So you’re thinking about self-publishing, or “indie” publishing, your book.
Welcome. Glad you’re here. You’re in good company.
I’ve self-published all of my 7 books, and it’s been a heck of a ride.
Also, you’re in for quite an experience — it’s challenging (to say the least), somewhat nerve-wracking, and not always what it’s cracked up to be.
But I still believe in the process, and so should you.
Here are 25 reasons why:
The biggest reason to self-publish in my mind is control. As a self-published author, it’s in my blood to be somewhat (okay, a lot) of a control freak. I’m a “DIYer” by nature, and I “hack” stuff to figure it out and use it.
Books are no different, and I knew that I wanted to be in control of the whole process of producing a book, if only to know how it’s done. I’m glad I did — while I don’t have the marketing clout of a major publishing house behind me, I’m in full control of my books. I get to decide how they look, feel, and how to market them, and I have the final say (or only say) in what I do with them.
One of the coolest things about completely owning a process like self-publishing is that there’s an amazingly quick learning curve — after only one book, you’ll have a great idea of how everything works together. As you gain experience you can add in different elements, like producing an audiobook through ACX or reworking the book into a screenplay. In two years’ time you can be proficient enough to launch a full-fledged self-publishing company!
Self-publishing is really fun. Seriously, that’s all I have to say.
4. You’ll become a better writer
By becoming a self-published author, you’re basically saying your work stands up for itself. If it doesn’t, it won’t sell. In that case, you’ll be forced to throw in the towel or become a better writer.
Self-publishing is an exercise in vanity, and a good one: you must strive to get better and better at your craft, otherwise you’re “just another self-pubbed author.”
5. You’ll become a better businessperson
If you write a book, you’re pretty much running a business. Self-publishing makes things more official, by putting you at the helm of your own little sole proprietorship. You need to be able to read through a simple contract, pay designers and editors, and manage a checkbook. At a higher level, you can even start experimenting with advertising buys and marketing campaigns (and you should!). All of this to say, self-publishing is running a business. No other way to put it.
You’re in control, so you’re responsible. There’s no better route to growing up than failure, and self-publishing comes with a lot of it. Sorry — it’s true.
Sure, you might get lucky and write the next 50 Shades, but chances are you’re going to be spinning in obscurity with the rest of us until you step up and work — for years.
What better way to learn to manage your time than to discover that after you spend four hours each day writing, you have to spend at least that much time marketing, promoting, and running your business?
There is none.
Self-publishing is a major lesson in productivity, motivation, and time-management. Which leads me to…
Ever try writing something great when you’re bleary-eyed, suffering from lack of sleep, and need to be at work tomorrow morning at 7 am.
Again, welcome to the club.
This isn’t unique to self-published authors, but we probably get more practice being productive than the full-time writer because we need to manage our time effectively enough to juggle a million balls at once… and still write, produce, publish, and market.
I’ve found that when I’m losing interest in my current WIP, I can quickly change focus temporarily and do something else. This process of switching between tasks helps keep me motivated, as there’s always something else to do that doesn’t involve writing.
I have a massive to-do list that seems to just keep growing, but knowing it’s all stuff that I chose to do helps me stay excited about my work.
10. Building something for the future
Like a small-business owner, the self-publsihed writer shouldn’t focus on turning a profit today. Instead, they should focus on tomorrow, the next day, and ten years from now.
The future is a funny thing: it creeps up on us quickly, and often we’re unprepared. Self-publishing lets us build a backlist that (hopefully) continues to grow our brand, readership, and wallet — over time.
11. Building a legacy
Similarly, that backlist becomes part of your legacy — what you leave behind when you’re gone. Books don’t necessarily have to go anywhere, and that can be a good thing. If you get good at this self-publishing thing and start making serious bucks from it, there’s reason to bet that money won’t dry up after you’re gone. After all, your books, ideas, inspiration, and legacy can stay behind!
I love working with people, no matter what I’m doing. And even though writing can be a lonely indulgence, self-publishing really can’t be. There’s always something we’ll need help with during the process of creating a book, whether it’s formatting, design, layout, editing, or marketing.
You’re going to meet a lot of people — some you like, some you love, and others, well… but the point is you’ll be able to learn something from each and every one of them in a way that you wouldn’t be able to get through any other medium.
13. Building a brand
This is especially important in nonfiction. Your brand, right now, probably just includes books. But in the future, why not courses, seminars, conferences, mobile apps, etc.? For fiction writers, the “brand” of someone like Michael Crichton includes not only a huge backlist of books, but also movies (Jurassic Park), TV shows (E.R.), and spinoffs of those (action figures, comic books, I don’t know…).
Most importantly, your brand is you. It’s who you are, what you’re like, and your image. Don’t worry about “expanding the product line,” just focus on getting that backlist built!
You might be called on to speak at a conference, give a seminar on cover design, or even write a nonfiction book about your struggles with self-publishing. Again, you’re not just a writer now — you’re a business owner with valuable information! Take advantage of your knowledge, and use it to help people and further your own message and brand!
One of coolest side effects of “becoming” an indie author was the sheer increase in the amount of ideas I have.
They’re not always book ideas or even book-related, but they’re ideas that make me think in new ways and create new connections. Exploring all of these ideas is impossible, but I now know I’ll never have a shortage of things to do!
I started blogging about self-publishing, marketing, and building an online platform back in 2011, and really kicked it into high gear in 2012. I could have done that without being a self-pubbed guy, but something about the process of it all increased my focus tenfold.
There’s rarely a day when I sit down at my desk unsure of what I want to do. I always know what I need to get done (though that doesn’t mean I want to do it!).
This one is similar to fellowship, but it’s meant specifically to cover relationships with people who can help you and vice versa.
I’ve met a lot of self-published folks, and it’s one of the main reasons I can consider myself “successful” in the industry. I have a shortlist of people I can call on for just about anything I’m struggling with, and I know I’ll get some awesome help because they’ve been there.
Writing is probably one of the only careers where you get to claim “watching all new release movies that come out on opening night and dressing up in costume for them” as research.
But it is. Bask in it.
There is a ton of information out there about self-publishing, and most of it is online — which is pretty cheap to access. Even still, there are numerous books about self-publishing, conferences to attend, and plenty of people happy to help out — all you have to do is ask.
Which brings me to:
20. Practicing the “ask”
Nothing in the business world could get done without somebody asking somebody else for something. And guess what? You’re in the business world if you decide to self-publish.
Asking people for stuff isn’t always the easiest thing to do — especially if you’re an introverted writer — but it’s mandatory. You’re going to eventually need to ask for something if you want to get it, and there’s no better time to start practicing than right now.
21. Cheap commute
This one’s a throwaway, but many self-published writers can work from home — or wherever they want.
Don’t have gas money? No excuse! Get to work!
22. Be your own boss
This one’s not a throwaway. Working for yourself is a very cool proposition, but it comes with strings attached. You must be willing to commit, be responsible, and stay active. I’ve worked for myself, and I’ve worked for bosses. I’m not always the best boss of myself, but I’m better than some…
Probably not, but maybe.
There are some people who have “made it,” but there are countless others who make a decent living doing what they love — writing — while keeping 100% control of their business. I’m one of those “not famous but happy” folks who strives to constantly grow and get better, and maybe one day will be known for my work.
The opposite of fame I guess is obscurity, and it’s almost guaranteed for new self-published writers. But that’s a great thing: you can keep your head down and write, without worrying about what others think of you or deadlines from publishing houses or making sure your fans are staying happy.
A time will come when obscurity is not ideal, but that’s not now. Forget about #23, and focus on the other 24. It’s worth it.
I put this last, because you need the stamina it takes to scroll through a list of 25 Reasons to Self-Publish if you want to make any money in this game.
Even then, it’s not guaranteed. However, there’s probably more chance that you’ll keep more of what you sell when self-publishing than in many other ventures. For that reason, self-published authors can actually make a viable living doing this stuff.
Did I forget something? Is there a reason you self-publish that’s not on the list?
Just leave a comment and let us know!