Self Publishing 101

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In the past, if you wanted to become a writer, you were limited in choice. The only routes available were to have articles accepted by magazines or have your book accepted by a traditional publishing house. Now you have other options, including self-publishing. What is self publishing, and how do you do it?

What is self publishing and how does it work?

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You have finally finished it. Your manuscript is complete, but how do you get it into print? The biggest question you face is whether to self-publish it on platforms like Amazon, hire a vanity publisher, or submit your work to a traditional publisher? All of these options have advantages and disadvantages. The answer depends on several factors including cost, the amount of control you want to have over the final work, and how much marketing you plan to do yourself.

What is self-publishing on Amazon? Amazon is one of the most popular options because it allows you three different ways to get your work out to the public. You can publish your print book with Createspace, your self-published e-books with Kindle Direct Publishing, and you can create an audiobook of your work with ACX. You still will not make 100% of what you earn, but Amazon pays some of the highest royalties in the business at up to 80% depending on what you choose. You get to set your price, and they have many tools available to help you along your journey.

The World of Publishing

One of the major factors in which publishing option to choose is how much experience you have in the publishing industry and the learning curve you have. It is one thing to be able to put words on the page. You also might consider yourself to be good at proofreading and editing, but do you know how to choose the appropriate trim size, know what bleed means, and how to calculate your gutter? If you do not know the answers to these questions, you will probably need a little more assistance getting your first book ready for uploading to any platform.

If you know a little bit about how to format your first book, you can probably learn to upload it to platforms like Amazon easily. There are many videos and tutorials available out there to help you fill in the gaps and get your book ready. If you are completely unfamiliar but still want to self-publish, hiring someone to format your book or using a vanity publisher might be an option. If you do not want to do any of this, and you want some help with advertising, then traditional publishing might be your best route.

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What is the difference between self-publishing and publishing?

The first question most authors have is, “Is self-publishing worth it?” It is easy to do a search on Amazon and find many indie and self-published authors who have made quite a name for themselves and have a large following. You can also find hundreds or thousands up there who published the book and have not made one sale yet. You will also find many in between.

The question is, “What is the difference between a self-published New York Times Bestseller and one that does not make sales?” This is a question with many facets, and luck is only a small portion of the equation. To be successful as a self-published author, you need to know your audience intimately and know what they are looking for in a good book. You have to find a problem that your audience has and propose a solution.

The first part of the equation is writing a book where there is a need, and the second part is marketing. Just putting a book out for sale does not mean people will find it and will know what it has to offer. If you go the self-publishing route, you will have to develop a marketing plan and carry it out. Good cover design also plays a major role in the success or failure of a book launch.

How confident you feel in your ability to put all of these elements together will determine whether self-publishing or traditional publishing is right for you. Let’s explore some of the benefits and disadvantages of self-publishing when compared to traditional publishing houses.

Benefits of Self-Publishing

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1. Control of your work

One of the biggest advantages of self-publishing is that you have complete creative control of your work. This can also be a disadvantage if you do not have experience with the marketplace or know what your audience wants. There is value and the experience of someone who knows the business and knows what types of work sell best. The downside is that you will have an editor who will request that you make certain changes to the work or will make changes to your work themselves.

2. Higher royalties

One of the advantages of self-publishing is that you can retain 100% of the profits if you do not sell through a platform like Amazon. You can write and distribute work through your own website. The advantage is that when you do make a sale it is all profit, but there is an advantage to platforms that have an established audience who regularly visit them looking for new material and new authors. Royalties for traditional publishing houses average between 10 -15%, where you can make up to 70-80% on Amazon.

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3. Get to market faster

Another advantage of self-publishing is that you can get your work out more quickly. Working with the traditional publishing industry can take on average six months to a year or more before you will see your work in print. Depending on your skill level and knowledge about how to format your book, you can get your own work out in as little as a week or a month. The first one is usually the hardest and has the biggest learning curve, but after that, you can develop a method and develop a workflow.

4. Build an audience

If you publish with the big publishing house, the publishing house will be the name that is remembered most. You can do book signings, have a social media presence, and connect with your audience, but you must always be mindful of how the publishing house will see your actions. There have been authors who lost contracts because of something they posted on social media. Self-publishing is the way to go if you want complete control over the work that you produce and your public image.

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Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

1. Less recognition

There are exceptions, but it is more difficult to get public recognition without the help of a traditional publishing house and its resources. Part of the success of authors who are household names like Stephen King and JK Rowling is due to the funding and expertise of established publishers. Many famous authors have gone on to self-publish their own work once they made a name for themselves using the traditional publishing route. The decision is all a matter of what your goals are and what you wish to achieve along your publishing journey.

2. No advances

One thing that attracts authors to traditional publishers is that even though they will receive lower royalties, they also have the potential for higher revenues based on volume. With the traditional publishing house, the lower royalties are due to what the publishing house spends to edit, design, print, and market your books. If you self-publish, you will have to pay for all of this, and there are no advance payments.

3. No support

One thing that traditional publishing houses offer authors is support. You have a team and resources to support your book publishing efforts. You have someone to turn to if you have questions or need an explanation. You do not have this when you self-publish, which can put you at a disadvantage if you are a beginner or inexperienced author.

4. Hard to get into brick-and-mortar stores

It is possible to get yourself published book into traditional brick-and-mortar stores, but you have to understand that their space is limited and they do not have as much room to experiment. For that reason, it is easier to get into stores if you go with the traditional publishing house that is well known. If you want to see your book at a big chain store, then a traditional publishing house might be your best choice.

How much does it cost to self-publish a book?

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How much it costs to self-publish a book depends on how much knowledge and skill you have to start. Some authors are multi-talented and can successfully write the manuscript, do the editing, do the illustrations, and design the cover page themselves. For the beginner, this is a lofty goal and there is a lot to learn before you are ready for this level. That is why self-publishing companies were developed. Depending on the length and complexity of your book, these services can range from $1,000 up to $20,000.

Getting Started

The next question we know you have is how to get started on self-publishing a book. Amazon is one of the most popular self-publishing platforms because it has an established audience, pays high royalties, and makes the process easy for beginners. You can get initial readers by offering your work through the Kindle Unlimited program. Putting your book in this lending library is a great way to get people to read it and write reviews. If you have several books available, you can put one in Kindle Unlimited and then point readers to your other works for sale.

Now that you can answer the question, What is self publishing, it is time to start putting your plan into action. Self-publishing is a rewarding journey and a great way to earn passive income. Today, you have many resources available, and you can choose the amount of assistance that you need to make your first book a success. The only thing left to do is to start researching your niche, start developing your outline, and make this year the year when your publishing dreams come true.

Chris Craft

Follower of Jesus. Husband. Father. Founder of InspireFirst and Nao Media.