Self-Publishing Series: Should you bother?

After all of these posts about how to self-publish, the process to go through, and how difficult it can be (emotionally as well as technically) – should you bother?

I thought I should talk about whether all of this is worth it, and if you’ve been reading through this series I think you’ll know that my general opinion is “yes, but maybe not for everyone”. I think there are a few things you should be painfully aware of before you consider self-publishing, so you can make that call for yourself. I go through this in more detail throughout Write to Launch, but here is a quick list to consider:

  • Most authors do not make a living from writing books – major authors aside, most traditional authors make $1-2 per copy sold, and the average book will sell anywhere between 500 and 10,000 copies (depending on genre and audience). Self-publishers will often make more per copy, this depends on your production costs, retail price and retailers – but it’s still only about $2-5 per copy, and you will generally sell fewer copies than traditionally published authors. Yes, there are outliers of these figures, but don’t bank on being an outlier.
    • The caveat to this is that if you are writing a series of books, and you build your own audience, you are likely to sell a greater number of books in total. But they will take longer to produce and each requires editing, covers etc.
  • There are a lot of critics out in the world – your family might all love the story, but have you had it objectively reviewed by other people? There is a general rule that most people’s first attempt at a book (in particular a novel) shouldn’t be published, and many traditionally published authors talk about how glad they are that first attempt was summarily rejected. It doesn’t mean it can’t be a good novel, but is it really ready to go out into the world?
  • Most people won’t care about your book – you might find the topic fascinating, and you know a half dozen people who agree, but is it worth going through this whole process if there aren’t other people out there who care? Make sure you do a bit of research and know that there is a market for your work before you put all of your energy and money into self-publishing.
  • It can be a labour of love – you might not care about the cost and whether you ever return any profits from it, and that’s perfectly okay. If it’s your dream to put it out into the world, then don’t let anyone destroy that dream. Yes, listen to people who want to give you advice on how to make it better – but the joy of self-publishing is you can complete control over it.
  • It will become all consuming for a while – trust me that does slow down and you get back to an equilibrium about it all, but it does become your life for a period of time. Make sure you’re happy for it to intrude that much.

As I’ve said many times, none of this is said to put you off, simply to make you aware. The more you know about the topic, the more you can manage yours and other people’s expectations – and prepare yourself for possible outcomes.

If you desperately want to write that book and put it out into the world, and you can afford to do it properly (again there are cheap ways) – then don’t let anyone destroy that dream! Just make sure that you inject it with a dose of reality, because publishing is enough of an emotional minefield without unrealistic expectations thrown in.

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