Saturday, May 22, 2010

Special Guest Saturday: Cathy Bryant on Self Publishing

THE BENEFITS & DRAWBACKS TO SELF-PUBLISHING

By Cathy Bryant


Ask for a definition of “self-publishing” and you’ll get different answers. People often confuse self-publishing with subsidy publishing, where the author pays a publishing company to publish their work (usually at astronomical costs). For the purpose of this article, self-publishing refers to authors who form their own publishing company for the purpose of publishing their work.

Now for a disclaimer. I recently published my first novel, TEXAS ROADS, under my own imprint, WordVessel Press. I’m still very green at this entire process and learning as I go. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned during the process.

BENEFITS TO SELF-PUBLISHING:

1. You maintain the rights and control of your work.

If you publish traditionally, your contract will transfer ownership to the publisher. Many times, not only will you lose print rights, but all rights. Once the book goes out of print, these rights usually return to the author. With self-publishing, you control all rights, including the ability to put the book in electronic and/or audio format.

2. You keep a larger percentage of the profits.

One author mentioned in a blog interview that she only made six cents per copy of a mass market book she wrote. I don’t know how she arrived at that number, how accurate it is, and if she figured in her advance, but in comparison, my trade size novel nets me at the very least a dollar a copy (brick and mortar bookstore sales).

3. You call the shots.

This can actually be a drawback, depending on your perspective. Some authors prefer to have someone else making the decisions. Personally, I enjoyed the process of making decisions about my book. I relished having creative control of the interior and exterior design. I liked setting the cost and deciding what formats to use. I decide when to offer discounts and for how much. I choose the number of copies to giveaway or offer as review books.

4. More frequent pay.

My only experience with traditional publishing and royalty payments came from six children’s songs I published traditionally. It was nice to get the advance, but the royalty payments after that were embarrassingly small. Since my book hit the market, it’s produced a steady income—nothing I could retire on, mind you—but it’s only been a couple of months. In addition, the book never has to go out of print. Another benefit!

5. Quicker Turn-Around Time

I loved being able to schedule the publication details at my convenience. The amount of time from when the book is written to publication is much quicker than waiting for a publishing company.

DRAWBACKS TO SELF-PUBLISHING

1. Lotsa, lotsa, lotsa work!

Self-publishers wear many hats: business owner, format specialist, book designer, writer, publicist, sales and promotion guru, and so on. The work load is endless. All these chores take time away from writing. Once these first three to six months have passed I hope to spend only a few hours a week on promotion and sales, and more time on writing. If that doesn’t happen, I have the option of hiring help.

2. Distribution/Shelf Space in Brick & Mortar stores

Though this is probably the biggest drawback to self-publishing, it’s not a hopeless situation. I recently submitted Texas Roads to Lightning Source, Inc. for the sole purpose of getting the book on the Ingram database. Brick and mortar bookstores order from this database, so it’s an important part of the process.

3. The Stigma of Self-Publishing

The stigma of being self-published is not as great as it once was, but it does still exist. Some people won’t give a self-published book one glance. We’ve all read horrible self-published books. But guess what? I’ve also read great self-published books and horrible traditionally published books. Unfortunately, the stigma exists, fair or not.

4. Upfront costs

Any time you set up a new business there will be costs involved. Starting your own publishing company is no different. But it doesn’t have to be so costly that you stand no chance of recouping your initial investment. Check out your options and set a budget before you jump in. While I’ve yet to break even, the gap between what I’ve spent and what I’ve made is narrowing—and quickly!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though I ended with a point about cost, the decision to self-publish is much more than economics. I can only speak for myself, but for me it’s never been about money. My choice came from a strong conviction that it was what I was supposed to do. My advice when considering which publishing route you should take is to pray about it and do your research. With online bookstores, electronic books, and quality print-on-demand services, self-publishing is quickly becoming a more viable option for writers.



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Cathy Bryant’s debut novel, TEXAS ROADS, was a 2009 ACFW Genesis finalist and tells the story of a disillusioned widow’s quest for home. The book is available at Amazon.com and in eBook format at Smashwords.com. A Texas gal since birth, Cathy lives in a century-old farmhouse with her husband and a phobia-ridden cat. You can learn more about her at http://www.catbryant.com/

15 comments:

Jan Cline said...

I think for most authors the idea of self-publishing is scary. The publishing world itself is scary, but most of us feel we want someone to walk along side us in the process of publication. I did self-publish a small devotion book and was not pleased with the way it turned out. That was because I did not have a lot of money to put into it and I was forced to sacrifice the quality. I don't think I would do it again unless it was another short project. I LOVE your cover - it looks so inviting. Congratulations on the book.

kim said...

Since I am a "newbie" your blog post was most informative. Thanks for sharing! I agree with Jan your cover looks very inviting. Congrats on being a contest winner and good luck with sales!

Pepper Basham said...

Cathy,
Thanks for this overview of self-publishing. I've always been kind of sketchy on the 'brick and mortar' of self-publishing, but a good friend of mine has recently begun to do a lot of self-epublishing and she's very happy with the results.

How do you move past the stigma?

Casey said...

I have wondered about the stigma myself, but I do know that readers like Cathy's novel! I can understand that it would be terribly time consuming though!

Laura Frantz said...

Wonderful to see Cathy here as I often frequent her wonderful blog. Reading this, I've learned a lot about self-publishing I didn't know - thanks for that! More than anything, Cathy has always inspired me to walk closely with the Lord and let Him lead in all things, especially writing. Bless you all.

Cathy Bryant said...

Hi ladies! Sorry I'm so late showing up, but the annual spring recital for my music studio was this morning. Whew!

Jan, I was terrified to jump into self-publishing, but so far I haven't been sorry. It has been a huge learning curve and I'm learning as I go, but overall it's been a positive experience. Thanks for the congrats!

Thanks for your encouraging words, Kim! I'm glad the post was helpful for you.

Moving past the stigma has been one of the most difficult parts for me, Pepper. There are several traditionally published authors for whom I have a lot of respect that are dead-set against it, and it hurt to know that my publishing path was upsetting to them. I felt I had somehow lost their respect, and it bothered me. Also, when you're looking for reviewers there are some that won't even consider looking at a self-published book. As a reviewer myself, I understand that there are so many books and so little time so you have to draw the line somewhere. But the truth is, there are poor quality self-published books, and poor quality traditionally published books. It's just a fact of life that you learn to deal with when you're self-published.

Laura and Casey, words just can't express how much I appreciate your encouragement! I look up to both of you so as inspirations and a role models. Bless you both! Casey, thanks again for the opportunity to guest blog for The Writer's Alley!

Casey said...

It is great to have you here, Cathy!!

Krista Phillips said...

Welcome, Cathy!!!

So excited for your new book! How fun!

I think with everything, there are goods and bads, and you outlined them well. Self-pubing is not for everyone. I know for 100% certain that for me, it's not the direction God is calling me in. I know some jump into it out of "impatience" for the process and as an end result, have less than stellar books published (and yes, there are some less than stellar traditionally published books too!) For those people, I highly advise not to go that direction. But... if God is calling you to self-publish and it works with your goals for your writing, then go for it!

Cathy Bryant said...

Hi Krista! Thanks for the welcome! You're right--it all comes down to where God leads!

Sherrinda said...

Hi Cathy! I'm sorry I'm so late in stopping by! I had to help a friend move, spend time in our churches 24 hour prayer room, and buy groceries.

This post was so informative. I really have been in the dark about self-publishing and you laid it out to where I could understand it.

Congratulations on your book! I hope it brings you income for years to come!!!

Diane said...

Thanks for the open and honest reasons for and against self publishing. Very informative. :O)

Cathy Bryant said...

Hi Sherrinda! Your life sounds as hectic as mine! =) I'm glad the post was helpful. Thanks for the encouraging words.

Diane, I'm happy the article was useful and informative for you!

Carole said...

I enjoyed your thoughts, Cathy. I don't want to call it a war, but with all that's going on between traditional publishers (especially the Agency 5) and the ebook industry, I think the stigma of self-publishing is gradually lessening. I frequently browse the indie forums in various Kindle boards and recently noticed that one well-known suspense writer who was previously traditionally published just released his new novel through Amazon's digital platform.

A lot of indie books seem to not be my type (fantasy, vampire, sci-fi, horror, erotica, etc.), but I would love to read books in the women's fiction and inspirational genres if I could find them.

Cathy Bryant said...

Thanks for your insight, Carole. I agree that a lot of indie books seems to be sci-fi, etc. I'm thinking (and hoping) that the spectrum will soon include more women's fiction and Christian fiction as well.

The MP3 player revolutionized the music industry. I have no reason to believe that eReaders will do the same for the publishing industry. In my very humble opinion, I think it's no longer a matter of if, but when.

Cathy Bryant said...

OOPS! Just caught my typos (needed to engage my editorial brain before pinkie finger hit send)! =) That should read: I agree that a lot of indie books seem to be sci-fi... and also: I have no reason NOT to believe that eReaders will do the same for the publishing industry.