I can tell this is a topic that is on people’s minds. This question is representative of a number of ones I’ve received relating to the quickly changing publishing world—specifically the advantages/disadvantages of self-publishing.
Ebook sales have risen astronomically in the last two years so that now they’re surpassing the sales of print books in many (if not most) categories. Self-publishing is becoming easier than ever before and doesn’t carry the stigma that it used to.
Since I’ve worked with traditional publishers (ones that pay you money up front to write your book) on all of my books, I’m not an expert on all the ins and outs of self-publishing. But I can give you a few observations.
Self-published books are usually more poorly written. In traditional publishing there are gatekeepers who weed out poor writing—agents, editors, publication boards and so on. Then, once the book is accepted, it is copyedited and proofread, typically by two or three people, before it is bound and published. That’s not to say that all traditionally published books (or ebooks) are better written than self-published books, but honestly, most are. Which brings us to #2:
If you self-publish your book, nearly all bookstores will refuse to carry it. They know about the gatekeepers, and they are going to go with them. It’s just the way it is, and it’s probably not going to change any time soon.
You will write fewer books if you self-publish. Books sell when they are marketed. That means that if you self-publish a book and you want it to be successful, you’ll have to spend a lot of time, money, and resources marketing it rather than working on your next book. If that’s something you want to do, you might find success self-publishing.
The odds are still stacked against you. You’ll hear stories about someone who self-published a book and it sold 500,000 copies, but for every book that does that there are hundreds of thousands that sell only a few hundred or a few thousand copies. Over 95% of all books published sell fewer than 10,000 copies and that is even more true of self-published books.
Last winter, to test the waters, I self-published an exclusive e-short story on Amazon called “Second Thoughts.” In nine months I’ve made about $400 on the story. Not much. And that’s from someone who already has nearly three dozen books published.
Frankly, I could care less if someone read my book off a sheet of paper or a computer screen or a chalkboard or a sidewalk, as long as I can make a living doing what I do.
Ebooks are here to stay, but so are print books.
I don’t think that the tipping point has come yet where self-publishing makes more sense than going with a traditional publisher.