Should I Self Publish My Book?
If you are thinking about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, you may also struggle with the question, Should I self publish my book? So in this article, I will focus on the benefits and pitfalls of self-publishing and why it might be a good or bad option for publishing.
It would be best if you kept your options open. If you have taken the time to write your book, you should take every avenue possible to make it a success. The steps to getting your novel that I recommend are to try to get an agent first. Shop your book for a while; if you don’t get an agent, then self-publish your book.
What am I giving up if I self-publish
If you go it alone and self-publish, there are things you will have to do that a publisher would traditionally do for you. Small, medium, and large publishers generally offer editing, formatting, and cover services. So those things you will have to do on your own. Also, you will be giving up a little bit of prestige. There is still some prestige in getting published with a traditional publisher. It will make little difference in sales, but some people still put stock in this. Many people do not.
Should I self publish my book: steps to self-publishing
1 Editing your book
Editing is the most challenging part of self-publishing. There are two kinds of edits, and the first one is monumental.
1a. Content editing
If you self-publish, you will need to content edit your work. You can’t do this yourself, and it isn’t easy to find a seasoned editor. It takes a lot of skill and understanding, and objective perspective, so you will need to run your book through rounds of beta readers to review and give you comments on your work. It would be best to have feedback, so you will need to find people willing to read your work and give you notes. It is a must. You want dozens of readers to provide notes on your book so you know what is working and what is not.
After you get these notes, you must decide what you need to keep and what you need to throw out. It is why several rounds are essential. If you get the same notes repeatedly, you know you have to make changes.
Proofing is not editing. It’s just checking the manuscript for mistakes. Most editors you hire can do this. They will make sure your grammar, spelling, and everything like that is good. You should probably use an AI editor first. Editors can be expensive, so you want to have as few passing at the end as you can.
3. Cover and artwork
You will have to find someone to do your artwork for your book. Paying someone to do this will make your book look more professional in the long run unless you are a graphic designer. Covers of books are what sell books these days. So make sure to take advantage of this part. Make sure you love the book cover and that it represents the work.
4. Pick your platform
Now you must pick the platform you want to publish your work on. There are a few. Amazon is usually the one that everyone likes these days but do your research. Depending on the subject, your book may do better on Barns and Novel or IngramSpark. Just make do your research, and ask other authors for their opinions.
5. Formatting and uploading
The platform will dictate your formatting. You will need to format and then upload your work. It is a process, and you have to be careful nothing happens unintended to your work when you make the changes.
You will have to set a price for your book. Again you have to do your research.
Marketing is critical to sales, of course. Does it matter if you write a book and no one reads it? So you will have to do your marketing to your book out there. It would be best if you had a target audience. I talk about marketing your book in other articles, so I’ll stay brief here, but there are all kinds of marketing, social, real world, and newspaper; it’s complete and takes a lot of work. You will need to do research and a lot of leg work.
7. Sales goals
You will have to put your business hat on here. If you have someone in your life to help with this, great. If not, it is more research. You will need to set targets and goals for selling your book. It’s not easy to do for someone with no sales experience, but with research, anything is possible.
There is a comprehensive neverending list of the thankless jobs of self-publishing a book. It is much more complicated than it looks when you first approach it, but please consider these things first. Many authors leap before they look, then play a game of correction and catch up the whole time.
Right now, you might tell yourself you don’t care about people reading your book; you want it in print. It’s a trap. Each step here is a necessity you will come to if you self-publish your book. The list above isn’t suggestions. They are what will happen as you go along. Each step will demand more and more from you. If you do these things first, you’ll retain the freshness of your work. You don’t want to set a target audience four months after the book comes out. You don’t want to set target sales goals a year too late. At first, you might only care about being in print, but then you’ll want people to read it, then you’ll want to make money for your hard work, and so on. These things are the natural steps in this process. Plan them out first.
All those steps above are what great publishers used to do for authors, and small book publishers still do many of them for the author; that’s why shopping your book to agents first is still worth the effort.
All this being said, the hard work, the fact that traditional publishers do a lot for you, and all of that, self-publishing is still a good option if you can’t get your book out there other ways. Many people took the self-publishing route and ended up making it. Sometimes lightning strikes and your dreams turn out, but every single author who has ever been successful at self-publishing was savvy about this process.
Note on this article
I wrote an article on this about 15 years ago. This article is an “update” of that article, but it is a complete rewrite. Things have changed so much since that time almost nothing in that article applies today.