Should I self-publish?

NOTE: I recently got an email asking about my experience self-publishing with a certain publisher. I think most points are applicable for most self-publish services. This post is not promoting or denigrating any particular publisher.

Advantages…

  1. Pretty well any publisher will provide stability to a project, too often missing in self-published books. [Be sure to do an internet search for other people’s experiences because there are a few bad eggs out there.]
  2. They provide some editorial and design services.
  3. They put you in contact with sellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble
  4. They take care of the e-book formatting, etc.
  5. Many will allow you to pay for their services over a ten month period.
  6. I have heard and experienced mostly good reports from in house “publishing experts”

Disadvantages…

  1. The price often seems very high for the services they provide.
  2. In my case I needed to find my own contact editor. The publisher said that they edit the books but it was only a copy edit, and they didn’t edit structure or story flow. This is a very important editorial function and a normal sized book will probably cost you an additional thousand dollars or so. When I contracted with them, I thought this was part of their editorial process. My book was too far into the process for me to pull, so it actually didn’t get the editorial treatment I like for my writing to have. [Make sure you know the details.]
  3. I ended up doing a suggested cover layout of my own. Their designer added finishing touches which were good, but I’m not sure what they would have done otherwise. I get the feeling they have certain templates they use that allow them to fast-track design. You have to be clear in your expectations and not afraid to ask for changes. BUT each change request adds a month to the process. My project ended up taking close to a year.
  4. The first uploads to Amazon and Barne’s & Noble had obvious errors in the descriptions. While my publishing expert was quick to get this fixed, it again depended on me to ask for it. I felt that for the price I paid, they should have been more careful about details in various times throughout the project. I asked for advice different times and it seemed like the person in charge of my project was reluctant to step out with concrete suggestions.

More Thoughts…

Maybe my expectations were too high. But it is the little things that derail the success of your book. If you feel comfortable being your own general contractor, here is what you probably need to expect.

  1. You need some good reviewers, not just people who pat on the back for your “wonderful work.” You need critics. Cost? It depends on who you know.
  2. You need a good content editor. Say a thousand dollars? Depends on book size.
  3. You need a thorough copy editor. Another thousand? Amazon has both available, but look for some good freelancers. I’d say that a good content and copy edit would cost you at least $1500 and maybe as high as $2,000, depending on the length and complexity of your book.
  4. You need someone to design the layout and the cover of your book. Maybe $750 or so.
  5. You need someone to design / format your e-book. Another $500 – 750.

My publisher also did a video trailer, which makes a good sales point, but I’m not impressed with mine and I don’t think it will really generate a lot of sales. They gave me a page on their website, but I have my own website. They do a press release, but I don’t know how many get printed or read. They do make the book available on a world wide distribution network.

I’m waiting to see how much their marketing efforts will help my book. But I suspect that in most cases, you will have to do your own promotions to make it work. It is hard to know who much these things help and how many simply make a good sales pitch. I don’t feel that they are dishonest, and a lot of people do seem to like their work. The books I have from them are good quality.

I paid them around $4800, most of which I borrowed. Add content editorial and I would be at close to $6000. [That was CND $$. US $$ might be cheaper.]

To produce the same thing on my own, if I had to hire everything, would cost around $3500. Say $4000 to be safe. So the extra $2000 goes for services like getting an ISBN, getting the book into the distribution chains and online, and giving me some security. Is it worth that? I’m glad in some ways that I took this route for my first self-published project. I know what to expect now. However, I used to do layout and cover design when I worked for Rod and Staff Publishers, so I could probably knock up to another $1500 off that. If I do another self-published project I’ll likely do it myself. But my next book has already been accepted by a regular publisher, and they have made me an offer on writing future books for them that I really can’t turn down. It takes some of the variables out of everything. Especially, they pay for editorial and review and do all the design without me financing it. 

That should be your long term goal. Look at self-publishing as an investment in your future. But be sure that you do a good job of it, so that you can use your books to sell yourself to a publisher. I haven’t been very impressed with many of the kindle books I’ve download from Amazon to try to get a feel for the market.

Blessings on your work. If you have more questions, feel free to ask in the comments, or contact me using the contact form. However, I’m finding my way as well, so I’m not an expert. Note that the costs I mentioned are off the top of my head, but they should be close.

There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else.
(Ecc 12:12 MSG)

UPDATE: This book has now been on the market for about nine months. I have found the biggest downside of self-publishing through a publisher to be the fact that you can’t set your own prices. You can’t do any kindle give-aways, or sell hard copies at a discount. My impression is that the pricing is about 25% to high.

The marketing my publisher did for me [if any] accomplished nothing, as far as I can tell. On the other hand, about four months ago a traditional publisher released a small book that I wrote. I didn’t really expect much of it, but someone I knew wanted a book on that subject. They sold over a thousand books in the first three months. No cost to me for editorial, marketing, or layout. I won’t tell you how many self-published books I’ve sold in the past nine months.

Poor Me!

About Lester Bauman

Free lance writer and editor. Author of a dozen books, husband of one wife, father of six, grandpa of ten.
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One Comment

  1. Holy smoke, Lester! That’s a lot of money that most of us never make back. God provided for all my needs (so far) and I’m so thankful for it when I read how much it has cost you. That’s… sad.

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