The publishing industry has undergone a radical transformation in recent years. Gone are the days where the traditional means of publication are the only options for aspiring writers.
Self-publishing has taken the world by storm, but unfortunately, several long-standing myths make the process and reality unclear to those who are looking to break into the industry.
The truth is that self-publishing, especially in the eBook sector, is currently a rising tide that has increased substantially with each passing year. Up to 34% of all eBook sales are now self-published — a figure that was virtually zero just 15 short years ago.
The opportunity and means are available with self-publishing if you have the passion. It’s just a matter of knowing the reality of how to make the most of this alternative path to publication.
Myth: Traditional print is more prestigious
In the past, self-publishing has carried the stigma of being inferior in quality when compared to works published in the more traditional press. Self-publishing was seen as the second choice for those who failed to find a publisher, but that’s simply not the current landscape. Countless books that are now considered classics failed initially to find a publisher. Often what a publishing house decides to release depends more on their brand and potential profitability rather than the actual quality of the writing.
Critical acclaim in the form of writing contests and awards have started to acknowledge the work of self-published books as equal to the prestige of books published by traditional outlets. Where and how a book was published doesn’t necessarily correlate to quality these days, and self-published works are just as likely as any other to find critical success.
The raw numbers show that self-published authors are making serious gains as they now represent as much as 40% of the market share.
Myth: Self-publishing is a less lucrative path
In terms of financial viability, self-publishing is just as valid as other means, and in many cases, even more so. As any writer knows, making real and consistent money with words isn’t easy.
Nearly 80% of writers earn less than $1,000 a year while some make upwards of eight figures for their work. The main trade-off in working with a traditional press company vs. self-publishing is the classic “security vs. opportunity” dilemma.
A publisher will undoubtedly help with marketing, distribution and help a writer find and connect with an audience. They will also only leave authors with around 10% of the sales royalty. Those who self-publish generally keep anywhere from 50-70%.
When applied over years to a wide audience, these numbers add up in a hurry to affect a writer’s bottom line. With self-publishing, there is more work to be done on the writer’s end, but you retain all rights along with a much larger piece of the sales pie. It can be seen as a riskier choice, but for those who want control, it’s an enticing option.
It’s by no means the easiest path for up-and-coming writers, but for those prepared to put in the work, there are plenty of reasons why self-publishing might be the right move.
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Myth: It means less work for the writer
While self-publishing has fewer involved parties compared with a corporate publishing house, it by no means is a shortcut around the required work any book needs to be successful. Even the greatest authors need support to flourish, and if this is not being provided by a publisher, it falls to the writer to fulfill those same needs. Self-publishing gives the writer more creative freedom and control of their work, but there’s an associated increase in responsibility and risk as well.
Finding the right editors, designers and marketing teams are jobs that require time and finances to do correctly. Coordinating, communicating and working with them over months is a skill, and one often overlooked by introverted writers.
This doesn’t necessarily mean all these jobs need to be done by the writer themself of course, and it is still possible to get support while self-publishing.
Myth: Self-publishing means no external support
Some think that self-publishing means you’ll have no support for your work, but the amount of help a writer who self-publishes will have is directly connected to the resources and time they are willing to commit to the project.
One can easily find and hire a multi-person team to help them in areas beyond their skills, and they will more or less function in the same way a publisher would. This can be costly, though, as authors report they spend on average $2,000 to $5,000 publishing — and sometimes as much as $50,000.
For the minimalists, though, you can opt to handle it all internally and slowly to keep costs to a more manageable level. This is just a matter of preference. Each writer will have different goals and needs with their book, but the self-publishing route doesn’t mean you will be cut off from all forms of support.
Related: How to Write a Book (and Actually Finish It) In 5 Steps
Myth: You must pick one path permanently
There once was a time when people believed that big presses would not work with people who had previously self-published. In reality, there is nothing further from the truth, and publishers regularly scout and hire writers based upon their previously self-published works.
Of course, writers can’t expect to use the same book. Once a book is already published it cannot be repackaged for traditional publications. In the future, though, they are still free to work with traditional publishing houses and vice versa. It’s healthy to experiment with both forms if the opportunity arises. You need to know what you are looking for in a publisher.
Knowing where and how to publish is an important crossroads for any writer who has worked long and hard on their manuscript. While the traditional publishing presses certainly have advantages, don’t let the false myths surrounding self-publishing steer you away from this increasingly popular path.