As I’ve begun the process of professional editing, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about my reasons for self-publishing. I’m not self-publishing because I’m lazy or impatient–I’ve been working on this book for five years, so trust me, I want what’s best for it. I’m not self-publishing because I’m worried about rejection from traditional publishers, either. I’m self-publishing because it’s the best option, at least for me. I’ll take you through some of the pros and cons, and hopefully that will help you decide which option is best for you.
Pro: Creative Control
This is 100% the most important aspect of self-publishing for me. I want the final say in what happens to my story. Now, this isn’t to say I’m not willing to take advice and improve my story, but that’s what my developmental editor is helping me with. With self-publishing, I can say “no” to changes I really don’t like. I’m getting help improving my story, but at the end of the day it’s still my story.
In addition to having control of the story, I also have control of everything else. I decide if I like a cover or a format. What if I was given a few cover options and found none of them represented the book in the way I wanted? I want to have my book presented in a way that makes me proud to call it mine, and I can’t guarantee that with traditional publishing. With self-publishing, I choose my cover designer, and we can work together to find a cover that I love.
I also own the rights to my book. I can do what I want with it. A traditional publisher could sign a contract buying the rights to my book, and after that it would be in their hands. Maybe they change their mind for some reason and don’t publish it. Maybe they make hardly any copies. I just don’t want to risk it.
Con: Nobody Tells You “No”
Now, as glad as I am for my creative control, I do understand how it is beneficial at times for a book to be rejected. You may know from my post on revision, but I nearly published my first draft several years ago. I was a new writer, and I didn’t understand that writers go through multiple drafts, and that content edits were done in addition to copy/line edits. I went so far as to get a proof copy of the book, and only ended up changing my mind because there were a couple scenes I realized I wanted to change. Many drafts and years later, I’m finally a few months away from publishing Outliers. Unfortunately, many self-published authors are in the same boat as I was then. Many of them publish unfinished works, and are met with negative reviews and little success. It can be embarrassing and discouraging when you publish something prematurely, so with self-publishing it is crucial for authors to get honest feedback (e.g.: betas and development editors).
Many self-published authors do make the mistake of publishing prematurely, and as a result the self-publishing industry has gotten a bad reputation. Many people don’t view self-publishing as a “legitimate option”, and don’t consider self-published authors “real authors”. What’s more, it can be much harder to get your book into stores because of this. That’s not to say it’s impossible to have people buy/take your book seriously, but you’ll likely have to work harder at it.
Pro: The Profit Is Yours
Traditional publishing will usually give you an advance and a small royalty once you’ve earned the advance money in sales. A lot of people are happy to take this, I mean most authors don’t sell enough to surpass their advance money, so they aren’t too worried about getting a small royalty after. Myself, I can see the appeal in knowing you’ll only make money on it. However, I have to ask myself: “What if my book did sell a ton?”, would I only want a small portion of the profit? They may pay for the publication costs, and then if it sells well, get ten times the profit. I want that profit. As hard as it is to make a book extremely successful, I think that if it is, I would want to get the profit for the book I wrote.
Con: You Pay For All Costs
Editing, cover design, formatting, buying copies–they all cost money. Quite a bit of money, actually. There are good deals out there you can find, but depending on the size of your book (a kid’s picture book typically costs less than a 600 page novel), you’ll be out thousands of dollars. A lot of people can’t afford to publish on their own, I’ve been saving and made sure I found a good deal on editing/design (it’s important the quality of the services are still good, so this can be hard), so traditional publishing can be a more viable option for them. For me, it’s worth it, but I know this might be a huge obstacle for some.
Another note, is that you’ll likely be paying for marketing either way. A traditional publisher may cover some promotional costs, usually if they think the book has good potential, but in many cases you’ll be promoting yourself no matter which way you go.
While traditional publishing can often be seen as more legitimate, and does make some things easier for the author, after considering creative control and profit, self-publishing is the best option for me.
Are you going with self-publishing or traditional publishing? Have you done either before? What was your experience? What are some additional things you’ve considered before deciding?
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With all of this in mind, go out and write your masterpiece!