I’m self-published, commonly called an indie author, so I tend to talk about the advantages of self-publishing. As with anything — even a slice of chocolate cake — there are disadvantages of self-publishing. Do those outweigh the advantages to you?
We’ll first look at the advantages of being published by one of the major, traditional publishers.
1. Disadvantages of Self-Publishing – The Publishing Dream:
You may have imagined “the call” from the agent or editor telling you that your book(s) had sold. You’d do a happy dance and tell everyone you know. You may feel that self-publishing is a tarnished dream, one step above giving up. (It isn’t and you’ll see that as you move through the process and meet other indie authors.)
2. Disadvantages of Self-Publishing – Prestige:
Similar to the dream, this is the feeling that you’ve succeeded. The moment you’re contacted by the publisher’s editor or your agent and told you have a contract, you’ll feel that your writing has been validated. You took the test and got an A+. (From the flip side, very few readers pay attention to a book’s publisher.)
3. Disadvantages of Self-Publishing – Bookstores:
When many of us envision life as a published author, walking into a bookstore and finding them on the shelf sit pretty high on our list of expectations. It is true that a major publisher (not a smaller publisher) can get your book on the bookstore shelf.
This perk is slowly vanishing. Unfortunately, the number of brick & mortar bookstores is shrinking, especially in the U.S. Also, a book has six to eight weeks after launching to demonstrate to a bookstore it will sell. Otherwise, they return it, and a new book takes its place on the shelf.
4. Disadvantages of Self-Publishing – Libraries:
A major publisher has a great chance of getting your book into libraries. As a library lover, that’s huge to me. (On the flip side, I can contact libraries and talk to them about purchasing my books. It’s a long process of cold calls and, unless your book has a special regional appeal, may not pay off as well as you’d like.)
5. Disadvantages of Self-Publishing – Advance:
A major publisher will give you an “advance,” money which is actually an advance on future royalties. You will have to sell enough books at the contracted terms to pay that back before you are paid more. Money up front is cool though.
Scheduling: The publisher sets a schedule for everything from editing to release. That leaves you to follow their plan.
Now let’s consider disadvantages of self-publishing itself.
6. Disadvantages of Self-Publishing – Time:
Any work takes time, whether it’s cooking dinner or driving to work, time vanishes. Self-publishing has the usual author tasks such as writing and editing, but there are the additional tasks that the publisher takes care of. You have to find and hire the editor(s) and cover designer. You’re the book’s project manager.
7. Disadvantages of Self-Publishing – Skills:
Anything new has new skills to learn, and self-publishing is no exception. Some of them are simple, some more complex and involve technology. I know people of all ages and backgrounds who have learned these skills, but, unless you have a large budget and can hire everything out, they must be learned.
8. Disadvantages of Self-Publishing – Selling:
With a traditional publisher, they’re going to help sell your book. (In most cases, I’m hearing stories that say otherwise lately.) As an indie, you will need to manage every aspect of your book’s marketing, again, unless you have deep pockets. You will write the back cover description which usually doubles as the description on sites like Amazon. (On the flip side, you will have to create a website and do social media marketing no matter who publishes your book.)
Extra time for self-publishing may be the deal-breaker for someone who is busy with small children or working in a job with long hours (one other than the job of being a parent of small children. J)
There are many rewards with self-publishing. We’ll look at that in another post. Are you longing for a traditional book contract and/or considering self-publishing?