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5 Big Lies about Self-Publishing

and the (often surprising) truths

 

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Ask 15 people what they think of the concept of a self-published book, and you’ll likely get (at least) 12 different answers.

While self-publishing is becoming far more common (for understandable reasons), it’s still quite misunderstood on multiple levels.

Let’s clear up some of the more common misconceptions, shall we?

Being self-published means the “real” guys said no

In 28 (Better) Things No One Tells You About About Publishing, author Scott Berkun accurately notes:

The publishing industry is slow to realize authors need them less than ever. Unlike 20 years ago, you can do much of what a publisher does yourself, perhaps not as well, but that depends on how entrepreneurial and self aware you are. Some publishers do great work, but many are stuck in an antiquated notion of their value.

It’s true that sometimes authors self-publish because they hear “No” too many times from agents and editors. They believe in their product, and they want to get it out into the world and prove its value. That was certainly the camp I fit into when I got started. Agents and editors believed that my target market (expectant and new parents of twins) was too small (I had a hard time understanding how 150,000 people—in this country alone—who are desperate for information is too small of an audience!).

And sometimes, authors choose to self publish from the get-go! After selling 49,000+ print copies of my first two books, agents were all-too-happy to pitch my third book to traditional publishers. I chose not to go that route, however, because I had grown rather attached to having complete control over the entire process and timeline, from writing to edits to cover design to marketing plans to getting the book finished and available for purchase.

To be clear, I’m not saying that I’d never publish traditionally. I’m simply saying that authors publish with one paradigm or another based on many factors, and having the door slammed in their face by the more traditional approach is but merely one of them.

Further, the fact that so many traditional houses now have self-published subsidiaries is indicator enough that they are realizing the paradigm shift and wanting a piece of it.

AuthorHouse is one example. A vanity publishing house operating as a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, AuthorHouse has published more than 60,000 books. Additionally, Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, readily advertises that they look at successful Balboa Press titles for possible acquisition by Hay House.

If you think about it, this approach is pretty smart on the part of the traditional publishers. By establishing a vanity press subsidiary where authors to pay for their publishing services, they keep themselves in the game financially while significantly minimizing (if not outright removing altogether) their risk. The onus is 100% on the author, however, to prove the public’s receptivity to his book. If that receptivity is strong, the house can offer to acquire the title.

 

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A self-published book won’t sell

Truth: it might not. As most agents will attest, the average self-published book sells 117 copies. Keep two points in mind, please.

One: there are TENS OF THOUSANDS of traditionally published books that don’t sell many more copies than that (while the self-published author makes significantly more money off his 117 sold copies than the traditionally published one does). If you’ve ever wondered why all the books sit on the $2 tables after the holidays at Barnes & Noble, this is why. It’s great for customers, but not at all good for authors (or their publishers).

Two: I won’t discount for one second the value of a good agent. They work VERY hard for their authors, and are a critical part of the traditional publishing process without doubt. Without authors seeking traditional publishers, however, they don’t have a job. So it’s understandable that they aren’t huge supporters of the self-publishing movement.

Self-published books don’t make much money

Some don’t. However, as a self-published author, you might make tens of thousands more dollars than you would have if you had traditionally published.

Mark Dawson made $450,000 alone last year off of Amazon alone.

In his Huffington Post article, The Self-Published Authors Standing On Your Lawn, G. Doucette brilliantly stated:

Here’s the problem. If you’re going to point to the people who don’t make money self-publishing, without also talking about the people who got traditional publishing contracts and saw their books backlisted forever (because the contract they signed is for the life of the copyright), you’re being dishonest. Those authors–and I promise you, there are a lot of them–aren’t making any money either.

Whether you are self- or traditionally published, the key to how much money you make likely lies in how much of an entrepreneurial mindset you maintain. If you have a traditional publishing contract, the publisher will likely expect (if not outright require) that you own a large part of the marketing plan (and budget). The job of creatively generating pre-launch buzz, a successful launch day and post-launch day sales and events is yours. The sky is the limit in terms of the colorful ways authors are now approaching this task. Books launch every single day that you’ll never hear about, so by simply studying the approaches of those who have achieved exciting results, you can learn a great deal about ways to stand out by thinking outside the box.

It’s really hard to self-publish a book

Truth: it’s not. The publishing part is the easy part. Truly. The WRITING is the hard part.

If you have someone guide you through the process so that you don’t overlook critical components, and you hire a quality editor and designer for the cover and interior typesetting, the actual publishing of the book is not hard.

Scott Berkun, who had three best-selling traditionally published books, turned to self-publishing because—knowing that he will be writing books for the rest of his life—he wanted to learn the publishing process end-to-end.

Having complete control—over title, the cover, and the content—was an extremely appealing notion to him (as it is to many self-published authors who previously traveled the traditional route and were part of the lengthy back-and-forth publisher discussions and negotiations in these areas).

To be clear, he also rightfully notes that having this level of control simultaneously kind of sucks. When you are solely responsible for every aspect of the publishing process, it’s overwhelming. That’s why step-by-step advice from people who have done it is extremely helpful!

It’s really hard to sell a self-published book

This part is (potentially) true. But more to the point, it’s really hard to sell a published book period!

The key lies in a going-in mindset many authors don’t have because they aren’t thinking as entrepreneurs.

Whatever your product is—whether a book or a toy or a $25,000 purse or a talking lizard—you MUST have a marketing plan beyond thinking that the world is going to love it and word of it will organically circulate like wildfire. That does happen…but almost never.

You MUST know who your target audience is, what problem they are desperate to overcome, and how your product solves that problem. You must know where to find them, and what words/emotions trigger them to buy (because people don’t buy products; they buy the emotional benefit of having the product, whether that’s better time management, a stronger sense of self, and/or a belief that the seller is “just like them”—and can therefore add to their life in some positive way).


 

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Click to Tweet It: People don’t buy a product; they buy the emotion that the product triggers. -@elizabethlyons #authors #selfpublishing


Having a solid marketing plan before your book launches is critical.

And for those authors (myself very much included) who are more introverted than sales-y, this is the scariest part of publishing a book on any platform!

Luckily, there are authentic, knowledgeable experts in these areas who will teach you (and have taught me) how to authentically sell your work in a way that doesn’t feel at all sleazy.

A few to start following right now: Marie Forleo and Amy Porterfield.

In the end, anything done right takes time and thought. Self-publishing may be right for your project, and it may not. But don’t let these commonly believed myths be the assumed facts that stop you from jumping into what could become an incredibly rewarding experience!

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Get my Ultimate Self-Publishing Roadmap

Remove the overwhelming HOW once and for all!

It's free!
The exact roadmap I used to publish four profitable books (fifth is coming soon!)