Three Reasons NOT to Self-Publish by Jordan Castillo Price

Self-publishing has become incredibly doable. The year 2007, which was the year I began self-publishing, doesn’t seem all that long ago. Not until you realize that the Kindle eReader didn’t even come out until mid-November! Back then, the idea of making a living writing eBooks seemed pretty implausible. My entire Kindle eBook sales for the year of 2008 totaled less than $10. How stunning that by the end of 2009 I was able to hand in my resignation to my day job and begin writing and publishing full-time the following year.

Writing is an intensely personal endeavor, so the appeal to own the entire process, from the genesis of the story idea to the receipt of the royalty check, is understandably strong. But is self-publishing necessarily the best way to go?

Motivation

Some people are more internally motivated than others. You may be the type of person who thrives under the direction of a mentor, who gets crazy amounts of work done as a deadline approaches, who enjoys the camaraderie of touching base with co-authors in the publishers’ private groups. If so, working alone may feel too isolated for you.

Stigma

As long as an eBook is well-produced, and it’s sold in convenient locations, many readers don’t care whether it’s self-published or not. Unfortunately, so many self-published authors are unable to handle every aspect of eBook production themselves, and unwilling to pay someone else to do it professionally, that they end up putting out an inferior product. The more authors do this, the longer “self-published” will be synonymous in many readers’ minds with “unedited” and “poorly formatted.”

Expense

An ePublisher will typically keep 60-75% of the cover price of an eBook, so it stands to reason that if you self-publish and keep all the sales, you’ll make more money. Right? Not necessarily. There are many expenses that the publisher absorbs. In all third-party sales (places like Amazon or B&N) the seller keeps a cut of the cover price. Publishers also need to pay their own operating expenses, as well as the fees of the rest of the team responsible for editing, typesetting, and creating a cover for your book.

Many new self-publishers can certainly save money on overhead by working from home, but then they skimp on things they shouldn’t, like professional editing, proofing, cover design and typesetting, then attempting to do these things themselves. If they do succeed in training themselves to handle each of these tasks, the outlay in time spent learning all the skills is quite high. And if they’re not as brilliant of a cover designer or proofreader as they think they are, chances are they’re contributing to the stigma of self-published work being amateurish that I described above.

Yes, you might slap an unedited book on Amazon and find yourself with a runaway success that makes you a bazillionaire overnight…but you have just as much of a chance at winning the lottery. Most of the “overnight” self-publishing successes you hear about are the result of years of work.  This isn’t meant to deter anyone, only to give a more balanced view of what self-publishing involves. While self-publishing may not be for everyone, many authors (myself included) do enjoy the creative control resulting from our investment of time, money and energy.

Author and artist Jordan Castillo Price is the owner of JCP Books and the author of many award-winning gay paranormal thrillers, including PsyCop and Magic Mansion. Her latest series, Turbulence, is a twisted foray into the Bermuda Triangle. Check it out at JCPbooks.com

Connect with Jordan in the following places:

jordancastilloprice.com [http://jordancastilloprice.com]

JCP News: Jordan’s monthly newsletter [http://psycop.com/newsletter.html]

Facebook:

-Jordan’s Fan Page [http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jordan-Castillo-Price/257078438055]

-PsyCop Fan Page [http://www.facebook.com/JCP.PsyCop]

Jordan’s LiveJournal blog [http://jordan-c-price.livejournal.com/]

12 thoughts on “Three Reasons NOT to Self-Publish by Jordan Castillo Price”

  1. Not to mention the cost of ISBN registration…
    I must admit the control aspect is very tempting, but finding support personnel is a big hurdle for me – not to mention all the networking and promo that are necessary for any sort of published work.
    Your grasp of the whole process is formidable.

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  2. Great article. Makes me think harder about self publishing, but its good info to have. I do have one question:

    Does self-publishing get in the way of collaborative writing? I don’t mean time wise, but when it comes to creation and publication. Is it easier done with a publisher to be the mediator, or is it better with just two, or three, people to hash it out?

    Btw, love the Petit Morts series. I don’t suppose you’d know if the third collection will ever go to print?

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    1. Hi Kim,
      I think collaborative writing is easier without the publisher involved. That way your vision can stay cleaner and not have a third chef stirring the pot. Plus both writers can shape the plan of when to release the novel, etc. according to both their needs, rather than the publisher’s needs. I suppose it would all depend on each of the authors’ personalities. Someone also needs to enforce deadlines, which is no fun. Maybe the key is to be absurdly clear about what is expected from who, and when.

      There is no plan for the third Petit Morts collection to go to print. It’s not economically viable, unfortunately.

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  3. Sorry to be so late coming to this discussion. I’ve both self-published and gone with a publisher. There are definitely different trade offs. One of the things you didn’t mention is that it’s harder to get noticed if you’re self-publishing than it is if you publish with a press which already has a following. Self-published books by new authors fall into a sea of material and can have a hard time finding readers.

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    1. This is so true, Dev. Although it might depend on the publisher. Some publishers do next to nothing to promote your work, whereas others do quite a lot. It really varies. Certainly being with a publisher imparts a certain credibility to an author, which might matter if you aren’t already established. Thanks for stopping by!

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