9 Self-Publishing Myths and Truths

 by Aysha Griffin


Myth #1: Only authors who are not good enough to be published by a traditional publisher need to self-publish.

Truth: Self-publishing used to hold some stigma, and vanity presses – where the author paid big sums to print his book and then warehouse and fulfill his own orders – made self-publishing a dubious venture., but some self-published books became bestsellers. Today, however, everything has changed with the internet, eReaders and print-on-demand (POD) publishing.

Rumor in the book industry has it that no large publishers are offering contracts to new authors unless that author has a following of at least 25,000 and a large online presence. For most major publishers, this is unofficial policy. Book sales in the 10,000 to 20,000 range used to be enough to make the midlist, but these days, a book with these sales would be considered a failure by large houses. The midlist author of the past is today’s self-published author.

Myth #2: Readers do not like to read self-published books.

Truth: Readers want to read good books, no matter how they are produced. Although publishers and other writers might be biased against self-published books, readers just want to get their money’s worth. Huge self-publishing successes like “The Celestine Prophecy” and “The One Minute Manager” prove that readers are interested in content, and could care less who published the book. If your book is well written and well marketed, readers will find it and buy it; and, if they like it, they will tell others and be inclined to purchase your future titles.

Myth #3: People who read can tell when a book is self-published because the standards of production are lower.

Truth: In the past, before POD publishing and e-Books, there might have been a visible discrepancy between mainstream presses and self-published, or vanity, presses, but that is no longer true. If you have professional editing, formatting and cover art, your self-published book (with ISBN, bar code and spine printing) should be indistinguishable from a traditional publishing house, and you can even add your own imprint.

Myth #4: Self-publishing is expensive because you have to order a lot of books up front and pay for publishing services.

Truth: Again, before POD and eBooks, you had to order a significant run of print copies to make the process economically viable…. and usually end up with a garage full of books. Now, you don’t need a single book printed until it is ordered. if you have the  know how to format your own book and design your own cover using software like Photoshop or InDesign, you can do all the setup yourself and it costs virtually nothing.

Services like Amazon’s CreateSpace will provide you a free ISBN, a barcode, and free distribution through their system. If you do not have the know how or time, these services are available through numerous POD publishing companies and do not require authors to order any books. Service costs vary widely, depending on what services you choose, with full production costs in the $2,500-$7,500 range.

Myth #5: You cannot get reviews for self-published books.

Truth: POD books can be submitted and reviewed (often for a price) from major reviewers like Kirkus. But, most authors find review sources in local media, radio, and on the internet through book review bloggers, forums and relevant sites.

Myth #6:
Self-published books can’t be distributed or sold in conventional channels.

Truth: Amazon, the world’s largest seller of books, offers all their titles to Ingram, the largest distributor in North America, which makes for unlimited distribution possibilities to all conventional channels. eBooks are distributed directly via online sites, such as Amazon Kindle, B&N (Nook), Apple iPad and iPhone, Google books, Smashwords and others.

Myth #7: Most self-published authors can’t get their books into big chain bookstores, and you must have books on these shelves to be successful.

Truth: Once upon a time, chain bookstores were the primary place to buy books, but that’s no longer true. A 2013 study by Bowker (the issuer of ISBNs) says bookstore chains held less than 20 percent share in 2012.

Myth #8: Self-published authors can’t succeed because they have to do all their own promotion.

Truth: All traditional publishers require authors to do book signings, tours, media interviews and submit a comprehensive marketing plan; with the exception, perhaps, of celebrity authors. The self-published author, in addition to potentially realizing much more profit than they’d ever see from a traditional publisher, can and should plan on implementing a strategic marketing plan… just as they would have to do with a mainstream publisher. It is true that for any author, marketing is a requisite for driving book sales. However, HOW you choose to do this should involve a strategic plan that you can honestly commit to following. For more on this, see Marketing Your Book With Love.

Myth #9: To have a viable writing career, you need to have an on-going relationship with a publisher.

Truth: The length of the traditionally-published author’s career is controlled by his or her publisher, based on sales of the last book. If your book doesn’t perform, the publisher will not want your next book. Only 1-2% of all books published become bestsellers.

While it is rare for a self-published book to become a bestseller (outside of Amazon’s designations, which may or may not be meaningful), it’s rare for any book to become a bestseller. Most books make their money over time, and a self-published book need never “go out of print”, be backlisted or remaindered. The self-published author’s career succeeds, or doesn’t, based on the author’s quality of work, interest in the marketplace, and willingness to keep writing, publishing, and promoting. It’s not up to anyone else to decide if you’ll be an author, when your book will be published, how successful you will be, or when you’ll stop publishing.

© Aysha Griffin, 2011 Pages on this website can be shared with attribution and link to the page. Thanks!
Photo is from author David Gaughran who also writes intelligently about selling books.