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Musings - On Self-Publishing (Indie) vs. Traditional Publishing

Do something until you can do something else. What I mean by that is write as a hobby (this is how you build a backlist and improve writing) until you can write for a living. If you really love it that much you will find a way to make it happen. It might be through the traditional route (including digital first) the lucky few take or the self publishing route.

Beverley Kendall has a survey that about self-publishing that is awesome. She says, "The more books you have and the more professional your book is–amongst various other things–the better your chance at for finding success self-publishing." Also self publishing is a decision that is personal like any other big decision, you have to take into account your own talents and situation.

My ultimate goal has always been to find an agent who will find me a publisher. Or find a publisher that accepts unsolicited manuscripts. However as I query I am beginning to look at the other option: indie (small press) or self-publishing. In making this decision, I have to feel that I have tried my best for the first route. But then again do I even want the first route now?

My goal is now to get my book out there and make money and fans. Ideally I'd like to be a hybrid author - I want to self-publish and traditionally publish. Either way, I refuse to not try my best at this goal so I will strive to look professional if I do self-publish.

I have broken down the pros and cons of both. It's a lot to think about and I'm sure my list will grow with time.

1. Have full or more creative control/freedom.
2. Smaller budget. Little to none usually in self publishing.
3. No advance money to "sell/work" off, the money you make is just that.
4. Royalties are higher in every format.
5. RETAIN YOUR RIGHTS!!! Make sure you publish under your own ISBNs don't let the others buy/provide you with one because then you don't own full rights. With indie publishing you will not retain rights.                                                                                                                                            6.  Instant publishing capabilities for self-publishing. Small wait time for indie nowhere near the up to 2-year wait for traditional publishing.
7. You can print on demand which saves money or print small runs and sell on your website or at author signings. (Small investments at a time.)

1. Have to do all work yourself or hire others to do it. (cover, editing)
2. Little to no budget. 'Cus let's face it most of us are starving artists.
3. No advances so you can't quit your job just yet.
4. Royalties are higher depending on who you publish through. On average about 10-80% on print books and 50-90%  of the net on eBooks. The numbers definitely vary so it is important to research the company royalties and fine print.
5. "Being in the top percent of self-published authors takes time." per Courtney Milan, this is oh-so-true, the reason why self-published books make little to no money is because people don't have the marketing strategy behind it or the will to promote themselves/books.
6. Have to establish a web presence. (website, blog, twitter, facebook, instagram, pinterest, tumbler, Google plus and whatever other companies are popular). In this day and age, you have to do this regardless.
7. Bare the upfront costs of everything*.
8. Will take time to make money back or make money just as it takes time and money to publish.
9. Some "indie/self-publishers" still ask for non-exclusive worldwide license to print, publish, distribute and sell your work which means you are transferring your rights when you agree to publish with them, read the fine print.
10. Watch for "vanity" publishing or fully assisted packages from companies like iuniverse, outskirtspress, authorhouse - you often pay high prices for their help and give up your copyrights.

1. You have a professional and experienced team working with/for you, which means you don't have to do everything.
2. Level of credibility when publishing with the BIG 5.
3. Bigger overall budget.
4.  Broader distribution, especially in brick and mortars like Barnes & Noble & Books Inc.
5. Advances, maybe?
6. Have the marketing breadth to reach a bestseller list quicker and at all.
7. Have a better chance of the rights being sold to foreign countries, film & TV studios and audio.
8. Have an agent that is going to look out for your best interests when signing a contract.

1. Less creative control: the team working for you has most of the say-so in all things* relating to your book.
2. Usually you're given a reasonable budget that will produce a professional and marketable book.
3.Advances are against future earnings.
4. Significantly less royalties (about 7% on print books and 25% of the net on eBooks).
5. Still have to establish a web presence.
6. You have imposed deadlines to make. You work for them.
7. You have signed a contract and must produce. You work for them.
8. You are 1 author out of hundreds they work with. You are at the bottom of the long list that includes bestsellers and books that have longevity.
*Everything/things: Cover, print run, digital first decision, marketing, cost of book=formatting, printing, etc.

Self Publishing Tips 
Ultimate Tip: Look professional!
1. Create a great book as part of a series by working on it until it is great (bet-selling books are usually part of a series).
2. Create a website and blog. (Especially if you have won/placed in any contests)
3. Create a professional cover.
4. Professional Editing - At least 2 editors, 2-3 rounds each. Do developmental/content editing as well as line and copy and proofreading. Get more editors if you can afford it. The more professional eyes the better.
5. Marketing - Create Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts, etc. and gain followers.
6. Promo - If you can afford it - participate in blog tours, giveaways, online promos and create a book trailer- all of this can be low cost all can be done for under $500 depending who you go through.
7. Make first series book free or 99 cents. The goal is to get people to read the first book and possibly the series because of no cost/low initial cost. However I know some will shudder at this idea, "Give my work away for free? I work too hard." But how do you gain a fan/customer who might be pulled in many different ways for reading. they already have favorite authors and the big companies and best seller lists are at the forefront, they have the most advertising space. How else can you compete? We can't all be Amanda Hocking and upload books with insta-success with no marketing plan, track record or fan base.
8. Network with other authors and bloggers.
9. Get Reviewed by reputable companies (publisher's weekly, kirkus). This does cost money but it can help promote your novel, assuming you receive good reviews. Some reviewers like the Indie Book Reviewer's List focus on Indie authors. Reviewers have so many requests that the chances of being reviewed are slim. You must also send a request 3-6 months ahead of release date.
10. Price books to maximize profit. At first start low 99 cents, $1.99, $2.99, then make prize commensurable with sales, $2.99-7.99 seems reasonable.

I conclude by saying you can make a living off of self-publishing if you work hard at it. For further information, the author Beverly Kendall also did an intensive survey on self-publishing that gives you more about earning factors of the self-publishing road. Also the Key Publishing Paths from Jane Friedman also breaks down more paths people can take.

Self Publishing Resources:


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