While most authors secretly want to be published by one of the big, well-known publishing houses, there are now so many wonderful benefits to self-publishing that you just can’t ignore them.
We live in a very different digital world from when the traditional publishing houses were first created and it’s all because of two simple words: the internet. Without it, self-publishing would not be where it is today.
Not only are self-published books becoming best sellers – hello there Fifty Shades of Grey, but they are getting movie deals too! No doubt you’ve heard of the movie The Martian. But did you know it was based on a book that was originally self-published? Mind blown? We tend to agree.
Even established, well-known authors are choosing to go indie. So why are these traditionally published authors ditching their publishers and going it alone?
Here are a few of the reasons why you should be considering self-publishing today:
- Social media is freaking awesome
Social media is a must for any author, especially if you’re planning to go it alone and self-publish.
Many writers will find that they don’t have any nearby writing groups or centres to participate in, and some writers might be too shy or hesitant to take that first step in finding a group to join.
Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to sit alone in your special writer’s space and wade through the difficult process of self-publishing on your own.
There are plenty of opportunities to reach out at a level you feel comfortable and develop friendships with other writers and to interact with any potential readers. The connections you make will provide an invaluable support network through all the phases of getting your book ready for publication.
While you may know of Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, did you know there are also countless other forums and online writing communities just waiting to be tapped into?
A few of my favourites:
So if you haven’t already, get cracking and create a Twitter account or a Facebook author page. And seriously, if you are yet to create a blog, jump over to wordpress.com and get started! There’s no better way to create and nurture a loyal following of readers.
- Editing is easier than ever (you don’t have to do it alone!)
A necessary step before publishing your book is finding a good editor that suits your particular needs – and yes it’s absolutely essential to have one if you decide to take the indie route.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your book will be fine without having even just one other person look over your work – even the greatest of writers need to have their work looked over by an editor.
Beta readers, who test your book for any readability issues and plot holes, are also a crucial step for indie authors when preparing to get their book ready for publication.
Luckily, there are plenty of editing and proofreading services out there to meet the increasing number of authors turning to self-publishing. Just make sure you do plenty of research before signing a deal with anyone. You don’t want to be paying thousands of dollars for a job any beta-reader could do.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out this great list of editors by Joanna Penn, where you’ll find links for editing services that specialise in both American and British/Australian English.
Different types of editing available include:
- Developmental or structural editing
- Comprehensive line-by-line editing
- Manuscript assessment
- Copy editing or;
Can’t afford a professional editor? See if you can source one through your writing network or family and friends in the industry.
- Make your own covers and have the final say
It is easier now more than ever to create your own visually stunning covers that will draw in potential readers. If you’re looking for an easy to navigate graphics website, look no further than Canva.com, which is a rapidly growing website that can help you create your own graphics and book covers for various different platforms.
Canva have also recently introduced a new Wattpad range and have plenty of free designs on offer to keep you entertained for hours!
If you’re looking for images for your cover, Pixabay.com is a great place to source royalty free images to personalise your design. And before you get started, don’t forget to check out this great article on cover design secrets by self-help author Derek Murphy.
- O.D (Print on demand) makes for a level playing field
Before the internet, self-published authors had little hope of getting their book discovered by the millions of potential readers waiting out there for a new book to fall in their laps. Instead of walking around to all the local bookstores in your area and trying to convince them you’re now holding the newest bestseller, you can skip this rather painful process and immediately publish your book online.
Have a look at a few of the online publishing and distribution services you can use:
P.O.D (Print on Demand) has also revolutionised how indie authors can get their books into the hands of potential readers.
Before P.O.D you would have to pay large sums of money to print off thousands of copies of your book and find somewhere to store them. But now, when readers buy your book online the P.O.D publisher will print the book as the orders come in. These books will then be sent directly to the readers by the P.O.D.
Some of the bigger and well-known P.O.D services include:
- Marketing is not as hard as it looks
Even though some writers want to run at the sight of the word ‘marketing’, thanks to social media and other simple online tools, indie book promotion is something that can be done without relying on a publisher to do it for you.
Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Goodreads, there are plenty of ways to stir up awareness of your book online:
- Blog about your book progress and develop a following
- Organise a book signing at your local library or bookstore and publicise online
- Tweet quotes or excerpts from your book in twitter events such as #1linewed
- Write guest blogs on other author blogs and websites
- Plan a book giveaway and promote to your social media pages
- Ask other bloggers if they would like to interview you about your new book
There are also plenty of social media managers available to help you manage your social media accounts.
A popular and well-respected social media manager is Hootsuite, which is a fantastic resource for keeping track of vital stats and comments all through the use of a helpful dashboard.
Another good marketing hack is to create an email newsletter and catch readers who have bought your book before. It is these readers who may then be interested in buying more books by you, especially if you are looking to write a sequel. A book series can be a great way to hook readers in and snowball the number of sales for each consecutive book.
- Enjoy the freedom of being your own publisher
More traditionally published authors than ever are turning to self-publishing, and it’s not because they are losing their contracts. Big name authors are going the indie route to get back the control they lost when they first signed with a publisher.
Without a publisher or limiting contract to deal with – you have the power to edit those typos and fix that wonky cover image whenever you like!
Recently, author D. Wallace Peach decided to cancel all of her traditional contracts and go indie with all her books. Peach stated that ‘there are huge advantages to having control over your content, covers, pricing and promotions’ and that she was ‘able to fix typos, get new covers, and promote.’ Interestingly, Peach added that her ‘sales are, without exaggeration, 50 times higher.’
One of the biggest benefits to having control as a self-publisher is that you don’t need to chase the market. Write what you want, when you want. Publish one book a year or five. As author Chuck Wendig over at terribleminds tells us: ‘I didn’t care about how everyone else thought books were supposed to be written — I only cared about how I wanted to write this book.’
- Take control of your earnings
Not only will you be getting a higher percentage of royalties as a self-published author, but you can also:
- decide on the price of your work
- decide when to put your books on sale
- keep track of your earnings and
- analyse your own sale data.
Worried that self-published books don’t hold a strong market position? In this article, author David Gaughran highlighted the fact that online sales figures from Kindle and other platforms were showing that 25% of the US e-book market was being captured by self-published authors. This number will only increase as more authors turn to self-publishing.
- The indie book reputation isn’t as bad as you think
The question that strikes terror into many an indie author’s heart is: ‘who are you published with?’
One of the biggest deterrents to self-publishing is not the enormous amount of effort it will take to edit, format and market your own book, but rather the stigma surrounding self-publishing and the closely linked ‘vanity’ presses.
A vanity publisher, sometimes disguised as an Online Subsidy Publisher or P.O.D, is a publishing house that requires authors to pay them to publish their work, and often involves expensive fees, a sketchy editing process and hidden contract terms that take possession of your copyright – all which have played a part in the development of their bad reputation.
Thankfully, due to the movement of established authors into the indie book market and the rising quality of self-published books, self-publishers are gradually separating themselves from the bad stigma of vanity presses and carving their own unique identity – and making it a tempting option for unpublished and traditionally published authors alike.
- Book reviews & ratings are the gatekeepers of quality NOT the publishing houses
Getting signed by a big name publisher is the publishing dream of many writers, but what most people don’t realise is that it’s the opinion of your readers that really matters.
Back before the digital age allowed self-publishing to become even remotely doable, traditional publishing houses were the gatekeepers of quality. If you couldn’t get published, then you ‘weren’t good enough.’ Readers relied almost solely on publishing houses to provide the ‘good reads’ they were searching for.
Now, thanks to online publishing platforms like Amazon KDP and review sites such as Goodreads, reviews and ratings are the new measuring stick for quality. Some readers might not even notice the name of the publisher and will instead buy your book based on the quantity or quality of reviews. Even a negative review can be a good thing!
There are many cynics out there who will tell you that any self-publishing success stories are the exception, not the rule. It’s true that if you’re hoping to get rich quick, you may be sorely disappointed. Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re realistic and put in the hard work, you might just put a wedge in all those doors and windows you’ve been trying to open.
And now that readers are feeling more comfortable buying an indie book, it’s never been a better time to get your laptop out (or notebook), finish that book and start the journey of becoming an indie author!
Millie Schmidt is a writer based in NSW, Australia.
Visit her website and blog for blog posts about writing that are both helpful and, thanks in part to select cat gifs, super cute.
Or find her on twitter.