at your pace.
6 – You can make updates or changes
This point is relatively minor. But in all fairness, you may have a time when you need to tweak a book for some reason. If you self-publish, nobody can stop you from doing as you please.
A recent example is a fellow children’s author who recently changed some of her illustrations to reflect more racial diversity in response to recent calls for equality. Of course, she never meant to hurt any feelings. But once she realized that she had made the book less than inclusive, she resolved the problem within days.
Cons of Self-Publishing Your Book
Now, let’s move on and review a few reasons why an author might shy away from self-publication.
1 – The tropes about self-publishing being only for lesser authors
Publication houses once (and still do, to be honest) mocked self-publication, labeling it “vanity press.” The trope still exists. The connotation is that writers go this route because they failed at successful submission to a professional publisher.
That’s simply untrue. In the digital world today, we have more choices than before. The unfair assumptions are eroding quickly, so don’t let the smears of corporate publishers hold you back!
2 – You wear all the hats with self-publishing
If you undergo this journey alone, you will wear every hat. One exception to this is if you retain any freelance contractors you hire along the way–cover designers, proofreaders, editors, etc.
Your job does not end once you write your story. You must perform–or hire a subcontractor to perform–the following tasks:
- Illustrations and graphic design
- Book formatting
- Scheduling book signings
- Coordinating with vendors
- Negotiating with booksellers
- Setting up and maintaining an author’s website
- Packing and shipping books
- Bookkeeping and administrative tasks
The more sub-contractors you hire, the less you earn. However, their services can be well worth every penny.
3 – Errors fall back on you
You published your book, ordered a hundred copies to sell to your closest family members and friends, and received your order.
You open the box, Sharpie in hand, to sign those first copies. But to your dismay, you find a typo on the first page of your text. You have no recourse here. This error is yours alone. Own it, live with it, and learn from it as you move forward with your next project.
4 – You lose the perspective of an editor
Do you recall that error you discovered in point number three? A good eagle-eyed editor could have prevented it.
The publishing houses scoop up the best editors in the business. When you hire an editor on Fiverr, they often are little more than proofreaders. An experienced editor offers valuable insights, will tell you when the story fails to flow or advises you of holes in your plot.
I am fortunate to work with two fantastic editors who are not afraid to speak up and tell me when they find a shortfall in my work–but they are rare gems.
5 – Fewer distribution channels
Self-publishing means you are your salesperson, distribution center, and book delivery person.
Your goal will be hitting online sales out of the park. But don’t overlook local stores, gift shops, and other venues to sell your book.
On the other hand, if you dread this part of the process, corporate publishers already have solid distribution channels and partnerships.
6 – Self-publishing lends itself to procrastination
When you work with a corporate giant, they assign you an editorial schedule. However, you might ease into a lull, miss self-imposed deadlines, and procrastinate your novel out of existence if you choose to work independently.
Will your tale remain untold if you must regulate your schedule? If so, you might be better off working with a professional publisher.
Summing It Up: Self-Publishing Has Pros and Cons, Only You Can Decide
Like every decision, choosing self-publishing versus working with a publishing company has several ups and downs. After reading this list of pros and cons, we will leave it to you to decide. If you need a sharp-eyed proofreader or editorial feedback, reach out to us–we can help!