They say that each of us has a book inside us. If you suspect that’s the case for you, then I’m sharing my reasons for self-publishing: they may be compelling enough to get you over the line of writing your book!
I’d started to go down the rabbit-hole of trying to find an agent or a publisher for my book, Metamorphosis, when I had an aha moment: I realised that these feelings of panic, insecurity, imposter syndrome, impatience and lack of control was familiar. I’d experienced this exact emotional cocktail a few years ago, when in my former guise as entrepreneur and fashion designer I tried to find retailers to stock my brand in their stores on a wholesale basis. It was a shitty feeling, and wholesale turned out to be a really shitty model for us. So much so, that we pulled the plug and went straight to the consumer via our ecommerce site.
Now it felt like history was repeating itself. Once again, I was trying to put myself in a position where I was dependent on good luck and the goodwill of an editor to bring my book-baby into the world. And when I stopped to take a breath I realised: once again, it was a shitty proposition for me. Like in fashion, in the world of books there isn’t really enough margin to go around. Publishing is an industry in crisis, with the middle-men increasingly struggling to justify their existence. Publishers aren’t really needed any more. Of course, their platform has value in the same way that being stocked in Harrods or Saks Fifth Avenue has value, but publishers are no longer gatekeepers; traditional publishing is no longer the only route to market. Far from it!
And so, I started to read up on self-publishing. And what I found was a thriving industry that made me really, really excited. Here are 3 the reasons I’m glad I took the plunge.
1. It gives you full controlThis is the big one for me. When you sign over your rights to a publisher you lose so much control. The publisher decides on the cover. They decide on the title. They often own your rights for your lifetime, plus 70 years after your death. I didn’t want to lose control of my creative or my distribution. Many authors unknowingly sign over the rights to, for example, ebook distribution globally. The publisher may never publish your ebook in many of the regions to which they own the rights – they simply own the option. As an independent, or indie, author, I can choose my formats, my cover, my title, and which platforms and regions to publish in. I can even choose my translations. I get to bring my baby up myself.
2. It lowers the stakesHere me out. Self-Publishing is not an excuse to lower the quality of your work. However, I believe that the more books there are out there in the world, the better, and the barriers to entry that have existed for so long have now come crashing down. No longer do you need to have the pressure of knowing that a publisher has tens of thousands of pounds on the line for your book, or indeed the pressure of having to find a publisher who will take a chance on you. What was once a complex process is now beautifully simple: you have ideas, you write them down and create a book, and you publish it. That’s it! Blogging has become so normal and easy over the last decade or two, and I think it’s a great thing that publishing books has become an extension of that.
3. It massively boosts your margin and lowers your pricingI mentioned that there isn’t enough margin to go around. I felt this keenly in fashion and it’s the same in publishing. I’d rather double or triple my margin by going solo. Lets take Amazon as an example. For ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon gives the author 70% royalties. Publishing houses can often offer royalties of 10-20%. If you see an ebook priced at £9.99, that’s likely to include a lot of publisher margin. ebooks do not need to be priced that high! I’m planning on pricing my ebook at £4.99 which will include VAT (grr). Publishing independently allows me to price my book more affordably.
4. It allows you to build a real businessOnce I started to look into how independent publishing worked, I was hooked! Bear in mind, I’ve run my own business for the last 8 years and I miss it. I love the learning curve that comes with getting up to speed on a new industry. And I love being able to be a part of the industry rather than handing over my book to a third party and feeling like it’s out of my hands. The self-publishing industry is a vibrant community full of seriously talented, motivated and prolific people. I want to be a part of that. I’m enjoying thinking about email list-building, lead magnets, digital marketing and customer acquisition as much as I enjoyed writing the book itself. In self-publishing, author is just one of the hats I’ll be wearing and that’s grand with me.
5. It’s much, much faster than traditional publishingI wrote my book in 3 months, uploaded it to Vellum in a day, and could have it on Amazon tomorrow if I chose. Contrast this with the fact that it would likely have taken me a year to find an agent and / or a publisher, and another year for the publisher to get it out into the world. I don’t have that kind of time! I want my ideas fresh and out into the world, so I can get started on consuming and creating more new ideas.
I intend to publish a post on the economics of independent publishing once I have all my book versions available online, but it’s worth mentioning a few points here:
- To get Metamorphosis to market, I’ve spent under £2,500. About £1,700 of that were book-specific costs and the other expenses were one-off spends on software etc which I can use again
- There are no upfront costs to publish an e-book. The retailers merely give you a royalty for each copy sold
- There are no upfront costs (aside from a nominal charge) to get your books printed. I’ll be using Amazon KDP to print Amazon books, and IngramSpark for everything else, including books bought by libraries etc. These are both print-on-demand services and the printing cost (likely around £3 per book) will be deducted from the price I sell the book at, on top of the retailer’s split.
I hope this has given you some food for thought. In the business world today, having a book can act as a brilliant business card, credentialising you and opening up many doors. I’m delighted to chat if you have any questions about the self-publishing process. You can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.