The more time I spend learning about the spiritual publishing industry, the more I am convinced that self-publishing is the best route for many aspiring writers. Not because I dislike the publishers! On the contrary, I have found most of them to be great people doing great things. It is just that there are only so many books that they are able to publish each year. And the tradeoffs between traditional and self publishing have changed dramatically over the past few years. So here are 9 reasons why I think most early-stage writers should consider self-publishing:
- You need to have already built a platform in order to get a book deal. Now I realize that this statement is not universally true; I admit it is an overstatement – but barely. The larger the publisher, the more it is the case. There is no question that having (or more importantly, not having) a platform is a very important factor in a publisher’s decision whether or not they will publish your book. And I can’t blame them – having a platform (an engaged group of people following you) is a sign of credibility; a sign that a critical mass of people are likely to buy your book. At a recent conference I heard a publishing CEO say “it used be all about the writing; now if they don’t have a platform, we don’t even look at their writing.” But all of this begs the question “if I already have a following, why do I need a publisher?”
- Approximately 1% of book proposals sent to a publisher turn into a book. I have heard this now from 2 different publishers – and not just the Big Five. And I have heard 1-5% of book proposals sent to a leading agency get represented. What other things have you ever tried to do where the odds were 99% against you?
- It is up to the author to do most of the marketing of their book. Again, the “good old days” are gone, where you just wrote a book and the publisher took care of the rest. Now even with traditional publishing, the author must not only have created their platform, but it is largely up to them to leverage it into book sales before and after the book is released.
- Self-publishing no longer has a vanity stigma. In the past, the predominant form of self-publishing was when someone was just bound and determined to have their own book. So even if publishers didn’t think their book was worth it, the person would just go ahead and spend the money to do it themselves. This is no longer the case; self-publishing is done by a wide range of authors, including well-established, big-name authors.
- There are many top-notch freelancers available to help you self-publish. The age of full-time employment being the norm for every job are long gone. Freelancers are available for hire for almost anything. And there are plenty of former publishing people and talented writers who can assist someone with their writing, marketing, and book design. Writing for Your Life offers many such services.
- Traditional distribution is less powerful. When all books were sold through brick-and-mortar bookstores, and the only way to get into the bookstore was through a publisher, then authors had no choice. Traditional publishers were the gatekeepers, and that was that. But now, for instance, Amazon has a 41% market share in the sale of paperback books, and eBooks overall represent 20% of all books sold. And of course, we’ve all unfortunately seen so many bookstores go out of business. (Confession: my wife works at a brick-and-mortar bookstore!) While there is no question that traditional bookstores are still important and still sell a great many books, they are no longer the only choice, and their share has been shrinking.
- Self-publishing platforms have become more capable. As with any new technology, self-publishing platforms have matured over time, becoming easier to use, less expensive, and with more powerful features. Included are the now high-quality, inexpensive printing technologies being used.
- Online advertising services. While I won’t go into the details here, both Facebook and Amazon advertising have been shown to be effective for promoting books.
- More money per book. When you self-publish, a greater percentage of the sale of each book goes to the author. I have seen examples of where an author would need to sell 5 times as many books through a traditional publisher, compared to self-publishing, in order to make the same amount of money.
- Time to market. The time between when you finish your manuscript and when the book becomes available is much shorter for self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.
But let me be clear – I am not saying that self-publishing is for everyone! If you are able to get a good book deal with a traditional publisher with a great reputation, then congratulations! Go for it! But for the many people who are not able to do that, you really should consider self-publishing.