Is Self-Publishing Worth It?

In 2019, Kindle paid out a staggering $299.4 million to the authors enrolled in the KDP Select Program.

The program might not be perfect, but it is clear that there are many benefits of self-publishing. Still, I’m sure you’re still wondering: is self-publishing worth it?

Self-publishing is worth it for the authors that are excited to see their work in print (digital or otherwise). No longer beholden to large publishing houses who hold all the cards, authors can make their work available to the public on their own timeline.

But is it for everyone?

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

There are many benefits to self-publishing, but there are also several negatives that need to be considered.

Traditional publishing can be challenging to get into, but it does relieve the financial burden of paying for editors, artists and printing physical copies of your book. Between literary agents and publishing houses, they have the power to market your work, getting it into stores and in front of readers in a way only large companies can.

Traditional publishing can be considerably easier to navigate when you’re working with professionals that know the industry. But getting access to those professionals is incredibly difficult.

If you’re thinking of taking that leap, check out our post on How to Find a Literary Agent in 2021.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of self-publishing.

Pro - You Have Creative Control

In many cases, when you sign a publishing contract, you sign away your work’s rights. This means the publisher will have the final say in how the book looks and, ultimately, what edits need to be made.

Of course, these large publishing houses are not sinister entities looking to steal your work. In fact, if they signed you, chances are they expect to keep working with you on future books. But money is their bottom line, and they need to know they are putting out something that will sell.

With self-publishing, you are the boss. You choose the cover, the designs, and all the edits. After working on a story, most authors feel protective, and knowing that any changes will be their own can be comforting.

Con - You Have to Do It All

Working on a manuscript is different for everyone. Some authors like to plan their entire story - twists and turns, endings and all - before they put pen to paper. Others, like myself, prefer to write as it comes to us.

The downside to self-publishing is that the real work is only just beginning once you’re finally done with the manuscript. There is no support of agents or publishers offering help and advice. It can be lonely and time-consuming.

Pro - There’s Nothing Stopping You

In self-publishing, the only thing holding you back is yourself. Writing the manuscript aside, editing is a tedious process that can seem never-ending when you’re in the thick of it.

The good news is that your work can be done as soon as you can put the work in. Everything is running on your own timeline, and you dictate deadlines.

No more waiting for publishers to get to you.

No more waiting for another author to get their time at the front.

If you genuinely believe it is ready to go, then all you have to do is click ‘upload.’

Con - There’s Nobody There to Push You

The downside to running on your own schedule is that there is little accountability. Without an editor, agent, or publisher demanding pages or re-writes by a specific date, it’s not uncommon to see people putting work off to another day.

The Cost of Self-Publishing

Some of the costs involved with self-publishing include, but are not limited to:

  • Professional editing (and editing and editing…)
  • Professional beta readers
  • Cover art
  • Marketing
  • Printing costs

Technically, it is possible to publish a book without spending a dime. But the vast majority of people agree that, at the very least, professional editors are a must. Similarly, in order to get your work seen, marketing is something you will need to get used to.

Beta readers and cover art are secondary expenses that are avoidable if you know the right people. Enlisting the help of family, friends, and coworkers to read your work should be enough without paying for a service.

And there are some great resources online to help create a free book cover.

I used a royalty-free photograph website to choose my cover art. Be sure to check the website’s policies for use, as they can all be slightly different. In many cases, you can find professional photographs that are royalty-free.

Once you have your picture, try using a site like Canva to create your cover art. They have free and premium templates that look great.

Editing a Self-Published Book

After weeks, months, and even years, of writing and re-writing your book, chances are you know it very well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in your favor when it comes to editing. Instead of reading the words for flaws, you might find yourself reading from memory and missing many simple errors.

An author should always be editing but will inevitably miss something. Paying a professional editor can be costly, but worth it to have a polished and professional book.

Marketing a Self-Published Book

Don’t let the term intimidate you - marketing is actually super easy these days.

Between Instagram and Facebook, you can reach thousands of people a day on a minimal budget. They have guided instructions that will walk you through creating an ad and searching for your audience.

Social media is an invaluable tool for an author, and you should have a presence. Work on posting, be it snippets of your work or images relevant to your brand. You can start generating an audience before your book is available and promote it easily.

Is Self-Publishing Worth it?

Yes, self-publishing is worth it. Putting aside all the pros and cons, it is about the author and the work. Not everyone is lucky enough to see their books on shelves or displayed on billboards. Unfortunately, they are a select (often very lucky) few.

If you’re looking for fame and fortune, there are some success stories of self-publishing. Both E.L. James and Andy Weir turned their blogs into international best-sellers that went on to the box-office.

But they are the exception.

The vast majority of self-published authors won’t receive that level of recognition. The most you can hope for is to make some money on the side, or maybe, just enough so that you can do it full time.

So if all you want is to write and hopefully have some people read your work, self-publishing is an excellent option. Writing for the love of writing, not to make a buck.