Marketing

How to Know if Self-Publishing is for You

Technology and Amazon.com have opened up the world of book publishing, making it far more “democratic” than ever before and allowing anyone with word processing software and connection to the internet, to become a published author.

The traditional publishing industry is a $25 billion or more industry in the United States, generating about 300,000 new titles every year in all categories and editions. The average traditionally published book sells around 3,000-4,000 copies in its lifetime. Most publishers consider something which sells less than 10,000 copies a less-than-stellar outcome.

Depending on the year, the self-publishing market can equal or far-exceed the total title output of traditional publishers. Since sales data for self-published titles is not available from any central source, your guess is as good as mine of the average per-title sales for self-published books.

However, some self-published authors can actually make more money than they can if they published with traditional publishers.

How do you know if self-publishing is for you?

First, three reasons not to self-publish:

  1. Industry Impertinence – you feel agents and traditional publishers are callous people who are difficult to work with, and you don’t like most of them.
  2. Author Independence – no one is going to tell you how to edit your book, change anything or tell you what you can or can’t do.
  3. Author Impatience – the time between inspiration, writing, and books-available is too long in the traditional market.

Why are these bad?

Because the underlying thought-process behind each is negative. You should never do anything just to prove you are right, living with a proverbial “chip on your shoulder.”

First, it is no way to live, and second, for authors of books with Christian themes, the anger and bitterness will come through in the writing, and in the way you conduct yourself with readers and others, which is not something a Christian author should desire.

What are good reasons for self-publishing?

  1. Financial – You can make more money than you did in traditional publishing. (For experienced authors, of course…with large platforms.)
  2. Platform – You need a book to grow your platform. I’ve suggested this for many authors who have a good idea and the start of a platform. The cart is the book and the platform is the horse. Some horses only move when they have something to pull. (metaphor not copyrighted, feel free to use for any occasion.)
  3. Author Independence – for those who know what a good cover looks like, can accept editing and professional advice, enjoy collaborating with others for mutual success, and have time and the desire to work really hard, it can be rewarding.

No matter what direction you take, there is the ever-present chance of disappointing results (sales) after a book is made available to readers.  Make some provision in your personal finances for losing money on the project. There are no guarantees. You might lose a lot of money and experience what traditional publishers experience on some projects which didn’t meet expectations.

The traditional publishing world is infused with elements found in competitive performance fields. Much like professional music, sports or acting, sometimes things don’t work out as planned.

The self-publishing market is no less competitive and in some ways even more competitive than traditional publishing, as it truly is just you against the world, with no publisher behind you to help, to encourage, or work with you.

Readers of my blog posts will catch a common theme…know what you are getting into, no matter what path you take. Eyes wide open on the road ahead.

If you believe self-publishing is best for your situation, then by all means do it. But if you think it will be less work and a quick road to success, think again.

 

Leave a Comment

Amazon Rank Obsession

Admit it. You’ve checked your Amazon.com sales ranking at least once since your book was published. You feel the need to have some outside confirmation of the sales of your book. And Amazon’s ranking are free to look at.

I’ve even seen book  proposals where the author has gone to great lengths to include the Amazon ranking for each title that is competitive with the one the author is proposing. A prodigious amount of wasted effort.

Publishers rarely pay attention to Amazon rankings unless yours gets below 1,000 or if you get in the top 100.

Read More

Two Ways to Think About Your Book

Two of the many complexities within book publishing are how often the book buyer and the book reader are different people and how books may sell only in limited locations. Some people read only what someone else buys for them. Some books sell primarily in one city at one retail …

Read More

Promotion: Faithful or Self-full?

“What’s the difference between promotion and self-promotion? How do we promote ourselves/our books so that we honor God, respect others, and use common sense?”

The constant tension between marketing and ministry has plagued the Christian author, speaker, bookseller and publisher forever. Why? Because Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. Because we are commanded to die to self and to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord….

And yet, our society…our culture insists, even demands, that we market and promote our message.

Read More

The Ultimate Sound Bite

Can you boil the essence of your novel or non-fiction book idea into twenty-five words or less?

This is one of the keys to creating a marketing hook that makes your idea sellable in today’s crowded market.

You have less than a minute to make that hook work.

It is also called creating the “elevator pitch” or the “Hollywood pitch.” The goal is get the marketing department to exclaim, “We can sell that without any problem!” And ultimately to get a consumer to say, “I want that” or “I need that” or “I know someone who should have that.”

Read More

Create Magic with Words

Years ago, I took my five-year-old daughter to Toys R Us to meet “Barbie.” “Barbie” turned out to be a cute and charming teenager who, yes, looked like the classic blonde image of the doll. She wore a pretty pink gown. I expected a lot more fanfare around this event. …

Read More

How an Agent Reads

I’m seldom at a loss for words (though often at a loss for something of value to say), but the question took me aback for a moment. I was on an agents-and-editors panel at a writers’ conference within a few months of becoming an agent. I’d done this sort of …

Read More

Good and Bad Advice on The Writing Life

After graduation from college, I got an entry level job at a radio station, programmed with call-in talk shows. I carried out the trash, conducted regular “Frosty-runs” to Wendy’s for the news director, painted the sales office, screened callers for the shows during off-hours, took transmitter readings, got coffee for …

Read More