An OWFI Friday: Why to Self Publish

As many of us would-be published authors know, Self Publishing has always had a certain stigma attached to it. Those brave souls who have jumped into the Amazon marketplace insist that the stigma is gone, as evidenced by the fact that the "Big Five" publishers are now going to self-published authors for their talent, handing out huge deals and lending that form their credibility.

That's great from an insider's perspective, but from the outside, the medium has just as much stigma as before. There is one undeniable fact though: eBook sales are booming. Little is this more evidenced than at the 2014 OWFI. Throughout the three day event, we were told over and over again that Self Publishing is the way to go, as long as you are willing to take your success into your own hands. I took rigorous notes, but I won't bog you down on these and instead I'll give you the anecdotal evidence that was presented to us.

During the Agents panel, they were asked if previous self-publishing history would be a mark against them. As opposed to previous years, they said to just get it out in the open because they'll research it anyway. If that book didn't do well, there's still a chance that they'll take it on! I've been to these conferences for the last several years and, up until now, the prevailing opinion (from some of the same agents!) was that if you self-pubbed it, it was dead to them.

Jerry D. Simmons, a 30 year veteran of the publishing industry (including at Time Warner), presented three sessions on the marketing opportunities that us independent authors could take advantage of. During his final panel, he was asked what route he would take if he were just getting started . . . he answered Self Publishing! There were many reasons for him, but the ultimate reasoning was keeping control of your intellectual property. He also gave some good destinations to get cheap but quality covers: oDesk.com, elance.com

Now for some down and dirty numbers. These came from a panel by Darlene Shortridge, who tried the Vanity publishing route, found that it was lacking and instead opted to self-publish. Here are the numbers she gave us:

Traditional Publishing
$10 - $15 print title - $1.70 in royalties
$5.99 ebook - $0.07 per sold title

Add to that, royalty checks only come every six months!

Vanity Publishing
$20 print title - $1.26 in royalties
$13 ebook - never sold one

To get copies of your book, you pay $9 and generally have to order in bulk.

The other bad thing about Vanity is that you have to pay upfront. Darlene paid $4,000 for the initial run of her book, which barely sold anything. After about a year, she cut ties and moved onto self publishing!

Self Publishing
If you go through Amazon with an eBook between $2.,99 and $9.99, you receive 70% of the royalties! That means on a $2.99 book, you receive $2.08 in profit. If you go either side of that number, you get 30%.
Add to that, you can order your books from Amazon for $3 a copy. I know you're with me on this one, but if you sell it at $13, you get $10 profit!

An added benefit to this is that you are the curator of your book, you keep the rights to it. You are 100% responsible for its success. This is both good and bad. If you are lazy, if you don't want to get out there and sell, sell, sell, then you are destined to fail at this and you should just stick to sending out your queries and hope to be picked up (though, we also were taught that you still need to have a Social Media presence out there as well).

Now for the sobering news: there are over 12 million books on Amazon. Add to that, 95% of authors do not make more than $5,000 over all forms of publishing. When you look at Traditional Publishing, only 5% of authors are "successful" and can do writing full time.

So Self Publishing isn't a cure all for your publishing woes, but if you put in your time and show due diligence, this can be a rewarding avenue.

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.