Sunday, December 11, 2011

Can Self-Publishing Land You on the Best-Seller List?

My indie-released songwriter friends never understood why writers are so hung up about self-publishing.  Musicians have long separated from the labels and ventured out on their own, releasing their own CDs and working with indie distributors like cdbaby. 

But we writers have been told that unless we get an agent and go the traditional route, we'll never be taken seriously in our writing careers. 

I went the traditional route for years--agent, large publisher, small press.  Each experience had its ups and downs and I worked with some wonderful editors and publishers and some not so.  I stayed away from the stigma of "vanity press," or self-publishing, because I believed it was a fast route to career suicide.

Besides, I wanted the marketing and distribution help a publisher could give.

Times have changed.  Advances are few and small now, most publishers don't have the same careful editorial procedures I benefited from as a writer starting out in the 1980s.  Manuscripts must arrive in pristine condition--the writer's responsibility.  Agents and publishers demand a platform, a solid marketing plan and media presence, from most authors they sign nowadays.  The writer must become more than just a wordsmith with a good story.  She has to learn to sell her book as well as write it.   

For this, writers get 7-1/2 percent of sales, which for a $14.00 trade size paperback amounts to about $1.13 per copy.  We do the marketing work, we hire editors before submitting it.  The publisher prints the book as orders come in (print on demand) in most cases, not wanting to carry inventory, or does a short run of less than 500 copies to see whether the book will sell.  Agents take 15 percent of everything.   

Some writers are thinking seriously about their options now.  Many are choosing self-publishing. 

They're figuring out the system themselves, they're crafting e-books and selling them for 99 cents a copy to drive up sales.  They're making money.  Even if they self-publish a printed book, through Create Space or Lightning Source, they can make up to $10.00 a copy after expenses are paid back (for typesetter, proofer, cover designer, and editor).   

Self-publishing requires money up front, for a printed book.  Less or none for an electronic book.  But if you're going to have to market it yourself anyway, why not make $10.00 a copy instead of $1.13?

What's your experience with self-publishing?  What are your thoughts?

Find out the potential, explore your options.  Don't be swayed by the traditional route when there are more opportunities for writers than ever.

Your writing exercise this week is to read all about writer Darcie Chan. She was rejected by over 100 literary agents and dozens of publishers, then went on to self-publish her debut novel and sell over 400,000 copies on Kindle.  Think this kind of story is a fairytale?  It's happening more and more.

The link to Darcie's story is here.

Self-publishing is still a controversial topic.  But as the industry takes one hit after another, it's an option many writers are considering--and succeeding with.

For more success stories about self-publishing also check out chapter 25 of my book, Your Book Starts Here.


  1. What a fantastic post and very informative as well. I am newly self published author and I can tell you I have no intention of ever going the "old fashion" route. Yes, self publishing is work--make no mistake about that--but the benefits and satisfactions are incredible.

    I am working on my first novel currently (my first book was an eBook of poetry and short stories)and plan to use either (again) or a print on demand publisher. Thanks again for sharing your expert advice--William Power

  2. Thanks for visiting, William, and best wishes with your book!

  3. I need more reminders of this as I write my novel. Thank for this informative piece!

  4. Terrific advice. Once upon a time I had an agent and got some great rejections. She dropped the ball somewhere along the line, though, then sat on my second novel for quite awhile before I finally decided it wasn't worth it to be able to say I had an agent. I entered the book in St. Martin's best first mystery contest and made the short list, but, alas, didn't win. I've done nothing with the two books and have toyed with the idea of going the self-publishing route. Your post and link are one more nudge in that direction for me.

  5. Thanks, Sherry! Great blog, by the way.