Conventional publishers have sales and marketing personnel, but don’t expect them to do all your selling for you. Although, self-publishers* need to do their own marketing, sadly, so do many conventionally published authors. Typically publishers put the bulk of their promotional efforts into authors who are already well known. It’s mostly up to you as an author to arrange book signings and radio interviews.
If your publisher won’t promote you, why have one at all? In a word, distribution. Conventional publishers have credibility with the mainstream book distributors. You don’t. Additionally, book stores can order with confidence because they know they can return unsold stock. Should you self-publish with a vendor like CreateSpace, your books typically won’t be returnable.
On the other hand, if you teach a course, or run a workshop, and know that you can dependably sell a certain quantity of books, it makes sense to self-publish and have more control over pricing and royalties.
Publishers initially print a book in quantities large enough to realize cost savings, but not so large that they will sustain huge losses if the book doesn’t sell. Print on demand books generally cost more to print and offer little, or no, quantity savings. However, there’s no middle man to share the profits with, and no inventory to maintain. If you offer your book as an Amazon Kindle title, your share is nearly 70 percent of the selling price. If you teach a course or workshop and can reasonably expect to sell as few as 500 copies yearly of a $15.00 eBook, then you will pocket an extra $5,000 each year.
Perhaps you’re reluctant to self-publish because you don’t want to be labeled a vanity author or an academician insufficiently scholarly to merit a publisher. Those are valid concerns. However, not everyone with something to say can find a publisher to help him get the word out. And if you do find a publisher, expect to wait a year to 18 months for your title to be released. If you self-publish, your title can be available within weeks.
If you still doubt that it’s possible to do well as a self-published author, consider John Locke and Amanda Hocking. Both have sold over one million Kindle eBooks. John Locke was the first self-published author to hit the million mark. He kept his prices low and aimed for volume. All but one of his titles sell for under a dollar. The exception is titled, “How I sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months.” It sells for a whopping $2.99. Amanda Hocking’s current titles are also priced under a dollar or at $2.99. She plans to offer two new Kindle eBooks in early 2012 at $8.99 each. Hocking recently signed a four book contract with St. Martin’s Press. Way to go, Amanda.
* Self-publishers are also known as Indie publishers to distinguish them from those who publish through vanity presses.