Self Publishing – The Up And Down Sides

By Billy D Ritchie

Self-publishing is a growing trend among writers. With avenues into the various traditional publishing houses becoming narrower and narrower, often times, doing it yourself and going it alone are the only ways you’ll ever see your work in something resembling print.

I began writing as a child and continued all the way into my adulthood, short stories, poetry, songs, screenplays, etc….all the while hoping that one day I might be discovered and become the next Stephen King. I probably would have never given self-publishing a second thought if it weren’t for my newsletter.

I put out a newsletter as a part of my career in music, detailing what was going on in my life, announcing upcoming shows and projects, and in general trying to make folks’ lives a little brighter by offering some off the wall humor and inspiration. After a time, people began to suggest that this might make good material for a book.

Once completed, there was the question of what to do with it. Somehow, a collection of musings (no matter how brilliant) from a relatively unknown regional musician just didn’t sound like something traditional publishers would be chomping at the bit to snap up. What to do?

Then it hit me…..I was touring full time and had a ready made audience……the people that would likely be on my mailing list were in attendance at my concerts every night. I could produce the book myself, and market it at my various appearances. The result was the book “Crossroads” published in 2007.

If you are thinking about diving into the self-publishing well, there are a few things to consider. First, the good stuff:

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You have control. You are able to control the whole process. In traditional publishing, once a manuscript leaves your hands, it goes to somebody else for editing, somebody else for artwork, somebody else for marketing, etc. Self-publishing authors retain all rights and control over how the work is produced and used.

You know your market. You have a product that may have a specific niche audience, one you are very familiar with. I was a Christian music artist and had written an inspirational book based largely on some difficult times in my life. I knew this book would have an audience.

A matter of time. Self-publishing gets you on the streets quickly. If you are accepted by a traditional publishing house, it may still be more than a year before your book hits the shelves. The turnaround time on my book was only a matter of weeks following my beating it into final draft status.

Money. At the end of the day, let’s face it; it’s all about the money. In traditional publishing, an author gets about 10% of the selling price per book. A self-publishing writer can receive up to 60% of the selling price. There is motivation here to do well.

Undivided attention. The self-publishing author can give a project his or her unwavering attention. Ina traditional setting, there may be over a hundred books in production at any given time.

Sound good so far? Well, stay tuned, children, because there is always a darker side. Some of the negatives include:

Flying solo. Traditional houses have large teams of professionals in all areas of production, from editing, graphic design, packaging, sales, distribution, legal, etc……you need to either get really competent in all these fields or be prepared to part with some cash to hire qualified help.

Marketing. This is the toughest nut to crack. Many of us can write, but successful marketing is a unique talent all its own. How are you going to get enough folks to buy your book for it to be successful?

Time. Everything involved with the creation, execution, and marketing of your book will come out of your time.

Money. In self-publishing, you have to invest your own money into your project, with no guarantee that you will ever see a return on that investment. With traditional publishers you generally get an advance and royalties if your book sells well.

Prejudice. There is a knee jerk reaction to self-publishing, with some people believing ” well, if the author had to publish it himself, this thing must really suck.” Of course self-publishing also put authors in the same company as Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.

So there you are with your manuscript. Weigh the pros and cons, and go after the scenario that best suits your personal and professional goals. Now, go therefore and write well….

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