With the use of the Internet, self-publishing has become easier. This article is for writers, illustrators, and almost anyone who dreams of publishing their work.
This is a product of my research and understanding of things about self-publishing. I do not have any published material out there that you can buy, at least not yet. So you see, this topic is really of great interest to me, and I hope you share the same sentiments. If the thought of self-publishing is new to you, I am hoping that by the end of this article you will want to explore this topic more. Throughout the article, you will read “books and magazines,” but don’t let that put you off if you’re a musician or an illustrator since the same points apply to every creative.
Advantages of Self-publishing
by: Zsuzsanna Kilian
Compared to traditional publishing, self-publishing is faster in many ways, at least until you finally release it. This is for people who want to get their works out there immediately, as soon as a couple of weeks. Weeks? To compare, traditional publishing takes time, several months to a couple of years because you’re not the only one whose work is being taken care of. Remember this, you are not their priority even if you think you are. Self-publishing gives you the power to do things according to your plan, and that includes when to release your book or magazine.
Most undergrads have experienced several revisions on their thesis and they can do nothing to get it accepted unless a revision is actually made, right? To add, most will even be asked for multiple revisions by their professors. Everyone hates that, very time-consuming! Imagine you are your own editor, your own everything, you like your work, what are you waiting for?
Speaking of time, if your book or magazine is related to a current news trend, self-publishing works best since you can publish it while the trend is still popular.
Self-publishing is cheaper, if you will publish your work electronically it won’t cost more than a hundred dollars. For writers you can publish on Kindle you’ll only have to pay for the ISBN (see below). Payout is faster too, that is, if it gets a good audience.
For people who have the capital to use for printing, it will probably cost a few thousand dollars to print several hundred copies of your book or magazine. The cool thing about this is when things go as planned, any revenue is all yours. There are also companies such as MagCloud that only print and deliver when a customer buys. See Print on Demand below.
Publishing your work independently is, to a degree, rewarding. The freedom pays off when people start noticing your work. Consider Romantically Apocalyptic and The Oatmeal and other web comics. They have published their works both electronically and traditionally and have received a very good audience. Something like Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol on Kindle, although still debatable, sells better than on hard bound.
Over the few years, Kindle e-books have turned several indie writers into millionaires.
Perhaps the most important point to mention here is that when things go south you can still force yourself to strive harder to achieve the market you want to reach. As opposed to having a publishing house backing you up, when things go awry, they might just pull it off to give way to other more promising products. You are better committed to making it a success than anyone else in the world, and that’s important.
Disadvantages of Self-publishing
by: Pieter Beens
A question every self-publisher asks themselves is “will my work reach my intended audience?” Looking at publishing houses, they have all the necessary resources to market material. Chances are high, if your work is accepted, it will reach a fairly broad audience. On the other hand, self-published materials bear in them the risk of not even being noticed. You are alone in this one.
The idea of self-publishing is very sweet because you get to hold all the rights, but with great power comes great responsibility. For consolation, books and magazines published electronically are less complicated. For prints, you get to handle all printing fees, as opposed to having a publishing house to back you up.
Post-publication is the killer, your success depends on how much time and effort you actually put into initial marketing. Finding reviewers is also a part of this, to add credibility (see Consumer Trust below).
Keep in mind that self-publishing in print requires an ongoing marketing, payment processing, and shipping. You need to be superman to do all these tasks, it really is a challenge, which, if it pays off, pays very great.
Perhaps consumer trust is what separates your dreams and success by a broad margin. Self-publishers can’t expect to be popular in an instant, especially when no big and renowned publishing house is helping. The world has always worked this way since the beginning of time. People tend to flock in on the brand name.
Many reviewers still do not review self-published materials simply because there is not yet much respect for it compared to traditional publishing. This also applies to bookstores and libraries, many will not accept self-published books or magazines. This is a great problem because where else can you sell your books or magazines if no one wants to have them?
It’s hard to be critically objective, especially when you are too close to your work. There’s a great deal involved when it comes to the quality of material that is self-published. Authors tend to protect their work no matter what it takes, while an editor from a traditional publishing house will do everything they can to get it to meet their standards. Personally, I don’t want my work to be edited too much. A word or two is okay, but removing a whole line or changing a whole concept is a big no-no.
As Oscar Wilde said, “I’ll leave you to tidy up the woulds and shoulds, wills and shalls, thats and whiches.”
by: Zsuzsanna Kilian
If you are the kind of person who hates doing revisions, removing parts of your work, and changing whole concepts, then by all means self-publish. You will also have full control over promotion, which is the most important thing after the material itself.
Let’s admit that publishing houses sometimes let go of really good material, thinking that they won’t reach the intended audience and won’t be a hit. Many manuscripts have been rejected because of this, some never saw the light of day because of the rejection while some did through another house (take Harry Potter for example). Few times, people who have the money will self-publish their books or magazines in print.
Admittedly, some time soon I will self-publish some of my works that have been covered with dust all these years. I have read lots of tips on how the whole process works, from writing the first draft to marketing the product continuously. Feel free to add your experience and tips in the comments.
Well, this doesn’t really need to be here since I’m not a great writer, but for people whose native language is not English like me, I suggest you grab a copy of The Elements of Style.
Many writers are self-taught and don’t have a degree in literature or writing, I’m one of them. Even for formally trained writers there are still errors in punctuation and grammar, something that you may not notice if you’re working by yourself. It is not a good thing to edit your work, especially when self-publishing, since quality is already an issue.
Surely, you know someone who you can commission to edit your work for a low price, like a friend who loves reading, a language teacher (your language teacher!), or even a student majoring in the language you are writing.
Don’t spend too much money looking for a professional book editor because self-publishing is a great risk, you may or may not get your money back. If you do spend money on hiring an editor, be frugal about it. I know many English majors and English teachers that can help me and point out my mistakes, and that in itself is a leverage. I will never spend hundreds of dollars to have someone point out my mistakes, most writers hate that (however needed).
Cover and Title
No matter how many times your elementary teacher told you not to judge a book by its cover, do not listen. The design of your cover is very important, including the title. We humans rely heavily on our vision to judge if things are good or not, safe or dangerous, and so on. Don’t take your chances, ask a friend who is a good designer to create one for you, or you can do it yourself.
If you choose to print, you should know what Print on Demand (PoD) is. Basically, it works like this: customer orders book/magazine —> PoD company prints and delivers for a fee. Usually, fees are very low, making it a win-win between the company and the author. This is the most preferable way when you don’t have the budget to print hundreds of books/magazines at one time, it also frees you from looking for bookstores/sellers that would buy in bulk. Some PoD companies also offer editing and formatting services, again, for a very low cost.
Most online marketplaces require an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), if you don’t have it, your book is not qualified for selling. Simply put, ISBN is one way of telling the world who the publisher is, and isn’t it great for self-publishers to have their name written as the publisher instead of some company? Well, that’s a lame explanation, ISBN identifies your books through a 13 digit number which is saved in a database, also used by libraries and book organizations for easy identification.
For more information about ISBN, please visit their website.
Marketplaces and Print on Demand
- Lulu – Lulu sells ISBNs.
- Kindle Store – Amazon’s Kindle have already made a couple of independent writers into millionaires. Yes, not kidding. A perfect example of this is Amanda Hocking who has already written 17 novels, sold over 185,000 copies since April 2010 (according to Huffington Post).
She also sells her books on:
This probably amounts to more than half of the success of your book or magazine, even if your work is good, without proper publicity it won’t go anywhere. Marketing your work is time-consuming and mentally taxing, it is a good thing that the Internet spreads word like wildfire, really helpful for self-publishers of both print and electronic.
The most important, and free, thing you can do is get your presence known through social media. Facebook and Twitter are the leading avenues for marketers! Here’s 1stwebdesigner’s guide for Twitter marketing.
It also raises credibility if you allow at least a chapter or two to be read freely, or a preview of what your magazine contains.
Publicizing print is harder, though, since most bookstores won’t place self-published materials on their shelves. There is a way around this, and it involves courage! If there is a nearby bookstore, you can contact them and ask if they can do business with you (tell them you’re a local, keeps the conversation warm). You have higher chances on small bookstores, but don’t get that through your confidence.
Sending copies to established journalists or authors can also help you gain great publicity. As mentioned previously, many websites and companies won’t review self-published materials, however you can reach out to individuals who may be willing to do a review if your material is strong.
Another important tip for publicity is joining a writer’s group. Not only will writers help you writing your story, chances are there are already published authors within the group that can help you get shelved.
It is true that self-published materials sometimes have issues with quality (or at the very least they’re perceived to). Self publishing is becoming common and is evolving rapidly. There maybe still some that aren’t the greatest quality, but things are changing fast and self-published materials are getting better and better. The thing is, you need to have confidence in your own work before you ever consider self-publishing it. If you’re not that confident, find an editor of a publishing house and ask for his/her opinion if it’s good or not. It really boils down to confidence.
So, are you planning on self-publishing your work or are you already on the market? Share your works here and add your tips!
Rean concurrently served as the Head of Operations and Editor-in-Chief of 1stwebdesigner from 2011 up until Aug 2014. He regularly writes about freelancing, technology, web design, and web development with a little touch of internet marketing here and there.