Last week, I wrote about the benefits of publishing with small presses. As a freelance editor, I often work quite frequently with writers interested in self-publishing, and I am often asked about its benefits. Of course, since every book and every career is different, I can’t suggest what’s best for you and your book. But here are some pros and cons to know when considering self-publishing:
- Total control
One of the best benefits of self-publishing is that you will have total control over your work. Indie authors make all of the decisions regarding their book, giving them a level of freedom that traditionally published authors don’t have. You control not only the book’s content but also its packaging and design, distribution, price, etc.
- Publish at your own pace
As a self-published writer, you can decide when to publish your books. There’s no contract or deadline to follow. And with the traditional publishing route, it will take years to see your book on shelves; with self-publishing, you can publish as soon as your book is ready.
- Write what you want
Self-published authors have the freedom to write and publish whatever they want, without worrying about what a publisher will purchase or find marketable. Of course, you may want to consider marketability yourself as an important part of having a successful career, but you still have the freedom to publish if you’re not concerned about sales.
- A longer life for your book
A self-published book can remain in print for as long as you and your readers desire, unlike a traditionally published book, which might spend only a few years in print. Self-published writers can keep their work available for as long as they like.
- Tracking sales
Most traditionally published authors do not have access to their sales, but indie authors can see their sales on a daily basis and track them individually. This will enable you to see the success of your promotions and to see which books sell well in your market.
The downside of having total control over every aspect of your book is that you also have to pay the publishing costs yourself. There will be many aspects that you won’t be able to do yourself and will have to contract out, such as editing, cover design, typesetting, and formatting. And if you want physical copies of your book, there are also printing costs to consider. Not to mention the cost of your promotional efforts (though most traditionally published authors have to spend money on promotion as well). Where traditionally published writers receive an advance and don’t have to pay for these services, indie authors have to invest upfront with no guarantee of earning it back. Quality self-publishing often requires a significant financial investment.
- Limited distribution
One of the major drawbacks of the self-publishing model is the inability to distribute the books. Most self-published books will not be stocked in bookstores, not to mention libraries and schools. Distribution of physical books will be severely limited. For genres that sell well as ebooks, this may not be as much of an issue. But if you write in a category or genre that sells better as physical books, this is a definite drawback.
- Not standing out
With so many books being published every day, it can be hard for a self-published book to stand apart from the crowd. Of course this is a challenge for all authors, but indie writers will have to work especially hard to make sure that their book reaches readers.
Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding self-publishing. Some authors choose to publish books that are low-quality, thereby alienating readers from trying self-published works. Of course, there’s no guarantee of quality when picking up a traditionally published book either, but finding a high-quality self-published book can be too difficult for many readers. This is why it’s so important for indie authors to invest time and money into making sure that their book is of the highest possible quality.
All of these issues mean that indie authors have to spend a significant amount of time on everything from format and design to sales and promotions. The downside of having control over everything is spending the time controlling everything. Traditionally published writers have a whole team of professionals working with them, from agents, editors, and proofreaders to cover designers and publicists. Self-published authors will have to spend much more time managing the business side of publishing, from sales to marketing. Spending all of this time on business takes time away from writing the next book.
Ultimately, the publishing process is a personal decision for writers. What’s right for one book or fits with one author’s goals might be entirely different for someone else. Knowing the pros and cons can help you make the best decision for your career.
Have you ever self-published? Are you considering it? What are the pros and cons I missed? Let me know in the comments!
Interested in professional editorial services for your self-published book? Check out my Services page for more information about working with me.