Has Self-Publishing Come of Age?

Many people think of self-publishing as a new phenomenon, being resorted to by frustrated authors who haven’t been able to land a contract with a traditional publisher. However, as I point out in my eBook, autographed paperback, self-publishing is not just for unknown writers and it’s not something new.

Self-publishing is a viable option for many, and presents a variety of new marketing and publishing options that writers didn’t have access to before. While you’ll forgo the advance that traditional publishers may give you, you’ll see a greater share of the royalties. Instead of a 10-15% advance (and potentially nothing more after that), you’ll see an on-going 30-70% of royalties from a self-published book.

But, keep in mind, that as a self-publisher, you are responsible for everything related to the book. That includes, at a minimum, cover design, editing, formatting, layout, proofing, publishing, marketing and publicity.

On December 9, 2012, CBS Sunday Morning ran the following video segment about self-publishing.

Given how accessible self-publishing options are these days, how do you decide which way to go or if you should publish at all?

  1. If you want a traditional publisher, know your reasons why. I was talking about this with a friend recently who reminded me that no one ever makes a purchasing decision for a book based on who published it. So, why do you want to use a traditional publisher? You may have a very good reason, but be clear about what it is.
  2. If you are considering self-publishing, do you have what it takes to manage all the pieces that go into it? In other words, are you up for managing a large project? You’re going to have to coordinate a variety of skill-sets or provide the talent yourself in order to put out a quality book. Self-publishing is more than just writing the book and uploading it to a distribution site. There is an art to cover design that makes a book attractive to a prospective reader. And, once the book is open, you want to ensure that typos and grammatical errors don’t detract from the reader’s experience. Then, there’s ensuring that people even know the book exists. Your friends and family are only going to buy so many copies. So, how else will you get the word out about it?
  3. If you are self-publishing in the hopes of picking up a traditional publisher later, have you worked out a plan that ensures you’ll sell a minimum of 10,000 copies in the first year? The ISBN of a book enables publishers to see the sales history of a book, which they consider as part of their purchasing decisions. If you self-publish and sell only a few copies, you have made your journey to traditional publishing that much more difficult because you have, in essence, proven that you don’t have a viable audience.
  4. Whether self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher, have you spent the necessary time to build your platform (the audience who is aware of you and your work)? Major publishers want to see that you have a ready-made audience. One industry expert shared a few quick gauges she uses for this. Do you have a Klout score of 70 or higher, an available mailing list of 20,000 or more (yours or someone else’s), and at least 20 speaking engagements a year at $5K or more per engagement (or that you are already a celebrity in some other way)? If you don’t have these things, consider them as benchmarks you want to achieve as you build your audience. The bigger the platform you have, the greater success you’ll realize with your self-published material.

The ready availability of self-publishing options is attractive to many, and it’s certainly easier to get your material out there than pursuing a major publisher. But before you take the leap, recognize that self-publishing is a business, not an outlet. It’s not a magic wand to fame and fortune.

Make sure that you have laid out a solid plan to achieve your goals and have the necessary resources of time, money, connections (it doesn’t have to be costly) to implement the plan. If you don’t, you’ll be disappointed with the results.

If you need help getting started with a plan, consider buying a copy of The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books in either .pdf or Kindle format. It will get you pointed in the right direction.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in self-publishing your books?

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Tara R. Alemany

Award-winning author and speaker, and owner at Aleweb Social Marketing
Tara Alemany defies a simple definition. She is an award-winning and best-selling author and speaker, as well as a serial entrepreneur. Her publishing company, Emerald Lake Books, benefits experts and thought leaders as they grow their business by taking their words from manuscript to masterpiece. Her consulting company, Aleweb Social Marketing helps authors and speakers to get found online, on-stage and on-the-shelf. In addition to publishing, consulting, writing and speaking, Tara serves on the Boards of Directors for a Christian writers’ critique group, as well as acting as co-president and chaplain of the group. In her spare time, she is a novice winemaker, a martial artist, a juggler, a military Mom to 2 teenagers (one of each), step-Mom to 2 dogs (one of each) and is owned by a black cat.

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