Battling the Misconceptions about Self-Publishing

slaying self publishing misconceptions knight-40850_640For the past few months I’ve been preparing for a couple of workshops I’m going to be giving on self-publishing. There’s a continuing education program that’s just starting in my little town, so I figured this was a great time to do one workshop on self-pubbing paperbacks and one on eBooks. Last fall, a few other local authors and I held a panel discussion on the various ways to self-publish, and we had a great turnout, so my more in-depth workshops seemed like a natural progression.

In the ramp-up to the new fall semester, the learning institute has been organizing meet-and-greets at various locations where all of us facilitators can interact with the interested public and get to know each other. It’s been quite an education in and of itself hearing what misconceptions people have about self-publishing. I am constantly amazed at the wild ideas people have. Here are a few of the things people have said to me:

“I heard it costs about $25,000 to self-publish.”

“But it takes a long time, doesn’t it?”

“Don’t you need special software? I’m just using Word.”

“How many books do you have to have printed?”

I find the lack of correct information appalling. I suspect that some of this is the result of people not doing any research and simply repeating what they may have heard from others who are equally uninformed. Some of it may also come from traditional publishers, service publishers, vanity presses, agents, and/or anyone else who considers self-publishing to be the bane of their lives. As well they should, because most of us know that self-publishing can be fast, easy, and affordable. But after hearing all of these wild and weird ideas, I thought it might be a good time to set the record straight.

Self-publishing does not cost $25,000 (nor $5,000, nor $1,000 or even $500). Through CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing arm, you can publish a paperback for as little as about $10, just the cost of a proof and shipping. Period. You can publish an eBook through Amazon’s KDP program, or Smashwords, for free. Now, granted, this does not take into account the cost of editing, formatting, cover design, or the value of your own time used to write the book in the first place, but as for publishing fees — almost zilch.

Self-publishing does not take a long time. From the time you upload your file to CreateSpace, your book will be on Amazon within 24-48 hours. It will propagate from there to Barnes & Noble and other online book sellers in the days following. If you upload an eBook to KDP, your book will generally be available within about 24 hours.

Self-publishing does not require special software. I use MS Word for all my manuscripts, even the ones with lots of graphics in them. I will generally convert my final formatted document into a pdf and upload that, but I’ve also uploaded Word documents directly and they have always turned out fine.

Self-publishing does not require a minimum number of books to be printed. Most self-pubbing these days is done on a print-on-demand (POD) basis, which means that the books are printed (and paid for) when they are ordered by the customer. There are no large runs of books printed, no warehousing, no remainders. Gone are the days of having your garage half-filled with boxes of books that you either haul around to every art and craft show in the area, or that you never sell at all.

Being part of the indie community for so long, I obviously have forgotten that not everyone knows what we know. I’m realizing now, after hearing these misconceptions, that my workshops must not only be about the process but also about dispelling rumors and misinformation. With this in mind, I’m already rewriting my course descriptions for next time. I understand now that I was coming from Point D, while many people out there are still stuck at Point A, and I need to back up to the beginning and start there.

This was an eye-opening reminder to me about two things: (1) that the information we provide here at Indies Unlimited is invaluable to the up-and-coming new writers and, (2) that we face a critical mass of misinformation about the cost, process, and requirements of self-publishing. We’re battling a behemoth of misunderstanding, but it’s a worthy battle and one we can keep bashing at little by little, article by article. I think I’m safe in saying that we here at IU have job security for a long, long time.

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

24 thoughts on “Battling the Misconceptions about Self-Publishing”

  1. Excellent reminder. I see articles with some of these and many of them seem to be from someone with a bias against self-publishing (their livelihood come from trad publishing or a reason to have people believe the claim (Publish America, et al). Your point regarding the potential costs of things you *might* pay for if you don’t have skills yourself and no way to beg, borrow, or steal them (cover, editing, etc) is where costs could exceed the trivial, but even then the actual costs are rarely need to be what “they” would like you to believe (and/or pay).

    1. Exactly, Al. And I plan to make all that very clear in my workshops, that just because you can publish for free or almost free doesn’t mean you won’t expend any money, but it’s certainly not (or doesn’t need to be) the exorbitant funds I’ve heard tossed around.

    1. Glad it’s helpful, Annette. I just hate to think of how many people are sitting on books because they think it can’t be done. Well, it can. We’ve all done it here at IU, and it’s just not that difficult.

  2. As I read your article I had a sudden flashback to 2012 and my first, tentative steps towards becoming an Indie. I did not even know how little I knew. Lucky for me, I found IU via a link from LinkedIn and never looked back, but I know that many authors are not that lucky. I wish we could bundle the distilled IU wisdom into a care package given to every new author instead of this rubbish:

    Google ‘self publishing wiki’ and that link comes up as the SECOND entry. Have a look at some of the companies listed. Little wonder that so many people get caught out.

    1. You are so right about that. I, too, wish we could put up all our info in bright, flashing lights, saying “YES, YOU CAN PUBLISH! It’s not hard. It’s not expensive. We can show you how.” But I guess we’ll just have to be content to help writers one at a time as they discover IU and start getting the facts and leaving the fiction and hype behind. As I said, it’s an ongoing battle. Luckily we are up to the challenge!

  3. Most excellent – I’ll bet word will quickly spread about your workshops for this much-needed topic!

    It seems like every week I’m learning something new from IU’s archives. Today I’ve tried two different, FREE ways to create book covers using Word and Canva. There’s so much great info here for indies.

    It is very inexpensive to publish a book, both for print and ebook versions. The real cost, imo, is in the marketing. And since traditional publishers don’t do much, if anything, for unknown authors, why share your earnings with them if you have to do your own marketing, anyway? As some of you know, I’ve gone back and forth with this in my own mind, and it’s the marketing issue plus control of my product that finally made it a no-brainer to go indie.

    Your workshops will be doing a great service.

  4. I’ve been thinking about doing some basic level workshops on self-publishing in my area, and you’ve just cranked my enthusiasm up a few notches. Thanks, Melissa.

    1. Gordon, I just not notified that both my workshops are filled. I capped the number at 12, just so it would still be a nice, manageable group. I’ll let you know how it goes. First one is a week from tomorrow.

  5. Thanks for that Melissa. Just thought I’d add that CreateSpace now offer on-line proofing. You simply download a virtual copy of your book which allows you to check formatting and do a final proof-read. So it really does cost nothing! I found this out when I uploaded my latest book to CreateSpace.

    1. Yup, they’ve done this for a while. I think they require brand-new users to order a physical copy, but once you’ve been through it once or twice, you can simply review the proof online for free.

      Even so, I know some authors still like to review the book in print.

  6. Melissa, thanks for this. It’s easy for those of us who have been indies for a few years to forget what it was like to be newbies, sifting through all that inaccurate information. Do keep us posted on how your workshops go.

  7. Thanks for the great post, Melissa. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve yet to master CreateSpace. Whenever I try to format my manuscript with one of their templates, it never turns out right. Maybe you or another “enlightened team member” can give me–and other indies–some “how-to” tips. The info provided on IU is invaluable. I save almost every article!

    1. Linda, it was a fairly steep learning curve the first time, since I was bugging it out all by myself, but now it’s a piece of cake. And I never use a template. I’ve heard the templates can be a bear, but I’ve always formatted without and never had a problem. Hm, food for thought for another post…

  8. People still believe these? I’m always surprised when I have to explain print on demand to people. For me, the issue I come across most is from authors, not regular readers: a lot of beginning authors still want to publish traditionally, and are skeptical of self-publishing. There are a few reasons to traditionally publish, but for most authors, spending a few years to try and get published instead of just putting it out there and working on another book is a huge waste of time.

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