I am asked on a daily basis about traditional publishing versus self-publishing. (Did you check out the Path to Publication series to see which one is right for you?) Here are the five most common myths people seem to have — and why they really ARE just myths.
1. Self-publishing isn’t “real” publishing.
This might have been true several years ago, but those days are over. Self-published books can be of the same quality (same level of editing, same paper quality, etc.) as those published traditionally. This is not necessarily true for fiction, because there are an awful lot of lousy free and 99-cent ebooks out there that appear to be written by a 5-year-old, not proofread (let alone edited), and uploaded hastily. The nonfiction world is more discerning, and that’s your area. You aren’t writing a novel to scale your business, right?
2. Self-publishing costs too much up-front.
It’s true that there are more costs for the self-publishing author before publication. You’re paying for the editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing efforts that a traditional publisher typically covers. However, there are ways to handle each of these steps in a budget friendly way without sacrificing quality or professionalism. What you also must consider is that you’ll be keeping, in most cases, 70% of the profits of each book sold, versus less than 10%.
Truth: While your initial cash outlay might be higher, in the long run, most authors feel the self-publishing model works out in their favor financially — many times over. (Tweet)
3. I can’t make money by self-publishing.
Refer back to #2. Of course you can make money by self-publishing. You’re going to need a solid marketing plan in place — but these days you need that even when publishing traditionally. Multi-city book tours with signings and parties have fallen by the wayside if your name isn’t Brene Brown or Michael Lewis. Budgets are tight, and publicity efforts are short-lived. You’re going to be doing the bulk of marketing work anyway, so why not do so as the one who creates and implements the marketing plan? Book sales used to come primarily from bookstores, and it was hard for self-published authors to get their books into bookstores (because they can’t be returned to a publisher if they don’t sell). When was the last time you purchased a book at a bookstore? If your book is available online, you will be just fine on that front.
Truth: Reality check - VERY few nonfiction writers are millionaires. If that’s your sole reason for writing a book, you might want to rethink it. (Tweet)
But if you’re using the book as a springboard for your platform, for credibility, or to grow your business (and you should be; read this post to see why!), and the profits are an added bonus, then you’re in the right place.
4. Self-publishing is only for people who can’t get a traditional book deal.
Before self-publishing developed into an acceptable way to publish, it was a world filled with writers who tried — and failed — to publish traditionally. They saw self-publishing as a last resort. Perhaps their topic didn’t have a wide enough appeal. Perhaps their writing wasn’t good enough. Regardless of the reason, book publishers were the gatekeepers — the deciders of what was worthy to be published. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.
Truth: More and more creative entrepreneurs, small business owners, and solopreneurs choose self-publishing every day because they like the control they have over the process and schedule. (Tweet)
5. It’s too hard to get book reviews of self-published books.
The traditional book-reviewing outlets are sticklers, among them Publisher’s Weekly and the New York Times Book Review. When you think about the number of books produced (4,500 each day, by some accounts), it’s pretty amazing how many books even get reviewed. Think about this: What’s going to do more for YOUR book: a good review from a critic no one in your audience knows, or a strong testimonial from someone they DO know? If you focus your efforts on getting great reader reviews and testimonials, they can help your book sales and credibility dramatically.
This last one is just an excuse! Reader reviews are just as important these days, so focus your efforts there (Amazon, Goodreads, and similar sites).
Truth: Plenty of outlets (print, radio, TV, web) review self-published books. This is an excuse! Reader reviews are just as important these days as “professional,” so focus your efforts there (Amazon, Goodreads, and similar sites). If I’m being honest, reader reviews are more important to other buyers than what a magazine or journal, or a professional book reviewer, thinks.
Think self-publishing might be a viable publication path for you? Grab my checklist to make sure you don’t forget any steps along the way!
P.S. Check out this recent video, in which I talk more about self-publishing myths.
What other questions do you have about self-publishing? Maybe you’ll see a “Part II” post on this topic someday soon.