You’ve heard it before, but I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life. From that fateful day when I realized that writing was an actual profession, I’ve dreamed of making a living telling stories.
But something was holding me back.
Publishing your novel was difficult. Instead of being a great challenge I wanted to overcome, I focused on my other passions – ones that were easier to attain. Querying, seeking an agent, trying to land a deal with a publisher, all of these things were too daunting for me.
So I labeled my passion for writing as a hobby and dreamed of the day I would get lucky and publish a novel.
I felt this way until a couple of years ago when I learned what exactly self-publishing was. I had heard of it before but still dreamed of landing a huge contract with a big publishing firm. I still read books on how to improve my writing, but never considered self-publishing as a comparable method of getting my book out there.
But the topic kept popping up. I was reading of more and more writers who were making a living off of self-publishing their books, and earning a higher royalty than they would with traditional publishing.
This piqued my interest until a year ago, when I realized that I really could publish my own novel. I didn’t have to wait to get lucky in the publishing world. I could do it right now and say that I’m an author.
Fast-forward a year and I’m well on my way to not just publishing my own novel, but publishing it well. For an incredibly impatient person, I’ve done well at putting on the brakes. I’ve stopped to take the time to market myself as a writer and get the word out about my book. I’m making sure that my book is the best it can be before I put it out there – cover, editing, layout.
Since I aim to do this for a living one day, I took the bull by the horns and forced myself to do what I needed to be successful (including making my YouTube channel, something I was very nervous about). I’ve learned so much in the last year and can’t wait to learn more about the industry!
Which finally brings me to my topic for this week: reasons why self-publishing finally decided I was right for it (not the other way around).
I’m a control freak. There, I said it. And I’d bet money that a lot of successful self-publishers are as well. It’s both a blessing and a curse, and it’s a switch I can’t turn off.
Before, I thought that putting your novel into someone else’s hands was the only way to go. I neither hated that fact, nor liked it. Having someone else highly recommend you change something in your novel, or deciding what cover was right for it, was something that just had to be done if you wanted to get published.
They were the experts. They had done this before and I would just have to suck it up to get to where I wanted in life.
And then the hallelujah chorus started. *cue music*
Once I realized that self-publishing put all of this back into my hands, I fell in love with the idea.
If my writing doesn’t exactly fit what’s trending right now, or crosses genres a little too much, it’s up to me if I want to keep it that way. If I’m passionate about the story, then chances are that someone else is as well. Just because leopard print isn’t as popular as it once was doesn’t mean people don’t like it at all. Yes…I really did just use leopard print to make my point.
Something else that fascinated me: the cover. I’m so freaking excited to be able to design my own cover. No, I’m not doing it myself – A.M. Ruggirello is actually taking on that task, but I get to decide what I want it to look like. Yeah, it’s kind of scary at times but it makes me feel like the sky is the limit. I have more creative freedom with every aspect of my novel, so it makes me more creative when I’m actually writing it.
Just kidding. It is if you want to earn a full-time living off of it. No, I’m not doing it all for the money, but if I can live off of something I’m passionate about, then I’m all for it!
Is it really hard to earn a living as a writer? Yup. Do a Google search online for how many copies the average book sells and you’ll get answers ranging from 100 to 1,000. Not in one month, ever. The truth is that no one really knows an exact number, but it’s pretty bleak.
That means it’s bleak for traditionally published novels and bleak for self-published ones as well.
So all things even (and that’s a big assumption), let’s talk numbers.
The average royalty from a big publisher seems to be in the 8-15% range depending on how well they think your novel will do.
If you publish an eBook through Amazon at the 70% option, that royalty rate is really about 65% when accounting for delivery charges.
So if a big publisher sells one of your eBooks for $9.99, with a 10% royalty, you’ll get about $0.99.
If you sell your eBook through Amazon for $3.99, you’ll get about $2.59.
Even if you earn a high royalty rate from the publisher, say 15%, you’ll still only get $1.49.
Note: if you have more accurate numbers from traditional publishers, let me know and I’ll update my example! Unfortunately sharing profit numbers isn’t something most people can or will do.
That’s not a lot. Sure, the publisher might have a farther reach than you when it comes to marketing, but I don’t like those numbers very much. A traditional publisher, at this time anyway, charges more for your eBook than you would with Amazon, and you still get a smaller cut.
This goes hand-in-hand with being in control, but I think it’s a topic that should be given due justice. A lot hinges on the marketing of not just your book, but of yourself.
You are allowed to set, adjust, modify your pricing whenever you like.
Something that I read about but really saw in practice when I started my YouTube channel, is the power of a back log. If you read a book by an unknown-to-you author and really enjoy it, you might go online to check out their other novels. If they have no other novels, then that’s a missed opportunity for a sale. If they do have other novels, then there’s a slight chance you will buy another one of their books. It’s not always 100%, but there’s a trickle down to the other novels that the author has written.
I saw this with my YouTube channel when I got over about 20 videos published. Suddenly my views were spiking and my subscriber rate increased dramatically. And it’s all because I have a backlog now.
A trick that some self-published authors employ to help this process along is using promotional pricing. Sure, this is effective even when you only have one novel, but it’s even more effective when you have other novels in your back log.
A reader might purchase your novel when it’s on sale because it’s less of a risk for them. If they don’t know you, they won’t know if they like your writing. But if you reel them in with that sale, there’s a chance that they’ll purchase more of your novels if they like the promo novel.
And having the ability to adjust your own price allows you to do this.
(Bookbub, I’m coming for you one day!)
That’s right, everything. If I want to have an audiobook made, I can make it. If I want that audiobook to be performed by a male or a female, a young adult or a senior citizen, I can.
If I want my novel translated into Spanish, I have the right to do that.
If I want to sell movie rights, I can! That is, if any fish are biting (wouldn’t that be awesome?!).
I’m very much like Veruca Salt sometimes, and this is one of the things her and I have in common. I want it all, especially since I’m the one that created it.
Along with these lines, I also own the right to not sell my book. By that, I mean that it’s up to me to market properly and ensure that it does sell. While my entire post up until now might sound like I would never consider traditional publishing, that’s just not true.
Traditional publishers have something I don’t: connections and massive amounts of money and manpower. They can spend thousands promoting a book and that’s just not something I can do. Collectively, one publishing firm has more reach and knowledge in marketing than I can dream of having by myself.
For those reasons alone, I would consider traditional publishing. But for me, I like all the reasons for self-publishing more than I like those for going the traditional route. Yes, I’ll miss the marketing advantage, but I’m doing it all by myself. If I hit it big, then I’ll know it was all me. If I don’t, well then I hope I learned something along the way!
This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. For the majority of the time, it’s a good thing for me.
I’m one of those that works best with a deadline – I’m an engineer after all. If you give me three months to do something, I’m going to wait to the last week to do it. My work is better during that time and I’m far more productive.
But things get in the way. Since my deadlines aren’t hard deadlines, I don’t have to stress out about not making them. I still work toward them, but if I’m out sick for a week or have to pull overtime at my job, it’s not the end of the world.
In other words, I don’t want to stress myself out about something I enjoy doing. Writing a book can be inherently stressful. But pulling out your hair just isn’t necessary.
If I had a hard deadline given to me by my publisher, I’d probably be an itchy and angry mess (I break out in hives when I’m really stressed).
I’ve had to learn to progressively chip away at my goals, instead of waiting to the last minute. This has been an exercise for me, but one that’s benefitting other aspects of my life. I’m more productive at work because I don’t wait to the last minute. The thrill of the deadline is starting to ebb, because I’ve learned it’s far better to eliminate the stress of writing than procrastinate about it.
Even though I work best with deadlines, I’ve chosen to avoid the stress and do it my own way. Does this mean I might not get my novel published as fast? Maybe. But I’m always marketing myself, so there’s really no rush!
There’s obvious negatives to going the self-publishing route, and I can go into those a little more if desired. It’s important to always do your own research, though!! These were the reasons self-publishing was a good fit for me, but your situation might be different.
I’ve done so much reading on this topic and I recommend you do the same before choosing one over the other. Or one before the other. Or going hybrid. There’s so many options!
If you decided to go the self-publishing route, let me know why you did! If you went traditional, how has it worked out for you? I’d love to hear from you!
My debut novel, The Elysian Prophecy, is out Winter 2016. To get a sneak-peak at the first chapters, click here. You know you want to!