(Articledashboard.com) I’m often asked by authors whether they should seek publication with a major publishing house or self-publish. Given the industry changes over the past 20 years, I almost always recommend self-publishing. Here’s why:
1) SAVE TIME. Most commercial publishers work on an 18-24 month production cycle. Self-publishing will take only 2-4 months once your manuscript is completed. This becomes especially important for time-sensitive material.
2) KEEP CONTROL. Self-publishing gives you total control of your book. Commercial publishers are interested in your book as a money-making property and may have less allegiance than you to the integrity of the work. If you are unwilling to have changes made to the title, the contents, the illustrations of your work, or feel you can’t live with a possible sensationalizing of it, you’ll want to retain the control that self-publishing offers.
3) BIGGER PROFITS. A large publisher will finance your project, but may only offer a 5-15% royalty. Since most authors have to do their own promoting anyway, why not self-publish and earn a 40 to 400% margin? Ironically, self-publishing has become one of the surer roads into a major publishing house. If your self-published book becomes a hit, publishers will come calling. So after raking in 40-400% on your initial self-published printing, you will have the upper hand in negotiating the sale of second printing rights to your book.
4) SOLE OWNERSHIP. As a self–publisher, you own all rights to your book. If you use a traditional publisher, the publishing house will own the rights to your book. They will decide how long it will stay on bookstore shelves (usually 3 to 6 months). If they lose interest in it, you won’t be able to print additional copies unless you purchase back these rights.
5) FILLING A NICHE. You may not be able to interest a major publisher in your book if it deals with a special topic with a limited market. Books that deal with educational material or specific religious themes, hobbies, or other interests which generate limited interest in the national market, for instance, may not be found in the mass market because the demand for them may not be great enough a warrant a large press run. Yet your book may fill a niche that has not been met. You can test the market with a short-run printing. If you already understand or are willing to learn about that market, you can target it precisely. You won’t need to print a million copies to make a profit, because you’ll be likely to sell every book you print.
6) LOCAL ADVANTAGE. Books about local or regional topics, i.e., historical books about certain towns, projects, localities, etc., are generally produced by local authors in short-run quantities. Large publishers are unlikely to publish such books because of their limited sales potential.
7) BE IN PRINT. Making money is not the only reason to publish. Sharing what you have leaned or leaving a legacy to your family are other admirable motives. So is offering hope or inspiration to others who face a situation you have successfully dealt with. A book is an expression of yourself and a gift to others.
AVOID THE CHAOS. Publishing companies are merging like medfield in mating season. In the final months of 1998, Random House, Bantam, Doubleday, Dell, Holt, St. Martin’s and Farrar Straus Giroux were all German owned. British companies held Putnam, Viking and Addison Wesley, and an Australian company controlled Harper Collins. (some have been sold or traded to other international conglomerates since then.) Then Barnes & Noble bought Ingram, not a month after they had themselves sold 50% of barnsandnoble.com to Bertelsmann. Along with these acquisitions, of course, comes policy and personnel changes. It’s hard to know who is publishing what these days, and who works where. Manuscripts can get lost in limbo during this game of musical chairs.