Writing Wednesday: The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

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You have written something you are really proud of. You want the rest of the world to read it, too. Great! So, how to go about getting it out there?

There are two routes to publishing – the traditional publishing houses (think Simon & Schuster or Penguin Books) or the increasingly popular option of self-publication. For many writers seeking their first publication, going the self-publishing route can seem quite enticing. After all, it has worked for writers like Lisa Genova (Still Alice) and Irma S. Rombauer (The Joy of Cooking). Before making a decision and searching a publishing platform for yourself, take some time to reflect on these “pros” and “cons” of self-publishing.

Pros

  • Your book will be promoted by someone who truly believes in it: You
  • With numerous online platforms, including Amazing and iUniverse, it is easier than ever to self-publish, as long as you are comfortable going digital
  • Publishing a book online means it is available to anyone, anywhere for all time – there is no sales window in which it must prove its sellability and you will continue to reap the rewards as new readers discover your work
  • It is a great way to get your name out there and make your work searchable online
  • You make all the decisions, from the book’s title and cover art to how and where you choose to sell it
  • You don’t need to find and use an agent, often the hardest part of the traditional publishing process and another person who would get a cut of your sales
  • You can print what you need, as you need it rather than hoping the publisher’s mass-printing sells off
  • You can market directly to your niche audience by participating in social media conversation, fan fiction forums or other reading and writing communities

Con

  • You are the one responsible for the promotion your work receives – It’s not only about getting it into stores, but generating buzz and marketing materials that land it a prime (visible) spot in the stores
  • If a bookstore finds that a book isn’t selling, they can (and will) send it back to the publisher for a full refund, meaning that if you are writer and publisher it can be harder than ever to achieve financial success with the sales of your book
  • Unless your book takes the world by storm, creating demand for future stories and possible movie adaptations, it is difficult to make “traditional publishing” money from it
  • It is not seen as being as prestigious as traditional publishing, with many authors going on to seek publication through more standard routes once they have established a demand for their work
  • You don’t get an advance
  • You aren’t connected to a publishing team which would include skilled and experienced graphic designers, marketers and sales people
  • You pay for everything (and don’t forget those pesky ISBNs cost money!)
  • The market is saturated with self-publishers

The Decision?

Totally up to you. As you can see, there are so many variables in play when it comes to publishing your work. Your current life and financial situation, for example, will play a huge role in how much effort and money of your own you can afford to put into the publication. That said, if you are able to dedicate the resources to not only publish but promote your writing, the creative control that self-publishing can allow may be enough to make the additional effort worth it.

And to those who say there is no financial success through self-publishing? We say, tell that to E.L. James!

About Paperblanks®: At Paperblanks®, we believe that art should have a place in all aspects of life. That’s why we follow the artist’s way in everything we do – creating, crafting and releasing designs we believe have the power to touch people. For more about Paperblanks®, go to our website at paperblanks.com.

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2 comments on “Writing Wednesday: The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

  1. Some really great points here – thanks.

    I think one thing we tend to forget is that even established authors using traditional publishing houses need to promote themselves. The publishers tend not to take much note until a book gains traction – easy-ish if you’re called Stephen King or JK Rowling, a lot less easy if you’re not.

    If you get creative (and a fan base) then an advance isn’t impossible – a band called Marillion did it years ago by asking their fans for the money towards recording a new album and that was well before crowd funding sites.

    • Hi Trevor,

      That is a great point. Managing to get your script to a publishing house is not enough to assume there will be significant interest in it from the public. Generating your own fan base, and actively engaging in online communities (like Marillion) is a great way get your name out there and actually create demand.

      All the best!

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