The publishing world has changed dramatically over time, but especially since online self-publishing became popular. Viewed by many as inferior, publishing your own work can be intimidating. However, all those myths floating around about it don’t help the situation. To uncover the truth about self-publishing, we should explore some of the most prevalent myths.
20 July 2022
#WritersLife: Misconceptions about Self-Publishing
Misconception #1: You can only do one or the other
This is quite possibly the biggest myth. Just because you've decided to go with one route of publishing doesn't mean you can't give the other a whirl. There's a place for self-publishing and traditional publishing, and there are plenty of authors who have done both. Nowhere does it say that you can't self-publish one book and then look for a publishing house for the next one. It actually seems to become more common for traditionally published writers as well as independent ones, to explore the other side of publishing. Pitching the same book that you've already self-published, hoping for a book deal, is quite an unrealistic undertaking since publishing houses prefer manuscripts that no one has read before.
Misconception #2: Self-Publishing is less involved than traditional publishing
As the word "self-publishing" already indicates, the writer is publishing on his/her own. That means, there are no teams of editors, designers, agents, or marketers to turn to for assistance. It truly is a one-person show. Of course, you can invest some money and hire someone for the services mentioned earlier, but they aren't cheap. While pitching your book to a publisher takes up most of your time and energy when going the traditional route, you're on your own with self-publishing. The industry average is about two years before you can hold that precious creation in your hands if you're fortunate enough to land a book deal. While it is possible to get your book published and onto bookshelves sooner through self-publishing, you really shouldn't berate yourself if it should take you longer.
Misconception #3: Self-publishing is not real publishing
There are plenty of authors who are spontaneously drawn to self-publishing. Traditional publishing comes with its own set of problems. In most cases, many writers turn to self-publishing not as a last resort after their manuscript has been rejected, but it is a conscious choice. For me, it was just that: A choice! I was intrigued by the prospect of delving into all aspects of the publishing world. From writing a manuscript, to formatting, and creating a book cover and blurb. I find the whole process exhilarating. Whether you decide to give conventional publishing a whirl or turn to self-publishing, is up to you. Those are your choices, and I believe they are equally relevant. Not to mention that it's good to have options!
Misconception #4: Traditional publishers produce better books
It's not the publishing path that determines the quality of a book, but its contents. Just because a manuscript was accepted by a publishing house doesn’t automatically make it a literary masterpiece. I've read some "professionally" edited and published as well as independently published works that made me cringe, while I found others superb. Publishers choose books that suit their company and their objectives at that time. After all, book publishing is a business, and they want to make a profit.
Misconception #5: Only a traditionally published author can be successful
This is a very subjective statement, and it all hinges on your definition of "success". However, most of us would say that if you sell a lot of copies, then you are considered successful. The truth is that there is no magic formula that will guarantee that your book will make a lot of money. Writing and publishing a book is not a get-rich-quick and famous scheme; it's a labor of love.
Writing a book takes many hours and dedication. Often it takes an author away from their loved ones. Most writers get paid much less than you might think; most of them write because they love to tell a story. The one or two dollars they make in royalties per book barely buys that next cup of coffee that fuels the next chapter. It can take months and sometimes even years to write a book. It takes even longer to design the cover artwork, edit the contents, and then publish it. After that, most authors have to give up even more of their precious spare time to market and promote their book(s).
Money is one of the primary reasons why many storytellers turn to self-publishing. They don’t want to wait for publishers to decide on the fate of their manuscript, so they go it alone instead. It is possible to earn money both with self-publishing and traditional publishing. Still, as with everything in life, there are no guarantees.
Misconception #6: Only independent writers have to market their books
Marketing is an integral part of publishing (independent or traditional) unless you don't care whether your book(s) sells. While you do get some help when you go the traditional publishing route, you can't rely on your publisher to do all the work. When you self-publish, the burden solely lies on you to make the world aware of your newest publication.
The overall importance for an author to have an online presence has changed the face of marketing drastically. Nowadays, authors who want the world to know about their writings need a marketing strategy regardless of the publishing method. This means being active on social media, giving interviews (live or virtual), participate in blog hops, etc. This means you should start learning about marketing pronto, as you'll need to know in any case.
Misconception #7: Self-publishing is for writers without skills
What do Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf, have in common? Well, they are all bestselling fiction writers, with critical acclaim. But, did you know that they all, at one point or another, decided to self-publish? Self-publishing is not a new concept, and these powerhouses of publishing, all had their reasons to go the independent route. Mark Twain was an unknown author. Virginia Woolf wanted more creative control, and Jane Austen’s publisher was taking too long to print.
I genuinely believe that if you know how to use a computer competently, then you can figure out how to self-publish utilizing one of the many online publishing services. You might need some help along the way from an editor and maybe a talented artist to create a captivating book cover. It's okay to get some help.
Writing and publishing books is not a sprint, but a marathon. It takes time, and the more you write, the better you become. And perhaps you hit it big one day with your book(s), or maybe you won't. You won't know unless you try. If it's your dream to be a published writer and believe in your talent, then go for it, no matter which route you take.
Piper is the award-winning author of The Country Girl Empress series. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Medium, and Goodreads.
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