October 9th, 2020

Six Self-Publishing Considerations

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 The old ways of publishing are no longer valid.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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.

Take Control

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.

Remember:

  • 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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About John

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is PeragineHeadshot2019.jpg

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 EnthusiastGrapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MaxandtheSpiceThieves_3d-e1592191298252.png

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/

14 responses to “Six Self-Publishing Considerations”

  1. Terry Odell says:

    Good advice, but I have one caveat.

    "Consider taking some of the profits you make off one book to begin investing in the next one."
    I would suggest that new authors understand they may not see any profit for quite some time. It's an investment. Like paying student loans, or going to med school. I would reword that one to say "set aside a % of the royalties earned" rather than 'profit.'

    I got into indie publishing when it first came into being, and wouldn't consider a traditional deal at this point, but a lot of that has to do with time. I'm too old to deal with the pace of traditional publishing.

    • John Peragine says:

      Is there a pace of traditional publishing these days? Sometimes I wonder if there is a pulse! I say profits because you have to consider the royalties, especially early on, do not represent a profit. Like you said, it is a slow process and a break-even point that could be months (years) away. If a book takes off by the grace of the publishing gods, I am suggesting not to buy a trip to Tahiti, rather take that money to finance the next project. I do see some wisdom in saving a percentage of your royalties even from the beginning, but I would say that slows down your break-even point. I am a huge proponent of selling books well and targeting ways to do that early on.

  2. Good tips, but the angle on one advantage traditional publishing brings (brick and mortar sales) isn't accurate. Independent bookstore openings have actually been growing over the last decade. The effect of the pandemic on businesses overall is devastating, and the jury's not in on where the fallout may be for bookstores--but at least for now, communities seem to be rallying around their community bookstore. B&N has a new CEO and again, jury's not in as to what will happen to this company, but some are hopeful it can go the Waterstone's way. If you self-publish you will gain some significant pros, but you will lose most access to brick and mortar sales, which, speaking as an author, are quite significant.

    • John Peragine says:

      Many of my favorite indie bookstores I loved have either gone totally out of business, or they have tried to go totally virtual. I am not sure why you say that you lose access to brick and mortar, especially if you go through Ingram, which at the moment is the only major distributor in town. You would have access to all brick and mortar. Now, an author who self-publishes will have to do some direct contacts to bookstores and libraries, but this is true even for Trad publishing. I hope B&N makes it, but earlier this year they closed 400 of the 624 stores and furloughed many employees. I hope this holiday season helps- but with Covid I'm not so sure. B&N has not been profitable in years, and the BIGGEST issue is Trad Publishers- they push and pay for book placement of books people don't necessarily want. I believe communities should rally around their local book stores. Indiebound.org and Bookshop.org are great places to buy and list books as part of the proceeds go directly to indie bookstores.

  3. KJ Ivany says:

    Wonderful article with some great tips! I’ve self-published three books with plans for a few more. I love the process!

  4. Jenny Hansen says:

    I know that I will be self-publishing my memoir so a post like this is an awesome resource. Thank you!

  5. I couldn't agree more with "...give yourself time. Never rush the launching of a book." This is a concept many first-time book authors have a hard time grasping—especially in this world where we expect "instant return."

    As a nonfiction editor and writing coach, I always stress to my clients the need to read and be informed about the industry (traditional, self, hybrid publishing) and learn about ALL the options available. Writers should take the time to research where to publish in their genre, the (optimal) marketing work involved for that type of book, the ideal (yet realistic) venues, come up with a reasonable budget to spend on each phase, make a written plan, and then make wise choices.

    Self-publishing isn't solely about the monetary investment, but the time investment, the emotional investment, and also what SUCCESS MEANS TO YOU. Do you define success as high sales? Recognition? Speaking Invitations? Good royalties? Long-term royalties? Closure? Breaking even? Fan base? We all define success and ROI differently, and choosing the way we want to self publish is tied directly into the type of success we are looking for and the work we are willing to do.
    Writing the book is the easy part. Marketing and selling it is the hard part. And it's all part of the writing experience and shouldn't be taken lightly.

    Figuring this stuff out takes time, and in my experience, the successful authors are the ones that have done their research and have a plan of action that include where to self-publish and why.

  6. Eldred Bird says:

    I have no regrets about self publishing. The game has really changed in the last few years. Public perception of self published books has improved as the quality has gone up with indie authors now having easier access to good editors, formatters, and cover artists. Having access to distribution channels other than the big A has also helped to drive things. Getting into the Ingram catalog has been a huge boost.

  7. dholcomb1 says:

    I've only been with small press, but I would consider self-publishing. I know several authors doing well with it.

    Until they change the antitrust laws, companies like "A" can do what they want.

    denise

  8. Jacquolyn McMurray says:

    Thanks for the tips. Like Terry Odell, I'm too old to publish on a traditional publishers' timeline.

  9. Kris says:

    Thanks, John, for the clear references for lolking at publishing options.

    I'm truly in shopping mode for my draft that is in editing phase 1 after reading this. Especially after having a fairly nonplus experience with a small trad pub.

    Whatbis your take on shopping for an agent? Is ut worth it these days?

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