Self-publishing for indie authors is just one one option for getting your book into the hands of readers – and money into your bank account. If you manage all parts of the self-publishing process well, and stick with it over time, your key to success may very well be self-publishing for indie authors.
As an author of book-length work, you have more publishing options today than ever before. It used to be that what we now call ‘traditional’ publishing for authors was the only option. Not anymore. Today you can:
At Ingenium Books, we believe in the value of self-publishing for indie authors. Still, we recognize it isn’t for everyone. To help you decide whether self-publishing might indeed be your key to success, here’s our list of the pros and cons of self-publishing for indie authors.
When you self-publish, you exchange your indie author hat for a publisher’s hat. You merge the business side with the creative side of writing and publishing book. We think that’s exciting … because business is fun! We also believe self-publishing is an honourable accomplishment, worthy of pride. It is not solely a realm for those whose first choice is traditional publishing.
Let’s start with the pros of self-publishing for indie authors.
Self-publishing is all about control. You maintain complete creative control. You are the final arbiter of your title, your cover design, you decide when editing and proofreading are complete. You decide on your story arcs and which editorial feedback to accept, incorporate, or reject. And, you have total freedom of choice regarding who you work with and how your product looks and feels.
The time invested in writing and editing may be similar between traditional and self-publishing, but the time to market – the time between when your manuscript is completed and when your book is available for sale – is vastly different. With indie publishing, you can quickly and easily upload your files to various platforms such as Smashwords, Amazon’s KDP, Draft2Digital, Ingram Spark, and more. People can buy your book within hours, or perhaps days.
Indie authors choosing to self-publish are empowered to learn about parts of the industry they’d never otherwise have an opportunity to explore. Learn about pricing strategy, distributor return policies, design parameters, financial matters related to international taxes, copyright and ISBN policies…. That’s just to name a few. As an indie author you have overall flexibility to grow and learn as you produce your work. This allows the author much more opportunity to develop as a writer and in other aspects of the business beyond the writing.
As an indie author engaged in self-publishing, you can sell your book in countries around the world because you retain all your rights. Of course, it’s important to check any contract you may have with service providers or others. Be sure you know what’s in the fine print with respect to licensing rights around the world.
Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), for example, can pay you royalties between 35 and 70 percent for your ebook, depending on the price you’ve set and the sale territory. For your paperback, KDP pays a 60 percent royalty. That’s a huge difference from the 7 to 25 percent royalty rates from traditional publishing. Royalties are generally paid faster, too, in periods from 30 to 60 days, depending on the distributor.
Self-publishing does mean running a business, and running a business isn’t for every author. Here are the biggest cons we think every indie author should be aware of before making a decision about self-publishing.
You have more on your plate with self-publishing. You still have to do the writing. With self-publishing, it’s also your responsibility to find an editor, a proofreader, a cover designer and an interior layout professional. You must create a compelling title, ensure the proper formatting for e-book, paperback, hardcover book, etc. You’re also responsible for all your own marketing – for which you can hire professional help. (We recommend getting help with the marketing strategy and planning, but that you take a direct hand in most of your marketing. This is the best way to learn what’s working, what’s not, and is an authentic way to build engagement with readers and fans.)
If you want to be a highly successful indie author, you will need to invest some money upfront. It doesn’t have to be much, and you don’t have to come up with it all at once, but you will want to think of it as an investment. The professional help you need to hire in Con#1 above will cost you money. (You get what you pay for!). Keep in mind, though, that your books are intellectual property assets. That means they can provide you with multiple streams of revenue down the road. Investing in quality at the front end makes sense in order to reap the rewards later.
Organizers of many literary prizes don’t accept submissions from self-published authors. Organizations like the Alliance of Independent Authors, of which Ingenium Books is a partner member, are advocating for changes to those rules. But for now, those are the facts.
Over the past decade, the self-publishing industry has significantly evolved. Many indie authors have a new sense of empowerment, freedom of creativity, and are enjoying income and celebrated success.
What do you think? Is self-publishing right for you?
Boni is co-founder of Ingenium Books. She's author of One Million Readers: The Definitive Strategy to a Nonfiction Book Marketing Strategy that Saves Time, Money, and Sells More Books. Boni is an author coach, editor, and ghostwriter. As an award-winning former Canadian television reporter, news anchor, producer, and talk show host, working under the names Boni Fox and Boni Fox Gray (it's a long story), Boni covered politics, government, the economy, health, First Nations, and crime. She won several Canadian Association of Broadcaster (CAB) awards and a Jack Webster Award for best documentary. Boni also held senior management roles in government, leading teams responsible for editorial, issues management, media relations, and strategic communications planning. Boni is co-author of Rock Your Business: 26 Essential Lessons to Start, Run, and Grow Your New Business From the Ground Up and, like any good author, has several books in progress.
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