The Business of Self-Publishing

This true story of loss and courage was written by Bonnie Henriksen and published by Graham Publishing Group.

Every person who writes a book is an entrepreneur.  Yes, there is an aspect of art in writing a book, but there is an equal part which is all business. You embraced the art, now you have to embrace the business. And why not. The business end is how you let readers know that you have a book.  Once they know, they can then appreciate the art.

It may sound cool to be published by a mainstream publisher such as Harper Collins or Penguin.  But it’s only cool if they are committed to selling your book.  It is important to know that their commitment varies from book to book. Not because they don’t want your book to sell.  They make money when it does, so why not.  The problem is not their lack of desire to make a success of your book; it is having the wherewithal to make it a success that is the age-old problem.

The problem is even more pronounced in this day and age. There are a few very successful writers, and then there is everyone else. And among the category of “everyone else” are many very talented writers.

Mainstream publishers can’t give the kind of advances they once did to writers, and they can’t back most books with even minimal marketing or PR.  Moreover, they can’t get the books onto the market near as fast as self-publishers do. Mainstream publishers expect writers to help market their books, and many writers are now saying, “If I have to market my own book, I might as well be in control of publishing my own book.”

There is also the argument that self-publishing provides writers with the lion’s share of the royalties, or at least more than the 10%-15% that mainstream publishers provide. While this may be true, it is wise to factor in the advance that mainstream publishers may or may not provide. If the advance is $2,000, that does not represent a substantial commitment, whereas a $200,000 advance – very rare – would be an “all in” commitment.

When you self-publish, you control the content, from the title of the book to the book cover and the layout. If you sign with a mainstream publisher, they control those factors.  That, it should be said, is not necessarily a bad thing, but one worth considering.

The point is that publishing is a business. As a writer, it is your business. Whether you self-publish or mainstream publish, you are an entrepreneur with business decisions to make, and you owe it to yourself to be invested in every one of those decisions.

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