All You Need To Know about Self-Publishing: Advantages and Risks


There is a word spreading around about the revolution in the writing world: that with e-books and self-publishing available to all, we are entering a new era of writers.

Many young writers get excited when they hear this news; yet, before rushing to do it with your hands full of manuscript papers, let’s look at it closer.

What are the risks of self-publishing for a young author? How big are the advantages? This is the topic of today’s post. So let’s dive in.

Self-Publishing in a Nutshell

Option of self-publishing is getting more popular by the minute.

Self-published authors now come in tens of thousands in names and books. These are the authors that have paid to get their books published. No matter how small or big the payment was it is a definitive feature: a self-publishing author always pays.

They can choose to go printed, electronic, or both. From each copy they sell, they receive a large percent that can be as high as 85%.

Many writers make this decision because they can’t break in with publishing houses. The competition is very high, and established houses can pick and choose the best manuscripts in their opinion.

Financial success rate is very small in self-publishing. Almost all of writers who manage to achieve good sales volumes try to switch to publishing houses, and this is why.

Expenses vs Quality

Self-publishing can be really expensive.

Sure, you can save money doing your own edit, design, and anything else. Or you can try and fail miserably. There is a reason these things are done by professionals.

You can hire people to do these tasks and have your book look almost as good as the one published by a top publishing house. This solution will cost you a grandiose amount of money. Almost no writer can afford this kind of spending.

If you are looking at this option after a publishing house rejected your manuscript, you need at least to revisit your texts and hire a good editor. This adds to the costs.

The rejection doesn’t mean the manuscript’s bad. Still, it doesn’t mean it is good, either, and without proper editing, your readers might not find it good, as well.

Too Much Work vs Results

Too much work is bad for a writer, if this work has nothing to do with actual writing. Besides, having to control and supervise your contractors can add stress and turn self-publishing in a messy ordeal.

Still, with all your efforts, your book will look and feel different from the classically published ones. You might miss a sloppy job on design; or you won’t let the editor trim the fat you think must stay.

The reader will see the difference, and will treat your book with caution and mistrust: self-published books have poor reputation when it comes to quality.

Low Returns vs Low Sales

As a rule, sales of self-published books are low.

This means, even having 85% of the sales coming to your pocket won’t earn you a lot, if you can’t sell more than a 1000 copies. Extract your publishing investment from it, and you might end up in the negative.

On the other hand, just 6% of royalties from your book that sells 10000 or 20000 copies gives you a nice sum in your earnings, with no expenses to extract.

There are exceptions to this rule. For example, Fifty Shades of Grey sells virally, despite its low quality and self-publishing history.

Publishing for the Sake of Publishing

Sometimes there come situations when you have to self-publish. It usually means publishing for the sake of publishing, with no financial incentive.

People go through with it for career purposes, other than writing. As a coach or a speaker, they don’t want to make money on the book itself, or make writing their primary occupation, but they are expected to have published books for status and other reasons.

In this case, it is best to choose self-publishing and get few hundred copies of the book.

Publishing Houses’ Side of the Story

It is important to mention publishing houses themselves.

They always pay you an advance. From this moment on, they have invested in your book, and now need to get a return on it.

For the book, it means a good deal: they are motivated to make it as sellable as they can. Otherwise they lose money.

This situation is reversed in self-publishing, where you have to pay. People involved in work on your book don’t have the same motivation: they have already made money.

The Obvious Choice

It is obvious: if you are a young writer and have a finished manuscript, contact every publishing house you can reach and try to break in with them.

If your manuscript is accepted, it will go through a lot of changes before it sees curious faces in the crowd of a book store. It is a long process that can drag for more than a year, and have you raging about excessive editing or a tasteless cover, yet it gives you a much better chance for commercial success.

Still, publishing house can’t do all the work. There are still things you can do to get better sales, but this is a topic for another article.

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