If you’re a writer, it’s a pretty safe bet that you want to see your book baby published and enjoyed by readers one day. But the pros and cons of self-publishing and traditional publishing aren’t always outlined when you’re just starting your journey. I hope these reasons to self-publish, plus a few cautionary tidbits of advice, will help you decide which avenue is best for your and your story.
While not every writer has publishing ambitions, many do and these reasons to self-publish might sway you in one direction or the other.
Higher Royalties Are One of the Main Reasons to Self-Publish
While it depends on the price point of your book, you could garner up to 70% in royalties for each sale when you self-publish—a yield you’re more than unlikely to receive when on the traditional publishing path.
A traditionally published author is most likely to receive between 10-20% per sale, but that figure could venture even lower if you’re a new author without an existing platform.
But while 70% of royalties are definitely going to keep you fed for longer, there are several factors that go into self-publishing. For one, a self-published author takes all of the upfront cost and risk associated with publishing a high-quality book, including cover design and professional editors.
If this is the route you decide upon taking, you’ll also have to cultivate your own team from scratch, which includes any book marketing you invest in. But, in all honesty, you’ll have to do the bulk of your own book marketing if you’re traditionally published, too.
Big publishers only have so much money to spend and they often choose to spend it on established authors who they know will bring in income. While it’s a smart business decision, it does leave many newer authors with something to be desired.
At this point, you might be asking about the initial money you received when you got under contract, money otherwise known as an advance. While an upstanding traditional publisher will pay you an advance, you’ll have to “repay” that money before you see any additional royalties. Meaning, if you don’t sell enough books, you won’t see any more money.
Let’s do the math. If your advance is $5,000 and your royalty rate is $1.25 per book, that means you’ll have to sell 4,000 books before you see another royalty payment.
One of the many reasons to self-publish, money is definitely a major factor for people when deciding.
You Decide How Much You Make and How You Make It (Another Money Reason to Self-Publish)
Putting royalty rates aside, to make money selling books you need to…sell books. You’ll make exactly zero dollars if you sell exactly zero books and closing book sales is arguably the hardest part of being a successful indie author.
But unlike with a traditionally published author, a self-published author can manipulate the endless variables that may contribute to your climbing—or falling—book sales.
When an author goes the traditional publishing route, they may get a say in things like cover design, but you’ll be unlikely to have a say when it comes to pricing your book and continued book discounts after launch.
Because of this, self-publishing really shines. You—the author—get to decide how much to sell your book for, when to discount your book to boost sales, any promotions and advertising you decide to invest in, and more.
But even so, how much you make doesn’t strictly mean the price per book sale, but also when you get paid. Many traditional publishers pay in cycles, which can be annually, bi-annually, or quarterly. They rarely pay monthly, which many self-publishing avenues do—after their standard period closes, of course.
This also means you don’t have access to numbers and sales figures as they come in, which means you might not know how a promotion really went until months after the fact—and that’s if you get a complete sales breakdown. This is entirely the opposite in self-publishing, where you have access to every number as they come in. Which means you’ll know if a promotion is working right out of the gate.
You might ask if you can get this information, and the answer is most likely yes. But some only offer the “cycle amount” which wouldn’t include the by-week or by-month breakdowns required to fully analyze your promotional efforts.
Complete Creative Control is the Second Biggest Reasons to Self-Publish
You’ve spent months—or years—toiling away at your story. Outlining every crevice of your story and writing every moment along your protagonist’s journey. And with traditional publishing, your creative control shifts from you to the publisher.
This is another of the main reasons to self-publish your book. It’s that creative control that gets our juices flowing, and some people don’t want to give that up.
Having complete creative control throughout the self-publishing route is a huge perk in the eyes of many. Most authors want their books to succeed and want what’s best for their journeys and careers in the long-term.
On the same note, while self-publishing grants you complete creative control over every aspect from writing and editing to cover design and book marketing, it also gives you total responsibility.
This means if you don’t choose wisely, your book may not sell. If you don’t put adequate time into developing and editing your novel, you will receive negative reviews. If you don’t market your book, readers won’t be able find it.
With self-publishing, you’re on the hook for every responsibility associated with your book. With traditional publishing, your publisher is. Does that mean it’s bad? Not entirely, because they’re also picking up the responsibility you’d otherwise have to tackle alone. But you will give up more than if you chose self-publishing.
Writing a Book Can Become a Gateway into Other Author Avenues
Do you love to talk about writing? Consider starting a podcast or YouTube channel, where you can share your experiences and advice with the world. There’s no reason to isolate yourself because you’re a writer!
While you can do this as a traditionally published author, there may be things you can’t always share on your own schedule, including your book cover or detailed book updates. Since you’re in a contract with a publisher who holds most of the cards when it comes to your book, there may be walls you run into that wouldn’t exist had you chosen the self-publishing route.
Want to share copies of your book? Want to share excerpts? Host a book cover reveal or detail your journey from start to finish with the help of your fans? Some of these things you could do, but you have to ask permission to share the book you’ve labored over for months or years.
Use your book to push yourself out there. Joanna Penn’s books about being an indie author go into great detail about the pros and cons of both traditional and self-publishing but taking your career by the horns and driving the car yourself is important to a lasting and successful career.
While it’s true that traditional publishing has its many perks, it also has its drawbacks to consider. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of self-publishing and decide which avenue is best for you, and I hope these various reasons to self-publish or traditionally publish will help you come to a resolution.