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Why Should I Self-Publish First?

When it comes to publishing, you essentially have two choices: find a traditional publisher who will cover the expenses of producing your book, or self-publish and pay to produce the book yourself. For many authors, the idea of self-publishing is both daunting and confusing. Those who have yet to enter the world of publishing may wonder why anyone would bother with the trouble and expense. After all, if you choose traditional publishing you don’t have to pay anything, and the publisher will do all the work for you, right? 

Well, not exactly.

Landing a contract with a traditional publisher can be a long and difficult path, and sometimes it may end up that it’s not an option at all – especially for first-time authors. Here are some reasons that self-publishing can be a great option for your first book – or your second or third, if you’re not happy with how traditional publishing has gone for you. 

No Acceptance Process

Possibly the biggest advantage of self-publishing is that there’s no one deciding whether your book should be published or not except for you. This means you have a lot more control over the content of the book. If you want to write something controversial, or something that doesn’t quite fit into a specific genre but straddles two, self-publishing is a great way to get your book out there. Traditional publishers may turn down your book if they don’t like something that’s important to the message of your book, or make acceptance conditional on your changing it. 

Traditional publishers and literary agents are also less concerned with the quality of your book, and more concerned with whether it will sell. If your first book isn’t something they feel the masses are clamoring for right now (and what that is changes from month to month) then they’re unlikely to want to take the financial risk of paying for an untested author’s book. But they’re also just guessing – a very well-educated guess, to be sure, but no one can see the future. If you believe your book could be the next breakthrough bestseller, self-publishing could be a better way to get there. 

It’s Much Faster

The traditional publishing process has several more steps at the beginning than self-publishing, and these steps can be very time consuming. For most publishers, you must first find a literary agent to represent you. This means you send out a lot of queries and wait for responses. Then, once you find that literary agent, she’ll turn around and approach publishers. Finally, once she finds one that’s interested, you must go through the process of negotiating a contract with the publisher. 

All that time, your book could have been out where readers could buy it and you could have been getting royalty checks. The average time between starting to look for your literary agent and having a book on the shelf is about 2 years, but it can take even longer. 

With self-publishing, the turnaround time is much shorter. Depending on how much you do yourself and what you pay for freelancers or a publishing company to do for you, the turnaround time is usually under 6 months. Choosing a company that can take care of the whole process under one roof for you, like 2Nimble, is often the quickest route. The faster your book is out, the sooner readers can enjoy it. 

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Your Royalties Will Be Higher

Most traditional publishers offer 8-12% of the retail cost for the author’s royalties. Self-publishing companies offer a wide range, usually between 50-100% of the profit on sales. Now, if you’re sharp you’ll notice we’re not comparing apples to apples. 100% of the profit could be the same as 12% of the retail depending on how much more than the manufacturing cost the retail price is. 

But with self-publishing, you usually get to choose what you want your retail price to be. Granted, you’ll want to keep it reasonable or no one will want to buy it, but if you have a short book that costs $4 to print, you can choose to sell it for $10. If you have a 100% profit royalty arrangement, that means you make $6, 60% of retail. 

You’ll Have to Market It Yourself Anyway

Marketing your book can seem very intimidating to a first-time author. Some authors mistakenly think that a big advantage of traditional publishing is that someone else will take care of the marketing for you. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Aside from the slight advantage of getting listed in the publisher’s catalogues and perhaps mentioned on their social media – if that’s something your publisher even does – you are on your own for marketing. 

Traditional publishers do market books, but only for authors who are already best-sellers. This makes a certain amount of financial sense. They can be more certain that the expense of paying for a publicist will pay off, and the author has more time to crank out the next best-seller for them. First-time authors are a shot in the dark, and not worth the risk. 

It Will Jump-Start Your Second Book

Remember at the beginning when I said that publishers and literary agents are more interested in a book they think will sell than a well-written book? One of the reasons it’s so hard to break into traditional publishing is because it’s very difficult to prove that your book will sell. But with a self-published book under your belt, you have solid, factual proof. If you successfully market your first book and you enjoy even modest success, this shows traditional publishers and literary agents that 

  1. What you write appeals to readers 
  2. You have an existing audience who will possibly buy from you again 
  3. You have the know-how to successfully market a book and make money for them 

So even if your dream goal is to write for a big-name publisher, the fastest and easiest way to get there could be to self-publish that first book. And hey – if it really takes off, you get to keep a bigger cut of the pie anyway! 

First published on Anewpress.com September 3, 2018.