Self-Publishing had, and to some extent still has, a stigma attached. It was for people who can’t find a ‘real publisher’, substandard books and a shoddy attitude.
That simply isn’t true – there are substandard, badly edited, badly written books put out by people, that’s true but that could be said of ‘traditionally’ published books. I read, recently, a book so badly formatted and put together that a simply couldn’t take anymore and gave up. It was from traditional press. I’ve read some rubbish put out from traditional publishers and some incredible books by indie pubbers.
Not every writer wants a traditional publisher, and not every book is a good fit. I suspect mine wouldn’t be – dark, violent fantasy with sex, slavery and vengeance. Indie publishing allows the less mainstream, more varied and adventurous books to see the light of day. Those books that would be serious curbed by a traditional house, the quirky, the off the wall books. Agreed they aren’t for everyone – no book is.
What are the upsides? You are your own boss. The deadlines are yours – and can be moved. The royalties are yours. KDP pay 70% on ebooks between 2.99 and 9.99 and that’s a decent chunk. It’s very unlikely you’d get that with a publishing house.
You get to control everything – what you want for the cover, uploading the book, keeping tabs on the royalties and how the book is progressing in the publishing cycle. It’s your book, you control it. You can write the book YOU want to write (and read) – although keep in mind it’s unlikely to be a best seller just because you think it’s awesome.
Babelcube – through which I publish the foreign language edition – they are slow and their customer service is a bit pants. I have to wait until the link arrives to know if a book is published, and for pretty much every single one I have found the book on Amazon by searching my author page BEFORE the link has appeared.
There are pros to a publishing house behind you, without a doubt. The marketing, usually an editor, the clout that the house has. For me it works with Perseid Press for specific stories – the Heroes in Hell, and the Heroika franchises. They are different to my usual work, and part of a greater shared world, and shared theme. It’s a lot of fun to write for Perseid and the owners are great people, wise, experienced and generally awesome. It’s a choice that works for specific stories for me. And I’ll write for Perseid as long as they’ll have me.
Self-publishing is hard work, it’s a steep learning curve. Writing the book is the easy part! You have to learn to be a formatter, proofreader, editor, cover designer, marketer, social media guru, researcher and had a thick skin. It’s better, if you have the budget to hire at least an editor. You don’t see your own mistakes, your brain knows what should be there and overrides your eyes. That scene is awesome right! Not necessarily. Does it bring the story forward? Does it develop the plot or character? Or is it six paragraphs of description?
I’ve learned a lot – far more than I would have had I been traditionally published, and I’ve encountered and befriended a lot of people. The indie/SP community is, generally, very supportive and helpful. It’s daunting – and many people simply don’t have the skills to be a Jack of All Trades. I didn’t.
I’ve learned formatting, editing, cover design, social media platforms I’d never had considered. I’ve been encouraged to write what I’ve wanted to write and to not give a damn if someone doesn’t like it. And that’s the thing – not everyone will like a book. From Shakespeare to 50 Shades of Grey there are people who think they are bloody awesome, and others who think they are terrible, and everything in between. There simply isn’t a book that everyone will enjoy. That’s fine. It makes it interesting. A publishing house is going to be cautious about a new author, and a book that pushes the boundaries, or is a little odd, is very long, or very short, or is not in a genre that is popular RIGHT NOW. Self publishing gives an author the opportunity to bring the book to life, to bring joy to readers (hopefully).
Self-publishing and small press publishing work for me – I like being in control of my work. I like learning new skills and solutions. It surely doesn’t work for everyone. Nothing does.
You control the timescale and what you write
You get all the royalties
You meet awesome people
You learn new stuff
Marketing sucks 😉
You are expected to do everything
If you don’t learn knew skills you have to pay someone
The reality is – most indies don’t sell a lot.
Remember if you choose to self-publish it’s a business. Be professional. It’s not a case of bunging a load of words on a page and uploading it to KDP. You are asking readers to spend money and time on your work – at least do them the courtesy of producing a well-written product. Learn the rules of the publishing site – read the FAQ. KDP has extensive help pages and FAQ. Use them. You won’t understand everything required of you – no one does – but you can learn, or ask if you don’t understand.
There are various software packages that allow cover design – Canva, Photoshop etc. And KDP has cover creation options (they aren’t great but they aren’t awful). If you can’t afford an editor then see if there are a couple of people who will beta read, get Grammarly, or see if there is an editor or proofreader who will take instalments.
There are free and low cost courses on English Grammar, and language. Sign up. There are sites that allow you post up your work to get feedback (although remember to take it down BEFORE you publish).
If you are like me, you like to learn new skills, you like to be able to control what you do and not have to rely on or be beholden to others then consider self-publishing.