Welcome to the third and final installment of my discussion on self-publishing. If you haven't already taken the time to read the first two posts (discussing how I got into self-publishing and the pitfalls of this route), be sure to go back and check them out here and here. And now, the benefits of self-publishing.
The Benefits (as I see them)
Higher royalties by cutting out the middle man. Many e-publishers and small presses (major publishers can sometimes be worse) will offer a 30-50% royalty on “net” (the amount they take in). Self-publishers can often make 35-75% (depending on various factors) off “gross” (or the sale price of the book). And with the e-publisher or small press, the “net” they receive is quite often the same amount you would have made yourself. For a $5 e-book, a 75% royalty would be $3.75. If you self-published, this entire amount would be yours. If you were signed with a publisher (ignoring those who also have to split another 15% with an agent), you’d potential make only 30% of this, or $1.13 for each copy. In essence, you’d have to sell three times as many books just to equal the same amount of money earned.
Total control over the product you’re selling. In self-publishing, because you take on all of the different roles (writer, editor, publisher, etc.), you have the final say on every aspect of the process. Don’t like the cover art? Change it. Want to reduce the price to spur sales? You set the book at whatever price you want, at any time you choose. Want to give away free copies to potential reviewers? You don’t have to wait for someone else to decide whether it’s worth the time or not.
Adapt your material whenever you want. With a regular publisher, once you’ve given your final edits, that’s it. If you find a glaring typo (or a major fact flub) that makes you cringe every time someone brings it up, you have no recourse. With self-publishing (mostly with e-books), you upload a new version, and it’s fixed. If you experience low sales, and think your book’s description may be to blame, you can punch it up and re-load to the online stores.
Getting your work to the public faster. Publishers can often take a full year or two to get a book from contract to the public. When self-publishing, you set the timetable. If you want to have your new book come out this year, and you put all the parts in place, you can do it. Heck, I was able to self-publish my novella Seeker, my novel The Cure, and a small three-story collection all in the course of a year (along with the publication of my eleven-story collection Dead or Alive from another publisher). My last Aston novel came out in January 2010, and if I choose to go with a small press, I could be another year or more before publication. Or I could choose to self-publish and have it out in a month (or less).
Ultimately, each author will have to make their own decision on how to proceed. It’s truly all about your goals, and how to achieve them. My personal recommendation to everyone, if you’re considering going into self-publishing, is to get some experience in publishing to make sure your books are at a level which publishers believe can sell. Learn what it takes to produce a book, get in tune with the technical aspects of editing and formatting a book, and learn all you can about marketing your book in today’s world. And if you’ve done all that, and still want to invest the time (and potentially money, depending on how much you’re doing yourself), decide for yourself whether it will be worth it to reach your goals.