Self-Publishing Part 1: Pros and Cons

Greta has a few questions that might shed some light on what self-publishing really is. Her first one is apt:

Where do I start?

Here, I hope! In the next month or so, I hope to offer people an actual teen writer’s experience, which may not be as thorough as a professional publisher or more experienced author, but which is probably more relatable for most people. To round it out, I will also share my favorite resources from other respectable websites and publishers under the “Want to know more?” section at the end of every post.

Greta continues:

Would you recommend self-publishing? Why and for whom? What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

You know, all these questions remind me of something my brother said last week. “Why don’t you try to get a publishing contract with a real publisher?” he asked me. “You might make more money.”

http://moviepilot.com/posts/2015/03/21/age-of-ultron-where-will-our-heroes-be-by-the-end-of-avengers-2-2801193

To be fair, he didn’t mean it that way; he really thought it would be a good business move. However, he really captured what most people, including authors, think about the world of self-publishing. We don’t know how or even if it actually works.

So- who should consider self-publishing? Well, imagine this common scenario: a teenager named Hannah is an unpublished writer with a newly-completed manuscript for Son of Ren in hand, and she is looking for some way to publish it. Hannah knows she can sell so many books if only she has a good publisher name on the cover. That’s how it works, right?

So Hannah turns to the Big Five and the Christian publishers to find out how to submit a query letter. The only problem is that the Big Five aren’t looking for a sixteen-year-old nerd waving her debut manuscript, so, instead of a submission page, all of their websites say: “Please don’t send us your peasant manuscript unless you have been on a New York Times Bestseller list.” Christian publishers can’t help, either; they are looking for fiction about Christianity, not alternate-universe fantasy by Christians. As a last resort, our stubborn young Hannah sends queries to all of the other publishers listed on websites and in books for teen writers and authors of fantasy. And guess what? The publishers don’t reply.

Hannah’s demographic- new authors, teens, or anyone else without a writing degree- is the group for which self-publishing is most valuable. I don’t believe that the traditional publishing system is rigged against new authors; but I don’t believe it was built for us, either. Self-publishing fills in the gap and often provides a step into the traditional publishing world.

Now would be a good time for the indispensable pros and cons list.

Yea…

Self publishing, as we have seen, gives new authors a chance to share good books even when other publishers won’t consider them based on lack of credentials.

With a variety of services and formats, self-publishing gives you as much or as little control over the process of publishing your own books as you like. (More on this next week.)

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Self-publishing often provides the first step to getting a regular publishing contract– in the rarest cases, with the Big Five. These authors are some good examples (even if some of the books are worthless). You get your name out there, and if you do a good job, you open your opportunities.

Finally, self-publishing lets you broaden your experience. I have learned so much about the publishing world, as well as marketing, communications, business, eBook design, and many other skills I can’t even count. And even if you only self-publish one book, you can apply some of your indie know-how to most other fields.

…Or Nay

When it comes to making money, self publishing is either a lot of hard work or quite expensive. It’s a lot of hard work when you want to save money, and so you do all the cover design, editing, marketing, etc. yourself. Or, it’s expensive when you opt to hire experts to do that stuff for you.

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The market for self-published books, particularly Kindle books, has a huge supply that is larger than demand. Consequently, it’s harder to get readers to choose your eBook over all the other millions of books available with the click of a button. Long story short: you really have to market the thing yourself.

And therefore- I cannot say this loudly or often enough- you are not guaranteed to make lots of money by publishing any which way. I’ve heard of many people who made lots of money by publishing traditionally as well as by using Amazon Kindle, but those are just the ones who became famous. They’re anomalies, like the stars of Hollywood. The reason you haven’t heard of those people who only sold a hundred or so copies is because… well.

Those are the big ones, but you can read the links below for more pros-cons lists.

So, Greta, if you have a quality book to share, if you can learn how to do a thing or two on your own, if you are willing to do a little research… maybe you ought to try indie publishing.

Do you have any publishing questions? Agencies, cover design, marketing, stress eating? Hopefully not the last one. Ask it in the comments!

Want to know more?

Bing.com: “self publishing vs traditional publishing.” For this post alone, virtually any article that comes up in a search is useful, so check those out.

Writer’s Digest list of publishing pros and cons

Huffington Post’s pros and cons

Incredibly useful guide to everything

About.com’s publishing options series

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11 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Part 1: Pros and Cons

  1. This is something which has been on my mind a lot the past year. I’m back and forth on it and so far my only reprieve is that I’m focusing on writing the best story I can FIRST, so I can keep pushing this decision further down the line. I’m getting closer though and I’m really thinking Indie at this point. Great post, looking forward to Part 2!

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  2. Thanks for the great answers (and sorry I didn’t respond earlier; I’ve been on vacation for a long time)! I will definitely consider Indie Publishing in the future (as in when I have a manuscript to publish). 😉

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