Self-Publishing: Vanity or Brilliance?

Have you written a book and thought about getting it published? As most aspiring authors know, getting a novel published by a traditional publisher is next to impossible, and slightly less impossible for a nonfiction book. The conventional thought has been that an aspiring author needs to send a query letter and a book proposal to an agent in hopes of being taken on as a client. The theory is that these agents will have connections and find the best fit between publisher and author.

The reality of publishing in the twenty-first century doesn’t quite mesh with the theory. In actuality, after receiving some polite rejection letters, it soon becomes clear that agents are hard to find unless you are an already known author. Let’s just say that James Patterson and Nora Roberts most likely have no problem finding an agent. Unknown and unpublished authors are not likely to find an agent, and even those few who do secure an agent are still not likely to find a publisher. The world of books is changing, and most traditional publishers want a known quantity (or an already published author) before they risk publishing today.

In the past, the only option for these shunned aspiring authors was self-publishing through a vanity press. The author incurred all the expenses usually borne by a publisher to get his or her words into print. The cost of self-publishing through a vanity press could be quite high; and the author likely would not recoup all of the expenses of self-publishing thorough sales. Vanity presses still exist, but an aspiring author has many options to self-publish today, and many of them are free. Yes, anyone with some slightly above-basic computer skills can publish on Amazon’s Kindle platform for free.

Meet Theresa Ragan, the author of the three-part Lizzie Gardner series, beginning with Abducted. Ms. Ragan was actually fortunate enough to secure an agent, but the agent could not interest a publisher. Instead of giving up—which is what she felt like doing—Ms. Ragan decided to publish herself on Kindle Direct Publishing. She thought she would maybe sell fifteen or twenty books to her friends and family. She was wrong. In her first month she sold 1,500 books. Five months later, she was selling 40,000 books per month. She priced her books at $2.99, and took in 70 percent, or $2.00 for every book sold. Had she been published through a traditional publisher, she would only have received about ten percent of sales, minus any advance she received. To date, Ms. Ragan has self-published seven novels, selling over 650,000 copies of her e-books. She has made well over a million dollars self-publishing her novels.

Granted, not every e-book published on Kindle is going to do as well as Ms. Ragan’s books. And Kindle is not the only free option. Self-publishing authors can also get print versions of their books printed on demand with Create Space (Amazon’s print on demand platform) and Lightning Source. The latter is not as user friendly and has some upfront fees associated with it, but the author receives a higher percentage of sales than through Create Space. Given the state of self-publishing today, with limited or no upfront investment, isn’t it worth a try? Maybe you will be the next Theresa Ragan and have a blockbuster on your hands. You won’t know unless you try.

But there is one caveat that must be mentioned. Do not be one of those sloppy authors who get lackluster reviews because the book was so poorly edited. Don’t download your book to an e-book platform until it is as flawless as possible. If you are unable to make it that way, let us help you make your book as good as it can be. At Tantamount, we will get rid of those pesky typos and unintended grammatical errors. A full edit from Tantamount editors will make your book better and more enjoyable to read. This in turn will get you better reader reviews and increase your sales. If you have a good book, there really is no limit on how much money you can make.

For more self-publishing success stories, see Heidi Mitchell’s July 16, 2013 Wall Street Journal article entitled “Self-Published Book Success Stories.”

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