The pros and cons of self-publishing your business book
Why go through all the hassle of finding a commercial publisher for your breakthrough book on strategic thinking when it’s so easy to self-publish? After all, you’ve done all the hard work just writing it haven’t you? Why would you give it to a publisher who will pay you a measly 10% royalty when you can have complete control and all the revenue by merely entrusting your manuscript to one of the many self-publishing services available? Surely a no-brainer.
The number of self-publishing businesses has risen dramatically in the past few years, mainly due to affordable POD – that’s ‘print on demand’, the ability to print single copies of a book, to order – technology. Self-publishing involves uploading a manuscript onto the website of a business such as Lulu, choosing a cover and interior designs from a selection of templates, or using your own, then through POD technology printing as few or as many copies as you require. As the author you’ll pay the self-publishing company to upload your book and then they will probably take a slice of revenue from any further copies sold.
Working through a self-publishing company can be a good, cost-effective solution to getting into print. But the self-publishing process stops there. At print. You’ve got as many copies of your book as you ordered and unless you have set it all up in advance you have no distribution, no marketing, no links with wholesalers to supply customer orders. In short, no sales. Setting up the infrastructure that ensures your customers can be supplied with your book involves a great deal of work, and that’s before you begin the marketing effort. But an established publisher will naturally have all this set up.
A commercial publisher will also market your book. Sure, they will be marketing it to the book trade, to the media and to foreign language publishers and to their own lists of customers, and they will rely on you to promote it in your own networks, but the chances are that most of the sales will come from their promotion rather than yours. There isn’t much chance of you knowing how to do all that global trade marketing, even if you had the time and energy.
Something else that tells against self-publishing is production quality. When you entrust your manuscript to a self-publishing service you may well find that your options in terms of controlling the way the book looks are limited. Not all self-publishing services are the same but the more cost effective the service the more likely it is that the website you use will chuck a terrible book back at you. A huge amount of work goes into turning a manuscript into a bookstore quality product. Commercial publishers employ copy editors, proof-readers, typesetters, text designers, cover designers, indexers and, of course, printers. Needless to say you won’t get all that for the £1000 you transfer to your anonymous self-publisher.
And you need to think about whether your brand is big enough in your network to overcome the resistance many people still have to self-published books. After all, you’ve paid to have it published (well, printed anyway) and anyone could do that provided they are willing to spend a few hundred pounds. How do people know it’s any good? They will trust a commercially published product far more than a self-published one because an editor has read it and decided it is good enough for her to invest a considerable amount of money in.
So think about it carefully. In summary:
Self-publishing gives you complete control over the packaging, pricing, design, marketing and distribution of your book. It allows you to keep the lion’s share of the income. You can produce it to your own schedule, as quickly as you like. You don’t have the depressing task of trying to find a publisher who will take the commercial risk on your book.
On the other hand you are probably not an expert at book packaging, pricing, design, marketing and distribution, so you are less likely to make a great fist of it than an experienced publisher. You are almost certainly going to end up with an inferior physical product compared with competing titles produced to book shop standards. And if you’re planning to use your book to promote your brand a self-published product won’t have the same cachet as a book that’s been published by Penguin.
In short, if you’re a well-known expert on rail travel in and around Nuneaton in the nineteenth century and you are already on first name terms with everyone in the world who is likely to buy your book self-publishing your book is the obvious route to take. Otherwise, think carefully about the options.