Books & Reading · Publications · Writing Insight

Publishing 101 (Part Two of Two) – The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

About two weeks ago, I tackled some of the pros and cons to traditional publishing, so now comes the promised post on the pros and cons of self-publishing. (Please note there are several avenues to self-publishing, but my focus is more on the portals where you edit, upload, and craft your book yourself as opposed to sending it to a press.)

Self-publishing – Pros
E-book sales are on the rise and are expected to gain in popularity, so if you use a portal that allows you to publish your book in electronic form, you can be catching onto a trend that shows little signs of slowing down. Likewise, some books have the option of being printed in hard copy (depending on the portal used).

Your book can be published immediately so there is no waiting period for acceptance nor do you have to query first. You simply upload your work using a publishing portal and take it from there.

Manuscripts are not subjected to another person’s likes or dislikes in order to be accepted. This allows indie writers to release their work, from traditional stories to perhaps more unorthodox formats and tales, into the book market.

Usually, there is no contract involved, so the you retain 100% of the rights to your work.

Your normally receive 100% of royalties (but, again, this can vary).

You control your book’s release date, so you can publish a book closer to summer or winter, the two seasons when book sales tend to increase.

Books can be edited after their initial release and then re-released as updated editions. That way, if you find typos, continuity errors, or you simply want to add further information, you’re free to do so and the amended version will be sold to the public.

Books of any length can be published, from novellas to epics, as there generally are no maximum word count limits (though most portals require a certain minimum word count, thus singular short stories or essays cannot be published)

Despite low sales, you can still publish future materials. Maybe your first book doesn’t sell well. That doesn’t stop you from trying again and publishing every book you’d like to. The only one in control over how much you publish is you, not an editor.

No agent or editor is generally needed (though this varies).

Books remain available indefinitely. For some self-publishing portals, your book is published on demand, meaning no physical copies take up space in a warehouse. Instead, copies are printed whenever someone orders them. Since the manuscript itself is in electronic format, it can be saved and retained almost forever.

Your have full control over a book’s layout and design. While you may be subjected to certain templates, you can pick the cover’s image (provided you have the rights to it or it’s public domain), text, text layout, text size and design, among other features.

Your books can be made available to major markets (depending on the publishing platform).

Your books are more economically priced since you will be the one to set the price. For reference, check out some other self-published books of the same size or the same genre to determine a fair value. Don’t undersell but don’t oversell (since higher costs may deter would-be readers who don’t want to pay a high price for a new author).

Self-publishing is considered ideal for new writers or veteran writers who have regained the rights to their work and want to reprint their books.

Self-publishing – Cons

Your must build your readership since you and you alone are responsible for marketing. Book marketing is time consuming and may involve some costs (such as obtaining business cards, fliers to promote events, etc.) and results are not guaranteed.

Books may make low royalties due to low sales (from low readership).

There is generally no advance against royalties, so you are paid as the book sells and only if and when it sells.

There is generally no distribution to chain bookstores, so there may be no in-person networking (signings) unless you set up events on your own.

Books sold at a lower price mean lower royalties for you.

Books only released in digital format cannot be purchased and read by readers who do not have access to digital only versions, which may reduce your overall sales.

You, and you alone, are usually responsible for editing and ensuring a quality product.

Unless going with a widely-recognized publishing platform, you need to do research on the publisher to ensure they are reputable.

So that’s been a (hopefully!) fair and balanced look at traditional publishing and self-publishing, at least in a nutshell. Have any thoughts either way? Feel free to leave them in the comments!

And check out my self-published books (all available through Amazon in both paperback and for Kindle) The Guardian, A Modern Apocrypha, and R U Ready 4 College? (Direct links located under the Books page above.)


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