I have had several people recently ask me why I am choosing to self-publish. And let me emphasize that word: choice. It is my choice to self-publish, just as it is a choice to publish traditionally. The reason why I’m belaboring this point is because some people have the idea that authors only self-publish because they couldn’t get an agent or a publishing deal.
This is by no means true.
Sure, there is a lot of not so great self-published work out there, but those are not successful authors – and by “successful” I mean earning a fair amount of money from their writing or even enough to become a full-time author. This is my goal and, after a LOT of research and soul-searching, I have decided to self-publish.
This is not an easy path, but I believe it’s the best one for me right now. This post is not meant to discount traditional publishing. Some authors love it and I couldn’t be happier for them. I just believe that self-publishing will work better for my goals in the long term.
That being said, here are my top 10 reasons why I chose to self-publish.
- Creative Control and Freedom:
I am looking at the books I publish not only as creative works but also as my business. With a traditional publisher, my book would be part of their business, so they have the final say in most areas. They are taking the financial risk by publishing my book, so they make the calls. I would much rather take the financial risk myself and be in charge of the major decisions. I did just spend all this time working on the book. Why would I then give the reins to someone else?
I can also be free to try out concepts that might not be the hot thing on the market right now. There is a lot more pressure from publishers to write particular kinds of stories, but oftentimes, the books we love the most come seemingly out of nowhere. I want to have the freedom to try new things, that may or may not work, simply because I love the story.
- Much More Flexibility:
This is definitely a blessing and a curse sort of thing. I love the fact that I can change which project I’m working on and I don’t have to answer to an agent or publisher. I can switch up my production order and try new things out. But if I was under contract for certain books, that’s locked in. No changes there.
- Ability to Write in Multiple Genres:
Agents and traditional publishers do not like authors switching or writing in multiple genres (with very few, high profile exceptions). They don’t really know what to do with those authors or how to market them. I already know that I will be writing in multiple genres because I love reading multiple genres, and I think many of today’s readers do too. I am still working out how I will be marketing them, but I have seen several, successful self-published authors make the multi-genre thing work for them and I’m determined to make it work for me too.
- Royalty Differences:
This is a big one. With traditional publishing, you tend to get about 25% of the NET royalties for purchases of your books. So, whatever the publisher determines as an expense for the book gets taken out of the royalties first, then you get 25% of what’s left. Then, you have to pay your agent – since you didn’t get your publishing deal without one – and that’s usually another 10-15%. And can’t forget taxes! That leaves very little by the time it gets to your wallet. But with self-publishing, you can get around 70% (depending on the distributor and pricing) and that’s yours to keep – except for the taxes, of course.
- Real-time Marketing Figures:
By self-publishing, I control the accounts for the different distribution companies as well as my marketing sources. So, anytime I test a new marketing campaign, I can see the real-time results of those efforts instead of having to wait the sixty days to see what happened on a royalty check from the publisher. This shows me what works and what doesn’t and allows for more creative problem solving, which I really enjoy.
- I Keep the Rights:
All the rights. When signing with a traditional publisher, they will usually keep several forms of rights for your book like digital, print, audio, and even possibly tv/film. They will own those rights, but here’s the kicker: they might not even USE them and they still won’t allow you to use them if they don’t. For instance, they might own the audio rights, but never make an audio book version. Can you go make one on your own then? Not during the life of your contract. I’d like to decide what rights I’d like to use, thank you!
- I Decide When Something Goes Out of Print:
Victoria Schwab is currently having this issue. Her publisher decided to stop printing her book The Archived and she has absolutely no say in that. Why is this a problem? There are still a lot of readers who don’t know she exists and by pulling that book, it ensures that many readers WON’T find her. It’s an often quoted fact that it usually takes 5-7 years for a book to really gain attention, and I want to give my books the time they deserve to find their audiences.
With any creative endeavor, collaboration is key. It’s what can make a good idea great. By having multiple people involved, you get multiple perspectives which can add greater depth to a work in a way no one person could do alone. I believe writing is the same way. Having a great editor, cover designer, proofreader, and others on your team can help an author to deliver the best experience to the reader. The thing is, a group that doesn’t work well together can have the opposite effect. I’ve seen it firsthand. It can truly be a nightmare. I want to pick who I work with. With a publisher, your team is assigned to you. Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and have a great team, and other times, not so much. I don’t want to leave my team to chance.
- I Can Farm Out What I Don’t Want to Do:
You might be saying by this point “But Jenn, what about all the stuff I don’t want to do – like marketing and taxes and running a business?” I hate to break it to you, but if I’m traditionally published or not, I’d have to do those things anyway. Publishers help very little with marketing (unless you’re one of their top 5 authors), so that job mainly falls to me anyway. I’ve actually heard from some authors who were asked by publishers if they had a big enough platform before they even considered a book deal.
Here’s the key, I can always pay someone else to do the parts I don’t want to do. I can hire people for marketing, a CPA for my taxes, virtual assistants for business busy work. I don’t have to do it all myself. I just have to be willing to invest in my business, which I am.
- Faster Turn Around:
I know that as soon as I finish a book, I can publish when I’m ready. Most publishers require a 12-18 month plan before they send it out into the world. By doing it myself, I can create my own timeline and publish it as quickly as I want. I just set up my production schedule, book my team for the dates I’ll need them, and click publish at the end. The planning is the only real challenge, but I get hyper-organized with this sort of thing, so that’s not a problem for me.
11. BONUS: I can always switch if I change my mind later!
Self-publishing is not set in stone. I can always change my mind later and start querying publishers. It’s much easier to switch this way than it is to switch from traditional to self-publishing. I would have to wait for my contracts to expire and that can take a lot of time. Plus, if I do well on my own, then I would have more leverage when I submit to publishers like Colleen Hoover did early in her career. She was able to sell just print rights and kept her ebook rights because she already had a big following. And she’s not doing too shabby, now is she?
I hope this sheds a bit of light on how I came to choose self-publishing. As I said before, I know this is the right path for me right now, but it’s not for everyone. If you are in the process of deciding which path you want to take, remember that you need to choose what’s best for you and what will help you reach your goals. There’s a path for everyone, but not everyone’s path is for you!