Before I started this journey, my publishing knowledge centered around traditional publishing (being published under the name of a publishing house). While I didn’t hear much about publishing during my studies at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, what little I did hear was all about traditional publishing. “When you’re ready and your craft is honed, write a query letter, find an agent, and he or she will find you your publisher. But you’re not ready yet.”
When I decided it was time to get serious about The Wheel Mages, I assumed I would be traditionally published. To my knowledge, it was simply the way things were done. So I did what I’d been taught to do, I prepared a query letter and hunkered down for the long process of first finding an agent, then waiting, hoping, praying, stressing, and worrying about whether or not my agent would be able to find me a publisher.
As I researched ways to polish my query letter, articles popped out of the rabbit hole that is the internet—articles about a different form of publishing—self-publishing. To be honest, I wasn’t sold. A bias I didn’t know I had surfaced. Self-publishing must be for people who can’t get a publishing house to take their work, I thought. Not for me.
I silenced the nagging voice telling me to give self-publishing a deeper look. I wanted the gatekeepers in the traditional publishing world to hand me the key. I was desperate for them to tell me I had the right to call myself an author. I believed that being an author was so sacred I couldn’t bestow the title upon myself. It had to come from them. Anything else would be too arrogant, too much like Napoleon crowning himself.
But the articles continued to appear, and to silence the nagging, I read them. And the more I read, the more I started to think: Huh. You know, this is something people do and do successfully. Maybe the game is changing, maybe I shouldn’t dismiss this.
I started to open the door to the self-publishing voice’s cage. “Okay,” I said to it. “Prove it to me.”
I was sure I would defeat this defector, but after a lot of research, it won out. And, in list form, here are the top three reasons why:
1. Self-Publishing is faster
Self-publishing isn’t a quick process by any means, and I’m still leery of those who say it is. It’s taken me about a year to publish The Wheel Mages, from writing the first words to e-book launch. I imagine that as I get more accustomed to the process, it will speed up, but I don’t see myself ever being able to write, edit and launch a book in 60 days. Still, self-publishing is a lot faster than traditional publishing which takes closer to 2 years (when all the stars align). And while faster isn’t always better (I won’t sacrifice quality for speed when it comes to my writing), it is a great boon to the most important people in an author’s life—her readers.
All authors are readers first, and we empathize with the struggle that is waiting for a new book to come out. And while that may not be as much of an issue with a debut novel or a standalone, I was aware of what the struggle could be with a series, and I wanted to start down a path that would get my second book into my readers’ hands as quickly as possible.
2. Collaboration is Awesome
It’s not that authors who are published traditionally don’t collaborate, they certainly do, but one thing about self-publishing that really appealed to me was the ability to choose who I collaborated with. That was exciting (also nerve-wracking). I got to choose the designer of my cover art (Fiona Jayde Media) and the host for my website (WordPress) and my content editor (Katie McCoach Editorial) and my copy editor (Nikki with Katie McCoach). My hands are all over this book, every facet of it is sealed with some part of my blood, sweat and tears. But the marks of those who have touched it are there too, making it a unique creation.
3. Self-Publishing Pays Better
I write because I love writing. If no one read The Wheel Mages, I would still write. No one has read many of the manuscripts sitting on my hard drive, but that never stopped me from creating, and it never will. I am the best version of myself when I’m writing.
I publish to make money. It sounds harsh and unromantic, but it’s authentic. I have to pay my bills, the same as anyone else, and if I can do it with writing, that means I have more time to do what I love, which is writing and connecting with my readers.
In traditional publishing, writers can expect to see about 15% royalties (with a good deal). That means that if your publisher sells your book for $10.00, you’re only going to see $1.50 of that. In reality, a $10.00 book is probably a paperback and royalties on paperbacks are more like 10%, so the author is only going to see $1.00 of that. To make $50,000 a year (a round number for illustration), an author needs to sell 50,000 copies of his/her book.
The royalty rates in self-publishing are much higher. If an author uses Smashwords, for example, he/she gets 60% royalties (4 times more than a traditional publisher, for those keeping track). That means he/she can sell his/her books cheaper. (Bonus: This is also awesome for the reader). If the author price points his/her book at $5, he/she gets $3 of every book he/she sells. That means he/she can sell under 17,000 copies and still arrive at the same $50,000 per year.
The difference is huge.
Now, none of this means that I wouldn’t consider accepting a traditional publishing deal in the future. I don’t want to burn any bridges, or close any doors, but for right now, self-publishing is what works for me! And I hope it’s what works for you too!