This is going to be a slightly more personal post, which I don’t plan to be a habit here at The Nerdy Novel. However, it’s a question I think begs an answer, particularly for those of you who are considering self-publishing your book for the first time.
If you didn’t know, I am having my first big launch at the end of July and I will be publishing and marketing the book entirely on my own. For some, that may come as a small surprise, but there are actually hundreds of authors making a living from self-publishing their books, rather than going the traditional route. I carefully considered both options before deciding to go indie, and here are the reasons why I chose to self-publish my book.
1. No Gatekeepers
What was by far the biggest reason for going indie was the fact that there are fewer gatekeepers that way. Sure, there are a few that we could name. Whatever platform is being used, like Amazon for example. If Amazon were to suddenly decide to stop allowing independent authors to publish themselves, that would be a problem. So there are gatekeepers in that sense. And you could also say that the reader is, in one sense, a gatekeeper. If I want to appeal to a large audience I kind of have to stick to certain conventions, and you can see the post that I wrote on that earlier.
But for the most part, breaking into the indie market is a much easier task than trying to get published traditionally. This used to be a huge turn-off for me. I’ve had book ideas rattling around in my brain since I was a kid, but I never had the courage to write them all down. Because for me, putting in all that work to write a book wasn’t worth it to me if I didn’t have a way of getting it out there to the public. If no publisher picked up my book, it would feel like a lot of wasted effort for me.
That, unfortunately, kept me from writing for years, and I felt bad. I thought perhaps I didn’t want to be a writer like I thought. Because if I did, I’d be writing, right? Well, it turns out, the moment I discovered the possibility of self-publishing, I started actually writing. Like a lot! I’m still doing it, currently averaging about 3,000 words a day, in addition to a full-time job. It’s amazing, I love it, and that alone was made possible because I knew that there wouldn’t be someone waiting to throw my book into the trash.
This is another thing that was very attractive to me. When you self-publish, you retain all the rights to your work. ALL OF THEM! If you traditionally publish, you’re giving up some of those rights. In a usual deal, you’ll probably have to give your publisher a cut of any merchandise you produce, or any film/television deals that are made. Plus, they will have exclusive rights to publish your book until the terms of your agreement expire. And that can take a very long time if you’re not careful.
Add to that the fact that the publishers might want to change a lot about your book. In many cases, this can be a good thing, something that makes your book stronger. But in others, it might not be something you want to do, and since they’re the one publishing, they’re often in the position of power.
I have a shared universe that I’m writing, and there are certain characters that I want to see in multiple stories. What if those stories were told by different publishers? Would it be possible to have crossover characters? I don’t know, but I do know that I don’t have to worry about any of that if I self-publish. Add to that the fact that I have complete control over marketing, cover design, and everything involved. That might scare some of you, and that’s fine. Self-publishing is a lot of work, and some people would rather offload some of that work to a publisher. Just know that you will be giving up a lot in terms of money and control when you do so.
That brings me to my next point. I’m a very entrepreneurial guy. As such, self-publishing is perfect for me. I like the art of trying to market my book almost as much as I like writing that book in the first place. I’ve spent the last few years researching this industry till I’m pink in the face. And I love it!
As I said, this isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but it fits me like a glove.
Let’s face it, this is the real motivation behind most of what we do. Some of us get lucky enough to do something we love in the process. And many find themselves a bit surprised to learn that there is a lot of money in self-publishing, IF you work at it. First of all, Amazon and most other online retailers will give you around 70% of all royalties made by your ebook. The most you could expect from a traditional publisher is around 15%, though from what I’ve heard, many get something along the lines of 8-12%.
Some traditionally published authors get an advance of a few thousand dollars, and this can seem like a great thing. But when you realize that most of these authors publish an average of 1-2 books per year, it ends up not being very much. In fact, even if you get a good book deal, chances are you will have to continue whatever day job you currently have. Only a few traditionally published authors get to be full-time authors. Not everyone can be the Brandon Sandersons and the Stephen Kings of the world.
While self-publishers often aren’t as well known as some traditional publishers (that comes from not having books in physical bookstores) they often make more money on fewer sales. There are even some self-published authors that you have probably never heard of who are making multiple 7 figures a year. I’m looking at you, Michael Anderle. Now that’s not to say that just putting your book out there will result in sales. It won’t. You have to work at it. But the payoff can be very rewarding.
There are a few drawbacks to self-publishing. For one, you’re unlikely to get into many bestseller lists like the New York Times, and your eligibility for certain awards might not line up. But overall it seemed a safer and far more interesting course of action to follow. I look forward to sharing more of my self-publishing journey with you in the future.