Should You Self-Publish? The Pros and Cons

After months or even years of writing and editing, there’s no better feeling than finally holding your printed book in your hands.

However, whether you decide to go forward with self-publishing or choose to pursue the traditional route, getting your work published and on the readers’ shelves is more complicated than it seems.

We’ll go over the pros and cons of self-publishing so you can decide whether it’s the right path for you. And stay tuned in for the conclusion, where we’ll explain why hybrid publishing could be your happy medium!

The Pros of Self-Publishing

Skip the Agents 

The biggest pro of self-publishing is that you don’t need to get in touch with an agent or publisher in order to share your story with the world. You won’t have to waste time anxiously waiting for rejection letters from publishers who may have never even given your manuscript a chance. 

Great for Small or Personal Projects 

Many authors are looking into self-publishing because they have a simple project they’re planning on giving or selling to a small group of people they know, like a church congregation or their family.  

In this case, self-publishing is a great way to get your manuscript bound and printed professionally without having to jump through all the hoops of the publishing industry for a short memoir or collection of short stories. 

You’re in Charge 

When an author signs a contract with a publisher, they often agree to give publishers exclusive rights to their work in exchange for royalties. This means publishers and in-house editors can make whatever changes they want to the book. 

Your manuscript may end up looking nothing like your original story, even though it has your name on it. With self-publishing, you have complete control over the information, themes, lessons, and story you want to pass along. 

Choose Your Editor 

This pro is a bit of a double-edged sword. Self-publishing doesn’t mean skipping the editorial process.  

Everyone needs another pair of eyes to look over their work before publication—we all make typos and miss things that would throw off our readers. Poor editing is one of the main reasons someone might never finish reading a book.  

Too many typos, grammatical and spelling errors, and issues with formatting can cause your audience to lose faith in the quality of your writing. Because many self-published authors have chosen not to hire an editor, this corner of the industry has garnered a negative reputation for producing lower quality books than traditional publishers. 

While most large publishing houses have their go-to or in-house editors, self-publishing authors can employ any freelance editor who fits their needs. We have another article explaining what to look for in an editor. 

Choose Your Cover Design and Format 

If you’re self-publishing, you get control over the style you want for your cover and page design, as well as who you decide to commission for the art. 

Don’t let the ease of the self-publishing process fool you—you’ll still need an eye-catching cover to attract people to your book. While it’s true that you should never judge a book by its cover, the design can still help your book stand out on the shelf. 

According to a survey from the New York Post, around 57% of readers have chosen a book based solely on the cover design. 

So, if you don’t possess any art skills, you’ll want to hire a graphic designer, as well as a formatter for the book’s interior design to give yourself the best chance of success.  

Earn More from Sales 

Publishers have to take a cut of the sales they make from your book, which leaves you with a smaller profit margin. Publishers need this money to cover their marketing, editorial, printing, and design costs.  

Without a publisher as a middleman, you gain a higher percentage from the sales you make. However, keep in mind that many self-publishing sites and services, like Amazon, still take a substantial cut of the profits.  

You’ll also need to put some of the money you get back into marketing and paying your editor and graphic designer. 

The Cons of Self-Publishing

Missing Out on Professional Advice 

Although it sounds convenient to skip the competition and the agents and the gatekeepers to get right to publication, this piece comes with its cons.  

Literary agents are picky for a reason—publication is a business like any other. They want manuscripts they know will sell well. This may mean taking on authors who are already famous, but it can also mean taking on debut authors who stand out from the crowd with the quality of their writing. 

If a large publisher decides to take you on, it means they really believe you can be a successful author. They will work with you to hone your skills and improve your manuscript as much as possible before publication so that you can put your best foot forward in the industry. 

This means that avoiding traditional publishing can mean missing out on valuable expertise and guidance from professionals who know the ins and outs of the publishing world. 

Self-Marketing and the Costs 

Publishing your book is only half the battle for success in the industry. We all wish we could just instantly attract the right audience as soon as we put something out into the world, but unfortunately, it takes a lot of marketing to reach people. 

There are marketing services you can pay to give your book a boost, but they can be costly. Even Google or Facebook/Instagram ads will require commissioning a graphic designer to create an effective ad, on top of the initial cost.  

Traditional publishers take all the marketing into account before they even offer you a contract. If they’re accepting your manuscript in the first place, it means they see the potential for it to take off and know exactly how to market it successfully. You may have to pay an extra fee for their professional marketing services, but it’s likely to be more effective. 

If paying for marketing isn’t within your budget, some self-published authors have found success with social media marketing. However, the algorithms for every platform change constantly, and these spaces are saturated with competition.  

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible; it’s just a lot harder to take on by yourself, especially without any knowledge of marketing. 

Building Your Reputation from the Bottom Up 

In line with marketing, if you’re not being represented by a well-established publisher, it can be hard to prove yourself in literary circles.  

You’ll have to build your reputation from the bottom up, and that may require a lot of networking and putting your face online to build trust with social media audiences.  

It may even take publishing a few more projects before you can start to build a following of readers who will buy your books and recommend them to others. 

Commissioning Freelancers 

On top of any marketing costs you accrue, you’ll also need to drop some money on freelance editors and designers/artists. Many freelancers charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars for professional services.  

Established publishers have in-house systems and take the costs into account before the publication process even begins. Most large publishers won’t charge you anything for the costs of editing or designing, though they may charge a fee for marketing.  

However, they will take a large cut of the sales profits. 

Metadata, ISBNs, and BISAC Codes 

There’s more to self-publishing than designing and binding your book. You’re also going to have to sort out the metadata by yourself, which means putting together a final title and subtitle, a description, copyrights, a reasonable price, a publication date, and an ISBN and BISAC codes. 

An ISBN is a necessary identifier to put on the back cover of your book so that it can be sold in print form. It’s possible to find services that allow you to apply for an ISBN number for free, but an ISBN from Bowker through your local ISBN agency is around $125.  

BISAC codes are descriptors used by libraries and booksellers to categorize and suggest books to readers. They are based on the subjects and genre of your book. Examples include biographies, art, cooking, fantasy, etc. These codes help the right audience find your book. 

Much of this is easy to put together, but it can become confusing for debut authors. Traditional publishers do all this work for you. 

Hybrid Publishers – A Happy Medium

If there are some things you love about self-publishing, but some things you’d rather do without, then you’ll want to look into hybrid publishers. Hybrid or boutique publishers, like Silly Goat Media, are the happy medium between self-publishing and shopping your work out to traditional publishers.  

Whether you’re looking for a literary agent, publicity and marketing experts, copy and developmental editors, graphic designers, or ghostwriters, we’re a one-stop shop for literary success. We can assist you with the trickier parts of self-publishing, advocate for your manuscript by leveraging connections with giants in the industry, or publish your work ourselves. 

With an à la carte approach to publishing, we’ll develop a custom plan for polishing your manuscript and giving your story the spotlight it deserves, all within your budget.  

And the best part? You retain all rights to your creative property. While we’ll always be here to offer expertise and help you improve, you get the last word on every creative decision throughout this process. 

Reach out to us today for a free consultation and get started on your path to becoming a published author!

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