What is self-publishing? And why should an author consider it?
I’m going to change my format just a little from here on in. The last couple of weeks I have been writing a blog post on one topic, then doing a podcast episode on another. By the time the show notes and transcript is finished, it’s time to start all over again. As of today, you can read the blog post, listen to the podcast…or both.
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Since I still write out my script, no additional transcript will be included. As I get more comfortable with talking into the mic without the entire episode written out, transcripts will be included.
Without further ado, here is Episode 3: Self-Publishing for Authors
Self-publishing. What is that exactly you may be wondering.
In a nutshell, it is getting a book or other work published without going through a publishing house or label.
There are pros and cons to self-publishing just as there are with practically any other business venture, but in my opinion the pros outweigh the cons.
This episode is going to focus on independent authors self-publishing their books, with comparisons and references made to other types of publishing.
As I mentioned in my first episode, I chose to self-publish. It is becoming a lot more common, and acceptable to do so nowadays.
When some people hear the words self-published they automatically presume the book wasn’t good enough to get accepted by a traditional publisher. In all honesty, that’s what I thought in the beginning too. As I did my research though, I realized there’s a lot of pressure put on independent authors.
If you want to be taken seriously as an author and are doing it all on your own, you have to make sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Doing a half-assed job will not earn you any good reviews.
It doesn’t matter how good your story or subject matter is. If you have a book filled with typos, spelling errors, and poor formatting, your readers will soon tell others how bad your book is. A publisher wouldn’t accept poor quality, so you shouldn’t independently publish poor quality.
When you decide on your genre, content, and book length it’s time to start writing. And also time to start telling the world about it. I made the mistake of finishing my books before saying anything to anyone about them. By doing so I didn’t build an audience waiting for my book’s release. Sometimes I’m a little too introverted for my own good.
One of the first things a traditional publisher wants to know is what you’ve done to market your book. If you haven’t done anything then it’s going to be that much harder to convince them you’re serious about making sales. Gone are the days of a publisher doing all the work.
Something else that may tip the scales in favour of being self-published is the dollar factor. Very few authors are writing just to help or entertain others.
Publishing your own books does give you more control over title, content, and pricing. Plus with platforms such as Kindle, Kobo, and Lulu, you have options in terms of ebook, print, audio or a combination of the three. I have only named the three because they’re the ones I’m most familiar with.
In the first episode I briefly touched on the low percentage an author actually earns when traditionally published. Let me explain.
A traditional publisher pays, on average, an 8% royalty rate to the author. An ebook might get you 25%. If you publish on your own via Kindle, Kobo, or other platforms, your royalties for a print book can be up to 60%, and as high as 90% for an ebook.
If you were to publish one book traditionally at $25 retail and you got an advance of $25,000, it would take 12,500 copies sold for the advance to be paid off. And yes, you do not earn anything extra until that advance is paid in full. (Side note here: the royalty you earn will only be $2 per copy, which is why it’ll take so many books to be sold.)
If you self-published that same book and sold it for the same price, it would only take 1667 copies sold to make that amount of money. And you’d even be $5 ahead. I think it would be much easier to sell 1667 copies as opposed to 12,500, don’t you? Granted you don’t get an advance when self publishing, but with the print on demand services available you don’t have the upfront costs either.
I personally prefer the ebook route, but do have my romance novellas available in print on Amazon as well. My Pipestone Creek Series is also available as a bundle download in my NotJustAlpacaDesigns Etsy Shop. I will be moving it to my website in the not-too-distant future, which will then allow me to earn a little more. Etsy is really not the best place for ebooks; at least not for me.
In the first episode I also mentioned what is called a vanity publisher. What they do is print and market your books, to a point. They’ll also try to upsell you editing packages, whereas a traditional publisher does all of the editing for you.
Vanity publishers prey on authors who want their books done quickly, but said authors also pay the price. I almost fell for their scheme, and I think if I would’ve had the thousands of dollars they wanted to publish my book, I probably would have gone that route. Thankfully my bank account was almost empty, and upon further research I realized I had almost been taken advantage of.
They call themselves independent publishers, but if they’re asking for money upfront they’re really a vanity publisher. There are small publishing companies that do pay authors an advance, so do your homework to make sure you’re not being taken for a ride.
Here’s how you know if you’re dealing with a legitimate publishing company or a vanity publisher. A legitimate publisher will never ask the author to pay anything up front. The vanity publisher will. If you’re being asked to pay, turn around and walk away.
Whether you’re self publishing or going through a publisher, there’s a lot of work to be done on your part. The planning, outlining, writing, first edit, second edit, marketing, pricing, cover design, blurbs, and so on. Books of more than a few thousand words are rarely written in a weekend, and even then it takes time to make sure it flows smoothly.
Self-publishing may not work for everyone, and that’s okay. And there’s nothing wrong with being traditionally published. In fact, I think having my name on a book published by HarperCollins or Simon & Schuster would be my greatest achievement as an author.
I am more of a “let’s get it out there” type of person, rather than waiting for an acceptance or rejection letter. I write what makes me happy, and to entertain and educate others. And the money plays a part too. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.
I suck at the marketing end of it, which is why my sales aren’t as good as they could be. I’d much rather be writing than marketing, but truth be told, that attitude hasn’t helped my cause any.
As a self-publisher you need to do all of the things, and if you don’t want to do certain tasks, then you’re going to have to hire some help. A virtual assistant could take care of the marketing so you can concentrate on the writing. It all depends on how much you want to earn as an author, and how quickly you want to be in the top 100.
An editor may be necessary if spelling and sentence structure isn’t your strong suit. Just because you weren’t a Straight A student in English doesn’t mean you can’t write and publish a book. That’s why speech to text was invented I’m sure.
I find when it comes to editing my own work I have to step away from it for a while. Reading out loud also helps me catch mistakes, as does using the text to speech feature on my computer. When we edit our own work we automatically put the words in as we’re reading, even if they aren’t there. I’ve done it more than once, and was thankful I caught it before it was published.
That brings me to another point. When self-publishing it’s a lot easier to fix errors and resubmit a manuscript. And with the print on demand services, you’ll never be stuck with 5000 copies of a book with a major error in it.
Pricing your book is one of the most difficult tasks as far as I’m concerned. I firmly believe an ebook should not be as much, or more than a print book; yet the experts advise differently. In my opinion once the file is submitted there’s no additional cost directly related to that file. However, if you look on Amazon and other ebook retailers, you’ll see prices for ebooks sometimes higher than their print counterparts.
Audiobooks on the other hand, I can see why they’re on the higher end of the price point. It takes a lot of prep time and work to get them just right. I have listened to several audiobooks through the years and can’t imagine how long it must take to get each chapter just right.
Audiobooks are, however, another avenue you can take with your self-published books. I plan on narrating my own as I become more comfortable with the microphone and hearing myself talk. Have I said I don’t like the sound of my voice?
The topic of self-publishing is one that has its pros and cons. I like the versatility I have when publishing, and have been able to take what I have learned and help others avoid some of the mistakes I made. As I continue my self-publishing journey I’ll be able to relay more information.
I have to be honest: my book writing has been at a standstill since Ross passed away. He was my biggest supporter, and teased me about being a kept man whenever I made a sale. As I’ve been writing the script for this episode I realize how much I have missed working on my books. And perhaps getting back to my unfinished manuscript will help with the healing and moving forward as well.
Authors write for different reasons, and publish in whatever format works for them. If you choose to self-publish, keep these key points in mind.
- Do your very best work so you get the very best reviews.
- Decide which format will work best for your audience. Not everyone likes an ebook.
- Price competitively. You’re undervaluing your work if you price too low. (Oh dear…I just had an “aha” moment. I guess I need to practice what I preach here.)
- Write to educate or entertain.
- When you self-publish you don’t have to have a 100,000 word manuscript. Short ebooks can be in the 5000 word range and be packed with valuable information.
- Be yourself in your writing. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. (This point was brought up in Episode 2 but also applies to you as an author.)
- Hire help for the tasks you don’t have time for or don’t like to do. Your teenager could be a wonderful asset if they’re given social media tasks.
In the next episode I’ll be talking about turning your hobby into a side hustle. Have a great week and I’ll see you then.
And in case you missed them, I have included the first two episodes below.
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