When I was younger and full of my aspirations to be a published author (and writing a truly epic space opera that turned out to be rubbish) I read a lot of “how to write a novel” books. (Incidentally, you never grow out of this habit; I am forever reading interviews with authors about their writing processes and I am still slightly obsessed with the Guardian’s Writer’s Rooms series.) These used to all say the same thing:
Self-publishing is not an option.
Of course, back then, “self-publishing” and “vanity publishing” were interchangeable terms. Either referred to the idea of paying a company to print your book which you would then sell yourself. This selling could not take place in any bookshops and there was no Internet. It was generally accepted that this was a bad idea.
But the Internet has changed many things and the publishing industry is one of them. Print on demand (POD) companies like Lulu, Lightening Source and Createspace have sprung up which will print your books and ship them to you or to an online distributor such as Amazon. There are some small setup fees, but because they’re print on demand the author doesn’t need to purchase bulk orders of their book and then hope to shift them. The customer orders a book, the company prints it and passes the profit onto the author.
That’s not to forget the ebook revolution. This cuts out even the PODs by allowing you to offer your digital download directly or via Amazon. There’s no printing costs involved so, despite what the traditional publishers may suggest, you can sell an ebook for a lot less than a physical book and therefore entice more readers.
There’s a lot more work involved in the self-publishing option. Remember the traditional route to publication? Self-publishing cuts out the agent, the editor and the publisher. That means you have to edit, format and design the book yourself. And, of course, those guys take on the upfront cost; the self-publishing author has to pay that themselves. But, of course, by cutting these guys out they get more of the profit.
But is it worth it? Well, it’s certainly a viable alternative. Amanda Hocking is the breakout success of 21st century self-publishing; so successful she could quit her job and landed a contract with a traditional publisher.
Looks like self-publishing is no longer to be sniffed at.