It’s 2018 and the trend toward creators taking control over their creations is thriving. Never again will someone have to hope a marketing “expert” deems their work viable before presenting to the public. Due in large part, to the Internet.
Thank you, Internet!
But, the thing about the Internet is that stuff out there lives forever. The good, the bad, the video of the office Christmas party that everyone wants to forget but Susan in accounting won’t let go. It’s all there. So how do we separate the good from the bad? How do we decipher fact from fiction when it comes to self-publishing? With all of the advancements of technology, what’s changed and what has stayed the same? How can we keep it all straight?
Enter: Paul at Lulu (Red cape optional).
Today we will take on some of the long standing myths surrounding self-publishing and set the record straight for once and for all! There’s nothing we can do about your embarrassing videos. Sorry.
Now, let’s debunk!
Myth: Self-published authors don’t make any money.
Fact: Okay, if you’re a self-published author and you don’t read the Author Earnings reports, you need to start. Seriously. Click that link into a new tab and go look at it (but finish reading here first!).
To prove that independent authors really can make money, let’s use the figures from the 2017 Author Earnings report. This report only includes the April through December, so we’re looking at nine months of 2017.
I’m going to be really conservative and only use the obviously self-published (indie publishing on the report) categories. Doing so excludes some independently published works, but I think it best to show the low end of the spectrum:
In 2017, eBooks raked in over $270,000,000.00. Print books $180,000,000.00. That’s $450 million in revenue between the two. $450 million in earnings for self-published authors. And, as I mentioned, I’m excluding the categories like “specialty” and “uncategorized” even though these both absolutely include some self-published authors.
Bottom line: there is money to be made by self-published authors. A lot of it.
Myth: Self-publishing is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult.
Fact: I’ve talked to a lot of authors in my life. From traditionally published authors making a good living just writing, to the independent writer who holds down a 40-hour a week job and writes for fun and extra money. Not a single author I’ve ever talked has said, “publishing is so easy!”
None of them. So, the idea that self-publishing is somehow prohibitively difficult or time-consuming is nonsense. The last novel I wrote (during the 2017 NaNoWriMo season) took me about 58 hours of writing. For the first draft. I haven’t even bothered to try to count how long I’ve put in editing to fashion together a readable copy.
Writing a book is a long, ponderous, and difficult task. Publishing it won’t take nearly as long, but that doesn’t mean the task will be simple.
Here’s the point: self-publishing is easier now than it has ever been. Tools like Lulu’s converter allow authors to upload a file and convert it to a print ready state (a PDF checked against print requirements) in a matter of minutes. And the proliferation of self-publishing means there are thousands of guides, blogs, and spec sheets out there to help you actually layout and design your book.
As for the cost, well you can create and publish a book (print, hardcover, and ebook) on Lulu for free. Like actually free. $0.00 to publish.
That said, there are some costs that an independent author should expect to pay. I wrote a piece not long ago about budgeting and the most important take away would be planning. You did your research for your book, right? Same goes for publishing.
How much you invest is up to you. I think it’s worth paying for an editor and a cover designer, but the wonderful thing about self-publishing is that you don’t have to listen to me! Or anyone else! You get to decide what’s right for your book!
All that said, self-publishing can cost more than traditional publishing, but the tradeoff is that you get to decide how much to spend, where to spend those dollars, and most important of all, you own your book 100%. Even if you purchased a package to get the design work done, you’d own all the content, the copyright would be in your name, and the content would be created based on your direction. Win-Win-Win!
Myth: Self-published books don’t look like professional books.
Fact: This one irks me. I hear it less and less, but the idea still floats around out there. Like a self-publishing company is taking your file and running off copies from a Xerox printer, then stapling it all together or something. Just crazy.
Look, it’s really simple. Lulu, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Amazon, Ingram, all of us: we use the exact same printers!
What’s different, and what makes self-publishing such a huge force in the book marketplace is print-on-demand. This is the technology that allows us to print a book as orders come in. Traditional publishers print thousands of copies up front, then hope to sell them all to make a profit.
Print-on-demand literally makes self-publishing possible. When we can offer printing to order, there’s no upfront cost. Suddenly the overhead traditionally associated with publishing vanishes.
I can see how some might be skeptical that a new process so much more efficient and affordable might be too good to be true. But we’ve been doing this for over fifteen years. I can assure you, Lulu (and any self-publisher I suppose) will meet or beat the quality of any traditionally published book.
Myth: Self-publishing is only for people who can’t find a real publisher.
Fact: This one is just silly. “Real” publisher invariably means one of the traditional publisher types, either a member of the Big 5 or some middle-sized publisher.
Look, there is nothing wrong with publishing by any method. If you’ve got an awesome story and an agent agrees, great! Get that story out there! But be aware that going this route means you’ll hand off the story and a group of editors and designers will take over.
Not all authors want that. Some prefer being involved in every step, having control over the design and creation, and retaining all the rights to their work.
Again, let me emphasize that one isn’t distinctly better or worse than the other. They are just different. Like ice cream and gelato.
Where I take issue, and I think most self-publishers will agree with me, is the idea that self-publishing is some sort of refuge for unwanted authors. It’s not. Self-publishing is an independent, self-driven alternative. Authors who thrive on doing it their own way may never even consider traditional publishing.
As an author, don’t fall victim to the fallacy that there is anything inherently lacking about self-publishing. The print quality is the same, the distribution options too.
Self-publishing is a true alternative to traditional publishing, not some consolatory substitute.
I’m convinced! Now what?
Awesome! You won’t be disappointed. Let’s get you started on the right foot.
Self-publishing is mostly a process of file preparation. If you’ve decided to publish yourself, here’s a quick list of things to think about (probably while you’re still writing or editing):
- Cover design – start thinking about how you want your cover to look. Will you be hiring a designer? If so, start looking at designers early and maybe even begin gathering quotes.
- Interior layout and design – If you’re proficient with MS Word or Adobe InDesign, you can lay out your book yourself without too much headache. One thing to remember: don’t start preparing the interior layout until the book is done. Edited. Proofed. Done.
- Use your resources! – Lulu has a vibrant community forum and knowledge base, a page dedicated to publishing guides, and lots of marketing advice. Resource abound!
- Start marketing early – get the word out through social media. Solicit feedback on the initial chapters or the cover design. Anything you can do to involve your potential readers in the process and get them excited will help when it comes time to actually sell copies.
The most important thing anyone interested in self-publishing can do is research. Learn about how to prepare your file. Study how to develop a sound marketing plan. Review the methods of your contemporaries. Don’t go into it blind and hopeful. Take the time to do your research, invest in yourself and stack the deck in your favor. This is your future we’re talking about!
With just a little preparation and planning, you can get your book into the hands of eager readers. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?
Happy (Self) Publishing!