Self-publishing is rapidly becoming the option of choice for book authors. This is a major shift in the publishing landscape from even five or ten years ago, when anyone who chose to self-publish was looked upon as not being good enough to land a contract with a traditional publisher. The current reality of the publishing business is that major publishers are no longer interested in books with a limited audience. More importantly, self-publishing is cheaper and easier than it has ever been before.
Large book publishers need large profits
The large book publishers want bestsellers or books with a high mark-up such as textbooks. The economics of the business have made it difficult for them to get behind authors who will only sell fifty-thousand books, much less those with a potential audience of only a few thousand. While they still publish authors in this range, they devote almost no marketing to the titles. They leave publicity mostly in the hands of the author. When this is the case for authors, the advantage of traditional publishing over self-publishing becomes slim. While a self-published book generally sells less that it would with a traditional publisher, a larger percentage of the profits go to the author.
Print-on-demand is adaptable to your needs
In the age of self-publishing, print-on-demand is generally the way to go unless you expect to generate thousands of sales. Print-on-demand houses such as Lulu and CreateSpace allow you to quickly turn completed manuscripts into books, making them available within days rather than the months or years it takes to publish through a traditional publisher. Print-on-demand also allows you to update a book much more frequently. With a traditional publisher or even a large print-run from a book printer, errors and outdated information can only be corrected after the run of books has mostly sold out. With print-on-demand, you can make revisions as soon as you need to or put out a second edition as soon as it is written.
Trading shelf space for search engines
The big advantage of traditional publishers is shelf space. It is difficult (though not impossible) to get your books into stores such as Barnes & Noble or Borders if you are not a publishing house with extensive connections. Online booksellers such as Amazon, however, don’t rely on shelf-space and allow you to sell your books through them as long as you meet certain criteria (such as having an ISBN number). This is especially useful for niche books that may not have made the shelves of a major bookstore anyway.Â Most of the major print-on-demand publishers are also quick to adapt. At Lulu, for example, you can already make your book available to iPad and iTunes.
Think before you publish
Self-publishing should be an informed decision made by a writer who has carefully weighed their options. Anyone who decides to self-publish needs to be aware of exactly what they are doing. The self-publisher is taking responsibility for all aspects of a book’s publication, promotion and sales. They are either taking care of the details themselves or they are paying someone to do it for them. Self-publishing is the usually best choice if you are doing it for any of the following reasons:
- The subject of the book is one that is important to you but has limited commercial prospects. Examples of this are books of poetry, literary or niche fiction, autobiographies, family histories, essay collections, academic writing and books that focus on solving a specific problem. This was the case for me when I published a genealogy / memoir by my father.
- You are prepared to market the book yourself and believe you can make a profit. If you plan to market your own book, take the time to learn about marketing and to develop a marketing plan. You may also want to invest in a marketing firm or a publicist.
- You have established a market. This is often the case for people who write business or self-help type books and use them in coordination with seminars. It is also good for writers who have well-trafficked web sites.
- You want to use the book as a tool for publicizing your skills or business. Books are frequently used by authors who want to build their reputation in a chosen field by getting their name out. Books tend to garner more respect than other publishing formats.