by John Peragine
I recently spoke on a virtual panel for the American Society of Journalists and Authors annual conference on why people should consider self-publishing, and why now may be one of the best times to consider doing it. I have broken down the six thoughts to consider into the acronym "WRITER."
Why Self Publish
We are in a new world of publishing. The old ways of publishing are no longer valid. Even before Covid-19, the world of traditional publishing was in trouble. Some of the big publishing houses are being bought out for their lack of relevance and performance. They often focus on their famous money-making authors and leave the first time authors to fend for themselves. Big advances are almost the thing of legends and myths.
Covid-19 only made matters worse. We have large book chains like Barnes and Noble against the ropes, and the smaller bookstores are closing. The big “A” while necessary, is considered a monopoly, and within the next few years, the way people buy, interact, and read books will change even more.
The great news is that self-publishing has become the standard for many authors, even those who had been successful in the past by using traditional publishing houses. Self-publishing is accessible to anyone and is becoming more accepted among readers and critics.
Research Your Options
There are many different types of publishing that range from traditional to Fully-Vested self-published. Some authors need help with the production aspects - cover, editing, interior design, and distribution. You don’t have to go it alone.
- Fully-Vested Self-Publishing: This type of publishing requires the author to do all of the items necessary to publish a book. Because they fulfill all the roles and therefore maximize their returns. This type of publishing can be tricky for those unfamiliar with book production or lack specific graphic design skills.
- Assisted Publishing: The author uses freelance editors and designers or works through a service like 99designs.com to help them with different production and publishing tasks.
- Hybrid Publishing: This is a crossover between self-publishing and traditional publishing. There are all sorts of models and companies out there. Authors should be wary of “vanity presses,” as they often say they are a Traditional or Hybrid Press. They usually require you to buy your books, and most everything is pay to play. These sorts of publishing houses make their money on the services you pay for, and take a big chunk of your royalties as well. They often lack any backend services, such as a proven marketing and PR plan. Some of the less reputable companies promise “best seller” status, but what they mean is a bump on Amazon for two hours in a subcategory. Do your research!
- Coop Publishing: L’Oste Vineyard Press (my company) is this type of publisher. We invest our own money into a project alongside the author. The focus is the backend: a healthy marketing plan to recoup the investment and to share in a tidy profit. Instead of charging the author money for services on the front end as a markup, the publisher pays for a percentage of the cost to produce the book. In a coop-publishing deal, the publisher does not make any profit on the upfront costs.
Interview Your Team
It is essential to hire the right freelancers or services company to help you with your book. There is not only a monetary investment, but there is also your reputation as an author to consider. Do your due diligence and treat people's hiring to do your covers and editing like you would any other job hiring situation. Ask for a resume and recommendations. Ask questions, and then some more questions. If they don’t want to answer, can’t answer, or you discover that their information is incorrect, then you may want to consider hiring someone else.
Negotiate your terms, and ALWAYS have them sign a contract. It doesn’t matter what they promise; it only matters what is written and signed.
People are often relieved when they complete their drafts. Whew- they are done. I always say the real work hasn’t started yet. When you self-publish, you become the CEO of your company called your book. Not only are you the CEO, but you are in charge of every aspect, from font choice to wholesale discounts. Because you are in control, you are the one responsible for your book's success. Your name is on the cover, and so whether it succeeds or fails, you are responsible. That is why it is essential to hire the right people to help give your book the best shot possible.
The good news is- you decide the title, the cover, the release date, and everything related to your book. And you keep the full amount of the net royalties rather than the average 5-15% offered by traditional publishing houses.
Establish Your Brand
I tell my clients all the time: you are selling YOU, the author rather than your book. It is crucial to create a brand that is consistent, visible, and engaging. This includes your color schemes, your bio, your headshot, your website, and more. You want to create a brand that will sell any future book that you write.
Establishing and growing a brand takes work and sometimes money to accomplish. This process begins at the moment that you decide to write your book. Begin with your social media channels and your webpage. Let people know who you are, what you write, and get them excited about what you are working on. Building a fanbase begins months before a book is released.
Brand development is the one area, with a few exceptions, that traditional publishers do not spend much time or money on. They are relying on you to come up with your marketing plan. So if you are going to be the one to promote your work and connect with readers, it is making less sense for many authors to allow a traditional publisher to keep the lion’s share of the royalties.
Rinse, Repeat, and Revenue
All of what I have mentioned takes time, planning, assistance, and a budget. You get to decide each of those things.
- Series and multiple book authors do better than many one-book authors.
- Consider taking some of the profits you make off one book to begin investing in the next one.
- The more books that you self-publish, the more confident and cost-effective you become.
- You will figure out what works and what doesn’t. Give yourself time. Never rush the launching of a book.
- The best results occur when you allow 4-6 months from the time you finish your draft to launch.
Don’t listen to everyone who gives you their “expert” advice. Seek out the experts, and then decide what works best for you. Remember, you are in charge and responsible for your book.
What have your self-publishing experiences been like? What are your fears about self-publishing? Failures? Successes? Please share them with us down in the comments!
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John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.
John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His newest book, Max and the Spice Thieves, will be released Spring 2021. https://www.facebook.com/twilightdjinn/