Why Freelance Writers Should Self-Publish
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably a writer.
And it’s probably occurred to you that since writing is what you do so well, you might as well turn your writing into a book, and get all the credibility, fame, and fortune that comes with it.
Well, credibility, anyways.
But the one thing holding you back has been a publisher – you don’t have one, and you don’t know how to get one.
Well, I’ve got news for you – even if you had a traditional publisher, it wouldn’t do you much good, and you will get the most mileage out of your work if you self-publish.
Why Publish At All?
There are a lot of great reasons why a freelancer might want to publish a book about their subject of expertise:
- Book deals come with a big fat advance payment.
- Having authored a book gives you enough credibility to double your hourly rate.
- The publisher’s marketing department will take care of getting the book sold.
- You can kick back and enjoy life while living off of book royalties.
Sounds great, right?
Except that things don’t work that way anymore.
There are a lot of problems with the traditional publishing industry (their current business model hasn’t evolved much since the 1930s, and they are dying for disruption), but the two biggest problems for aspiring authors today are margins, and marketing.
Let’s start with margins…
The Problem of Margins
Margins are a big problem for aspiring authors, because most aspiring authors don’t realize how slim those margins are. I’m talking about profit margins, of course.
There are a lot of people waiting in line to take a cut out of the retail price of the book; the retailer has to make money, and so does the publisher, plus there are the costs of actually printing and producing the book.
When everyone has taken their cut, it isn’t unusual for the author to be left with only a couple of dollars out of a retail price of $17.95. Contrast that with the $3-$12 that you will earn on each copy of your book that you sell if you self-publish (depending on which channel they sell through).
What that means is that a book publisher will need to sell 2-6 times as many books as you could on your own, just for you to make the same amount of money.
Which would be fine, except…
Do All the Marketing Yourself?
It used to be that the big advantage of a traditional publisher was the marketing muscle that they brought to bear for your new book, but that is a thing of the past.
Now, don’t get me wrong – publishers definitely market some of their books, and if your name is J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Jack Canfield or Paulo Coelho, you can count on a massive marketing budget to put your work in front of hordes of eager buyers.
But I’m going to assume that your past works don’t include Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, Chicken Soup for the Soul, or The Alchemist.
Actually, let’s be safe and assume that you’ve never published a book before in your life.
Well, in that case, you can probably expect the publisher to list your new book in their catalogue, send out a press release, and politely ask bookstores to put your work on their shelves for a few weeks to see if anybody bites.
That’s it, that’s all. The rest is up to you.
In fact, many publishers won’t even give serious consideration to submissions from new authors that don’t include a marketing plan.
So in short, the publisher will expect you to do the bulk of the marketing work yourself, but they are going to keep a hefty cut of the book’s retail price. Does that make sense to you?
The Solution: Do It Yourself
Thankfully, there is a better option – you can skip the publisher altogether (along with the bureaucratic red tape of query letters and lengthy approval processes), and just publish the book yourself.
Don’t cringe at the thought of all the extra work, and don’t imagine that you’ll have to stock thousands of copies of your new book in your basement, and make daily trips to the post office to send them out to your customers.
That might have been the case once, but it isn’t the case any longer.
They will produce a quality printed book that can be bought in major outlets like Amazon.com and your local bookstore (if you request it there), and your margins will be a lot better than if you had gone through a traditional publisher.
And will they market the book for you? No, they won’t – but neither would a traditional publisher, anyway!
What about Credibility? Is Self-Publishing Serious?
The stigma around self-publishing relates to quality. If you can just take a word document, slap a template cover graphic onto it, and push it to Amazon, then can’t anyone turn any piece of garbage into a published book?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. The blessing of low barriers to entry is also a curse, and that has led to a lot of poor quality content.
All that means is that you need to write a good book. In other words, you have to:
- Think about, plan, research, and write a piece of work that will be valuable to your readers.
- Get the book laid out, typeset, edited, and proofread – if you don’t know how to do this yourself, then hire someone who does.
- Get a cover professionally designed – don’t try to hack it yourself unless you’re a professional designer!
- Put a solid book marketing plan together (you’ll have to do this anyways). There are great resources out there to help you with this.
Is this a lot of work? Yes, it is – but really, the bulk of the work is still in writing the book, and you’d have to do that anyways.
Time for an Example: Engagement from Scratch!
The reason I’ve been thinking a lot about self-publishing lately is that I’m in the process of self-publishing a new book called Engagement from Scratch! How Super Community Builders Create a Loyal Audience and How You Can Do the Same!
I’ve chosen to self-publish, despite having high-profile co-authors whose names could probably have landed a publisher without too much difficulty (Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, Mitch Joel, and many others). I made that choice for all of the reasons that I listed above in this post.
I took the time to plan out what I wanted to do with the book, and how I could most effectively create a super-valuable experience for readers. I paid for someone to edit and proofread, got a cover professionally designed, and put a solid marketing plan together. I even created a video trailer to promote the book.
Will the book be successful? Will it lead to all the wonderful outcomes that I’m hoping for?
Time will tell. Ultimately, it will depend on the quality of the final product, and whether the information presented therein will be truly valuable to my readers.
Fingers crossed that it will!
Over to you – have you ever thought of publishing a book? Have you considered self-publishing? Why or why not?