The Publishing Shakedown: Self-Publishing Fair and Balanced

Self-publishing a book guarantees creative freedom, offers quick turnaround, and ensures high profitability; but it also requires prepping the book for press, fulfilling orders and a sizable investment.  Let’s take a glance at some of self-publishing’s rewards and downsides:

  • With self-publishing, authors own all the rights to their books – both editorial and creative.  That means they can make a movie of it.  They can sell it in other countries.  They can create other products based on it, from calendars to audio books to DVDs.
  • Another plus of self-publishing is that books can be printed very quickly.  Turnaround can be less than six weeks, as opposed to the nine months to two years typical for traditional publishing.
  • Profitability is very high for the self-published author. The average self-published book enjoys a profit margin of at least 70 to 75 percent per copy.  Some super hot sellers enjoy a profit margin of 90 to 95 percent!  The cost is only $5 or $6 per book, and authors can turn around and sell the book for $20.

Now for a few of the downsides that can sometimes accompany self-publishing:

  • A do-it-yourself mindset might be handy when it comes to modest home improvements, but it can turn into a nightmare when it comes to self-publishing.  You have to do the editing, design and formatting – which is a red flag, because doing these things yourself rather than relying on experts can seriously compromise quality.  Are you a professional graphic designer or a dynamic professional speaker?  Even if you contract these out, you might be guided by the dollar bill rather than by quality and expertise.
  • Then there’s order fulfillment.  You have to implement a toll-free telephone number dedicated to taking book sale orders – and you have to take those orders yourself.  This involves everything from processing credit cards (which you also have to obtain the infrastructure for) to standing in line at the post office.  Then of course, there’s also taking orders at speaking engagements, not to mention hauling your inventory there.  Are you a professional consultant or a secretary?
  • That also doesn’t include renting warehouse space to store all your copies.  The do-it-yourself strategy can easily devour all your time.
  • Up-front print runs for self-publishing usually involve a minimum of 2,500 copies.  In other words, self-publishing requires the author to pay for the product before customers agree to buy it.  (At Dell, for example, they manufacture computers only when customers order them.)  That means you have an up-front, out-of-pocket immediate cost of $15,000 to $20,000 and no guarantee of success.  There’s no such thing as “we will build it and they will come.”  If there is no marketing plan, there is no guarantee all the copies will sell.  And if all the copies don’t sell, where will they end up?  If you don’t rent storage space, they’ll end up in your garage, in your closet, and in your living room.  If your garage is full of books, where will you park your car?
  • Finally, there’s the time involved.  From the minutia of order fulfillment to the grand scheme of distribution, selling a self-published book can use up inordinate chunks of time.  This takes time away from developing new clients and time away from scheduling more speaking engagements.

Although self-publishing provides creative freedom, short press time, and high profits, it also requires a large investment of the author’s time.

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