After months of slaving away in front of your computer (or typewriter, if that's how you roll), you finally did it. You finally finished your book! So, what's the next step?
If your book is print-ready, the next step is to get it published. At this point, you need to decide whether you want to go down the traditional path or do it on your own and self-publish. Let's take a look at these two methods to help you decide if self-publishing is for you.
Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing
Getting your work published the "old" way entails sending your manuscript and query letters to publishing houses. Then, you'd have to wait for one of them to offer you a book deal. The house will buy the rights to your book. In exchange, you will receive an advance and royalties.
The biggest challenge in getting your work bought by a publishing house is the competition. According to Liminal Pages, agents receive anywhere from 50 to 300 submissions a month. All of those will be your competition for the publishing house's attention.
If you do manage to get your book noticed, there are still a lot of hoops to jump through before you can see your book published. You'd have to change your book until it is deemed worthy by the house. This is a big reason why some turn to self-publishing.
Self-publishing is exactly what the name says; you publish your work yourself. You are in charge of everything from editing your text to marketing your work after it has been published. Since you will be doing all the work, you will also be receiving all the glory.
In 2011, self-published authors started taking in huge chunks of revenue in the industry. How big of a chunk? According to the numbers released by The New Publishing Standard, in 2019 alone, Kindle Unlimited paid indie authors a whopping 300 million dollars. Yes, you read correctly - and that is just for Kindle Unlimited.
You might be wondering if it was such a lucrative thing, how come not every author is taking advantage of this self-publishing opportunity. The stigma of paying to publish your work could be the reason for that. Self-publishing may be big now, but there are still some negative notions that go with it.
The stigma of publishing your book
The first stigma that is closely related to self-publishing is that indie authors are not legitimate. Many people question does self-Publishing count as being published? If people hear that you published your work using your own money, they immediately think that you simply are not at par with authors who are published traditionally.
The next negative assumption about self-publication is that no publishing house wanted to work with the author. This is not true for all indie writers. Some simply wanted to have more creative control, wanted their books published faster, or wanted a bigger share of the royalties.
Finally, when people hear self-published, they commonly assume that the work is either of low quality or not reliable. Many assume, wrongly at times, that big publishing houses are gatekeepers of high-quality and dependable materials.
Pros of self-publishing
- Thanks to the Internet and the emergence of new digital technology, it has become easier to publish one's work without having to go through a publishing house. It is slowly becoming the method of choice for many authors, both seasoned and novice ones.
- Probably the biggest reason why authors choose to self-publish is the creative control that self-publishing affords. This was the case for the author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter, who decided to publish her work herself rather than change her work to land a book deal.
- The next benefit is the ability to get your book on the "shelves" faster and keep it there longer. With traditional publishing, it can take months after submitting your manuscript to see your book in print. With self-publishing platforms, you can publish your book in a couple of days.
- You also get a more significant percentage of royalties with self-publishing. The current rate that most publishing houses give is about 15 per cent of the book's list price. This is so small compared to the 70% that goes straight to you if you publish your book with Amazon or AppleBooks.
Cons of self-publishing
Of course, there are downsides to publishing your work yourself. The biggest of which is that you have to do everything yourself. Proofreading and editing, formatting etc - these costs can add up!
Free tools like Grammarly make this a lot easier. Consider trying it out, I use it for everything as it is a browser extension, phone keyboard add-on and Microsoft Word add-in.
- You don't have access to skilled editors to polish your work or spur you on. Nor will you have a marketing team to help you promote your book.
- If you don't have the know-how to market your work, you'd have to hire somebody to help you do that.
- You will probably also need to hire a graphic designer and a layout artist. All in all, you might just have to spend up to $1,500 if you want to see your work published! Unless of course, you follow this guide on Self-publishing on Amazon For Under $200.
But generally, the upfront cost could be why a lot of writers do not immediately choose self-publication. The risk of not being able to sell enough books to recoup the expenses incurred is significant.
If you want your book to get published your way, for your price, no matter what, self-publishing is an avenue that you can explore. However, it is best to go into it with all the information you can get. It might offer a lot of benefits, but, just like any other investment, there are risks too.