Bypass the Pitch: 6 Rock-Solid Reasons to Self-Publish Your First Book
Working with publishers can be a nightmare. Know all your options.
Professional writing isn’t for the faint of heart, and it involves so much more than just being creative. The business side involves a near-constant carousel of pitching, revisions, and committing to both an idea and form of publishing when the dust finally settles.
Writers were once at the complete mercy of traditional publishing houses, as without them, there was no realistic way to get their work out into the world and into the hands of an audience.
That’s no longer the case as self-published books now make up 50 percent of the market share for e-books. And the trend is only growing year over year. The option of self-publishing has grown from an offbeat option to a serious contender for many writers. Here's why.
1. There is more potential profit
While traditional publishers might give you a lump sum advance if they love your pitch, this pales in comparison to the raw potential of self-publishing in terms of long-term profit.
The most important figure here is the royalty rate. With traditional publishers, the norm hovers somewhere around 10 percent, which can be negotiated for those whose work is proven to sell.
The self-publishing route blows this out of the water, as the typical royalty rate one can expect skyrockets to 35 to 70 percent, even for newcomers.
Price point and volume still matters of course, but these percentages don’t mean much if the book fails to find an audience. With the right marketing, self-publishing has just as much of a chance of success. When applied across thousands of sales, the higher royalty rate of self-publishing directly correlates to more profit for the writer.
2. Writers keep creative control
Most authors consider their work a labor of love. They begin their project with a specific creative vision in mind and work tirelessly to bring it to fruition. This can become a point of conflict when working with publishers, because often publishers want aspects of the work tweaked to better suit their needs or market.
The average book going through a traditional publisher requires at least two rounds of extensive edits. What ends up coming out on the other side of these revisions might not be the same book the writer originally intended to put forth into the world.
At the end of the day, the publisher often has the final say on these matters as ultimately they are the ones paying for the product. For those not willing to budge creatively with their work, self-publishing removes the need to compromise creatively with a third party.
3. Deadlines begone!
Deadlines might motivate some writers to work at a quicker pace, but many would rather work without the pressure to deliver by a certain date.
If you have agreed to work with a traditional publisher, you almost certainly will have a deadline. This is understandable as they have invested time and money into your idea, but it can lead to a stressful environment for the writer as missing the deadline can result in negative financial or professional consequences.
The average time to write a book is somewhere around six months, but I’ve interviewed guests for The Published Author Podcast that have written (and published) their books in as little as two weeks. Others who took as long as four years, so your results may vary.
If you aren’t sure how long your project might take to finish — and newcomers consistently underestimate this aspect — self-publishing gives you invaluable breathing room.
4. The market has changes its tune
The publishing industry of today is far different from that of just a few years ago.
In 2007, Amazon’s self-published books made up just six percent of their catalog. But in 2018, this figure catapulted up to 92 percent. These books aren’t just idly sitting on the digital shelf. In 2019, authors who published work via Amazon made over $300 million in total sales.
The success is not limited to just financial gains either. Plenty of independently published works have garnered critical and public praise. This trend reflects a massive shift in the industry as tech and market savvy writers have realized publishers are not as necessary as they once were, and they can succeed with or without them.
5. Writers gain real-time reactions
For writers who would rather not wait to see how their book has sold or what people thought about it, self-publishing is a step ahead in terms of analytics.
Most traditional publishers only provide royalty sales reports twice a year and most awards operate on an annual basis. That means you won’t be getting much information about your book's reception for some time after it is submitted and published.
When compared to self-publishing, this is a snail’s pace. Real-time analytics with daily sales numbers and user reviews are an integral part of the self-publishing process, especially with e-books, so the writer knows exactly how their work is faring in the public eye.
This allows for faster adaptations in marketing style, distribution strategy, and all the other aspects of publishing that are important to make an impactful splash right out of the gate.
6. Writers maintain all of their option rights
A major difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing a book is that the latter ensures you retain all legal rights.
If your book is a massive success, then having rights to any television or film adaptations could potentially be a massive bonus for you. On the other hand, unknowingly signing those rights over to a publisher could bitterly sting, as this can be the difference between receiving just $500 for your work’s adaptation or substantially more.
The same holds true with any translations into foreign languages or limited presses. With traditional publishing, you likely will receive some compensation should this happen, but with self-publishing, you can negotiate directly with the interested party.
Self-publishing ultimately leaves the writer with more control, which can be leveraged for a deal that feels fair to both their financial needs and creative vision.