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Should I Self Publish My Books?

Should I self publish my books is an article I wrote as someone who has been in the indie publishing arena for many years. In fact, I published my first title back in 2006! 16 years ago! I now have over 60 titles live! From epic fantasy to non-fiction, short stories to colouring in books and journals. I publish wide, and upload my works directly to Apple, Amazon, B&N, Kobo and more. I am just going to jump straight in.
 

Traditionally published authors sell more books.

There are many traditionally published authors and many self-published books that sell less than a handful of copies. #Fact. I would go so far to wager that the mass majority of both indie and Trad books are low sellers. I say this, because it seems to be a thing in almost all creative spaces. 1% of the videos on YouTube, produce 99% of all views. The other 99% of the videos produce 1% of the views. We see this all over. Wealth distribution, music, art, movies and books are no different. There will be a mass majority of books that do not sell many at all, then there will be a middle ground where they will sell enough o continue writing and enjoy the idea of being “a full-time author” and then there will be that small majority, that elite group that sell books by the boatload, the JK Rowling’s, Dan Brown, Steven king, Jeffrey Archer, Paulo Coelho, etc.
 
In my research, I can see that both Trad and Indie authors at each of the stages mentioned above. Do I know what the magical formula is? No, will it stop me from writing my novels no? Who knows if your book will make you rich or not? All we can know is, do we enjoy writing and telling stories? If that is the case, then write your god dam mother fucking story and then let the world decide if that story is going to buy you a new house or not. Statistically, talking is more likely not. Trad or Indie, the numbers are stacked against you.
 
However, there are many benefits to indie publishing and these benefits allow you to stack the cards in your favour. Let me explain.
 

Control

In the broadest of terms, self-publishing gives you more control than traditional publishing. That being said, there is a lot more work. As a self-published author, you are a business. You need to take control and be in charge of every decision. The buck does not pass; it rests with you. But this means that you dictate everything, what experts you employ, listen too, seek advice from your cover art, your formatting, your rights and more. It is not for the fainthearted; it is not simple and the stats for business startups are bleak. 90% fail within the first two years. I am not trying to scare you; I am trying to drill into you that it’s hard graft. Just like writing a book is hard graft. Taking it from first draft to online bookstore is a journey of ups and downs, twists and turns, worthy of any mystery novel. So prepare yourself. As my old martial arts instructor used to say. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. That control is a central theme in everything that comes next.
 

Timeline

You dictate the timeline. Traditionally published book can take a long time to come to fruition. An author could finish the book, have it completed by the editor etc and then wait a further two years before it hits the stores. One advantage of going indie is you can drastically cut the time to market. If there is something new and trending in your genre and assuming you can write fast, you can catch that trend. That is just not possible in the Trad world.
 

Author’s Rights

Yes, when a publishing house acquires a book, they’re essentially buying the rights to publish that manuscript. That means the author does not have the rights until that contract is null and void. So, be an indie and keep your rights. As a self-published author, if you want to try block chain publishing you can, if you want to translate it into Polish you can, If you want to give it away for FREE you can. You can do whatever you want, you hold the rights.
 

Book Editor

Indie authors employ industry editors just as Traditional publishers do. I suppose the main difference here is you have control. Control to choose your editor, control to accept or reject their edits, their recommendations. For full creative control, go indie. This is not the case with Trad publishing, where the recommendations and edits being done are factors directly related to whether you book with be published or not.
 
For example, after limited feedback from friends, I employed a highly rated developmental editor, a past judge of the British Fantasy Awards. A man who had mentored and moulded more than one award-winning book. A man who is an award-winning fantasy author himself, not some office jock playing at it. I am not saying that all editors in traditional publishing houses are salary jockies, but most must be. And a good few will have passion and experience, but I will assume that some are just punching the timesheet and doing a job, a job that gives them security and pays the bills. Freelancers may be the same, but they are closer connected to the Indie author and just like us, they are running a small business and they have skin in the game. I paid top dollar and had my manuscript ripped apart. Indie authors are not cutting corners here, your assumptions may be correct for a portion, but those serious about their work are employing the same methods as TRAD, but paying for the services out of their own pockets because they believe in their projects.
 

Book Cover Design

Cover art is very important to book. Never judge a book by its cover is a classic saying that I am sure you have heard, however, you know as I do that is exactly what we do. We judge a potential read by its cover. So making sure that the cover to your new book resonates with the prospective audience and with you is key. As an indie author in the publishing industry, you have full control over your cover art and cover design. You get your book to look the way you want your book to look. This is not always the case in the traditional publishing industry, as they have so much time and money invested, they decide what the cover will be like, even if it is a million miles away from what you, as the author had envisaged. After all, it’s their product now. You have signed the rights over and no longer have creative input.
 

Book Blurb

A key part of the sales pipeline. If you think about the cover as the bait that gets the fish to bit the blurb is when you reel them in. Blurb writing is so very different from book writing. You may want to outsource this, you may want to use your own words, if you do you will need to self publish.
 

Book Formatting

Be it the overall layout, the fonts, pictures, maps or having a dedicated page to advertise other books, services or ask for a review, etc With you in control you can do it anyway you want, if you have a contract with a publisher you will most likely use the standard templates that they use, limiting some aspects of your potential creative touch. For formatting as an indie author, check out Atticus.io it is an extremely powerful formatting software that takes all the hard work and guesswork out of formatting your book to paperback, hardback and ebook. You can also write your book in this software, too.
 

Quality Control

This is a key drawback of doing everything yourself or going DIY. Why? It is really hard to see your flaws and be honest with yourself. It is hard to hear that your cover looks bad, or your formatting choices are hard to read, or you blurb sucks hard. This is where the traditional publishing machine has an advantage over doing it yourself. However, if you know this and you are not a stickler for details, then you can plan for this and out source this to the right people. Outsourcing your cover design, blurb etc, employing and editor etc. Everything is possible when you self-publish a book.
 

Book Royalties

There are many ways that a traditional author will get paid, and this is completely defined within the contract they agree to. This is usually an upfront payment, known as an advance, then when this advance is recuperated the author will start to get a set royalty depending on sales numbers etc. All of this is defined in the contract you agree too. From day one, an indie author gets the same slice of the pie. Day 1 to day 10000. And that slice is systematically higher across the board, compared to the Trad authors’ slice. Both sell on the same platforms, Amazon, Apple, kobo, B and N etc the difference is for the same £10 price and indie authors will take home a larger slice of the pie from day one.
 

Book Marketing

No matter if you use a self publishing platform or you accept a traditional publishing deal, you will have to do the brunt of the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing. So, no advantage here either way. Marketing used to be something a publisher would do, but now it is only the big authors that receive marketing above a press release. Authors need to step up and be the marketeer their book needs. However, it is published.
 
At the end of the day success does not entirely rest on the work itself (if you are referring to the quality of the book as the sole factor of success, no.) Marketing is far more important. Shit books sell by the millions if they have a big enough marketing budget. Check out my Marketing book and my SEO book.
 

Book Distribution

This one gets me. Now, If I walk into the bookstore and mosey on over to the fantasy section, there are twelve shelves. At least eight of those shelves are holding Tolkien, G RR Martin, Sanderson etc. Leaving very little room for newer established trad authors, never mind first timers. Online, it is a different world. Every author has access to almost every online bookstore be it Apple, B&N, Amazon, Kobo, Waterstones etc. Authors also have their own websites to gain sales and if they are savvy tools like Publisher Rocket to gamify their Amazon listings and adverts. So when it comes to distribution, there is no clear disadvantages to new authors wither they publish traditional publishing or self-publishing.

 

Conclusion Should I Self Publish My Books?

There is no doubt that I am in favour of self publishing my books and encourage others to do so too. However, that is not to say Traditional publishing has its benefits. Above I painted a very particular picture of the positives and potential of self publishing your books. You may have observed from the article that self publishing is an intensive process, where you either do each of the steps yourself or you outsource each step (Cover, Blurb, formatting, editing, marketing etc) and become a project manager, however, this is not for everyone. Traditionally published authors may have to give up more creative freedoms, rights and a larger cut of the money pie to the agents and publisher they jump in bed with, but in return they do not have to do as much work. The traditional publisher will lighten the load considerably, allowing for more time to write. So what ever you decide to do, self-publishing vs traditional, the key is to never let lots of external crap distract you from the key thing, which is writing.
 
 
PS:
The future will tell if I return the investments I have made in my books. There are so many costs in Indie, but as they say, skin in the game. I put my money up to back my ideas, win some, lose some. Go Indie, start a business and take responsibility for your own products. Bypass the gatekeepers, have full control (the story, art work, formats, rights), publish quicker and keep more royalties. Indie all the way.
 
There are a good deal of indie authors making £100,000 Per Month. Just check out the 20to50K group on FB, or the SPF group on FB. Folks are always publishing their numbers. And some are eye watering. Recently a trad author(Brandon Sanderson) went indie to publish five new books and broke the Kickstarter author record, raising $41M to release his books. That is enough to pay for his team and keep some healthy profit! No middle men.
 
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