Reading the title here might make you do a double-take. Self-publishing boss? “Boss” and “self-publishing” aren’t two words which occur together very often. Although the stigma of self-publication is receding every day, the fact remains that prestige and reputation is awarded to the traditionally published writers more easily than to those who self-publish. (This is despite the fact that indie and self-published authors now corner x%** of the market on book and ebook sales and the fact that many traditionally published authors are making the plunge and self-publishing books, ebooks, and audiobooks.) Most if not at all literary award nominations are given to traditionally published books, as most choose to exclude independently published books of all stripes from nominee inclusion. Many would-be authors with their eyes on awards see this as a deterrent. For those of us more focused on sharing the stories we have in our heads and who want more control over the creative process, self-publishing is the path we’ve been searching for. Not sure which camp you should fall into?
Perks of Self-Publishing
If you look at the make-up of any traditional publisher, you’ll notice a striking lack of variation. From authors and illustrators of children’s books to the authors behind nonfiction and research-based academic pieces, there are more commonalities than differences. Why? Generally speaking, most of the folks doing the book selection and printing are more alike than different. Self-publishing is a way that people of color, those who don’t conform to a gender binary, have disabilities, or any number of unique differences can tell their narratives alongside the white, straight, non-disabled, cis majority.
It’s a Faster Process
One thing that really sucks about the traditional publishing process is the fact that it takes FOREVER. Not counting the weeks, months, or years you might spend querying to find the right agent or publisher, the steps necessary to bring a book to print after the final contracts are signed are slow and soul-crushing to authors eager to have their work read. The average traditionally published book takes X (time) ** to get to print after the contract is signed and a publisher has agreed to bring it to print. Conversely, self-published books can start the publication process as soon as the manuscript is finished. Go straight to editing or cover design as soon as you put the finishing touches on your first draft. From that point on, however long it takes is up to you and how much time you can devote to the project. You’re never stuck sitting on your hands or twiddling your thumbs, waiting to hear back from someone.
You Maintain Creative Control
There have been issues in the recent past where authors and their publishers had disagreements about things like cover design or direction of the plot. Self-publication is a Godsend to writers with a powerful creative vision. It can be frustrating to have a clear thought process for a given project, only to have it be abandoned by the people you’re trusting to bring your story and that vision to life.
Marketing – You’ll Be Doing It Anyway
Many writers have a distorted view of the publishing industry. They think about interviews they’ve seen with household names like Neil Gaiman or Stephen King. They want to be like the greats out of the gate. “I just want to write” they’ll say, convinced that petty things like marketing are beneath them. …Except that it’s not. Marketing is an essential part of any writing career. In fact, one of the first questions prospective authors are asked is bound to be about their platform or audience. What does their “platform” consist of? It varies, but depending on the agency you’re inquiring to, they may ask about your social media stats, website traffic, reviews on previous work, sales of previous work, or something else. The most frustrating part of this approach is that dozens of writers with amazing stories to share are often rejected because of a poor or mediocre following.
The fact is, you will not be given a large marketing budget by a publisher. You’ll be lucky if they point you in the direction of marketing resources which are cheap or free, much less give you a dedicated marketing staffer or team. The focus for the publisher is getting a good return on their investment. One way to do that is to resist the urge to splurge on marketing unless it seems like the existing expenses (editing, book cover design, formatting, etc) have already been covered and then some.
Did you know that the average royalty allotment for authors is between 15-25% per book/ebook/audiobook sold? That means that although you’ve spent years working on and developing your novel plot, characters, and universe – only to get a small piece of the proceeds. With Amazon, Lulu, Ingram Spark, and other self-publishing distributors your royalty rates will be much higher for your self-published titles.