If you re an unpublished author with a manuscript you're polishing up, you ve dreamed about getting it published. You'd probably love to publish your book in the traditional way. Ambitious dreamers even dream of an advance   a publisher has so much faith in your abilities, your vision and ideas, they actually pay you to research and finish your book.

In your dream, once your manuscript is finished, the publisher is waiting enthusiastically in the wings, ready to clothe it in a beautiful cover, at their expense, and distribute it to bookstores throughout the country, and even the world. You will travel the world at the publisher s expense, doing book signings to promote your book. Then comes the movie deal, which assures your success for years   and since we re dreaming, let s make it for life.

Self-publishing through online book publishers is a relatively new concept. Most of us who have played the road-to-literary-success dream over and over in our heads didn t frame it around the concept of self-publishing. So authors who go the self-publish route might have to redefine the dream somewhat, even though it takes some of the glamour out of it. After all, Faulkner, Steinbeck and Hemingway didn t self-publish. Neither did more contemporary favorites like Stephen King, Alice Munro, Ray Bradbury and Cormac McCarthy. And aren t those the literary figures we want to emulate?

Self-publishing may not be the way we envisioned literary success, but for those of us who either choose or are compelled to go that route, there are distinct advantages to publishing your own manuscript.

Success Stories

Though not exactly the norm, self-publishing success stories are not hard to find. The hit movie  The Conjuring  was inspired by the true story of self-published author Andrea Perron and her  House of Darkness, House of Light  series. Despite her success, Perron is still self-publishing and is about to release volume three of her series through Author House. You have to think a book deal with a traditional publisher would at least be an option for an author with her demonstrated success, but perhaps self-publishing provides Perron with the freedom she desires to tell the story her way.

Another success story is the smash hit, much-spoofed  Fifty Shades of Grey  series, which began as a self-published eBook before it was picked up by Vintage books in March of 2012. We all know the end of that story.

Self-Publishing Pros & Cons

Exploring the pros and cons of self-publishing is a worthwhile journey for any author who is serious about dusting off the manuscript and seeing if it s a road worth traveling down. Here are some pros and cons to consider:


Anyone can publish: Writers who may not otherwise be discovered can find an audience and possibly get book deals to begin publishing the traditional way. Traditional publishers more and more are looking to publish books that have already proven they have sales potential in the self-publishing market. So making the leap from self-publishing to signing with a mainstream publisher may become increasingly common.

Set your own price: Since self-published books are sold as eBooks first, with print-on-demand options, you can set prices much lower than the average eBook released through a traditional publisher. Authors are generally encouraged to charge between $1 and $4 to increase the sales potential. One would hope this would buck the trend of overpriced mainstream eBooks, but so far there is little evidence that it s having much impact.

Higher royalties: You can get paid higher royalties and get paid once a month instead of twice a year as with most traditional publishers.

Publish fast: The traditional route can take years to publish your book. Self-publishing often takes a matter of weeks once you have a polished manuscript.

Freedom: You can write the book your way, without the restrictions of traditional publishers. You can pay someone to edit it and work closely with them to mold the manuscript the way you envision it. You also have more of a say on the cover design and other features.

Revisability: Making changes to your eBook is easy. If you see things that need to be changed you can resubmit the manuscript with revisions. You can also change the cover design and layout. Some publishers, like Lulu and CreateSpace, have tools that let you update the cover design for free or very cheap.


Publishing expenses: You pay someone to publish your manuscript instead of getting paid. While some online publishers allow you to publish for free, extra services like editing and cover design don t come cheap. You can outsource those services to save money, or do some of them yourself, but it s all on you.

Marketing expenses: You pay for marketing and distribution services that a traditional publisher would mostly handle, or you can do the marketing yourself.

Copy quality: The quality of self-published books often suffers when compared to traditional publishers. As an example, if you look at the comments on Amazon for Andrea Perron s  House of Darkness, House of Light  series, many readers complain about the lack of competent editing. (I ve had the same thought about some of the self-published books I ve read.) With a good editor, it sounds like Perron s trilogy may have been better suited for a single tight volume, eliminating a lot of superfluous material. Nonetheless, you have to admire her success.

Lower interest: Since self-published eBooks account for less than 10 percent of the book market, the sales potential is far lower than that of traditionally published books. There are ways to dramatically improve the sales potential for your book, and you can pay for marketing services to help with this, but it s up to you to find ways to get your books seen and sold.

Getting your manuscript accepted by a traditional publisher is a daunting task, as just about any successfully published author will attest. If you can get it accepted, you are in the minority, but traditional publishers take a lot of the burden off of the author s shoulders. Going the self-publishing route opens the field for countless authors who wouldn t otherwise be published, which in itself is a beautiful thing. While self-publishing isn t easy and can be costly, having the right contacts and skillset can go a long way in terms of making it more affordable and less headache-inducing. The potential for publishing quality books the way you want them has never been better. It will take a concerted effort to get there, but it s well worth it.

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