Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is a way for authors to get their work published without using a traditional book publisher. In some ways it is even better than traditional publishing, but it has downsides, too. Learn the pros and cons of self-publishing here.

Gone are the days when self-publishing was viewed as a route for those who couldn’t hack it in the mainstream. On the contrary, even highly successful authors are choosing to self-publish their new titles today. Moreover, small indie presses are gaining steam on the industry big boys. According to a recent article, just a quarter of Amazon e-book sales come from titles published by the five largest publishing companies, while indie presses account for 45 percent of sales. The market has spoken, and authors are listening.

Still, self-publishing is not without its challenges. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing over more traditional routes of getting the word out is crucial if you hope to make the best possible decision for your financial future.


Faster Exposure

One of the benefits of self-publishing is that your book gets to market faster than it would via traditional methods. The internet means you could (theoretically) complete a book today and publish it online tomorrow. And while we don’t recommend this tactic—even the most talented authors need time to edit and proofread their works—the speed of self-publishing can translate to faster exposure and cash in your bank account. On the other hand, publishing a book through one of the big houses takes six to 18 months at minimum.

Greater Creative Control

One of the best reasons to self-publish is that it offers you greater creative control over the book’s content and appearance. When you publish through one of the larger houses, you need to meet the requirements of multiple parties, including editors, marketers, and designers. On the other hand, self-publishing affords you the opportunity to craft and control your content every step of the way. Not only can you make decisions regarding the text and cover art, but you can also opt to publish your material in whatever format you desire, from booklets to workbooks and even multi-book series.

RELATED: How to Make Money as a Writer

Better Royalties

Traditionally, publishing houses pay authors royalties on the books they sell. For example, you might receive 10 percent to 15 percent of the list price of each book sold, while the rest of the profits go to the publisher. On the other hand, when you self-publish with Amazon, you receive up to 70 percent of the list price. Additionally, self-publishing through Amazon or another site enables you to retain the rights for adaptations like films, TV shows, and even comic books. 

Longer “Shelf Life”

One of the biggest benefits of self-publishing over traditional publishing is that it gives your book a longer period in which to find its audience. When you publish through Random House or another large company, your title will likely only have a shelf life of one to two months in the bookstore, as these shops are constantly moving out old inventory in favor of newly published works. On the other hand, digital books remain on Amazon’s virtual shelves indefinitely. Because potential readers can find your work with the click of a button, you have more time to build up a following—and a lucrative writing career. This ability is especially crucial for newer writers who haven’t yet found their audiences.

RELATED: How to Get a Book Published


Less Editorial Support

Of course, self-publishing is not without its downsides. One of the main drawbacks of publishing on your own is not having the benefit of an editorial team at your back. In the traditional publishing world, authors work with editors and proofreaders to smooth out story issues and ensure the final product is free of typos and other mistakes. If you’re planning to publish a novel or nonfiction book on your own, it’s important to arrange for a trusted party to copyedit your book. Additionally, you will likely want to hire a designer to create appealing cover art. The goal is to make your e-book appear just as professional and error-free as a title coming from one of the big publishing houses.

Less Marketing Support

Just as self-published writers are on their own when it comes to editing, they have to take the reigns for marketing and distributing their products. Not only do publishers boast their own platforms from which to launch your titles, but they also have the money and resources to set up bookstores and arrange for media coverage. Additionally, publishing companies can arrange for their authors to secure third-party testimonials and reviews. These endorsements are crucial for marketing your book to your target audience.

If your goal is to self publish, you will need to seek out your own testimonials by sending copies of your e-book to authors and reviewers. Before launching your title, strive to make contacts with other writers in your field. You can also send free copies to interested readers in exchange for unbiased reviews. By putting some time and money into marketing your book at the start, you boost the odds of earning more revenue down the line.

Less Acclaim

It’s no secret that self-publishing has a bad rap in certain circles. While the self-publishing stigma certainly means less today than it once did, certain readers will still refuse to publish works that didn’t originate with Penguin or one of the other bigwigs. If you’re determined to capture the widest possible readership, self-publishing might not be for you.

Self-publishing is not without its challenges, and naturally, not all books are going to be bestsellers. However, with 1300 authors who made their Kindle debuts in 2013 now earning $10,000 or more from writing annually, there is definitely an opportunity for talented writers to cash in. Do your homework to boost your odds of finding self-publishing success.

Want to learn what it takes to be a successful self-publisher? Start with this free ebook from the Author’s Marketing Club. Business Know-How is an affiliate (and a premier member) of the Author’s Marketing Club and may make a small commission if you become a paid member of the club.


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