Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

The Indie (independent) publishing market is growing quickly, so much that some people fear the demise of traditional publishing. Why is Indie publishing so popular? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

The options for Self-Publishing

1. Vanity Press: Authors pay to have their books published in print. This can be very expensive and doesn’t always include services like cover design, marketing, sales, etc. It really depends on the publishing company.

Some authors who go this route often have to work hard to get their books into stores. A lot of big bookstores will not purchase self-published books.

2. E-Books: There are a lot of services and markets available for publishing e-books. While distribution isn’t a problem, there is still the issue of editing, cover design, and marketing. These are the responsibility of the author. Again, this can be costly.

3. Print on Demand: Certain companies will print your book (for a fee) when someone purchases it. Amazon is one of the leaders in this market.

4. Wattpad and similar options: The author posts his/her work online for people to read, chapter by chapter. As far as I know, there is no way to earn money from this option. The only thing I can think of is the author putting a donate button on his/her website.

Why self-publish?

The number one argument for self-publishing I have seen is greater profits. However, I think this depends a lot on which form of self-publishing the person chooses, how much the person invests in services like cover design and editing, and, of course, how well the book sells.

For myself, though, I find the ability to work without externally imposed deadlines a bigger reason to self-publish. Many traditional authors bemoan deadlines. In some cases, I feel the book is forced out when it isn’t truly ready. It goes to press with errors. Self-publishing allows greater freedom to take one’s time and get it right.

Another positive is that the author doesn’t have to be demoralized by rejections. Lots of good books get rejected because they aren’t the right fit with the agent or publisher, there isn’t a huge demand for that kind of book, or the publisher doesn’t see the book’s earning potential. The problem is that the author usually doesn’t know why it is being rejected. Very few editors or agents give feedback. They usually send a form letter.

Most authors get used to rejections, but why go through this if you don’t have to?

Negatives of Self-Publishing

A self-published book can go out without being properly edited. A lot of books get published that shouldn’t be because they contain too many errors.

Also, as I mentioned in the section on the self-publishing options, there are a lot of expenses the author has to be responsible for on his/her own. If the book doesn’t sell, the author could be out of a lot of money, depending on what kinds of services were purchased.

The lack of a deadline could be an issue for some writers who have difficulty keeping on track with a project. In this case, self-imposed deadlines could be helpful, but still might not guarantee completion of the book.

The next negative I am going to mention is really just a personal pet peeve. I dislike serials (books sold in parts rather than as a whole). I think self-published authors are often anxious to get their work out there and jump the gun. Instead of waiting until the whole book is done, they post it as they write it.

The problem I see with this is that the author can’t fix problems that arise later in the story. If they already published previous chapters, they can’t make the revisions that would fix the problems. Unless the author sticks to an outline and has everything worked out ahead of time, the author cannot foresee future issues. And once part of it has been published, they are stuck working with those details and plot points, and they have to force the remaining chapters to fit, even if they really don’t.

I also don’t like having to wait for the rest of the book to be written. If I get into a book, I want to read the whole thing then. So, I won’t buy serials.

There’s another issue. Respect. While people seem to be coming around, there is still the idea that self-published authors aren’t good enough to find a ‘real’ publisher. While this may be true in some cases, it is not true for all self-published authors. The popularity and success of many self-published authors disproves this stereotype.

If You Want to Self-Publish…

There are a lot of things you should do if you want to self-publish. First and foremost, make sure the book is ready. Here are some ways you could do this:

1. Find Beta Readers-have people read the book and give you feedback. The beta readers, ideally, should not be friends or family because you need an objective opinion.

2. Hire a Proofreading Service-get a professional to find your mistakes.

3. Use Editing Software-use a computer program to find grammatical and style issues.

4. Check Plot Consistency-write out your main plot points from each chapter as a synopsis. See if the plot flows in a logical fashion from point to point. This will help you find holes as well.

5. Read It-put the book aside for a week or two, then read it from start to finish without stopping to edit anything. Did anything stand out to you that needs to be fixed? What did you like the most, dislike the most? You might find an opportunity to capitalize on something.

Once you are certain it is ready, then you need to figure out how you are going to make it available to people. If you want the book to be in print, you will need to thoroughly research each option. Make sure you aren’t going to get ripped off. I have heard this is a problem with vanity presses. They promise a lot but don’t deliver much.

See if there are any services you will need to purchase in addition to the printing. For example, if the vanity press doesn’t do cover design, find an artist and work with them to make the best cover possible within your budget. If you are fortunate enough to be a skilled artist, that is one step you won’t have to worry about.

The final thing I want to mention is self-promotion. You need to have a plan for how you will get people to find and purchase your book. If it’s an e-book, you have a lot of options because there are so many social media outlets that can be used to self-promote. Once the book gets a few positive reviews, it will be easier. If you can get some bloggers to help you out, it’s even better. Consider doing a few giveaways. Of course, you should also set up your author information on a personal website and on GoodReads.

If anyone has any other suggestions, I’d love to hear. I haven’t personally self-published a book, so it would be great to get some feedback from anyone who has gone through it.