Self Publishing versus Do-It-Yourself Publishing

It is the age of self-publishing. Self-published authors not only have gained respect, they are making money. E-books and social media are a big part of this phenomena because it is now cheaper and easier for authors to bypass traditional publishing houses and bring books directly to their readers.

In fact, today, you can be a do-it-yourself author and publish your book at practically no cost.
But should you?

I had a conversation recently with an author who was wondering why he would ever pay a publishing house, a graphic artist, or a marketing person again. Of course, he was also wondering why he had only sold a few books.

“Exactly how many books have you sold?” I asked him.
“I’ve sold 50.”
“Were any of them sold on” I asked.
No, he confessed, while his book had been printed through CreateSpace (Amazon’s printing arm) and was available as both an e-book and paper book on that website, all the books he had sold had been to friends and family. Now he wanted to “gain traction” and get sales outside the people he already knew.

I looked at his cover: plain, one color background with the title centered in Times New Roman font. I suggested he make changes to the cover to make it more attractive to readers, but he was uninterested. A more elaborate cover would cost more money, and he was unwilling to spend it.

I read a few paragraphs of the book and immediately found several typos and grammar mistakes. I suggested he hire and editor and proofreader, but he explained he did not need one. CreateSpace and KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing, the e-book publishing division on Amazon) allow you to automatically check for misspelled words.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Amazon, here. Amazon has made it possible for authors to bring their work to the public in ways that were never possible before. And along with their free services, they also offer paid services so that an author can hire a graphic designer, book editor, formatting services, etc.

My point is, that this author didn’t want to use them. He didn’t want to spend ANY money to publish his book, then expected it to sell like hotcakes in the uber-competitive world of Amazon where 2.2 million books are published annually.

If you want your book to have more credibility and more sales than just to friends and family, it must look professional. In fact, it must compete with “the big boys”—the top selling, nationally-known authors in your genre.

What do you need to make sure your book is competitive?
• A great-looking cover that sells your book and makes it stand out.
• A paper book that is correctly formatted. All interior pages, charts, graphs, etc., should not only look professional, but follow publishing conventions. Do you know them?
• E-books should include correct hyperlinks to outside sources as well as linking the table of contents to the correct chapter pages. Do you know how to create these links?
• A professional editor—not your mother. Someone who not only knows about grammar, but specific style conventions, and most importantly, has an idea of what makes a book marketable.

And finally, you need to learn about book marketing. There are many new ways to market books. Many of them are low cost. Just mentioning your book on Facebook is no longer enough.
Yes, you can handle all these things yourself. But do you have the time and the ability to become an expert in every area of book production and marketing? You need a professional editor to objectively edit your own work, and I would suggest that hiring other experts to help you only makes sense in light of the competition you are facing.

If you are an expert in graphic arts, editing, proofreading, formatting the interior pages of your book, indexing, marketing, sales, and book distribution, then you should go ahead and do it all yourself. If you aren’t an expert in all these areas, and don’t have the time or the desire to become an expert, then look for people who can help you.
You’ll learn more about all the aspects of book publishing—and meet great experts who can help you—at the Fifth Annual Winter Writers’ Weekend, March 3-5 in New Hope, PA. Click here to register.

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