With the book industry booming and more than 4 million books published in 2021 alone, becoming an author has gone from being a far-fetched dream to a possibility within reach of anyone willing to put in the work. Owing to services such as Amazon publishing, as well as many other self-publishing platforms that are now available, you can write and publish your book yourself!
Although we guarantee that the task isn’t some boulder up the hill, it also isn’t as simple as writing your draft and putting it online.
Many authors get stuck in a circle, trying to meet the eligibility criteria of their chosen platform. Others never make it beyond the decision of choosing the correct platform. And then there are those who’re still not convinced if self-publishing is the way to go.
If you resonate with any of the above, you’ve come to the right place.
In this blog, we will:
- Help you understand the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing
- Explain to you the benefits of self-publishing
- Highlight the important steps that precede publishing
- Provide information about self-publishing book retailers
- Answer the popularly asked questions about self-publishing
Self-Publishing Vs. Traditional Publishing
The number of books self-published has increased by 264% since 2018, which means more authors than ever are now moving away from traditional publishing. However, there are still those who want to be associated with the name of a big publishing house or get paid upfront for their work.
What most new authors don’t know, however, is that getting a deal with a mainstream publishing company isn’t as easy as they’d like. These industry giants aren’t taking walk-in meetings with up-and-coming authors. Instead, they are more inclined to work with those who already have a widely established readership.
In fact, to even get them to consider your manuscript, you need to first find a literary agent who has ties to publishing houses. Even then, there’s no guarantee that your book will be picked for publishing.
But let’s say you have straightened out these kinks—you have an agent, and you think your book will spark a publisher’s interest—what else should you know before taking the leap?
The main difference between traditional and self-publishing is the ownership of rights.
Simply put: if you publish yourself, all digital and print rights to your book belong to you. But if you publish through a publishing house, the company not only owns the primary publication rights but could also keep subsidiary and other rights.
Publishing giants may be interested in selling your book, but most don’t care how you get it publish-ready.
While there are some companies that might provide feedback on the writing before publishing, it isn’t a norm with traditional publishers. Most expect you to give them an error-free final manuscript that would sell millions of copies.
Since traditional publishers pay you an advance on your royalties, you don’t start making money as soon as your book starts selling—they account for that money before the checks start coming in. Even then, companies only pay up to 20% royalties to authors, whereas through self-publishing—depending on the platform— you can get up to 70% royalties.
Timeline of Self-Publishing a Book
There’s no timeline when you’re publishing yourself. If you have a publish-ready manuscript, you can do it whenever you want.
However, traditional publishers have already set schedules for the titles they need to publish in a year, and the chances of your book making the cut the same year are next to none—which mean a long wait!
Questions to Consider Before Self-Publishing a Book
Before you embark on your self-publishing journey, it is important to determine if your book is ready to be presented to an audience or not.
Many first-time authors are too excited to get their book out there and either skip considering the following questions altogether or rush through them. That can result in a book that doesn’t sell well—or potentially doesn’t even clear publishing criteria for most platforms.
What’s Your Target Audience?
This question is at the top of our list because, ideally, this is something you should consider before you even begin writing.
Many writers, when asked, would say that their book is for the mass public. While it’s a general perception—or misperception—that a wide audience would mean more sales, in reality, a targeted audience can help you market your book better.
Think about it. A young-adult fiction book would have a different target audience from a self-help book about starting your own business as a stay-at-home mom.
We are by no means saying that the readership can’t overlap. Young individuals seeking to start a consultation business, for example, might be interested in the latter book, or older individuals with a taste for YA could read the former. However, having a clear idea of who you want to read your book to can help you both write a better piece of literature and market it on the right platforms to the right crowd.
Even if you’ve already written your book, you can still assess it to decide on a target audience before publishing.
How Strong Is Your Book?
The ultimate goal of publishing is selling your book and making good money off it. But what most authors don’t consider is this: your book sales are only as strong as the content within! So, how can you find out if your manuscript has what it takes?
Well, the best way to do that is to do a competition analysis.
Are there other books in your genre that already sell well? If yes, then this can both be good and bad for you. More competition obviously means that this genre is doing well—that audiences want to read what you’re writing about. However, the more books already published in your niche, the harder your chances of standing out.
The one thing that can help you break the invisibility barrier while staying true to your genre is using your book to fill a gap. Ask yourself: what does your book have that a competitor doesn’t? Especially one that is selling well. Read book reviews and see what their audiences are still seeking and make sure to put it in your book!
Has Your Book Been Edited?
Now that you have your content streamlined, the next thing you need to ensure is quality.
You may have an amazing idea that could become a bestseller, but even a misplaced comma can take away from your book’s potential. Think about it: there’s always a way to something—and then there is the best way to say it. Everything from syntax to vocabulary and vernacular contributes to how well your book is going to do. Remember: quality can make or break you as an author!
One way to edit your book is to work in drafts. Let everything you write sit for a while before you go back to it and see it with fresh eyes. However, this limits you in two ways: it is more time-consuming, and it doesn’t allow you to work on what you don’t even know needs work!
Hiring a professional book editor could be the best way to go about it—especially for first-time authors. Getting someone with experience in your niche can allow you insights into your manuscript that could make all the difference.
Do You Have An Eye-Catching Cover?
Let’s be real for a second; we’ve all been guilty of buying books because of how beautiful they looked. It’s just human nature to gravitate toward something that appeals to the sense of sight.
As per a survey, 79% of the readers consider book covers before making a purchase. That’s not to say that books with simplistic covers don’t sell, but we can’t deny that books that look good sell more—and why wouldn’t you want to do everything that helps your book sell?
If you have the expertise, design a cover yourself that best expresses everything your book stands for. But if you don’t have a knack for illustrations, don’t fret—many authors don’t. Your forte is writing, and you best stick by it.
You can always hire a professional to illustrate your book cover! Many freelancing sites have book cover designers for hire who can help you out. The other route you can take is to find book publishing companies that offer this service and can take your idea to turn it into a graphic masterpiece.
As we said, self-publishing isn’t as simple as uploading your manuscript and making big bucks. Platforms such as Amazon publishing have their own set of requirements before your book is available for sale.
For a self-published book to sell the same way a traditionally-published one does, your book needs to have the right external and internal design—that fit your book’s genre. Each type of book needs to be formatted a certain way, and getting the specifications right can be a lot of work—especially if this is your first-time self-publishing a book.
There are plenty of formatting tools available online that can help you shape your book, but even then, there’s no guidance or guarantee that it would pass the review of the likes of Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
However, fear not! There are many companies providing Amazon publishing services. In fact, the best self-publishers offer formatting expertise on all platforms. They do everything from type-setting, aligning your text, assigning indents and margins, and ensuring your book rivals those published by traditional companies.
eBook or Print?
As a self-publishing author, you have the option to publish your book digitally or as a paperback, giving rise to the ultimate struggle: which is the right format for you?
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, the eBook readership has gone up by 5% in the last two years while print has remained stagnant. That in no way means that we’re trying to dissuade you from taking the print route, but as an eBook, your book has a growing demand.
A very important factor that can help you make this decision is money—both what you spend and eventually make.
Paperback and hardcover books are more expensive to publish because you need to account for printing costs—including the additional cost of paper and ink. Obviously, with eBooks, there are no such costs involved.
Even when it comes to royalties, self-publishing platforms, such as Amazon publishing services, offer a smaller percentage of royalties for hardcovers but can offer up to 70% royalties for eBooks. This means you can earn more from your eBook than from print books.
Platforms for Self-Publishing a Book
Now that you have decided that self-publishing is the way to go and have gone through our list of essential questions, it is now time to consider which platform would be the best for you.
There are many book publishing companies out there claiming to offer cross-platform book publishing services. While some of them may be legit, others might just be a scam. Are we then telling you not to acquire these services? No, we’re doing no such thing.
Although self-publishing is widely popular because it is free, getting your book publish-ready might require professional help. From editing to beta-reading, formatting, and marketing, there’s a lot that goes into ensuring a book’s success. This is where the best self-publishers in the business come in.
But how do you tell the real deal apart from the fakes? A good way to sift through the crowd and know one from the other is to do your own research. If you already know what a platform requires—and ultimately offers—there are fewer chances of someone taking advantage of your lack of information.
Although many authors don’t go this route anymore—for reasons we’ve already discussed—print self-publishing is still a popular choice with some. If you’re looking to take this path with your manuscript, the following are the publishing platforms for you.
Founded in 2002, Lulu Press is one of the largest print-on-demand (POD) platforms today. The company has published more than two million titles to date and is increasingly growing in popularity due to its easy-to-use self-publishing interface.
It offers various options in both color and black and white printing, paper type, cover finish, and binding options, and charges no upfront fee!
Although it’s priced higher than some other POD platforms when it comes to printing costs, it more than makes up for that by offering volume discounts and providing better quality than even the likes of Amazon.
Lulu Press offers 80% royalties on profits made on print books—as opposed to sales.
Amazon is the largest self-publishing platform present today, dwarfing everyone in comparison.
Although they are more popularly associated with eBooks—you hear eBook, you automatically think Kindle!—Amazon also offers POD services that are competitively priced and arguably one of the best in the industry.
What started off as CreateSpace, acquired by Amazon in 2005, was eventually incorporated into Amazon’s larger KDP platform. As usual, there are no upfront costs associated with publishing via KDP Print, but your book does have a cost based on the paper/print type you choose and the number of pages.
However, Amazon also helps you price so that you can still profit from your book while offering 60% royalties for hardcovers.
Self-Publishing a Book Digitally
Self-publishing eBooks is cheap, easy, and offers more money than print—owing to no print cost and higher royalties. Digital books are also increasingly becoming a favorite with readers thanks to their multi-platform accessibility, durability—no wear and tear—and ease of purchase.
Here are the self-publishing companies for your eBook:
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is the largest digital book publishing platform, with KDP authors having earned upward of $1.1 billion. Publishing on Amazon is free, and authors can earn 70% on eBooks priced above $2.99 and 35% on those priced below $2.99.
The self-publishing giant also offers an exclusive program called Amazon KDP select that allows titles to be sold exclusively on Amazon.
B&N is another big name in the self-publishing industry—and one that is always trying to improve the publishing experience for its users. Like Amazon, it also allows users to upload manuscripts for free and offers 70% royalties on eBooks priced above $0.99.
It is one of the few platforms that allow you to set your book for $0 or free! While that may not be the ideal approach for those looking to make big bucks, it can inevitably be used as a great marketing strategy!
This is the self-publishing branch of the Canada-based book retailer Rakuten Kobo.
Those looking to publicize and distribute their book to an international audience should opt for publishing through Kobo. It offers free publishing and has a similar royalties plan to Amazon—70% royalties on eBooks priced above $2.99 and 45% for those priced below $2.99.
Exclusive to Apple devices, iBooks are increasingly becoming a popular reading format. They offer free publishing to authors and 70% royalties on books that end up being monetized.
Yes, you read that right!
Most iBooks are available for free, and finding a way to generate revenue through your eBook can be a doozy on Apple Books, making it less-than-ideal for authors!
FAQs for Self-Publishing a Book
How much does it cost to publish your own book?
While self-publishing in and of itself is absolutely free, other costs, such as hiring professional editors, formatting experts, and book marketers, can, on average, cost anywhere between $500 and $15,000 depending on the type and extent of services procured.
What is the cheapest way to self-publish?
Publishing an eBook is the cheapest option, with potentially a higher profit margin for book sales. It allows you to sell more copies by pricing your book lower as you don’t have to account for printing costs.
Is self-publishing worth it?
Self-publishing is the more cost-effective and easier route of the two (self-publishing and traditional). Not only can a book be self-published for virtually free, but it also allows authors to earn up to 70% royalties as compared to the 5-20% offered by traditional publishers.
How much do first-time authors make?
Depending on the marketing strategy employed, the pricing of the book, the format (print or digital), and the number of copies sold, a first-time author can make $5,000 and upwards.
Can a self-published book be successful?
The short answer is: yes. The longer answer, however, is that for any book to be a success, there’s a huge amount of work involved—and it starts with writing. A book that is written well sells well. In addition, a strong marketing strategy that puts your book in front of the right audiences is also important.
What is an ISBN, and do I need it?
An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number, which is a unique identifying code for books. Anyone looking to sell or distribute their book needs to get an ISBN.
Now, you’re all set to head out and publish your book! If you’re looking for someone to help with your pre-publishing—or even book publishing—needs, then our team at The Ghostwriting Services can help!