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The self-publishing industry is bigger than ever, and many authors are now contemplating going this route.

But how do you know if it’s the right path for you?

Self vs. Traditional Publishing

The distinction between these two paths is pretty straightforward:

In self-publishing, the author publishes the work themselves. They typically hire professional freelancers to help produce the book, including editors, cover designers, copywriters, and formatters.

In traditional publishing, the author typically has to query agents. When an agent signs them, the book may or may not eventually be sold to a publishing house. That publishing house then assigns a team of professionals—editors, cover designers, etc.—to produce the book.

Pros and Cons

Neither path is better than the other; they’re just different. Let’s look at some of pros and cons for both:

Publishing Path Possible Pros Possible Cons
Self-Publishing – Creative control
– Higher royalties per book sold
– Deadline control, meaning you can publish faster or slower
– Audiences for niche stories/genres
– Upfront investment needs (editors, cover designers, etc.)
– You’ll wear many hats
– Not always eligible for writing awards or being carried in physical bookstores
Traditional Publishing – No upfront investment
– Team to help you
– Possible advance on a book
– More likely to be sold in physical stores
– Less creative control over things like cover
– Lower royalties per book sold
– Generally a slower timeline to get your book(s) out there

Myths about Self-Publishing

As an editor, most of my clients are authors who have chosen to self-publish. I still run into people who believe a few pervasive myths about this part of the industry.

Myth #1: Self-publishing is for those who aren’t good enough to “make it” in traditional publishing.

Fact #1: Many authors choose self-publishing for personal and business reasons, and many find success for themselves!

Myth #2: Self-publishing is really cheap.

Fact #2: You can self-publish on a budget, but you still need to invest something to get started. (Pro tip: If you’re on a tight budget, invest in the areas where you’re weakest and need the most help.)

Myth #3: You won’t have to market your book if you get a publishing deal in the traditional sphere.

Fact #3: Every author—every author—has to market their books, as most authors don’t get that much help from their publishers. The only authors who get big marketing budgets are those few “blockbuster” names, of which there are truly only a few. Not that you might not be one of those few, but just know that the overwhelming, vast majority of authors must market their own books.

If you want to see more statistics about the self-publishing industry in 2023, I highly recommend you check out the ALLi Self-Publishing Facts and Figures page and resources! They’ve gathered a ton of great information about income, the market, and more.

Self-Publishing Mindset

All authors must work on their mindset when they get into publishing, and it’s especially important if you’re going to self-publish. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Most authors only start to see traction in their sales and readership after they’ve got three books out—even better if they’re all in the same series. Be patient and consistent.
  • Building an audience and platform takes time. You also don’t need 10,000 followers on social media to sell books.
  • Don’t look at reviews; they’re none of your business and are meant for other readers. And if you do look at them, don’t respond and remember that literally every author gets negative reviews.
  • Self-publish in a way that’s sustainable for you, both in terms of productivity and budget.

Self-Publishing: A Personal and Business Decision

As you begin to look into the various publishing paths you have open to you, think about these specific questions:

  • How much can you invest up front to produce a high-quality book?
  • How willing are you to sit in the query trenches while industry gatekeepers look at your story? (I hate the term gatekeepers, but that’s essentially what is happening. Only a few books are chosen, and thousands of manuscripts with great writing get passed over every year. That’s just how the industry works.)
  • What are your goals with publishing, especially your financial goals?
  • Do you have a lot of stories—especially niche ones—to tell?

This isn’t an easy decision, but the great news is that you aren’t stuck with whatever publishing path you choose. Many authors now go “hybrid,” which means they self-publish some of their series and work with publishing houses for others.

If self-publishing intrigues you, do some more research into your genre and the nitty-gritty of the industry to help determine if it’s the right path for you.

Need help deciding if the self-publishing path is right for you? I offer one-time coaching calls to answer specific questions like that! Check out my availability on Calendly:

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