To Self-Publish or Not Self-Publish: That is the Question

A lot of people are self-publishing these days. There are lots of advantages to self-publishing, so that’s not a surprise. Of course, the main reason for the rise in self-publishing is just technological change. There are so many different self-publishing websites out there today that it’s just easy to get the job done in this manner. People can just go to a website like Smashwords and create their own ebooks right away. They won’t have to go through all of the trouble of trying to get published, coping with rejection, trying to find an agent, and everything else that goes into being a traditionally published writer.

You don’t have to pay anything in order to self-publish, and that’s part of the draw. If the book is already written, you can be a self-published writer in one afternoon. From the standpoint of sheer convenience, it’s really hard to resist an opportunity like this.

For one thing, in some cases, it’s not a choice between self-publishing and traditionally publishing a book. It’s just a choice between self-publishing and not publishing in any format. If you don’t have connections, a great agent, or good timing on your side, you will almost certainly never get published. Traditional publishing is in trouble. For every book that gets traditionally published and that becomes really successful these days, you can easily find thousands that ended up on the slush pile. The slush pile keeps on getting bigger and bigger.

If you don’t have the resources that you need to attract the attention of the traditional publishing organizations, you’re pretty much trying to win the lottery. You might make millions winning the lottery, and it’s an easier road to success than working hard. Popularizing your book through self-publishing is definitely not the easy road to success. However, the odds of you getting any success at all are still higher with alternatives to self-publishing. Selling ten book copies on your own still earns you more money than selling nothing and having nothing published, which is what is going to happen with most people who try to get their books traditionally published.

Of course, there’s a reason why a lot of people still go the traditional publishing route. Yes, getting traditionally published is like winning the lottery. However, people still try to win the lottery, because the promise of a million dollars after investing a few bucks in a lottery ticket is enough to keep a lot of people coming back. A traditional publisher has resources that you just won’t have on your own. They can market everything for you. They can attract professional reviewers. They can make sure that someone reads your book somewhere, and that is something that is genuinely difficult for you to do on your own.

You’re going to have to do all of the marketing yourself if you actually try to go the self-publishing route. There are so many people trying the self-publishing route that you will easily be lost in a sea of writing if you don’t constantly work at marketing your book. On Smashwords, new writers appear with their new books each and every day. There are some writers who have managed to get ahead there, but they will usually spend so much time working on marketing that you will feel more like a marketer than a writer.

The stigma against being a self-published writer is starting to fade. People also know that a lot of books that were traditionally published are terrible. Self-publishing took off for a reason, and it’s partly due to the rise of e-readers and the fact that a lot of people are disillusioned by the more expensive but not necessarily better published works out there today. However, some people are still negative towards writers who went down the self-publishing route, and that’s something that you will have to deal with in your own way.

When it comes to money, most traditionally published authors don’t make a lot of money. The few millionaire bestselling writers who are out there today are the exceptions. Many writers who were traditionally published just make ten grand or so at one point, and then the book is out of print, and they fall back into obscurity.

With self-publishing, you can spend years and years building up a following of your own, since you completely control the copyright of the book. You might be able to eventually earn that ten grand, but your book will never go out of print, and you have control over what happens.

In terms of individual copies, you might earn more. Publishers will take the majority of the proceeds from each book sale. You will keep all of the proceeds from the sales that you make during self-publishing. You might make more selling one book on Smashwords than you would make selling ten books through a traditional publisher.

Ultimately, you can embrace the hard work of self-publishing, or you can work even harder to try to get the very rare opportunity to get published traditionally. Both of these routes involve a lot of hard work on your part that might never truly pay off. However, when you self-publish, at least you will probably make a few sales and get a few fans even if you don’t become the next J.K.Rowling. Your rejection letters will not build you up a following, and many people who try to get published traditionally have nothing to show for it but a legacy of frustrations.