I’m targeting the month of June to release my first ever self-published efforts. ONE AUTHOR’S AHA MOMENTS will be a non-fiction craft book that will focus on writing for the Young Adult market. I’ll also have my first anthology of adult short stories with a teaser short offered from that as a standalone. Covers and links to come. For this post, I wanted to focus on my reasons to self-publish. It’s an exciting time for authors, whether you are traditionally published or not. So here are TEN REASONS that I’m self-publishing (in random order):
1.) Creative Control – Publishing is an industry of “hurry up and wait.” As an author, you can submit a proposal and still wait 2-3 months to hear feedback while your agent works at peddling your new effort or you wait to hear about your option book (the one by contract you are obligated to show your current house in a specific genre). But when you publish on your own, no waiting. What you want to write is yours to create. It’s critical that you write a good book, get a professional editor to enhance it, and bundle the package with a nice cover, but all this is under your control—good or bad. If Snookie can do it, anyone can. (I’m depressed now.)
2.) Pricing Control – You have control over the price you set for your book AND you can offer a discount for any time period you elect. By having this control and better knowledge of your immediate sales, you can “try” certain pricing to capture momentum without going through a committee. An author also doesn’t have to recoup monies for expensive office space or high overhead for personnel. I write from home and sit on a wooden crate. Desk optional.
3.) Cash Flow – If you’re lucky enough to be offered an advance for a book, that money is an advance against future royalties. It’s yours to keep, but to earn royalties beyond that dollar amount, you must earn out. A publisher also retains a certain dollar amount against returns. All of these accounting transactions will appear on your royalty statement, which is issued every six months (with a 2 months lag for reporting). This means that you may or may not see any more money beyond your advance until you see it on your statement once or twice a year. When you self-publish, the digital method to account for sales is faster to attain and cash is paid to the author monthly or quarterly, depending on the retailer the author chooses. This could turn into your margarita slush fund, a shoe budget, or a big screen TV. Let the kids earn their own college tuition.
4.) Book Release Control – From when the book is finished by the author, it can be released in 1-2 months, depending on the availability of an editor, formatter, and cover artist (presuming the author doesn’t format or create his or her own cover). If an author seeks advance reviews, this time will be longer by several months. An author doesn’t have to worry about other books being released that are vying for limited shelf space at brick and mortar stores like publishers do. Self-publishing authors can post their books when they’re ready. In the grand scheme of things, the “virtual shelf life” of a book is much longer and momentum can build as word of mouth grows. And if you get a wild hair to write a book on Big Foot, you can hammer it out while wearing your tin foil hat, without having to get approval from normal people. Other Big Foot hunters would appreciate that.
5.) Time Management Between Contracts – Crafting and creating proposals, submittals, approvals, committee reviews, contract negotiations—all of this takes time. What does an author do while they wait? If you self-publish, you write and create and issue a book or two. Sure an author must take time to send that solo book through service providers and promote it, but the production schedule is much shorter and YOU have control over how the project moves forward. Knowing you can be productive while you are waiting might save your manicure too.
6.) Control of Your Book Rights –Subsidiary Rights, Foreign Rights, and Reversion Rights. Retaining control of your digital rights (for e-books) and not have them tied up for years after your book is released is a HUGE benefit. The current contract language for e-books is lumped in with print book definitions. It makes no sense that digital books would have ANYTHING to do with print books, but most publishing contracts have these definitions lumped together in one clause or another (ie. “out of print” definitions and rights reversion language). Some of you may not know this or realize the impact until you try and get your backlist rights back, only to realize your house can keep rolling their rights to your work for years. This can be a nightmare. This is a HUGE reason for an author to self-publish, or at the very least, push to define e-books separately and not link the contractual terms to that of print book definitions. Why can’t e-book rights be limited to 2-3 years and stop? Why must an author ask for permission for rights that should automatically revert back to them and undergo a lengthy process over another 12-18 months where their digital rights are tied to royalty statements and definitions of books in print? Foreign rights can be lucrative too if your agent works this angle and shops them aggressively. Who knows? Maybe you both can shop those foreign rights on your next trip to France. Road trip!
7.) More Attainable Sales Figures – Digital sales are faster to get and reporting is more immediate. This was mentioned in the cash flow section, but because you have management decisions to make on pricing and other strategies, it can’t hurt to get sales figures faster. Does “the Donald” have to wait…for anything? I think not.
8.) Books Always Available Online – There is no limit to “shelf space” online and no inventory costs. Printed books are made “on demand” and don’t have to sit around in warehouses for them to be shipped, distributed and then sent back when they can’t sell in 1-2 months. I know that I’m over-simplifying this process, but not by much.
9.) Manageable Production Cost on Book –You can format the book, do your own cover, and control your cost as you see fit. I personally want to spend the money to have my books professionally edited. Building a relationship with a good editor takes time, but I think I’ve found someone. (Be still my heart.) I don’t have to rely on my house to assign my book to someone. I can work with an editor of my choosing from project to project. For some books, I may choose to do a simple cover design by buying images off iStock for a front cover (on a digital only book, for example). Covers can range from $150-400+ on digital only books, or can go up from there for a Print-on-Demand (POD) book that requires spine and back cover design, for example.
10.) Promotion Budget Control – I’m new to this process of publishing my own books, but I do know that any money I spend to promote my books is completely under my control. If I want to “try” advertising, I can do it without a committee. I can also see the effects of that money more immediately in my website hits or digital sales. And if I want a new pair of shoes—OOPS! There goes the ad money.
For the aspiring author, self-publishing can be an interesting way to get noticed if your book develops a readership. Publishers (and agents) pay attention to who is selling in this new digital world. Your efforts can showcase your writing while it earns you money. Even a moderately successful book will have sales associated with it that can be shown to a publisher so they don’t feel they're sticking their neck out on a new author with no track record or readership. Writing a good book can be parlayed into a more lucrative deal in the future for you AND your agent.
The cost that I would normally spend on promo (from travel, bookmarks, mailings, and book signings) might be reallocated toward book cost production instead. The cost of a book might run $500-2000, depending upon how much you spend on editing, cover art, and formatting. But when you compare this cost to traveling to one conference, for example, you see that your ability to reach new readers is better achieved through a new book that stays available online. The gift that keeps on giving.
There are pros and cons for any direction you may take in this new digital arena, but isn’t it nice to have options?