Should I Self Publish…the facts

Posted in: Publishing by Jerry Jenkins NY Times Best Selling Author

(Article shortened a bit by Rebecca Willman Gernon)

self-publishing image 11. Why pay to be printed when you could get paid to be published?If you’re shopping your book to publishers who require you to pay for any portion of the process, you’re self-publishing.A company can call itself whatever it wants—hybrid, subsidy, cooperative, indie. But if you pay one dime for any of their services (even committing to a minimum initial order as part of the deal or paying for publicity or any other marketing element), you’re self-publishing.2. Will Self-Publishing Your Book Really Get You More Money?But, the argument goes, “Why should I accept a royalty of roughly 15% of sales when I could pocket all the profits?” Because 15% of 10,000 books sold is a lot more than 85% of 1,000 books sold. Do the math on a $15 book.

10,000 x $15 = $150,000 x 15% = $22,500.

1,000 x $15 = $15,000 x 85% = $ 12,750.

Why do I use those sales figures (10,000 vs. 1,000)? Because most traditional publishers will not accept a book they don’t think will sell at least 10,000 copies.

And because 1,000 books sold is way above the average for self-published books, despite the rare, noisy exception.

3. The Shocking Self-Publishing Statistic

Jeremy Greenfield, who writes about ebooks and digital publishing for Forbes, reported nearly three years ago that according to data from a new survey from Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest, the median income range for self-published authors is under $5,000. And nearly 20% of self-published authors report deriving no income from their writing.  It’s true that your traditionally published title might never earn you more than the $5,000 to $10,000 advance you might receive. But it’s also true that very few self-published titles get anywhere close to 1,000 sales. Most, in fact, are given away.

4. The So-Called Benefits of Self-Publishing

Hasn’t the self-publishing revolution—including all the nearly free ways to “publish” your book online—made this the greatest era ever for writers?  The fallacy in that argument is that writers who do this then represent themselves as “published authors”—a stretch, you must admit. And when they present themselves that way to traditional publishers, they find that having self-published was the worst thing they could do for their reputations. Also, the likelihood of your manuscript, even if it’s great, being noticed in that avalanche of mediocrity (and worse)  self-published books is minuscule.

5. The Self-Publishing Predators

Sad to say, too many self-publishers and self-publishing online courses today are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Many promise marketing strategies and wide distribution, but you pay for it all (regardless of sales success)—sometimes thousands for:

  • Poor cover design with exorbitant upcharges for changes
  • Unprofessional type and page layout
  • Little or no editing and/or proofreading
  • Overblown marketing promises that really consist of getting your title listed in some massive online catalogue that bookstores ignore
  • A publisher much less responsive (sometimes impossible to engage) once you’ve signed the deal and sent your check
  • Dismal sales

Frankly, that’s one of the biggest dangers. When you publish without editing or proofreading, it shows.

A WORD OF CAUTION IF YOU OPT TO SELF PUBLISH: Not ALL self-publishing companies are predatory.

But enough are that you should exercise extreme caution if you go that route. I recommend that you not even negotiate with one without first conducting a vigorous background check, including personal knowledge of a satisfied customer.

You’re Working with a Sleazy Self-Publishing Company When:

  • They refuse to acknowledge that traditional publishing is almost always your best option if you can break in (don’t even think about publishing with someone who doesn’t admit this)
  • They let you publish your book—and put their name on it—despite the blatant errors or sloppiness outlined above
  • They insist they’re not a subsidy- or self-publisher, despite that you are being charged (for any of the process)

Next blog will be the rest of Jerry Jenkins comments on when Self Publishing Makes Sense.

Have you had a great or not so great experience with self-publishing? Please post your comments to help other writers.



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