Last time I spoke of Agents, Publishers, and Editors. I neglected to talk about self-publishing for a number of reasons. It takes some explaining to properly explore all the intricate facets of self-publishing. It has both positives and negatives in comparison to traditional publishing methods and I’ll go through them in this piece. Self-publishing often seems like a dirty word in the industry. Writers who self publish have traditionally looked down on in some degree by traditional publishing, and vice-versa. Publishing is a fluid landscape nowadays, the explosion of cheap and available methods of online publishing have made Self-publishing a much more viable option. In terms of e-book percentages, you can get as much as 70% of the asking price from sites like Amazon, as opposed to only 25% through a normal publisher or 8% for paperback copies.
Self-Publishing essentially means you split your profits with less people. You don’t have an agent who takes a percentage of your profits, you don’t have an editor telling you want you can’t say, and you get to hold on to the majority of your profits. However, it is expensive. Both in time and money. When you are Self-publishing you take up the dozen roles that your percentages would otherwise be paying for.
Some things in the world of Self-publishing haven’t changed. It is a lot of work. The biggest problem is that you have to do everything yourself. Most writers don’t have the years of experience or the connections editors, agents, and publishers will have. So not only are you doing all their jobs, but you’re doing them with a serious impediment. Trying to get full distribution in major retail outlets can be horrifyingly difficult, particularly if you are a first time writer, this is largely just do to a lack of reputation. It makes logical sense on the other hand, one can’t expect a store to take on the monetary risk of a first time author without a positive words from someone they trust, such as a publisher they’ve worked with for years.
Marketing is a massive issue with Self-publishing. It is a massive expense. Posters in train stations and shop windows don’t magically appear on their own. They are paid for by the publishing company. They’ve made an investment in your book and are working hard to see a return on it. Those who self-publish take on the risk themselves. Another problem with self-publishing and marketing is that most people are not naturally equipped to market things. The marketing department of a publisher will usually have degrees in marketing and years of industry experience. However, it is still possible to do it yourself. It will be hard, you will have to pour your soul into it, and you will have to be prepared for the fact that it still may not be enough.
You will still have to pay for certain things. You should pay for an external editor if you intend to self-publish. It may cost more than you would like but it would be better to have a professional copy editor read over your work than let it go to print with a spelling mistake or grammar error on the first page. You should also pay for a professional cover. It will help sell your book a thousand times better than a blurb. It will be why people pick up the book. You should consult industry prices before hand and so you know how much it will cost. If you want professional quality then pay professional prices.
Some people will love the challenge that comes with Self-publishing. They will love getting stuck into the nitty-gritty of marketing a book or negotiating with different people like printers and artists. Other people will hate it. They would much prefer their agent and publisher to take care of their contract, printing, and book tours. There isn’t a right way to go about it. Personally I believe that traditional publishing is a better model and allows the author to focus more on the piece than whether their car will be repossessed because they sank three grand into 500 copies of their book that are currently being stored in their attic. Both can be hugely difficult as it can take you ten years to get an agent and publisher and even then your book may not sell, but if we wanted to sell books we’d open a book shop. At the end of the day we are writers, we breathe words and sweat sentences, but it is important to know the business side of things as well, just in case. The next edition will be the final edition, it will be a roundup of many of the things we’ve spoken of here and some parting words of encouragement. Until then, Adieu.
The Wordsmith’s Apprentice.