The Truth About Self-Publishing (And Why Now’s the Time To Do It)

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I have a question for you. Actually, I have three questions for you:

Pile of colorful paper notes with question marks. Close-up.
  • Do you still believe self-publishing is only for those who can’t hack it in traditional publishing?
  • Do you still think the only way to become a success is through traditional publishing?
  • Do you still think it costs an arm and a leg to be an indie author? 

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you’re not alone. Most people feel the same way. Part of it stems from long-held assumptions and stigmas that surround self-publishing, and part of it stems from fear of the unknown. 

I thought maybe it was high time to dispel some of these misconceptions about self-publishing, as there’s no longer any disputing that self-publishing looks much different today than it did even five years ago. And traditional publishing is noticing…big time. 

To back up my assertions, I’ve done extensive research on statistics and figures to show you the truth about self-publishing today and how far the industry has come in the past decade. 

Let’s break it down, one misconception at a time.

Myth #1 – Only authors who can’t get an agent/traditional publishing deal self-publish

This couldn’t be any further from the truth. While there may have been a time, ten or more years ago, when that was true, it no longer holds water. In the past 3 – 5 years, thousands of authors have intentionally foregone seeking agents and traditional publishing in favor of self-publishing. 

Why? There are a couple reasons for this.

  1. As an indie, you can keep 100% of your creative rights, forever and ever amen. If you go the route of traditional publishing and agents, you’ll have to sign over your creative rights for every word in your story for a minimum of 5 years or even 10 years in some cases. Also, while, yes, they will provide editing and cover designs for you, THEY have complete creative control over the content and design, which means, you get the cover they decide on, and, if they want you to change anything about your plot, characters, etc., you’re obligated to do so. However, as an indie author, you are in complete control of your cover and your book’s content for as long as you live and then some. 
  1. Many authors have been hybrid publishing for years (meaning, they self-publish some titles and use traditional publishing for others). But recently, there have been a ton of traditionally published authors who jumped ship and chose to self-publish their works, being fed up with the whole Big 5 conglomerate. Many reasons cited by these ship-jumpers include: maintaining creative rights, keeping more of their royalties, shorter publishing timelines, and on and on. 

So, the old beliefs that only authors who can’t hack it in traditional publishing would ever self-publish is so outdated, it’s ridiculous. 

Myth #2 – The only way to become a successful author is through traditional publishing.

Maybe this was true, once upon a time. But no longer. Many, many self-published authors are making as much as or more than their traditionally published counterparts. Authors like Hugh Howey, LJ Ross, Rachel Abbott, Adam Nevill, and Mark Dawson all sold copies of their books numbering in the hundreds of thousands and even millions.

Here are a few statistics that prove this:

Thousands of self-published authors take home book royalties of $50,000 or more.

In 2019, self-published authors’ income had impressive increase (especially romantic suspense)

More than 1,000 self-published authors hit six-figures in 2019.

As a real-life example, I have several editing and coaching clients who make a minimum of $500 per month on book sales all the way up to $20,000 per month in book sales. They are not necessarily well-known names, but they have built a solid following of readers, and they’re putting out as many books a year as they possibly can, which can be a huge factor in how much money you make. 

So, don’t think that, by choosing self-publishing, you’re somehow missing out on any opportunities. There’s almost nothing a traditional publishing company can offer nowadays you cannot secure on your own. It does take a bit more work on your part, but it’s entirely possible to be as successful or even more successful than the average agented author.

Myth #3 – It costs too much money to be a self-published author

While it’s true that it does cost more out of pocket (upfront) to be an indie author, the reality is that, in the long run, you’re actually investing much less in your writing career than you would with traditional publishing. 

Think about it.

If you were lucky enough to secure an agent (5% chance) AND you were lucky enough to land a big publishing deal (another 5%), out of every book you sold, you’d have to pay upwards of 80% back to the publisher (actually, they’d take it out of your check). Then, out of your 20% or so, you must pay your agent’s fee which is usually another 15%. On average, most traditionally published authors, especially brand newbies, get to keep about one dollar out of a thirteen-dollar sale. I’m no math wiz, but I can tell you that means you’ll have to sell a TON of books to meet your paltry advance, let alone see a profit beyond your advance. 

On the flip-side, if you self-publish, you do have to pay Amazon about 35% of your royalties, but that means you keep 65% of your books sales in your pocket! Even with the investments you’ll need to make into coaching (if you choose to do so), editing (a necessity), and a professional cover (non-negotiable), you’re looking at a TOTAL investment (lifetime) of no more than $3,000 to $5,000 AT MOST per book. Compare that with the thousands upon thousands of dollars you will lose paying publishers and agents back, and you will quickly realize the financial benefit of self-publishing. You’ll also realize that, while it stings to pay a few thousand dollars out of pocket for book professionals before you publish, you never have to pay anyone else (aside from KDP) ever again. You keep a HUGE chunk of your book royalties from the first book you sell. 

There was also a survey done that showed that, new authors who refused to invest in editing and cover design average around $500 per year in book sales, while more experienced authors who know they must invest in these things average closer to $50,000 per year in book sales. What a huge difference! 

So, stop thinking of spending money on book professionals as “throwing away” good money. Instead, think of it as an investment in your book, your future, and your writing career.

Now, none of the above is meant to dissuade anyone from seeking traditional publishing. Far from it. I work with dozens of authors each year who want to pursue agents, etc. And I fully support their decisions. After all, I’m a hybrid author, meaning, I self-publish some titles but use an agent and publisher for others. I know it’s a huge dream of many authors to get that agent and publishing deal, so I won’t rain on anyone’s parade. I simply want you all to know that if you DO choose to go the self-publishing route, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, there are many, many benefits these days to self-publishing and being your own #bookboss! 

If any of you are seeking an author coach or editor with 10 years of experience working behind the scenes for publishers and agents, please always feel free to reach out to me by visiting our Contact Us page and filling out the form or by emailing me directly at info@writeyourbestbook.com

Talk soon,

Christina Kaye

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