Self-publishing has historically carried something of a stigma. There was this underlying opinion that only those authors not good enough to win a contract with a major publisher would eventually self-publish out of vanity. This is, of course, not entirely true. I suspect major publishers might have been behind the idea, mostly to increase their stature by diminishing that of others.
There was a reason why publishing houses gained the strength and influence they did. They were products of their times and the technology that existed. They were very gifted at capitalizing on technology and had the resources to exploit it. Over time, they learned how to do what they did very well. And, because the logistics of distribution and production were costly to exploit, they could afford to risk their capital on only what they considered to be the best and most marketable works.
But, times have changed. The major publishing houses have allowed the confidence they had in their craft, their knowledge of the markets, and their capital reserves to harden their sensitivity to emerging trends – trends that will probable prove to be their undoing. The major publishing houses have been surprisingly slow to catch on to the technology of the day. They have been reluctant to modify or even abandon historical business models that at one time made them kings of their industry.
Just to ease your mind about the legitimacy of self-publishing, let me point to one talented author whose works you are doubtless familiar with – Mark Twain. He was a self-publisher. After “Tom Sawyer” was such a hit, he shrewdly decided that the profits he made for his publisher could just as well be his. So, he started his own publishing company. He was, at that point, a self-published author. Another successful self-publisher was Edgar Allen Poe. Here are a few more you might be familiar with:
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Now, Twain discovered, as all self-published authors do, that publishing is not as easy as it looks. Nonetheless, the trend is unstoppably moving that direction these days. I have been published a number of times by major publishers. I do not intend to approach them again. Why? Here are 7 reasons why I self-publish and you should too.
- I don’t care about lining pockets of publishers. The typical royalty for an author who is not a blockbuster like Steven King or John Grisham is 15% or less. That means publishers will keep 90% of the cover price for their expenses and profit.
- If I am going to market, I want a bigger piece of the pie. I noticed the change about 15 years ago when I shopped a manuscript around and discovered publishers expected me to market the book too. In their writer’s guidelines, in response to queries, and in stipulations for proposals through agents, I was asked to supply details about my platform as an author and to provide a detailed marketing plan covering the projected market and how I would market the book to it. It was this that pushed me down the road to self-publishing. I was being asked to enter into a contract with a publishing company that required of me everything except printing the book and distribution. Well, those two issues have been readily resolved through technology. Thus, a major publishing house is rendered unnecessary. You may sell fewer books (I project you won’t sell fewer), but your take will be higher, much higher.
- The sad truth is that major publishing houses want me, the author, to do the marketing because they intend to devote virtually no time or resources to it. The bread and butter for them are the blockbuster writers, all the others are second stringers. Print runs for unknowns are small, promotions to bookstores are half-hearted, returns are many.
- I don’t need to impress publishers but I do want to connect with readers. Self-publishers have a divided constituency to satisfy. The most obvious one is reader, the end-user of your product. Superimposed over that is the publisher. The manuscript buyers will have final say over content. Self-publishers are free to focus on and connect with their readers.
- Just about everyone has something to say. For many authors, the hurdles of the publishing world prevent good ideas and interesting stories from ever being told. Self-publishers can tell their tales with little regard to anyone other than themselves.
- The market place will weed out those whose work cannot find an audience, whose skills as a publisher as well as a writer cannot produce a revenue stream, and whose awkwardness at combining art and business fail to yield a profitable business model. You might get the idea that anyone can publish a book regardless of their talent as a writer. Well, they can. I am not implying it will be successful or even should be. Like Mark Twain, you will discover it is not as easy as it looks. Writing is only one part of the process. Books need to be edited (by someone other than yourself or your mother unless she is a professional editor). They need to be formatted and typeset. Covers needs to be designed. Marketing plans need to be devised, scheduled, and executed. I encourage everyone to try. I expect few will have the wherewithall to actuall follow through.
- Some writers are not concerned about profits (fortune) or visibility (fame). They have a focused audience for whom they wish to offer their ideas, opinions, and/or stories and are quite content to realize whatever profits or fame might come their way, even if it is not grand.
- Amazon with their Kindle, Barnes & Noble with their Nook, and other e-reader producers have turned the publishing world upside-down in the same manner and to a greater degree than Apple did with I-tunes. While there have always been self-publishers, the challenge has been distribution. That problem is now solved. Anyone with a computer, internet access, and even mediocre skills can publish.
What do you think? What other reasons can you think of that you should self-publish?