I work with a variety of authors; some are self-published, some are traditionally published, some are debut authors who are still deciding which route to take. Having experience of working with both forms of publishing, I can see the advantages and disadvantages of both. At the moment, I believe that this is the best time for writers to self-publish.
Just ten years ago it was very unusual to be a self-published author and they were often looked upon as perhaps not being as successful or as talented as traditionally published books. However, these ‘indie authors’ have proven that this is simply not the case. Being a self-published author does not mean that traditional publishers don’t think ‘you are good enough’ but it means that you are choosing to keep more control of your work, are able to be a little more flexible, grow yourself as a business as well as a writer, learn a lot and grow within the process.
Now, thanks to fabulous indie authors leading the way, technology advancements, and authors feeling as though they have more confidence due to the levels of support available, being a self-published author is something many aspire to and are able to achieve.
With a book industry that’s booming, there is no time like the present to follow your dreams of becoming a self-published author.
Here are 8 reasons why choosing to be self-published rather than traditionally published, is the better option right now.
The publishing industry is going through an unsteady time at the moment, especially within the UK. Even well-known, highly respected authors are struggling to secure deals with big publishers that they are happy with. Lots of the publishing houses have turned staff around a lot lately and the actual sales of books in some areas have been proving challenging even for the large publishers. This is due to many reasons – people preferring to shop on Amazon rather than use independent bookshops, Brexit causing uncertainty and affecting shipping, printing and distribution, and the deciding factor that supermarkets play within the field. When I met with Lisa Jewell, Sunday Times Best-selling Author, she commented on how important it is to secure a supermarket deal – if the publisher can’t get a supermarket to take on your books, you will really struggle. But supermarkets are only able to take a certain amount, they have very strict criteria (a lot of it based around cover design) and so the ability to be chosen is incredibly slim. Because there is such a strong emphasis on the role of supermarkets, publishers are often thinking about how best to make a book appeal to them, so they require a specific format, may request authors to only write in a niche area or to agree to covers they are very unhappy with.
Deciding to self-publish may feel daunting – you don’t have a company who will hand-hold, who will do a lot of the hard work for you, who can draw up schedules, cover designs, marketing campaigns, who liaise with the shops, have all the experts in-house – but now is the best time to learn the routes you need to take. There are many support groups both online and offline. On Facebook alone, there are many advice groups where experts in all areas are happy to give advice, share their personal experiences and offer support. If you are a children’s author I highly recommend the Facebook group Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators: Publishing, Marketing and Selling. Within this group, there are authors, illustrators, editors, designers, marketing experts, printers and more. You can find out lots of answers to questions and feel as though you have the support you need to succeed. There are also lots of other forms of support available too – local writing groups which are excellent for sharing critiques and growing your writing talent (your local library should have information about these), self-publishing companies who are set up to help indie authors to find the right experts for them, Authologie is one of these companies. Authologie work closely with authors to advise them on the routes they need to take – they can recommend editors, illustrators, formatters and more and provide the service which a lot of self-published authors feel they miss. With so much support out there in terms of online groups, blogs, writing groups and small publishing companies, it is an excellent time to follow your dream.
When you become a self-published author, you grow as a person. All writers grow, putting words down, editing them, sharing it with the world, seeking opinions, hearing feedback… it is all a learning experience which will shape you. You will learn to become thick-skinned, realise things about yourself you didn’t even know (like just how much a stranger’s 1 star review can keep you up at night, or how you didn’t realise that simply tweaking a word in a sentence can give your whole book a different meaning and changes how you look at things), you will read other books in a different light. But when you are an indie author, you grow in a different way – you become a writer, a business owner, a decision-maker, a marking expert, an expert in printing and distribution, a communicator… you will learn so much and realise just how much goes into making a book. It may feel daunting at first, but as you pass through each step, you will learn and become an expert in each area which then paves the way for book two, book three, book four… Self-growth will aid you in all walks of life so you will benefit not just as an author, but as an individual too.
I think one of the most appealing aspects of self-publishing for an author, is being able to maintain control. When you are traditionally published, you hand over a lot of the control to the decision-makers within the publishing house. These decision-makers base their opinions of your novel on many things; what supermarkets are looking for, what the industry requires, how many other books they are publishing at a similar time, how your book would look on their portfolio… a lot of these decisions are not personal to YOU or your particular story. They may mean that they ask you to change the story a lot, to rewrite it, to edit a whole section out. They won’t be writing with your interest first, but their own. When you are a self-publishing author, if you work with an editor who works closely with you to make sure they see your vision, you will be able to put the needs of your personal book first, rather than that of a company. As a children’s author, you will be able to have control and influence over the illustrations for your story, you can choose your illustrator yourself, you can research them, then work with them to make sure they are creating the best pictures for the vision you have. You can set your own deadlines and be flexible depending upon what is happening within your life. You have the control to say you’re not happy with how something has gone and to change it, you have control to take your book exactly where you are dreaming of. You are also in control of what is happening in terms of decisions; you aren’t waiting on your publisher to get back to you to tell you what has been decided in their sales’ meeting or what their head of marketing has chosen to do, you aren’t as reliant upon the timings, decisions or opinions of others. Maintaining control means you have your own interests and dreams at the forefront.
As touched upon above, flexibility may be incredibly important to you. When you are a traditionally published author, it can be very difficult to be flexible. The publishing houses have deadlines to meet; they have certain dates they need to pitch to supermarkets, pressures put upon them by their team in charge of sales and work to tight schedules to ensure that they have variety amongst their publications, editors and proofreaders and type-setters scheduled in for set dates. Writing is a creative process and adding time-pressures to this process can seriously hinder it. When you are self-published, YOU choose your deadlines, so you can be more flexible. Right now, there is so much pressure on us all to juggle everything- family life, other jobs, homelife… the amount of pressure many of us are under can seriously impact upon happiness and mental health. Being able to be flexible will have many rewards; your writing will be better thanks to less pressure, you can juggle more effectively, you can work in a happier head-space. In a world where flexibility is key right now, choosing the self-published route has this huge advantage.
There are so many authors out there who are self-published who you can use as inspiration. Often seeing others achieving what we dream of, can help inspire us to keep going, to keep reaching for our dreams, to keep working away. Look around you at the examples of indie authors to see what exactly is achievable. L J Ross is a huge success, her novels shoot to the top of the charts as soon as they are published and they stay there a long time too! Her novels are a perfect example of how self-publishing is hugely beneficial. She has gone on to help others, to support schools and writers and is the perfect source of inspiration for many. Use technology to help you find the inspiration that is out there – Google the best-selling children’s book authors, scroll through Amazon looking at the reviews and rankings of the self-published books and then use the success stories which you see to keep that fire within you to succeed too.
One of the most amazing feelings is seeing peoples’ reactions to your book. Whether you are self-published or traditionally published, you will get feedback, but when you are a self-published author you have to put yourself ‘out there’ a little more. You have to be the one who negotiates with players in the industry and to face opinions head-on and this can be the most rewarding part of self-publishing; you will see those readers that you have touched with your words, you will know that those words weren’t manipulated by a traditional publisher who was thinking of their marketing plan, you will know that those words came from you and have lead to that reader, to many readers, being touched by them. Seeing positive reviews online, receiving a happy email from a reader, listening to the happy reaction from a focus group that you visited, gives you that boost and helps to keep you on track, remind you why you are so passionate about your writing career.
I don’t like talking about money, it feels wrong somehow, but I think it plays an important role when discussing the best route to take to publication. Sometimes, I think people put money as number 1 priority, whereas I have put it down here at the end of the list. Money is important, but so is having the control, the inspiration, the support needed to achieve your dream. When you self-publish, you may have to pay more upfront costs at first, but the royalties that you keep are much bigger. You can negotiate prices and shop around for the best quality and deals from the various industries you need to use – editors, distributors, printers, illustrators… You can decide how much you invest and where to set your prices. Thanks to the control that you maintain, you can have more of a say about your profit-margins. When talking about money, it is vital to emphasise that ‘cheapest’ isn’t always best. When you are looking for an industry expert, seek advice, use the channels available to find recommendations rather than going for the cheapest price. Benefitting from having higher royalties will give you a buzz, inspire you to drive forward with your dream, to begin pondering book 2, book 3… seeing a return for all your hard work really pays off.There are benefits of choosing the traditional publishing route too, I am by no means saying that choosing to be a self-published author is the best route or the only route to consider, but what I am saying is that there is no time like the present for authors to follow the self-publishing route. The amount of support and technology available to help aid the indie author is fantastic, the impact on the author’s mental health by maintaining control, remaining flexible, growing as a person and seeing the positive reactions can be incredible.
I think it is important to realise that being a self-published author is just as huge a success (sometimes even more so, just look at L J Ross) as being accepted by one of the main players in the publishing world. Follow your dreams, don’t give up and take inspiration from others and you too could be in those charts.