Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
by Nikolas Baron
The Internet has changed the landscape of writing. It used to be that a writer would finish his or her work, polish it, and submit it to a publisher, which would then review the manuscript and either accept it or reject it. If it was the latter, the writer would have no choice other than to resubmit the piece to a new publisher and try again. While the option to self-publish was certainly present, it was very expensive and often only used as a way for new writers to get noticed.
In the modern age of the Internet, however, that has all changed. Using Print-On-Demand services or an ebook format, anyone with a computer can self-publish their manuscript and sell it through popular online book retailers, reaching a potential audience in a way never seen before. But, is it the right thing to do? Truthfully, there are both pros and cons to self-publishing, even in the easy Internet age. Before a writer decides to self-publish a book, he or she should carefully consider the following:
- Audience – When a traditional publisher is deciding whether to invest in the publication of a book, one of the major elements it must consider is whether or not the potential audience for the book is large enough to justify the cost of publishing and marketing. One of the major benefits of self-publishing is that it gives the writer the opportunity to get his or her book in front of the potential audience, regardless of how large (or small) it is. This is especially good for niche books, which will appeal to a very specific audience.
- Timeliness – Once a writer signs a publishing contract with a new writer, it may still take up to a year for the final book to be released to shelves. This is because the book will go through a series of editing, designing, and marketing processes before the publisher decides the book is ready for the public. A self-published writer can forgo a lot of that time. He or she still needs to spend time polishing and designing the book, but the process will go a lot quicker.
- Royalties – One of the biggest benefits of self-publishing a book is the increased royalties. Traditional publishers can take over 85-percent of the royalties from a new book, leaving the author making sometimes as little as a dollar per copy sold. With self-publishing, that amount jumps drastically, with some authors making as much as 70-percent royalties if they go the ebook route.
- Authorial Control – When a traditional publisher's money is involved, the publisher may dictate changes to the content, voice, flow, or narrative of your book, if these changes are expected to improve sales of the book. With self-publishing, the writer has complete control over the book, ultimately choosing to publish the book in the way he or she feels is best.
- Risk – When publishing a book through a traditional publisher, most of the risk is on the publisher's side. The publisher usually pays an advance to the author based on how much the book is expected to sell, as well as front the money for editing, designing, and marketing. If the book doesn't sell well, the publisher is out most of that money. In self-publishing all of that risk is on the author. He or she must front all of the time, energy, and money to publish the book, and he or she must be okay with the potential that the book may not sell enough to recover those costs.
- Multiple Roles – Unlike traditional publishing, which requires the writer to primarily write, self-publishing requires to writer to edit, design, and market the book as well. While there are services online that can make these processes easier, they often cost money, and all of that financial burden will then fall on the author.
- Competition – Since it has become so easy to self-publish a book in the Internet age, many amateur authors have chosen that route. That means any writer that throws his or her hat into the self-publishing ring has to contend with an unprecedented number of direct competitors. After all, if there are tens of thousands of books available, it becomes harder for potential readers to wade through the bad books to find the one or two diamonds hidden in the rough.
- Higher Scrutiny – Because of the ease of self-publishing, self-published books are also held to a higher standard than many traditionally published books. While it's not uncommon for grammatical and style errors to slip through the traditionally publishing process, if a self-published book has these same errors, readers may be quick to pass the book off as the product of shoddy self-publishing. A self-published writer has to be prepared for this level of scrutiny.
Thankfully, many of these cons can be addressed by a writer settling into those multiple roles above, or at least finding substitutes for them. For example, if a writer is struggling with designing the book cover, he or she can usually find good, amateur artists online who might design the cover for considerably less than a professional may charge. If a writer is concerned with proofreading and grammatical errors slipping through the cracks, he or she might be well-served by using an online grammar check, like the one offered on Grammarly, as a second set of eyes.
While there is certainly no easy answer to the question of whether or not an author should self-publish, there are some definite considerations the author must give before making that decision. If any of these cons seem too great to overcome, the writer may be more suited for the traditional published route. If not, however, he or she may find the self-publishing route immensely rewarding.
About Nikolas Baron:
Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.
Website | Blog | Twitter |Facebook