How to Know if Self-Publishing is for You

Technology and 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.


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