THE BENEFITS & DRAWBACKS TO SELF-PUBLISHING
By Cathy Bryant
Now for a disclaimer. I recently published my first novel, TEXAS ROADS, under my own imprint, WordVessel Press. I’m still very green at this entire process and learning as I go. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned during the process.
BENEFITS TO SELF-PUBLISHING:
1. You maintain the rights and control of your work.
If you publish traditionally, your contract will transfer ownership to the publisher. Many times, not only will you lose print rights, but all rights. Once the book goes out of print, these rights usually return to the author. With self-publishing, you control all rights, including the ability to put the book in electronic and/or audio format.
One author mentioned in a blog interview that she only made six cents per copy of a mass market book she wrote. I don’t know how she arrived at that number, how accurate it is, and if she figured in her advance, but in comparison, my trade size novel nets me at the very least a dollar a copy (brick and mortar bookstore sales).
3. You call the shots.
This can actually be a drawback, depending on your perspective. Some authors prefer to have someone else making the decisions. Personally, I enjoyed the process of making decisions about my book. I relished having creative control of the interior and exterior design. I liked setting the cost and deciding what formats to use. I decide when to offer discounts and for how much. I choose the number of copies to giveaway or offer as review books.
4. More frequent pay.
My only experience with traditional publishing and royalty payments came from six children’s songs I published traditionally. It was nice to get the advance, but the royalty payments after that were embarrassingly small. Since my book hit the market, it’s produced a steady income—nothing I could retire on, mind you—but it’s only been a couple of months. In addition, the book never has to go out of print. Another benefit!
5. Quicker Turn-Around Time
I loved being able to schedule the publication details at my convenience. The amount of time from when the book is written to publication is much quicker than waiting for a publishing company.
DRAWBACKS TO SELF-PUBLISHING
Self-publishers wear many hats: business owner, format specialist, book designer, writer, publicist, sales and promotion guru, and so on. The work load is endless. All these chores take time away from writing. Once these first three to six months have passed I hope to spend only a few hours a week on promotion and sales, and more time on writing. If that doesn’t happen, I have the option of hiring help.
2. Distribution/Shelf Space in Brick & Mortar stores
Though this is probably the biggest drawback to self-publishing, it’s not a hopeless situation. I recently submitted Texas Roads to Lightning Source, Inc. for the sole purpose of getting the book on the Ingram database. Brick and mortar bookstores order from this database, so it’s an important part of the process.
3. The Stigma of Self-Publishing
The stigma of being self-published is not as great as it once was, but it does still exist. Some people won’t give a self-published book one glance. We’ve all read horrible self-published books. But guess what? I’ve also read great self-published books and horrible traditionally published books. Unfortunately, the stigma exists, fair or not.
4. Upfront costs
Any time you set up a new business there will be costs involved. Starting your own publishing company is no different. But it doesn’t have to be so costly that you stand no chance of recouping your initial investment. Check out your options and set a budget before you jump in. While I’ve yet to break even, the gap between what I’ve spent and what I’ve made is narrowing—and quickly!
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