Tuesday, September 4, 2012

25 Reasons to Self-Publish, Part I

By:  Kimberly Hitchens is the founder and owner of Booknook.biz, an ebook production company that has produced books for over 750 authors and imprints.

As part of our recent website overhaul--yes, still in progress, for those of you who've noticed--we're completely revamping our FAQ, Articles, Resources and Helpful Hints Sections.  One of the sections we're adding is our "25 Reasons to Self-Publish" list, which, in preview of the newly-revamped site (I swear, it is coming soon!), I'll be posting the first 13 today and the next 12 in my next scheduled post on the 18th.  So--ready?

25 Reasons to Self-Publish, Part I

1. "Thirty authors have sold more than 100,000 copies of their books through Amazon's Kindle self-publishing program, and a dozen have sold more than 200,000 copies, according to Amazon." Including indie big wigs like Darcie Chan, Michael Connelly, James Patterson and Kathryn Stockett. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/how-i-became-a-best-selling-author-.html  Wall Street Journal. December, 2011.  

2. As of April 2012, 145 self-published authors have sold more than 50,000 ebooks. And the Amazon CEO reported in his April 2012 annual shareholder newsletter that more than 1,000 KDP authors now each sell more than a thousand copies a month. A list of the 50,000 authors: http://selfpublishingsuccessstories.blogspot.com/  Self-Publishing Success Stories, May 2012.  

3. Jackie Collins explains her decision to self-publish to ebook. "And dealing with publishers, it might be fun just to deal with myself. I always say, "If you have faith in something, do it yourself." http://jackiecollins.com/jackies-blog/on-my-decision-to-self-publish/  

4. James Altucher explains why and how (step by step) he self-published. "Advances are quickly going to zero. Margins are going to zero for publishers.  There’s no financial benefit for going with a publisher if advances are going to zero and royalties are a few percentage points. The publishing industry does minimal editing. The time between book acceptance and release is too long (often a year or more). That's insane." http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/05/why-and-how-i-self-published-a-book/  

5. Stephanie Chandler outlines 12 Reasons to Self-Publish, including royalties and advance payments. "On average, traditional publishers pay authors around $1.25 per book in royalties. So if your book sells for $20, you earn just over a buck. You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that you have to sell a ton of books to actually make decent revenues with a traditional publisher. Conversely, when you publish yourself, your book printing and distribution costs might run around $4.00 per book. Sell a book for $20 and you earn $5 to $10 depending on the retail outlet, and $16 if you sell it yourself. Need I say more?" Regarding advance issues: "If you want to buy copies of your own books from your traditional publisher, expect to pay 40% to 50% off of the retail price. So if your book retails for $20, you will likely pay $10 per copy even though it costs the publisher just $2 or $3 to print your book. Yep, they make money off the authors too. When you self-publish, you buy your books at cost. The average author with a first-time book deal can expect to receive an advance of $5,000 to $15,000. Once your book is released, you won’t see another dime until you have earned back that advance–$1.25 at a time—until the advance is paid back in full." http://authoritypublishing.com/book-publishing/12-reasons-why-self-publishing-kicks-butt-over-traditional-publishing/  June 2011   

6. "Kerry Wilkinson's Jessica Daniel detective novels sell more than 250,000 copies on Kindle" http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/feb/08/self-published-author-amazon-ebook  Guardian. February 2012.  

7. Self-publishing resources make self-publishing easy. "Five-year old publish-on-demand pioneer Lulu says it is doubling in size every year ... Lulu says it publishes 4,000 new titles each week and already has a catalogue of 232,000 books." http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/feb/20/useconomy.booksnews  

8. Indie bookstores are now working with self-published authors: "In response to the growing number of self-published authors seeking shelf space at indie bookstores, savvy booksellers are establishing programs that clearly define their requirements and streamline the consignment process. Profitable programs range from a no-questions-asked spot in a store’s consignment section to an elaborate, tiered event option, including signings, readings, and publicity." http://news.bookweb.org/news/working-self-published-authors . Bookweb. April 2012.  

9. Publishers provide little-to-no marketing services for their authors. "Publishers claim they do a lot of marketing for you. That’s laughable."James Altucher's publisher claimed to have gotten him a review in The Financial Times, a segment about his book on CNBC, and an excerpt in thestreet.com. In reality, Altucher had a column in the Times and wrote his own review as a joke, had a weekly segment on CNBC and spoke about his book, and secured a spot on thestreet.com because he had recently sold them his last company. Why Every Entrepreneur Should Self-Publish a Book. http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/28/why-every-entrepreneur-should-self-publish-a-book/  TechCrunch. January 2012.  

10. Royalty specifics. Information taken directly from amazon.com and barnes&noble. Amazon Kindle Publishing Royalties: $2.99 and above:  70%, under $2.99:  35%  
Barnes & Noble Pubit Royalties: $2.99 and above: 65%, under $2.99:  40%  
i.e. A $2.99 book will result in $2.04 for the author (after Amazon's 30% cut and a small bandwidth charge).  50,000 ebooks sold at $2.99 pricing will generate $102,000 in royalties for the author.  

11. Sales numbers. "Abbott says Only the Innocent has been shifting more than 3,000 copies a day on Amazon. Contrast that with the 2,230 a day managed by last week's top-selling paperback, SJ Watson's Before I Go to Sleep." http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/mar/04/self-publishing-ebooks-rachel-abbott  Guardian. March 2012.  

12. Timing of publication. "Traditional publishing can take 12 to 24 months to get your book published. Self-publishers who have a professionally edited manuscript can get their book to market in ten days!" http://www.thebusinessofwritingtoday.com/why-self-publish-the-tmc-factor  

13. Rise in worldwide consumption of ebooks. Australia, India, the U.K. and the U.S. are leading the world in e-book adoption rates, according to Bowker Market Research’s Global eBook Monitor, "The market for e-books is experiencing exponential growth internationally, with news each week of new e-readers and specialist e-tailers,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice-president, Bowker Market Research. “Publishers and retailers must adapt to a very changed landscape. This research is essential for effectively navigating that new landscape and creating successful business models.” http://www.bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2012/pr_03272012.shtml  Bowker. March 2012.  

Had enough excitement for this week?  Meet me back here on the 18th for the reasons #14-25!  See you then, eBook Buckaroos!


  1. What an excellent list of reading material and support for self-publishing. I'll send the link to every author who asks me about the process or who says "I'm holding out for a traditional publisher."

  2. Some compelling arguments here. Great post, Hitch!

  3. Awesome list, Hitch! Thanks so much for sharing this great info! I'll be sending my clients here.

    And you can add our own Andrew E Kaufman to the list of wildly successful indie authors! And LJ Seller's no slouch, either!

  4. Hi, guys:

    Thanks, but--as I said--we have the second half coming on the 18th (or whenever I'm next due). The entire list will be available soon, along with a list of over 100 new resources and links and a massively revampled FAQ system (including "ebooks for dummies" primer questions like "Is it true that readers can change how my book looks?," replete with screenshots, exemplars and other illustrative material). We're working out some last-minute kinks, and, yes, natch, this is the same site that was supposed to go live on 4th July, but...hey. You can make books, or make website progress. ;-)

    And, Jodie, I didn't deliberately leave out the awesome LJ or the redoubtable Drew--I was trying to give a different reason, or class of reason, for each link, and wanted to cover a large scope of rationales. ;-)

  5. Of course you didn't deliberately leave out Drew and LJ, Hitch! :-) But I couldn't help mentioning them, as I'm so proud of both of them for their hard work and persistence, leading to well-deserved success with indie publishing. They and other determined authors like them are role models for the rest of us!

    Can't wait for the whole list of reasons and to check out your website! I'll be sending my clients there!

  6. I hope every indie author sees this, and in doing so, understands that it can be done. Amazon has created a platform that's evened the playing field and made it all possible. It's a wonderful time to be an author.

    Thanks for taking the time to compile all this great info, Hitch!

  7. Great list! I'm going to be sharing it with my indie author groups. While I'm looking forward to my debut with MuseItUp, I'm especially excited about becoming a full fledged indie author this spring.

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  8. This is wonderful information. Very inspiring. There is less and less reason to buy into the old business model of traditional publishers. The bottom line - from what I can see - is that digital technology changed the game completely, cutting out entire steps (such as setting hot type by highly paid union employees), and also cut down the time required for editing. The problem is they didn't pass the savings along to consumers. They dug this hole for themselves as far as I can see. I'm glad technology is on the side of us authors. And I agree with what someone else pointed out: there is no such thing as skilled thorough edits at publishers these days, never mind a solid marketing push. At least not when it comes to the vast majority of us who are not household names. Great post - can't wait to see Part 2. Thanks.

  9. If someday want to have a traditional publisher handle the printing and sales of your title, I still believe self-publishing is the best first step. You learn more about the process, get feedback directly from readers, acquire a first-hand understanding of marketing, and more. And if you achieve some small-scale success with your self-published book, you'll be in a much better position to get the attention of a major publisher.

  10. You make a good point there, I think, Kindle Author. But new authors still need to make sure they put a pretty good product out there the first time, or the bad reviews could damage the good reputation they're trying to establish and jeopardize their chances of succeeding.

  11. Does anyone have any advice on Self- publishing paperback books?
    E-book sales on Amazon are great, but paperbacks are often printed, in my experience, at a much higher cost. I would love my readers to get my paperback books cheaper.

  12. I greatly admire your work, Hitch, and have been recommending BookBiz at conferences and to every writer I know who is considering indie publishing.

    I think the reality of this question is more temperate than, "Indie publishing, best thing ever, woo hoo!" or, "Bang your head against the brick wall of traditional for thirty years." Like political debate, the truth often lies somewhere in the middle.

    I believe both paths have merits. And the numbers of successful indie pubbed authors depicted here suggest pretty much what I've always felt--extreme success as a writer is a rare thing. Traditionally or independently published, being a big bestseller is going to be about as rare as hen's teeth (strike that cliche from your indie or trad pubbed ms).

    We could discuss why that is--some ceiling on superstars? an artifact of talent? or good story-telling?--but I think it's crucial for all writers to recognize that, and not be lured onto one path or another by either EL James or, well, EL James, who went traditional after huge success as an indie.

    Where I do think publishing independently really works is for the mid-list writer who found him or herself back-burnered by the traditional system, which increasingly relies on big numbers and mega sellers for the allocation of resources. The control and infinite shelf life of indie pubbing is on the side of the midlist, quirky, or quiet book that hangs out in the so-called long tail.

    The idea that no-editing/marketing is taking place with a traditional publisher is not what I have experienced with my own publisher, nor what I see with other writers publishing this way. The editorial process I would say is passionate, dedicated, and honed to a shine. It's one of the biggest treasures along the trad path.

    Marketing varies, and I would urge any writer to expect to do a great deal of reaching out to readers--however s/he publishes. I don't think this really differs. The traditional publishers do more or less depending on the book and the author.

    Anyway, clearly much food for thought here, and I hope readers will take time to understand the pros and cons of both paths--and time to produce the best possible book, because in the end, that's what a lot of it (not all) comes down to.

    I look forward to the next installment!

  13. Thanks for all the great information. I'm linking over to quite a few of the sites you provided.

  14. Hello,
    I am a first time writer, and I am looking into the prospects of self-publishing. Do you have any words of wisdom on who to choose, i.e. Lulu, Createspace, etc?


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