Depending on where you’ve been keeping yourself over the past couple of months you may have heard rumblings that the market for self-published literature has bottomed out. Kindle Unlimited has reduced earnings for Indie authors and forced many to return to their day jobs, there are too many traditionally-published books on the market at lower prices, or insert any other complaint here that shows Amazon slighting indie authors. As with everything we hear, whether it’s online or in the realer world, we should examine the sources and try to determine their motivation. Once we’ve done that, we often discover that the sky isn’t really falling and there is no reason to get fitted for a tinfoil hat. Not yet anyway.
The quality of the content and product presentation of self-published literature is improving at a staggering rate. I had no idea that there were so many talented, creative writers out there. And, many authors are connecting with readers and selling books by the truckload every day. If you’re still not convinced I’d like to present you with some reasons why self-publishing may be the route for you.
1. It’s the fastest way to have your work read.
I attended the same writers conference three years in a row. During year one a writer signed a contract with an agent. She wasn’t the only one but I remember her situation well. When I was at the same conference a year later, the agent had finally placed the manuscript with a publisher and they were hoping to have her book released in twelve to eighteen months. That’s a three- to three-and-a-half year period from manuscript completion to publication. Many of the authors in attendance were excited and accepted this as the norm. It often is when your work is published traditionally, but it doesn’t have to be.
I’m currently working on three different books. I’ve revised and played with them over the past couple of years. This year I may release all three. Once I’ve completed my final edits I can have a book out within days. I have a formatter and cover designer ready to help at a moment’s notice. I don’t want to have to wait three years and neither do my readers.
2. It’s possible to produce a professional product that can stand spine to virtual spine with any traditionally published book.
And, we can do this without crowdfunding (asking strangers to invest in our dream and giving them a bookmark in return). This does not require investing a ton of money. My investment per book is approximately $1,000. I am fortunate enough to have a group of beta readers who help me and this eliminates the need for substantive editing. I still use a professional editor for copy-editing, a formatter, and a cover designer who works for a traditional publishing house and moonlights helping indie authors. This initial budget includes my first promotion which costs about $100 when I utilize Free Kindle Books and Tips, The Fussy Librarian, Peoplereads, and EreaderNewsToday. With the help of these sites I manage to connect with enough readers who purchase my book and I recoup my initial investment very quickly. Promoting with Bookbub would increase this budget by a few hundred dollars. (You can find links to all these promotional sites here.)
3. You can make the changes faster.
If I want to change my pricing or my book description or even the content of my book, I just do it. I don’t have to wait for a publisher to make the changes. I have two novels published under a pseudonym with a small publishing house and I have a very good relationship with them. Because they’re running a business and catering to a number of authors, they can’t just drop everything and deal with my requests. But with my self-published books, if I become aware of a trend in the market, or see something that is working for another author, I can act on it immediately and make the necessary changes.
4. You see more of the money.
With the exception of my short story collection, my eBooks are priced from $2.99 to $4.99. I receive 70% of that amount. It’s a great deal for me and some months I even make a living from my Amazon royalty checks. The check I receive from my publisher each month for the books published under my pen name doesn’t even cover my gas money.
5. You might just get picked up by one of Amazon’s imprints and have the best of both worlds.
Amazon’s editors are constantly perusing their own product pages for the best self-published books and considering them for publishing contracts. With the marketing juice they offer once you sign for one of their imprints, your work will be exposed to readers on a scale that by ourselves we cannot muster. It’s difficult to refer to Amazon as a traditional publisher because really they’re not. They offer greater royalty rates than other publishers and a creative freedom authors can usually only experience by doing the work themselves. So, if they come knocking – answer. It might just give you the best of both worlds. Oh, and by the way, I’m still waiting for the knock to come.
My primary motivation in becoming a writer was never to make a million dollars. It was to have my work read, and read by as many readers as possible. Self-publishing is still the most efficient way to do this, and if your plan is to make writing your career (and who would deny that), becoming an indie author should be in your future.
I know there are other reasons I’ve missed. Feel free to call me on that and share them. Good luck connecting with your readers. They’re out there and they’re waiting.
52 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why You Should STILL Be Self-Publishing”
I’m with you, Martin, Excellent post.
Thanks T.D., much appreciated.
Could I please add another reason to self-publish: unlimited creative freedom. Indie authors create works that aren’t formulaic.
Yes, it seems as though the truly original ideas are coming from this quarter, doesn’t it. Great point, Annette, thank you.
As rough as the competition for success is becoming for indies – it’s MUCH worse for trad pub writers. Advances are way down. Earning out is exceptionally rare. Publishers overprice your books, making them hard to sell and harming writers ability to build audiences. And the non-compete clauses built into most publishing contracts today can devastate a career.
To me, a main reason to stay indie is that the alternative is far, FAR worse.
I agree, Kevin. If we want our work read and see some return financially it’s by far the best route. Thanks for commenting.
Thanks, I needed that.
My pleasure. Thanks for dropping by Maria.
Thank you Martin! I’m on the cusp of publishing my second novel and several friends have suggested I reconsider taking the traditional publishing route. Your excellent post comes at the right time for me – self-publishing it is -unless something major happens to change my decision.
Good! Let us know how it works out for you Mira. Thanks for sharing.
Great post, Martin. I think people get on the woe is me, gloom-and-doom, track when they see changes. Only nature tells us that everything is cyclical (starting with the seasons). There are going to be times when self-publishers make tons and times when it tapers off and then it will ramp up again. And not everyone has the same experience at the same time. If you want to publish at the moment, I think self-publishing still gives you so much autonomy and flexibility that it’s worth doing.
If you want to add one more reason, say that self-publishing gives you a chance to succeed or fail without looking over your shoulder. Not all traditionally published books are successes, but for those writers who have those books that didn’t get “success” as measured by the publisher, I think it’s possible for the self esteem to take a hit. There’s this feeling that traditional publishers know all and if it didn’t work, it’s somehow all on that writer. Some books will succeed, and some won’t, but if you’re the publisher, the pressure is off. If the first thing doesn’t work, you can try something different — a new cover, a different book, jazzing up the blurb. In traditional publishing, the attitude if it doesn’t work is, too bad for you, author. There’s no willingness to continue to bet on you. With self publishing, you get to bet on yourself, and make changes, when necessary.
Yes, it’s an interesting journey. We’re on our own for sure, but we do have support behind us too as evidenced by this and other helpful websites. And, I like your thoughts on how cyclical these things are. Just because things go down doesn’t mean they won’t come back up. Great point. Thanks RJ.
Excellent. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Good! Thanks Yvonne.
With you all the way, Martin. Thank you!
Great post, Martin. Another thing I might add is the issue of control. Self-pubbing means you create the book you envision, not the pigeon-holed, cliched genre-lookalike that the publisher thinks is trending (or was trending when they bought the rights). For me, self-pub is a no brainer, and I love it.
That’s a great point. We’re responsible for telling the story that’s inside us. Nobody else. Thanks Melissa.
As usual, a great post Martin. I don’t even consider being with a traditional publisher any longer. All that pressure! If my books sell, great. If they don’t, the only one who is going to get on my case, is me.
Yep, we fall or fly based on our own talents. I wouldn’t want it any other way either. Thanks Karen.
All excellent reasons, though I think it’s a little misleading to talk about the money being better because some authors do still get reasonable advances. People should also know that self-publishing generally means no significant bookstore sales. I only say this because there are very real trade-offs that authors who are on the cusp of the decision should understand — especially, I think, authors in genres that don’t sell quite as easily as ebooks (literary comes to mind). I would still urge a literary author with serious ambitions to try the old fashioned way first. If that doesn’t work — or eventually stops working — self-publishing or some combination of traditional and self-publishing is the other way to get out there and build your readership.
Thanks for commenting Sandra. I think from a percentages point of view self-publishing is still the way to go. The chances of landing a contract with an advance is becoming rarer and rarer (although like you say it does still happen).
And, I write literary fiction and I sell books every day as do other authors who write for this website.
And yes, print sales are a different nut to crack. I do very little in print sales but I tell myself that with all those e-books I’m still accomplishing my goal – readers are reading my work.
That is indeed what it comes down to, and why I’m still quite happy doing it myself.
This list comes at perfect timing for me, Martin. Thanks for that.
My pleasure, Dianne. Thanks for dropping by.
I’m working both sides of the fence. My second trad pub book was just released in January. My first sold more than 10,000 copies before it went out of print. It took 2 years for them to put this one out after receiving the manuscript but I did get a $4000 advance. It is nonfiction with 100 color photos, printed on high quality paper with a beautiful layout and priced under $15. I’ve seen 4 reviews so far, all from blogs with large followings including HGTV and none on Amazon yet. They don’t give stars, but all the reviews have been very good. It is being marketed all over the world with aggressive marketing across Asia- a coup for an American author. Barnes & Noble just made what my publisher describes as a large purchase. My publisher has first option-for 60 days- on my next book for which my agent has already submitted the proposal. I’ll get an advance before even starting to write the manuscript.
I’m working on 2 other books which I plan to self publish with my agent’s approval – and she won’t get a dime from them unless they attract enough interest for a trad publisher to make an offer on them. Everything I’ve learned here at IU gives me the confidence and knowledge to proceed with self publishing. I appreciate and thank everyone here for their support and sharing their experience. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out for me.
Thanks for that, Richard. It’s good to hear that it can still happen on the trad side. It’ll be interesting to hear about your experience when you self-publish.
Thanks, Martin. This is an excellent article and, of course, I’ll be continuing my self-publishing since I’ve been doing it for OVER 20 years. Joei
Good stuff, Joei. Thanks for dropping by.
Well, I guess I’m the odd man out, in that I definitely do not want to make writing a career. And that’s another good reason to self-publish. There’s no pressure to get the next book out. I have half a rough draft, plot outlines for two others, and several more ideas. I putter at them when I feel like it. And if I publish them, it will be when I’m good and ready, not because of some contractual or financial obligation.
Sounds like you’ve made a wise choice, John.
Good comment, John, and you’re certainly not the odd man out. It’s a fact that, with a saturated fiction market, those of us with obligations, for whom writing will only ever be a hobby, simply can’t take the risk of chucking in the day job to write full-time (however much we might want to). We manage our obligations and put out books when we can, because we don’t rely on our sales to feed the kids 🙂
I self-published and would never even consider the other route again. My print books sell very well at my speaking opportunities, and my e-book is holding its own, and doing better with special discounts. Although it’s a ton of work to keep up, traditional publishers still leave the bulk of it to the author anyway. I prefer to be in control of my own production, and my sense of achievement is fabulous! It’s important to make sure you put your best book forward and stay up to date with indie-publishing information. Thanks Martin, and Indies Unlimited, for sharing so much good information.
I like that! My sense of achievement is fabulous too. I’m with you all the way, Ester. Thank you.
All good points, Martin. And what everybody else has said, too. Yes, we’re on our own. But we do have a support system in other indie authors. And at least this way I don’t have to wait three years to get published, only to learn three months later that my career is over because my book didn’t make the publisher enough money.
You got it. Thanks Lynne.
Since I don’t have publishing houses clamoring for my books, I’ll be happy–and grateful–to keep self-publishing. It’s not easy to go the independent route. We must master many different skills, including how to market and promote our work. Cliches aside, that’s where I fall down on the job!
Thanks for the encouragement, Martin.
Thanks for checking in Linda. It’s a constant learning cycle, isn’t it.
Martin! I always agree with you. I love your books and your sage advice and suggestions. I am enjoying indie authorship. The learning curve is massive because we must master so many different essentials of publishing. It is easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom scenario, but if we step back and decide to do what is best for our books, we can rise above all of that. I have learned so much from networking with other indie authors. The indie books I’ve bought over the past six months are stunning. There is so much talent in our indie universe. I am so glad I am no missing any of it.
It really is interesting that there are so many great books out there and great ideas too. When I visit a writers group I sometimes ask what the authors are working on and the responses I get blow my mind. So many unique stories are being written by talented writers. I hope all of them get told.
Wonderful article. I’ve written non-fiction and now I’m writing children’s middle grade fiction. I believe the biggest draw for me to self-publishing is FREEDOM!! There’s a lot to be said about that which some of the comments have covered. I don’t want a big company telling me what I can publish or that I have to change my work to meet their needs at that moment. I would rather have a group of my beta readers tell me what works and what doesn’t.
When I decided to write children’s fiction my desire was to make contact and help reluctant readers. I joined a large national group (SCBWI) which has a local chapter. I wanted to connect with like-minded people. They were very nice people but I found out I have very little in common with them. They swooned every time someone got a publishing contract (which is a huge accomplishment) but there were so many talented writers feeling down on themselves etc because they couldn’t attract the elusive publishing contract. No one could answer my question “why is a traditional publishing contract better than self publishing?” Yes, I know self published authors are usually locked out of national bookstores and some awards. A self published author won’t win a Caldecott award. But someday that might change. I don’t write for awards. Once again, I stand on the highest rooftop and scream at the world FREEDOM! Let the reader decide what they want to read and vote for their favorite authors with their purchasing dollars. I am not afraid to work hard and build a fan base etc. I will be glad to compete with high quality work for those dollars. I’m so blessed to be writing at a time in the world’s history where self publishing is and will change the literary world. Look down on me all you want snobbish publishers and bookstores. Self publishing will be the driving force that changes their world. Adapt or die! I’m off to don my beret, boots, coffee cup and laptop and head out to the trenches. Thanks again, Martin, for a great article!
Wow! You had me cheering, Nan. And, smiling too. Thanks for this. I think we’re all in agreement with you. I had that total image of Rob Roy when you exclaimed FREEDOM. You’re right. We’re very lucky.
Thanks very much for commenting.
Great post, Martin. I can’t remember the last time I bought a traditionally published book. Indies all the way. 😀
Thank you A.C.
The #1 reason for me to self-publish right now is, because I still really enjoy it. From start to finish, the whole process is both interesting and fun. I hope others can agree. Thanks for the article, Martin!
My pleasure Jason. I’m sure your readers can pick up on your enthusiasm. Thanks for commenting.
Great post, and timely for me. Thanks, Martin! Like Mira, I’ll be publishing my second novel soon and I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of traditional publishing. Away with the scale. It’s tipping too heavily on the side of the cons of traditional publishing.
Glad to help, J.P. Thanks for dropping by.
Great article, Thanks for the encouragement.
John Doe Shelley
My pleasure John, thanks for reading, and good luck to you!
There are still plenty of benefits to self-publishing. The key is to understand that it’s also a lot of work. Being able to live off of your self-published books takes time, and for some authors, maybe never even happens.
Oh, you got that right, Kristen. It is lots of work. Thanks for commenting.
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