If you've written a book, chances are you have at least considered self-publishing. There are many excellent reasons to self-publish, even if you have the chance to publish traditionally. Where self-publishing was once seen as the last recourse of the desperate, it has fast become valid method of publishing.
That said it's no small under-taking. While it's possible to self-publish on a small budget, producing a quality book and effectively marketing it takes a massive amount of time and/or expense. So, you need a really good reason to self-publish your book.
Here are my top five.
When you self-publish you maintain complete control over every aspect of your project. Whatever you're publishing you likely have very specific ideas about what the finished book will look like: a particular style of illustration, or a certain cover design. But control over your book goes a lot deeper than cosmetics. A publishing house - large or small -will edit your manuscript. They'll expect you to make changes, and will make copyediting and proofreading changes of their own. You may find these relatively minor, but in a lot of cases, in order to even LAND a publishing deal, you will be forced to make extensive changes. These are often for the better, but can simply be in the name of commercialism.
Be True to Your Book
The changes that publishing houses often ask for may require compromises you are unwilling to make. You could be asked to drastically cut your word count to reduce the cost of printing, or told certain elements are unsuitable for main stream publishing. Deciding to make these changes in order to publish traditionally is a perfectly legitimate choice, but sometimes the changes required are so fundamental they would change the very nature of the book.
This is why I ultimately turned away from the traditional publishing route for Chasing Azrael. My agent told me I needed to remove most (if not all) of the mental health aspects in order to attract a publisher.
That was something I simply wasn't willing to do. I understood it from a commercial perspective, but doing as she asked would have fundamentally changed the nature of a book that means a great deal to me personally.
Think carefully before making such a decision.
This is a bit of a double edged blade. Self-publishing allows you to set your royalty rate at whatever percentage you choose. With a traditional publishing contract a 10% share of the royalties is about average. That 10% of the money left after the cost of production, publication, marketing, and distribution (cost of sales) have been deducted. When you self-publish, you can keep 100% of your royalties, everything left after covering the cost of sales is yours. If you decide you want to increase your marketing or advertising budget, you can use that money and earn more royalties in the long run. If you're working on another book you can use some or all of your royalties for your next book. Whatever you do, it's entirely up to you.
The flip-side is that the total amount your book earns may be less than it would have been with the resources of a publishing house - especially a large one. The smaller your budget, the more likely this is to be the case. Don't let this put you off. There's no reason a self-published book cannot become a best-seller - Amanda Hocking and E.L. James have demonstrated this spectacularly.
Publishing a book is an instant profile boost. If you're an author, writer, or blogger, this is of paramount importance. If you're a business owner or a professional in any capacity, publishing a book relating to your work will raise your working profile and the profile of your business. This can help you land more and better work, increase the visibility of your business, gain new clients, and increase your traffic. Having a high quality book published could help you land a traditional publishing contract in the future. The better your book does, the more likely this is.
Time and Punishment
Anyone who has ever attempted to land a traditional publishing contract knows it takes a massive amount of time, almost always results in rejection, and there's no guarantee you will ever find a publisher. If you do, they may want sweeping changes made to your book that you will later come to regret. Even if you find someone who adores your book exactly as it is, it will still be a long time before that book hits the shelves. It can take years just to find a publisher. It can take several more years from the date you sign that contract before the book is released.
It can be worth the wait, but it can also be a little soul destroying.
Self-publishing is not a quick fix. You can churn out books in a weekend, edit the following week, have a friend proofread, and publish on Kindle with a badly photoshopped cover, but these books are the reason self-publishing gets a bad rep. Doing it properly takes time, but not nearly as much as the alternative. When you consider you can have a book professionally edited, proofread, and designed, in the time it takes to hear back from just one agent or publisher, you begin to see my point.
Do you have questions about self-publishing? Are you considering it but still on the fence? Pop a comment below, or head on over to The Bookshine Bandit's Facebook page and ask away. Better yet, join The Quill and Bookcase, our exclusive Facebook group for writers and join the discussions!