Saving time: why self-publishing wins over traditional publishing

Time. We never have enough of it. We all sometimes wish that there were more hours in the day, and we all sometimes look for ways we can save time. Publishing is no different. It’s something that takes time, but when it comes to this most precious of resources, self-publishing has the definite edge of traditional publishing. Here’s why.

It lets you get on with the job

Let’s say that you’ve decided to go down the traditional publishing route. First, you’ll most likely need to get an agent. That takes time. You’ll have to spend time researching the best agents, writing letters, and waiting for replies. Even with the best book in the world, some if not most of those replies are going to be rejections. Then, once you’ve got an agent, you need to find a publisher. More time, more waiting, more rejections, and no guarantee of a publishing deal at the end of it.

Contrast this with self-publishing. Sure, it might take you time to research self-publishing, decide how you want to go about it and get your book ready to publish – but you know that it will be published. And, instead of waiting for other people to get back to you and getting disheartened by rejections and/or a lack of response, you can just get on with the business of publishing your book, your way.

You can keep your own schedule

If you go for a traditional publisher, you’re going to have to fit in with their schedule. Even after getting a deal, it can be years before your book actually hits the shelves. This can be disheartening for authors, and it can also mean the originality has gone out of your book if someone else gets there with a similar theme first.

With self-publishing, however, the only schedule you have to keep is your own. If your book is ready to publish, you can publish it without having to fit in with a traditional publisher’s preferred release date. It means that if you’ve had a top-notch original idea, you can get it out there quickly – with any luck, before anyone else thinks of the same thing.

It also means that if you want to publish two or three books in a year, you can. Your time is your own. This means that you have a responsibility to use your time wisely – it can be easy to waste time when you’re your own boss – but it also gives you flexibility and the space you need to develop your writing career the way you want to.

When it comes to our valuable time, self-publishing wins. What do you think?


Making your own success in self-publishing

It would be lovely if, a couple of days after hitting the publish button on your new novel, it shot to the top of the bestseller charts and you could sit back and relax from your marketing.

In reality, this happens very rarely. It does happen, sometimes, for some authors. There’s nothing in particular to say why some books do amazingly well almost straight away and yet millions of others struggle to break through. It’s the nature of self-publishing. For most of us, any success we have with self-publishing will be down to us. We make our own success.

One of the big positives of this is that no one has more invested in seeing your book succeed than you do. You’ve taken the time to write it and perfect it and publish it, and you naturally want to see it do well. The trick is knowing how to use that desire and turn it into practical steps you can take to try and sell the book.

Self-publishing isn’t easy, but there are lots of ways for authors to promote their work and give it a shot at success. Success is, of course, never guaranteed, but I believe it is possible to achieve your goals if you put the work in. It means taking advantage of platforms such as social media to get your work out there to as big an audience as possible.

It might sound a bit too obvious to say ‘use Twitter and Facebook to promote your work and achieve your self-publishing goals’ because everyone says it these days, but everyone says it because they are genuinely useful platforms for self-publishers. For one thing, they’re free, and when you’re on a budget trying to make your own success, that counts for something.

You could say that books used to sell before the days of social media and you’d be right, but that would be to miss the point, which is that things have changed – marketing has changed, readers have changed, how we publish books has changed. To ignore social media as a self-publisher is a risky strategy. You can’t just rely on luck

It also pays to look where other authors’ success comes from. Most successful self-published authors will have more than one book out, and will be actively promoting themselves and their work on a regular basis. They’ll also have written books that people really want to read.
That can be the hardest thing of all to crack – it’s hard to know what people really want to read, and trends are changing all the time. That’s one of the reasons why there is always an element of luck involved in succeeding through self-publishing, but it’s also one of the reasons why the industry is so exciting. There are so many books still waiting to be written, and once they have been written, it’s up to us to help them succeed.

4 misconceptions about self-publishing

Just like any other industry, there are things people believe about self-publishing that aren’t really the case at all. Misconceptions are common, and they are sometimes held by self-publishers and would-be self-publishers themselves as well as readers. In the spirit of dispelling a few myths, read on for some of the most common myths about self-publishing.

Success can happen overnight

Sometimes it might seem as though an author has come out of nowhere to have a huge hit with a novel, but in reality, there isn’t really such a thing as an overnight success. Even if a self-published writer manages to hit the top of the bestseller list with their first novel, there will have been a huge amount of work beforehand. They will have spent months – if not years – writing their novel, and then more time perfecting it ready for publication.

There’s a joke about an overnight success that actually took ten years, and there’s more truth in this than there can sometimes seem.

It’s really easy

Some people – readers and writers – think that self-publishing is the easy way of doing things. It’s not. For one thing, writing a book is never easy. Publishing a book is also not quite as straightforward as simply uploading a document to Amazon, sitting back and waiting for the rewards.

It’s really hard

The other side of the “it’s really easy” coin are those who think that self-publishing is really hard. This can sometimes be the impression new writers have when they first start investigating self-publishing and come to realise it’s about more than writing a book and having a pretty cover. It isn’t always easy, but nor is it outrageously difficult. Many of the skills authors need for self-publishing they already have, and the ones they don’t can always be bought in if necessary.

Authors only self-publish because they couldn’t get a book deal

This has to be probably the most annoying self-publishing misconception. Some authors do self-publish because they were turned down by traditional publishers, but that doesn’t mean that their book is bad. It often just means that the publishers couldn’t see how the book would fit into their business and so decided not to take the risk.

Authors self-publish for lots of reasons. Some do it because their work is within a very specific niche, while others do it because they want the control and flexibility that the self-publishing model brings. What authors need to do now is make self-publishing recognised for the high quality work that so many of them are producing. It’s not all about having a traditional book deal anymore; self-publishing is now a valid, desirable option that should be a natural choice for all sorts of authors.


6 project management tips for self-publishers

As a self-publisher, you also effectively become a project manager, overseeing your novel from first draft to post-publication. With this in mind, I’ve put together a few thoughts and project management tips for self-publishers.

Keep control

The clue is really in the name: self-publishing. You are publishing your own book and are responsible for the entire process, so even if you bring others on board to help you with certain things, make sure you keep control over the decision-making.

Get organised

Being a good project manager means being organised about things; you need to know what needs to happen when to complete your book. You might also find yourself balancing working with a few different services at the same time, so you’ll need to work out how to juggle conflicting demands.

Know what you’re able to do yourself

The name self-publishing implies that you’ll be doing at least a fair proportion of the work yourself. It’s worth sitting down and deciding exactly what you can achieve yourself, as well as identifying gaps in your knowledge and skills that might need to be filled in by others. Self-publishing isn’t necessarily about using only your own resources; it’s more about using your resources as effectively as possible and knowing where someone else could do something more effectively than you.

Decide what you’re going to get others to do

Once you’ve decided where the gaps are, work out exactly what you’ll be asking others to help you with. For instance, do you need someone to give your book an in-depth edit, or simply someone to proofread? If you’re hiring a tech-minded person, will they need to sort out the formatting of your novel as well as the cover design?

Know your budget

You might not be able to control absolutely everything about self-publishing, but as a project manager it’s important to be on top of the finances. If you’re hiring outside help for certain aspects of the publishing process, shop around to get the best deals. It’s also worth deciding right at the beginning how much you can afford to spend as this will shape how you go about publishing your book. Self-publishing doesn’t have to cost a lot (especially not if you’re doing the vast majority of it yourself), but there are some costs you’ll need to be aware of.

Don’t scrimp on quality

As the author, self-publisher and project manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure the book you publish is as good as it can possibly be. Don’t settle for second best or something that’s probably good enough: it needs to be great. If things go wrong, fix them. If you think something could be better, make it better until you can’t make it any better. It’s your book, and while other people will undoubtedly be able to help you along the way, ultimately it’s down to you – so never scrimp on quality.

Your book didn’t sell – now what?

It’s so easy to spend so much time focused on the practicalities of self-publishing – what it involves and how to do it, for instance – that we can end up overlooking that rather obvious fact: most books aren’t bestsellers.

This, obviously, is something I’m sure most of us would prefer not to think about when we’re spending long nights poring over e-book formatting and trying to decide on the best pricing options for our books. We like to think that it will all end well.

Maybe it will. But, on the other hand, maybe it won’t. While it might in some ways be easier not to think about it, it is something that plenty of self-published authors will have to think about at some point.

If your book didn’t sell as well as you had hoped – now what?

  • Read your reviews, as they can sometimes offer an insight into at least some of the reasons your book hasn’t done too well. If many of them mention typos or gaping plot holes, for instance, you’ll know that part of the problem is down to the book itself. If your reviews are generally good but sales are poor, the issues are likely to lie elsewhere.
  • Review your marketing. Successful marketing isn’t just down to how much time you put into it – it’s about how well you targeted it and how much impact it had. Endlessly telling your Twitter followers to buy your book, for instance, is unlikely to work as well as engaging them with interesting content and working to make them interested in both you and your book. Not doing any marketing at all isn’t likely to help matters, either.
  • Remember that a lot of it is down to luck. You could do absolutely everything right – write a great book, self-publish it properly, market it well, spend lots of time and effort on it – and still not sell very many copies. Sometimes, there isn’t a logical explanation as to why one book does well while another one isn’t even noticed by readers. It’s just the way it is, and the best thing to do about it is to write another great book – because this one could be the one.

What do you think?