Should You Self-Publish?

Should You Self-Publish?

Writing a book is only the first step. Authors now have more choices than ever when it comes to getting their books into print. Or not into print—many authors choose to publish their works only as ebooks. How can you decide what path is right for you?

Guest Writer, Cathy Stucker, shares her insights into Self Publishing for new authors and aspiring novelists.

Traditional publishing, where a publisher pays for rights to your book and handles all of the publishing and distribution, can seem very attractive. You don’t have to learn much about publishing, and the publisher handles getting your book into sales outlets such as bookstores and Amazon.com. They take care of all of the expense of publishing, usually including paying an advance to you, the author.

If they expect you to pay, then it is vanity publishing. You probably want to stay away from this.

You also get the credibility that comes from being traditionally published.

On the downside, you have little or no control over when and how your book is published. You may hate the cover. They can change your title. And it could be years before you hold the book in your hands.

But when you are published by a traditional publisher they handle all the marketing, right? You can just focus on writing, not on selling.

Wrong!

They will probably expect you to submit a marketing plan detailing what you are going to do to promote your book. Unless you are one of the lucky ones, do not expect them to do much of anything to market you or your book.

So what about  Self Publishing? It can be difficult. You are responsible for writing, editing, layout and design, printing, distribution and marketing. That doesn’t mean that you will do all of those things yourself, but you will do them or hire someone else to do them. The good news is that there are people to help you, although that help comes with a price.

How much will it cost to self-publish? On the low end, expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars. On the high end? The sky is the limit. Depending on your skill set, you may be able to do some of this yourself. For example, I have done interior layout on my own books. I am not a professional designer, and a professional designer would definitely find things in those books that could be done better. The average reader, however, is not going to notice that the layout is imperfect.

On the other hand, cover design is best left to the professionals. Cover designs can be obtained for anywhere from about $50 to thousands. Look at designer portfolios to find a designer who can create a cover that captures the feeling of your book.

Your start-up costs for printing will be almost zero when you use print on demand through companies such as CreateSpace. Your only expense is to have one copy of the book printed and shipped to you so you can approve it, and that usually costs less than $10. Printing one book at a time through CreateSpace will cost more per copy than if you had thousands of books printed at once, but you will not have to invest $2,000 - $20,000 in printing before you sell a single book. Plus, where are you going to store thousands of books?

CreateSpace will provide an ISBN (the number that is barcoded on the back of the book) to you at no cost. However, that means they will be listed as the publisher. That may not matter to you but, if it does, you need to purchase a block of ISBNs from http://ISBN.org. A block of 10 will cost $250.

CreateSpace will also provide some limited distribution for the book. Don’t expect to see your book on the shelf at your local book store—but then, how many local book stores are left anyway? Your book will be available at Amazon.com (they own CreateSpace) and you can sell it from your own website or order copies to sell at in-person events, such as readings and book signings.

Don’t forget to publish an ebook version. You can publish your work as an ebook at no cost via Amazon Kindle and other ebook stores. There are also aggregators, such as Smashwords and BookBaby, that will handle getting your ebook in many of the top online stores so you don’t have to do all of the set up yourself.

Traditional publishing has its advantages, but I love that with self-publishing I have total control and can take my books from manuscript to published in days or weeks, instead of months or years. Oh, and one more thing—self-publishers typically earn more per book than the paltry royalties paid by traditional publishers.

What do you think? Are you ready to self-publish your book and start making sales?

You may want to sift through Writing Guides to ensure you learn how to write great fiction  to get yourself fired up and ready to start publishing your own books ...

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