We hear the term “self-publishing” all the time. But what exactly does it mean, and what are the advantages and disadvantages for an author who chooses to publish this way?
Self-publishing is the term used to describe the process of publishing a piece of your own work independently and at your own expense. You do so without the help of a publisher, traditional or otherwise. Self-publishing is a viable option for authors who find themselves unwilling to enter the dog and pony show that is classic traditional publishing, the model used by the Big Five Publishing Houses. But how effective is self publishing, and is it the better option? Read on to learn more!
WHAT SETS SELF-PUBLISHING APART?
When an author self-publishes, they forego any help from a traditional publisher. There will be no team of editors and designers, no marketing help, no agent, and no financial investment in your book except your own. Talk about a challenge!
Individuals who publish their own work are responsible for all facets of the publishing journey. Authors who choose to boldly pursue this path must facilitate editing, formatting, cover and interior design, registry numbers, manufacturing, and marketing. Some of the items on this hefty list, such as editing and formatting, can be performed by the author, but the majority of jobs are often contracted out to freelancers or other companies.
The difference between traditional and self publishing is that when an author signs with a traditional publisher, they never have to worry about handling any of these things. In addition, when traditionally published, an author never pays a dime out of pocket.
WHY IS SELF-PUBLISHING SPECIAL?
The advent of new manufacturing practices and the availability of talent has made publication accessible to everyone. Self-publishing is the product of decades of technological evolution in multiple fields and represents the broken chains formerly used by traditional publishers to monopolize the storytelling market. Self-publishing combines faster development with total creative autonomy, freeing authors previously incarcerated by antique publishing doctrines. Those who choose to self-publish have the unique benefit of higher royalties and the ability to set their own price for a book they wrote. Not only that, but authors who become publishers never have to worry about unwanted edits or re-writes. Self-publishing is the only method of publication for which the authors own skill and ambition solely determines the success of a book.
THE RELEVANCE OF SELF-PUBLICATION
Something I don’t see often discussed is how important self publishing is for the survival of the industry. Self-publishing allows an author to have a voice in the event that no traditional publishers are willing to pick up their work (which happens fairly often). It is especially true that self-publishing increases industry competition and keeps prices low for comparable titles. Believe it or not, any self-published author counts as an independent press. Granted, this is a bit subjective, but I believe that any addition to the global book pool provided by an entity legally able to operate a business counts as a publisher.
By contributing low or reasonably priced books to the marketplace, whether electronic or otherwise, small and independent publishers help to maintain fair pricing standards in an industry that is primarily dominated by monolithic corporations. Without these smaller companies, the Big Five could charge any price they wanted for their titles (as long as readers were buying) because they would be the only entities able to provide a similar product. The recent denial of a request to merge by publishing behemoths Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster is an indicator that the Big Five Houses have entirely too much power and small publishers are tasked with checking and balancing an already top heavy industry.
Furthermore, self-publishing has been a bastion for minority voices that historically have found it difficult to achieve publication. This ability to be heard regardless of representation has encouraged writers from all social strata to create culturally relevant literature.
Finally, self-publishing offers lesser-known authors a platform by which they can network with peers to experience and enjoy their profession anthropologically. If there’s one thing to be said about the self-publishing crowd, it’s that they’re authentic as can be. Self-publishing is real people, telling real stories, and it’s relevant - believe me.
IF SELF-PUBLISHING IS SO GREAT, WHY DOES’NT EVERYONE DO IT?
Great question! I have the answer to that.
Financial Limitations - Many authors don’t have the budget to properly self-publish a book. The process can either be done cheaply and ineffectively or it can be done effectively at great expense. You can’t have it both ways. An author who wishes to self-publish and profit should expect to spend anywhere between $5,000 - $20,000. Check out this clever assessment by Michael Stanier. Included are the results of his process.
Survival of the Fastest - Prolific authors who consistently turn out above average work and are backed by a traditional publisher might be able to subsist on a steady stream of advances and royalties from traditional publishers. The more you write, the more you earn.
Credibility - There’s something to be said for the trustworthiness of an established publisher on the spine of your book. It’s an off-the-bat endorsement from a team of people who decided that what you wrote was worth reading and sharing with the masses.
Amateurs - Lots of authors can write a great book, but not many of them have the skillset necessary to generate a professional-looking book. Traditional publishers have expert team members standing by who know exactly how to design and sell your book.
Book Awards - Though not impossible, it’s much harder to win awards for self-published books. In fact, some awards such as the National Book Awards and the Women’s Prize for Fiction require nomination from a traditional publisher, strengthening the case for traditional publishing.
Readership - Self-published authors often have a hard time getting their books into bookshops without using a distribution service like IngramSpark. Even with the help of a large distribution company, authors who handle marketing work by themselves tend to lack in the areas that catch the attention of book stockers and librarians. Marketing is one of the primary aspects of book publishing. If you don’t have a large established readership, high sales volume is unlikely unless you devote time and money to increasing it.
Stigmatization - The idea that self-published authors and books are somehow lesser than their traditionally published counterparts stems from previous decades before the rise of digital media and Print-On-Demand technologies. The contemporary misconception that people who self-publish books aren’t good enough to be accepted by a traditional publisher is widely held by supercilious types of people. Unfortunately, they frown on those who self- publish because once upon a time, that was basically true. Now, obviously, that sentiment isn’t as valid as it once was, and all sorts of brilliant books are self published. The stigma will fade with time, but we have a long way to go.
CAN I HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS?
I certainly think so, and here’s why. Independent presses are the industry’s answer to this vexing question. Small publishing companies combine the versatility of self-publishing with the authenticity of traditional publication. With a traditional indie press, royalties are often much higher than large presses but lower than self-published works. These figures are usually offset by increased book sales generated by profuse readership. Established presses already have an audience that can accelerate sales and share your book with more people.
Independent publishing companies also have markedly smaller editorial teams. As such, communication and negotiation are much more manageable for all parties involved. What’s more, these small firms have more malleable contracts that can be easily parleyed, making them an attractive choice for seasoned and new authors alike.
While there is no ultimate equilibrium between the two, features of both traditional publishing and self-publishing can be effectively married by an independent press that utilizes the correct operational strategy.
At HIP, we understand the challenges writers and authors face regarding the publication of their work, and we strive to rectify the largest issues that plague the publishing industry as a whole. HIP offers higher royalties, smarter contracts, and better collaboration between author and publisher. HIP is devoted to the future of storytelling and we happily put in the hard work that others won't. Period. Huntsville Independent exercises ethical publishing practices in all areas of business, whether it's author payment or respect for the original idea for your book. HIP will never trap you in a contract you don't want to be in, and we always look for new ways to benefit writers of all types.
When you choose to publish with Huntsville Independent, you choose a passionate team that is willing to fight for you and who believes in your skill as a writer. These unique qualities are what set HIP apart from the myriad other indie presses. Some are in it for money, some are in it for show, but here at HIP, we want to help you grow.
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