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14 Self-Publishing Pros and Cons

self publishing pros and cons

When you’re struggling to find a literary agent or a publisher, it can be tempting to consider self-publishing to get your work out into the market. Some writers may choose self-publishing because they don’t want to make the recommended changes an agent or publisher may recommend to make their work meet industry standards. Whatever the case may be, there are some self-publishing pros and cons which must be considered before choosing this course of action.

What Are the Pros of Self-Publishing?

#1. You get to be in charge of your work. When you self-publish your manuscript, you get to make it become what you’ve always envisioned it could be. It has the artistic merit you always wanted your work to have. There isn’t any other influence within the words that readers will see. You’re putting yourself out there to the market and that is a good feeling.

#2. You control the direction of the marketing efforts. Because this is your work, you get to be in charge of how you market the book to your targeted audience. You are hands-on in every aspect of this effort. You get to design the website that will promote your book. You get to speak with bookstore sellers to represent your book. You get to schedule autograph sessions, public readings from your book, and press interviews.

#3. You get paid immediately. When you are making direct sales of a self-published book, then you don’t have to wait for royalty payments to come around. If you paid $5 per book to have it published and you sell it for $10, then you make $5 of instant revenues. Now multiply that by a few hundred or a couple thousand sales and the money can really start to add up for you.

#4. You don’t have to spend a lot of time waiting for responses. It may take up to 90 days or more for a publisher to get back with you about an unsolicited manuscript. It may take the same amount of time for a literary agent to get back with you about the potential for your book. There may be extra waiting time involved as an agent and a publisher negotiate your contracts. It could be well over a year before your current manuscript gets printed, but if you self-publish, that time can be cut down by 75%.

#5. You’re not paying anyone else but yourself. Anyone who is involved with the traditional publishing of your book is going to want a cut of the sales that you’re able to generate. This includes your agent, the publisher, and maybe even the editors that are assigned to you by the publisher. If you want, you can do this all on your own when you self-publish. If you do want to seek out an editor, then you can work with someone you want instead of having someone forced on you.

#6. You get to have a voice in the artwork design of your book. It’s not just the words that are important when you’re publishing a book. How the cover looks will also attract an audience to your story. You get to work directly with designers for the publishing house and often get to dictate how you want the cover to look. You can even use your own artwork if you prefer. It is very rare to get cover-to-cover control if you go through the traditional publishing process.

#7. It still looks like it was professionally published. Self-publishing has become so good today that it can be difficult to tell the difference between a traditionally published book and one you’ve published on your own. If your story is engaging, then you’ll be able to start generating a fan base that will slowly compound upon itself and grow.

What Are the Cons of Self-Publishing?

#1. You have to establish industry contacts. Self-publishing a book doesn’t mean it will instantly grab someone’s attention. You’ve got to reach out to people and start building relationships within the industry. This means you’ll have to invest a lot of time where you may not receive any sales at all for your work. Until you can establish these contacts, most of your book sales are going to come from family and friends only.

#2. You generally have to pay for publishing first. It can cost several thousands dollars to self-publish a book. You may need to purchase ISBNs for your book. You might want to pay for a copyright. The costs of publishing a book can build up quickly and you’ve got to pay them before you can ever start earning money. This may not necessarily be true for e-books if that is the only format you choose, but there is no guarantee that your e-book will sell either, so you might put in a lot of sweat equity and not get a return from it.

#3. You have to do your own negotiating. Unless you are well-versed with the industry standards for subsidiary rights, royalties, and other issues that are involved with your work, then you might not be negotiating the best deal possible for your work if you are able to take it into different markets. Every bookstore will want to negotiate with you about returning books that don’t sell and what their share of a sale will be. It doesn’t take long for these negotiations to become a full-time job.

#4. There can be tax consequences. If you’re selling a retail product to others directly, then you may be required to collect a sales tax on that transaction. In order to collect a sales tax, you may be required to register yourself as a business. If you pay someone to represent your books to others, then you may be required to send them tax information at the end of the year. You may also be required to pay self-employment taxes or other business taxes in your jurisdiction. You’ll want to know what all of your tax consequences may be before you start self-publishing.

#5. Your work is often invisible… sometimes for a long time. There is a lot of material that has been self-published today and a lot of it is really not that great. Many in the public assume that because you’re self-publishing, your work fits into that category. You’ll have to work hard to establish your credibility as an author, especially if this is your first book. It can be done, but don’t expect to happen magically without any work on your behalf. If you don’t put yourself out there, your work isn’t going to be found.

#6. You’ll have to establish distribution channels. Traditional publishers use a full network of distribution channels that make it easy for booksellers to generate sales for them. Most self-published authors don’t have this luxury. Some print-on-demand providers will give you access to this type of distribution for an added cost, but that’s another price to pay without a guarantee that you’ll earn some money in return.

#7. It can hurt your future chances with a traditional publisher or literary agent. Of course self-publishing is a great idea when everything goes well. Yet if it doesn’t go well, it shows the industry that you don’t have the chops to make things happen. Future works will be questioned for their viability if your current work flops with your self-publishing efforts. Sometimes it is a gamble that pays off, but sometimes it can flop badly.

These self-publishing pros and cons are just some of the key points to consider before joining the ranks of authors who have put their work into print.

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Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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