Why Self-Publish

June 1-2, 2013, I had the pleasure of attending a Self-Publishing Summit by Brooke Warner, one half of She Writes Press, and Howard Van Es, President of Let’s Write Books, Inc.

The Summit was an inspiration. More and more writers are using the internet to personally control how their work gets into the hands of readers, and this summit clarified why every writer should consider self-publishing.

1. The chances of (unjust) rejection in traditional publishing are incredibly high:

  • Traditional publishers are often reluctant to take on new and emerging writers, preferring the “tried-and-true” bankability of established authors.
  • Even if you’re not a first-time author, traditional publishers are less likely to take you on if your previous book did not sell well.
  • Even if an editor at a traditional publisher loves your book, she may reject you because she believes it too hard to sell.

In other words, it’s all about the numbers.

2. It’s the same amount of work whether you self-publish or “get published”:

  • Even if you do sell the book to a traditional publisher, you will still be expected to come up with a marketing plan.
  • Having interned at a publishing house, I know for a fact that a book lives or dies by the author’s willingness to market.

3. With a traditional publisher, no rights and little profit are standard:

  • Selling a book to a publisher typically means selling the rights to your work.
  • If you are lucky enough to get an advance, you have to earn it back through book sales.
  • After paying back your advance, you only make (on average) 7.5% off each book sold.

The internet and e-books, however, have completely changed the game:

  • 70% of books are sold on Amazon.
  • 25% of all Americans 16 and older own some form of e-reader. This number has only grown since December 2012.
  • From 2011-12, the percentage of Americans 16 and older reading e-books rose from 16% to 23%. The percentage reading print books fell from 72% to 67%.
  • Kindle books started to outsell print books barely 4 years after the Kindle was introduced.

Therefore, publishing your own book and making it available on Amazon is one way you can maintain the rights to their own work and control the trajectory of your career. You also have the potential of turning an 80% profit, vs. 7.5% for every book sold.

While I have serious problems with Amazon and love print books, it is becoming clear that writers have more options than ever before. Last weekend really helped clarify what authors can do to take matters into their own hands.

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