A question that I get asked all the time, is why did I decide to self-publish?
Like anything, there are pros and cons to going with a traditional publisher just like there are pros and cons with self publishing. Let me just try and break it down into a list.
No initial investment on your part. One of the biggest benefits of having a publisher, is that you don’t front the initial investment that it would take to print several hundred books. The publisher takes that risk, which is why they have a pretty strict guideline of what they accept or don’t accept.
Free Advertising. The publisher is in debt from printing your books, and they are going to want to make their money back, so you will find that they advertise for your book in order to create excitement. Although, I’ve also heard from other author friends that they don’t actually advertise as much as we think they might. Obviously if they have a big name author like Stephen King, then they will spend a lot more money advertising because it is almost a guaranteed return for them. But with a first time author, or a small time author, they might not be willing to spend as much.
Potentially more avenues for sales. Publishers have contacts and contracts with bookstores, and different events that would allow you to sell your books.
Loss of independence. A publisher has the right to have their “hand” in what you are creating. They would be able to tell you whether they want you to change your story, change the illustrations, go with a different illustrator, etc. They can change and mold YOUR book into what they think will sell. One of the biggest things that I wanted as an author was to create my books the way that I imagined them and not lose the authenticity of my idea.
Selling your rights. Even though your book might still have your name as the author, illustrator, or creator of this work, the publisher requires that you sell your rights to your book. What that means is that you are selling the right to do what you want with your book. The publisher requires ownership of your book in order to print copies, and have control of the sales of your book. I have also heard from other fellow authors that getting back the rights to your own book, is much much harder than it is to sell the rights.
Royalties. The publisher will contract with you and negotiate a percentage of the sales that will go directly to you. In some cases it can be as low as 3%. On average, it is about 10%. So, if you sell a book for $20, you will only be getting $2 per book sold (if you contracted at 10%).
Complete 100% independence. You decide what you want to do with your book, who you want to hire for editing, illustrating, what your budget is, etc. You are 100% in control of your book. This can be a HUGE pro, although I recognize that some people might be afraid of this and might need some guidance. Guidance or not, that can come easily. The point is having complete creative freedom, which for me, was VERY important.
Don’t sell your rights. The rights to my books are mine, and no one can take that away from me. I can choose to do whatever I want with my books whether it is creating different products to sell (t-shirts, puzzles, calendars, whatever), advertising material, sequels to books, etc. I have complete control and independence to do with my books as I see fit.
Profits. Because I own the rights to my books, I keep 100% of the revenue from my books. If I want to charge $20 or $10 for a book, that choice is mine to make and I keep all of it, not only a small percentage of it.
Cost. You do have to be the initial investor in order to print your books. You might only be able to afford 100, 300, or 500 books at one time. Unlike a publisher, they might be able to print 1,000 or more to start. Unfortunately, either way, the risk of potentially having a closet full of books is very real. Also, there are additional expenses such as paying for professional editing, illustrating, design, ISBN numbers, copyrights, etc. AND, the return on your investment might be slow and over a long period of time.
Heavier Responsibility. Because you are in charge of your book 100%, that means that you don’t have the help or expertise of a team of people. For example, you might have an excellent story, with amazing pictures, but you would need to hire an editor, or a designer to put your book together. But if you are like me, and you are technologically inclined, you can do all the parts of putting your book together yourself. You might need to do a lot of research and communicating with different printing companies to find the one that matches your wants and needs.
Heavier Responsibility (seriously). The responsibility of advertising, sales, creating a market, shipping, etc. all falls on you. If you are not willing or capable of doing the leg work to get the word out there that you have a product to sell, then this is probably not the way to go for you. You are your own marketing team, your own manager, publisher, shipping company, etc. You are responsible for logistics, shipping, everything. Seriously. EVERYTHING. This might be a scary idea, but for me, the ability to be the sole person responsible for the success or failures of my books was exactly what I wanted and needed.
In the end, whether you decide to self publish or go with a publishing company, the end result is the same. You have successfully published a book and that is an amazing accomplishment.