Follow STTBooks on Twitter

Our Author's Guide

view on

This form does not yet contain any fields.
    « Self-Publishing a Book: New Roles for a Writer | Main | Advantages and Disadvantages of Traditional Publishing »

    The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing Your Book

    You should self-publish your book!

    We said so in our first post of this year, Publishing a Book in 2013? Self-Publish It! But we think you should do it knowing what your will be getting into. What are your options and why should you choose self-publishing?

    Courtesy of StockMonkeys under Creative CommonsIn our last post we explored The Advantages and Disadvantages of Traditional Publishing. Today, we’ll do the same thing with self-publishing. Then, on Tuesday in the final post of the series, we’ll discuss the best ways to take advantage of the opportunities and avoid the pitfalls self-publishing presents for authors.

    The Advantages of Self-Publishing

    • Easy access to publication – The traditional gatekeepers, literary agents and acquisitions editors at publishing houses have been eliminated. Anyone can publish a book.
    • Speed to Market –Traditional publishers take nine months to a year or more to get a book to market and won’t release an ebook before the print version. A self-publisher using a print on demand publisher can get a book into the market in two weeks or less. An ebook can be ready for sale in a couple of days.
    • Financial Potential – Guy Kawasaki in his book APE: How to Publish a Book explains, “Traditional publishers pay authors 10 to 15 percent of proceeds of the sales of a book to distributors. Amazon, by contrast, pays a 35 percent or 70 percent royalty. Apple pays 70 percent, and Barnes & Noble pays 65 percent. Self-publishing also enables authors to sell directly to customers—reaping the profits that distributors and retailers would have gotten.” The author can also set the price of his self-published book.
    • Complete Control – The author makes all of the editorial decisions and design choices about his book. You decide on the length of your book and what the cover and interior should look like.
    • The Long Tail – Traditional publishers offer authors a brief marketing window of a month or two.  If sales are good promotion continues, but marketing efforts are discontinued when sales drop off. A self-publishing author can continue to promote his book allowing the buzz to build over time. Internet marketing also allows authors to target particular niche audiences to capitalize on the sales potential described by Wired editor Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail.

    The Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

    • Responsibility for Producing a Professional Quality Book – With a traditional publisher the author sold the rights and the publishing house tool responsibility for making sure that the book was thoroughly edited, its interior was well laid out and a high quality cover made a great impression on potential readers. One of the reasons there has been a stigma attached to self-published books is that authors failed to make sure that their self-published-book maintained the same quality of production.
    • Upfront Costs – Not only does the self-publishing author receive no advance payment, he pays all of the costs of bringing a book to market. That may involve hiring editors, book designers and publicists as well as the costs of printing the books. The author must place a substantial bet on the possibility that his book will cover costs and return a profit on his investment. If there is no return on that investment, the author has only himself to blame.
    • Responsibility for Promotion and Marketing and Distribution – It’s almost impossible to find a traditionally published author who believes his publisher has done enough to promote and market his book. With self-publishing he gets a chance to do a better job himself. But to do it the author must learn about access to distribution channels, how to set prices, and what kind of promotional and public relations tools will attract buyers. The author must take over the business of selling books. That can be a big learning curve, or if you choose to hire someone else to do it, it can be a big expense.
    • Learning to Work with Service Providers- Producing a book takes professional expertise. The author may be able to do some of what is needed himself, but he’ll need to find someone to help with other parts of the process. That means learning how to find, vet and collaborate with editors, book designers, printers, book distributors, website designers, and book promoters or marketers.

    So, as you consider whether to self-publish your book you have to weigh two key words: potential and responsibility. Self-publishing offers authors the opportunity to get their books into the marketplace with the potential to find an audience which can potentially result in a greater percentage of the financial rewards than was available to most authors with traditional publishing deals. However, the author who chooses to self-publish is choosing to play a completely different role than one working with a traditional publisher. He is launching a business. In doing so he takes on a lot of responsibility that traditional authors didn’t have to worry about.

    In our next post, the final one in this series, we’ll look at this new role for authors and why we think you should embrace it.

    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments (6)

    I self-published a book through Create Space, but I don't know very much about promoting it. I have writted a few sequals to the book and now I would like to market them to traditional publishers. My question is, would the publishers only be able to publish the sequals if they were interested or would they be able to re-publish the first one if they wanted to?

    Jan 15, 2013 at 8:51AM | Unregistered CommenterRebecca Willis

    If you haven’t read Guy Kawasaki’s APE: How to Publish a Book, that’s a good place to start learning about promotion and marketing.
    In answer to your second question, you might want to take a look at our recent post Self-Publishing to Find a Traditional Book Deal. Here’s a link You’ll see here that one of the keys is a successful track record with the self-published original. So it might be best to focus to work on marketing that first book before looking for a traditional publisher.

    Jan 15, 2013 at 10:48AM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

    So how exactly would one go about advertising a self-published book, especially when planning on using CreateSpace?

    Jan 16, 2013 at 11:37AM | Unregistered CommenterConnor

    The first question is, “What kind of book do you want to market?” Fiction, nonfiction, how-to, etc? The type of book helps determine the best marketing strategy. Let’s begin by saying advertising doesn’t work for most self-published books. It takes too big a budget for most authors. But there are a variety of ways to promote and publicize your book. Using web tools from a website, blog Facebook, Google+, to regular Tweets help build an author platform. Event marketing from book festivals to speaking to groups works well for some authors. There are a lot of good books on promotion and marketing out there. If you’re just getting started with planning the marketing of your book, I’d recommend Guy Kawasaki’s APE: How to Publish a Book. Taking time to research marketing and developing a good marketing plan is essential if your goal is commercial success.

    Jan 16, 2013 at 1:19PM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

    Okay, thanks so much! If your question wasn't rhetorical, then I'm writing fiction (even if it wasn't rhetorical, I'm still writing fiction). Thanks for the advice! I'm not taking any big steps right now, just kind of dipping my toes in the water which is why I figured self-publishing would be the best route, especially because CreateSpace has at least some of those features for free. I think I will take a look at that book. You're making it seem pretty great :) Again, thanks for the advice!

    Jan 17, 2013 at 7:34PM | Unregistered CommenterConnor

    Another book you might want to take a look at is Patricia Fry's Talk Up Your Book. It's a more direct personal appearance based approach than Kawasaki's social media based approach. If you hope to be commercially successful you will need to really commit to a marketing plan for your book. With fiction it's really important to target your potential audience. Each genre has a different one. Then decide where to find them through social media and organizations they might be part of, then reach out with a message that would let them know about you and your book and the reasons they might want to read it.

    Jan 17, 2013 at 11:55PM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

    PostPost a New Comment

    Enter your information below to add a new comment.

    My response is on my own website »
    Author Email (optional):
    Author URL (optional):
    Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>