Before I ever wrote the first word of my book, I faced a crippling fear. I knew nothing about publishing. I was completely intimidated. It all seemed too complicated even to bother starting.
I believed a lie: To be a published author, I needed a publisher. I needed an agent. I needed a fat contract and a substantial book advance. I needed an editorial team, designers, marketing strategists.
Lies. All lies.
You may have been there. You may have always wanted to become a published author. But you’re worried that unless you get a book deal, you won’t be official. Or you’re afraid that you can’t do it yourself. Or you’re concerned that no one will read your work or respect your story.
But before you worry any more, let me tell you this. You don’t need a publisher. You don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars on an editorial team, designers, or marketing. You can do it yourself. And you should.
Here are four good reasons to not seek a traditional publishing deal. And why you can (and should) self-publish your book instead.
Self-publishing isn’t for everyone. But it is for anyone. As it gets more challenging to land a publishing deal in today’s word, it’s getting easier to self-publish.
Anyone can take what’s in their heart and put it into print. Amazon, CreateSpace, and Print-On-Demand technology have made it easier than ever. And that’s precisely why most aspiring authors are self-publishing.
Here’s the proof: a recent Bowker Report stated that more than 700,000 books were self-published in the U.S. in 2015. Five years earlier, less than 2,000 books were self-published in the U.S. That’s an increase of 375% over a five year period!
Self-publishing is no longer “Plan-B.” For most aspiring authors, it’s “Plan-A.”
Today, readers are no longer only reading print books; they’re reading ebooks on a Kindle, Nook, and an iPad. According to Forbes, 19.5% of all books sold in the U.S. today are Kindle titles. And 30% of books sold in the U.S. are ebooks.
Today’s reading culture takes even more pressure off aspiring authors. You no longer have to format and print a physical book. You can upload a simple PDF to Kindle Direct Publishing, and within hours, you’re a published author.
James Altucher, explains the evolution of book publishing this way:
Today, we’re in Publishing 3.0: professional authors choose to self-publish their best work. Most self-published books today are well written, designed beautifully, and marketed majestically.
Self-publishing is the preferred way to share your story with the world on your terms. Anyone who chooses to self-publish their book today is in good company.
Don’t be naive. Everyone you work with wants to control a part of the process. They want a piece of the pie you’re baking.
If you engage with a traditional publisher, you’ll have to sign a contract. But here’s the cold, hard, sad truth. Once you sign the contract, your book belongs to the publisher. Not for one year. Not for ten years. Your publisher owns your book for the entirety of your life plus another 70 years. This is known as your copyright term. While your name may be on the cover, your publisher owns your book. And it’s still your job to market and sell the book for the rest of your life after you’ve written it.
If you work with a vanity publisher, they’ll try to secure publishing rights by providing you an ISBN. They’ll want to create your Amazon listing so they can control how you market your story. Oh, and they’ll want to help you print and distribute physical copies of your book so they can scrape 20% off the top.
You see, everyone wants a piece of your story. But when you self-publish your book, you have full control. And you don’t have to give any of it up.
You control your story and, if your book is profitable, any money you make stays in your pocket. But control is more than money. Your book is your story. Not theirs. You want to tell your story how you would tell it—not how an editor or publisher sees it.
I’ve heard of authors who finally get the publishing deal of their dreams. But they end up with a title and cover that misrepresents their story. And I’ve heard of authors who finally get the publishing deal of their dreams. But their editor imposes a direction they can’t get behind because it’s not their actual story. And there’s nothing they can do.
As a self-published author, you get to control every aspect of your book. That includes the title, cover design, trim size, page color, editorial style, and more. You and you alone determine the final look and feel.
For me, self-publishing is the best way to publish a book. I love research, writing, and the weighty responsibility of crafting a compelling story. I’m an experienced designer, and I’m comfortable designing a professional book. And if I ever don’t want to, I’ll hire someone I trust who will represent me and my story well.
On any given book, a publisher will keep around 85 percent of net paperback sales and 75 percent of net ebook sales. Author, Brook Warner, explains these industry averages in-depth in Green-Light Your Book.
That leaves you, the author, with a measly 15 percent of paperback net sales and 25 percent of e-book net sales. Could you live on 15 percent? The simple math shows that you’d have to sell ~25,000 books each year to sustain a reasonable wage for your work. That’s a lot of books when the average book only sells 3,000 copies in its lifetime.
But, self-published authors get to keep approximately 45 percent of net paperback sales. And up to 70 percent of net ebook sales. That’s more than triple what you’d earn with a publishing deal. Plus, astute authors can make an extra four percent (or more) with a free Amazon Associates account.
Self-published authors have an advantage over traditionally published authors. They create the opportunity to make more money.
For example, I’m currently writing a book that I plan to self-publish and sell for $19.99. The trim size will be five-by-eight inches, and it will have a black and white interior. I expect my book to be approximately 200 pages. I will earn exactly $8.74 per book according to the Create Space royalty calculator. I’ll also offer it as an ebook for $9.99, in which case I’ll make $6.99 per ebook sale.
Self-published authors have an advantage over traditionally published authors. You create the opportunity to make more money. In fact, unless you are James Patterson or Malcolm Gladwell, you will likely be more successful as a self-published author.
But what I’ve found is that most self-published authors don’t believe their story is worth selling. And they don’t think that their work is worthy of a wage.
I disagree. Your book is worth selling. Your hard work is worthy of a wage. Remember, Ernest Hemingway, compared “writing” to “bleeding.” If you’re going to sit down to bleed, you better get rewarded for it.
You’ll devote hundreds or thousands of hours to writing and publishing your book. The worst thing you can do allow your book to sit on a shelf collecting dust. Selling it is important. Share it with those who need to read it. And make more money so that you can do it all over again.
For years, I waited for someone to tell me that I should write a book. I knew that I had something to share, and I knew how to share it, but I didn’t think anyone would care.
I felt like I needed permission. Whether that was from my wife, my friends, or even one of my mentors. I kept putting it off until, well, someone told me that it was time.
I’m here to tell you today that you don’t need permission to write and publish your book. You don’t need it from an agent. You don’t need it from a publisher. You don’t need it from anyone.
There are 7.6 billion people on this earth. I do not doubt that there are a few thousand who need to hear what’s inside of your heart. They need to hear your story, your ideas, your creativity. They need what you have. These people, they’ve had a similar experience as you. But they’ll never get to hear your unique perspective.
What if Shakespeare never wrote down his poetry or shared his stories? Consider the millions of people, generation after generation, which his words have affected.
What if the disciples never recorded their accounts with Jesus?
What if no one ever had the opportunity to encounter middle earth created by the one and only J.R.R.Tolkien?
If you don’t write your book, it’s never going to exist. If you don’t publish your book, you will never know how it could impact someone’s life.
Self-publishing your book makes your story accessible. And it could be the very source that impacts the lives of one person or even millions. You don’t need permission. You need to start.
By now, I hope I’ve convinced you that more authors are turning to self-publishing than ever before. And you should too.
Traditional publishers are no longer looking for the next up-and-coming-author. Or for the next-best-book in an uncharted niche. They’re looking for successful authors who’ve done one of these things.
If you fit into one of these categories, you might consider pursuing a publishing deal. You could build your platform quicker. Grow your audience bigger. And establish legitimate credibility as a professional author. I do not doubt that a publishing deal can be the right move at the right time for the right person.
But, if you’re starting out or if you’re a self-published author and you’re happy where you’re at—stick with it. You’re in good company.
Why are we so bold to think that you can become a published author without needing a publisher? Because we have. And if it’s something we can do, you can too.
In Discover How to Self-Publish Your Book, you’ll learn the mechanics of how to self-publish your book. And we’ll show you how to do so without agents, contracts, or publishers. Plus, you’ll get our step-by-step self-publishing checklist.
Don’t wait any longer to publish a physical book that people will want to read. Register for the free course HERE.
Simon Villeneuve is the Co-Founder of BookWorthy.com. He's also a consultant who helps organizations tell a better story that inspires their customers to action.MORE ARTICLES