Self Publishing vs. Publishing

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To sign or not to sign, that is the question. Everyone seems to have an opinion  about this, nowadays, yet, no-one’s truly addressing the real questions. It’s  easy, from an egotistical standpoint: why split my money with someone else  when I can keep it all for myself?.  And, this is especially true, when it takes  only a couple hundred bucks to go from manuscript to ebook, then, pay a  small bit for promotions, with the over-all intent that successful ebook sells  will lead to a (paperback) book printing budget, at which point you’ll sell  hand-to-hand, build a buzz, then formulate a “take over” while paying  relatively no start-up costs, overhead, office expenses or taxes. Verily,  verily, verily, life is but…
Not to say that dreams don’t come true, or that hard work and effort don’t pay off. I’m only saying that there’s a point where dreams and reality must confront each other or else it’s just a fantasy. And, many of us are living in a fantasy world; one step never quite leading to the next. Perpetually trapped at a stand-still, with nothing more than an ebook link and cover graphic to show for it.
While I am personally signed to Dc Bookdiva Publications and Ben Official Books, it is in no way my intentions, here, to advocate one way or the other, but, simply to offer an open and honest understanding of both options, and what the overall choices entail. It seems kinda dry, to hear people shout about do this or do that, without rightly explaining the overall challenges or taking an author’s, most times limited, budget and reserved introvertedness, into account.
Writing is a lonely job. Most writers are loners but a writer’s success is not measured by the greatness of his/her writing. For, just as the most intelligent kid isn’t always the most popular or successful, there’s a-whole-nother something which must be taken into account. Some might call it the “it factor” but, more specifically: writing a book and making it a bestseller are entirely two different things, for, you see, selling is an extrovert’s job. It’s that stand in front of a crowd “Hey you. Over here!” Approach that gets some noticed, while others are simply ignored. Now, to look at the points of money and distribution.
  The cost to create and launch an ebook is relatively nothing at all. Especially where so many simply skip the editing process, go with the most basic/inexpensive cover, pay a little bit for social media marketing and then spread the word to their family and friends. Printing/publishing and selling a paperback, however, is a-whole-nother thing, with a slew of other costs, especially if it is to be done right. These costs include, though are not limited to, the costs of bar codes, ISBNs, book printing, print advertisements, book shipping, packaging, storage, accounting, business/corp. start-up, opening business bank accounts, office services/record keeping etc. Not to mention the countless hours needed to network and develop meaningful

distribution channels. These costs and distribution networks are where a publisher’s meaningfulness is found.
Ebook publishers are everywhere. Everyone and their monkey can get signed to an ebook deal. If you’ve got a book, an ebook publisher will take you on, do a quick test read (call it an edit), split the book into 3 to 4 parts (.99, 1.99, 3.99) slap a cover on it and let’s go!  You’ll see your ebook posted and links floating within 30 to 60 days, for 33 to 50% of the profits. What do you gain? The chance to be a part of a large team (usually 15-30 or more authors) who all come in with their own family, friends and legions of followers. These team members will repost your links and yell salute, Salute, SALUTE!  And, you won’t have to worry about the little start-up costs either. So, it’s a pretty hassle-free, fun and exciting trip.  However, though ebook publishers seem to do okay over time, based on their shear ability to continuously crowd the market with new material and new authors almost every other week, the same can not be said for the ebook author who quickly comes, then, goes, relegated to go sit in a corner, write a part 2, 3, 4 and yell SALUTE, SALUTE, SALUTE for their next team member in rotation. At least, I don’t personally know of any such ebook author who’s managed to quit their day job and live off of the profits. For this crowd, writing is not a career, but, merely an after work hobby that gets them a bit of spare change and gives them a cool group to hang out with on line.
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 The paperback publisher, dare I say, is a-whole-nother animal entirely. It’s not just  about who can cover the print costs or who has the largest following on Facebook or  Twitter. A paperback publisher must be more selective, for, they must be willing to  go out there on the limb and risk their money and their name on your product. Look  at it this way, if a book flops the author can shrug and move on, but, all of the books which don’t sell, the publisher  gets stuck with while also tarnishing their brand, image and trust in the eyes of the  book sellers in their distribution network. Thus, they are not so quick to skimp on  costs such as cover designs or editing, as they intrinsically understand that what sells  on Facebook is NOT necessarily what sells in stores.  And, that there’ll be no team of  people standing by to yell salute this or hashtag that to encourage the purchase.  Unlike the .99 ebook craze, which is more like handing a friend or a panhandler a dollar, for a book they’ll probably never read, paperback buyers are a lot more picky and determined to find a good book. They are spending top dollar and they demand to get their moneys worth.

So, in a nut shell, it depends on how far you want to go, how big a network you have, what type of product you’re bringing and what kind of distribution you have available to you. To sign or not to sign?  Ebooks or paperbacks?  Remember (all costs considered) 10% of 5000 paperback copies sold, adds up to a lot more than 1000 ebooks, or even 1000 paperbacks sold on your own (minus all print, shipping, returns and other costs) and, then, there are those who simply don’t have the time to properly build and push a brand/book as a business or those who are trapped in a cage, or otherwise restricted. In those cases, getting signed is a dream come true. There’s a lot to consider, but, in the end, it’s all about what works for you. However, if you do choose to get signed, be sure to look for someone you can trust and someone with the distribution network to get your book on shelves and not just have you yelling BUY MY BOOK on Facebook.
Trust me, it happens.

Wesley “Godfather” Hunter

“GODFATHER” Hunter is an incarcerated author from Los Angeles, Ca. He has  written several books covering a variety of genres, to include self-help/how-to/advisory, autobiography, poetry, urban romance, erotica and street lit. Godfather has even taught urban lit during his many years of incarceration. He makes an added effort to lace his writings with history, social-political consciousness and other such pearls of wisdom while penning  in a style which many have compared to the likes of James Patterson, John Grisham and Michhael Connelly.

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7 thoughts on “Self Publishing vs. Publishing”

  1. I really appreciate the insight on today’s blog. “Self Publishing vs Publishers”.
    It just reiterated what I’ve researched on starting my own publishing company. As well as opened my eyes a little more to e-books.

  2. Bar codes are free, print ads are unnecessary, ANY author who is hoping to make a career of publishing should have a business account, whether trad or indie published, as well as understand how to do basic record-keeping. I’m a successful self-publisher who is not incorporated – it’s quite sufficient to do business as a sole proprietor with a DBA – again, something that EVERY author should be doing, regardless of how they are publishing. POD books (which every small press uses any more) have no “print run” cost and no storage costs.

    Distribution networks? Amazon KDP, B&N NookPress, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play. No “networking” needed.

    Sounds like you’re still stuck in a print-world mentality, which is fine, but I do encourage you to look past your prejudices at the real world of successful self-publishing.

  3. “At least, I don’t personally know of any such ebook author who’s managed to quit their day job and live off of the profits. ”

    You may not personally know anyone who has earned enough money as an ebook author to quit their day job but I can assure you that I know many such authors personally. And I’m one of them.

    Let me first say that publishing, whether through traditional publishering (which I have also done) or through self publishing, requires the author to be a savvy business person. Not just a creative mind. I have been published in hardcover and paperback. I took bad contracts from long established book publishers in the past as a way to build my career. These things I did with my eyes open, knowing I might not be one of those top 1% of the authors who get all the attention and marketing muscle from their publisher. But I wanted to build my name. It was only when I started self publishing that I started making 4 times a year what I made total between both of the publishers I published with, and I hit the New York Times and USA Today Bestsellers List. And trust me, I didn’t make the NYTs list by FB peddling or begging my family and friends to buy my self published book. I did it using many of the same marketing techniques that publishers use to push their books onto the lists to give those books traction.

    This is not a matter of whether to self publish or take a contract. Each and every author needs to weigh their choices and decide which choice makes the most sense for their career. You are not going to capture the ebook market by having a book on the shelf in Walmart for a month. You’re not going to capture the paperback market by having a Createspace book up no matter how many copies of that ebook sold. But you can make a decision to spread your work out through traditional publishing and self publishing to capture both, if that’s what you’re after. You can build your readership through one or both publishing mediums.

    You talk about paperback buyers being picky? Half of my ebooks sell for $3.99. Walmart sold my paperbacks of the same length for $3.46. I’ve sold more copies of my ebooks at that price than my paperbacks sold. In 2 1/2 years, I’ve sold almost a half million books. I didn’t twist anyone’s arm. I’m sure the person who buys my book at Amazon for $3.99 is just as discerning as the paperback reader who buys a book at Walmart.

    “10% of 5000 paperback copies sold, adds up to a lot more than 1000 ebooks”

    Why not use apples to apples here? I don’t get your reasoning for inflating the paperback number by 5x. Paperback numbers are shrinking for all but the top authors who get the big marketing pushes. There are a lot of authors who are seeing ebook sales rise while seeing paperback sales tank. And I don’t know any traditional publishers giving out 10% of paperback anymore unless it’s trade.

    And while I’m at it, most publishers are pushing their authors to do more and more of that “buy me” type selling you talk about on social networks. You don’t get away from that by being traditionally published.

    I can appreciate your wanting to bring light to the subject. It just sounds a little too one sided and fails to acknowledge there are plusses and minuses on both sides.

    Lisa Mondello

  4. Choose to get signed? There’s no choosing to be signed by a big house publisher. The reality is only 1 in 60,000 manuscripts get chosen by one of the big six publishing houses according to my research. Some authors simply want to realize a dream. I think dream acquisition is the reason for the eBook craze. I think the point that gets lost is that people have something to say, a story to share or a message to convey. While formalities matter, it’s basically about the story or message.

    Another reality is that publishing will never be the same. Might as well roll with the times, and make every effort to get better for it. My suggestion is to keep writing and publishing your work. It can only get better with time. I agree. Why pay someone else to tell YOUR story? Publishers mostly make money off the concept of your book. Their job is to make you relevant while they profit. (Think about the music industry. it’s no different.) Nothing wrong with this, however, I’ve read some bestselling authors and wondered why they were bestsellers. I believe it has to do with the title of the book as the writing was less than stellar. Publishers, like music execs, jump at the opportunity for a cash cow. They can make anyone relevant whether the body of work is the best or not.

    The CLIQUE publishing world as we know it, is not really changing. If anything it is getting worse. Even bestselling authors are getting hip to the game and are choosing to self-publish. Also, how do you tell someone to put off their dreams because of formalities? You don’t. Failure is part of success. The point is to start. Finally, for authors who choose to write what you have to say, and if you think it is important enough, write it, clean it up and market the hell out of it!

    Marketing is every authors magic wand!

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