Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing, And Money

self-publishing vs traditional publishing

Readers are making the decisions now.

And it is clear that they see little difference between traditionally published and self-published titles.

But how do readers find the books they buy and read?

This is the question that all traditional publishers can answer in an instant, but one that many self-publishers can’t. However, those self-publishers that do know the answer are making huge inroads into the publishing world market.

The answer, of course, is money. Business investment in production, marketing and advertising.

Yes, I can hear the shrieks already, but I’m sorry to have to tell you that the days of self-publishing a book and hoping that your Twitter and Facebook followers will dive in to buy it are long gone.

Your few hundred, or a couple of thousand friends and followers is a very small potential market compared to over one and a half billion people available via Facebook and Amazon Ads.

Traditional publishing is big business, and like any other business, it involves time, expenses and investment, which are used to create a return. ROI, or return on investment.

But how many self-published authors think about business plans and ROI? A few do, and they are the ones who are succeeding and building self-publishing businesses and sometimes new publishing companies.


Follow the money

Times have changed dramatically in the last two years, and self-publishing is now very big business, with money being spent on production, advertising and promotion by authors who understand how ROI works and why it is fundamental to any business.

Investments made in editing, cover design, copywriting, promotion, advertising, email campaigns, software and website design and site maintenance are all base business expenses, which will hopefully create a return.

Hopefully? Yes, because business is always about risk and return and doubly so in publishing.

As the most recent Author Earnings report shows, though, self-published (or Indie) authors are making a killing, especially on Amazon. But perhaps only those authors who understand how to set-up, operate and promote self-publishing as a profitable business.


You get what you pay for

An author asked me this question recently, and I tried to help.

“What more can I do to sell my book? No one’s buying it.”
“Do you have a blog?”
“Do you run any book promotions?”
“Do you advertise your book?”
“No way! It costs money! I sometimes add a post to Facebook or Twitter with a link to my book.”
“What hook do you use?”
“What’s a hook?”
“A reason they should look at your book.”
“I don’t know. I just add a link to Amazon.”
“How else do you promote your books?”
“Amazon does that, doesn’t it?”
“No. It only lists your book for sale. Along with 5 million others.”
“Well, Amazon should do more for me.”

A book will not sell itself, and nor will anyone else sell it for you.

Writing and self-publishing a book is easy, but selling it is not. Expecting to make money from publishing a book, with no investment in both time and money will never lead to success.


You don’t need to break the bank

You don’t need to spend a penny to self-publish, and if this is what you want to do, that’s fine.

Enjoy the fact that you have written and published a book. But don’t expect to sell many copies.

There are over 5 million ebooks on Kindle, and most are published in hope without any kind of plan, let alone a business plan.

But if you want to rise above the pack, even a small investment will help gain traction and sales.

Without a doubt, the most essential outlay is a killer cover. This small expense alone will lift a book above the millions of awful homemade covers.

A great cover has to suit the genre of the book, as well as look appealing as a small thumbnail image. This is what potential readers see first, so it must be eye-catching.

Okay, an editor is expensive, but paying a reliable and accurate proofreader is not. You’re selling a book, so make sure it’s the best product possible that you can bring to market.

Advertise and promote using every free means you can find. But keep in mind that free normally means a very low click through and conversion rate.

Advertising on Facebook and Amazon PPC ads is not very expensive. Set a small budget of say $20 – 25.00 per month for a few months, and alternate between the two. But make sure you target your ads to an appropriate audience.

You will rarely sell a spicy romance novel to a lover of World War 2 historical fiction.

To get the best value from online advertising, focus on a very narrow and defined audience because then you won’t be wasting money on clicks from ‘happy clickers’ who have no real interest in your book, but will click on anything.

A self-hosted blog is essential for so many reasons, but the most important one is to use it to build a substantial list of email subscribers. Successful online marketing is almost always based on old-fashioned email.


You won’t get rich.

Forget the dreams and fantasy.

However, in reality, if you prepare a plan for your self-publishing business and understand who your potential readers and book buyers are, you can make money.

But be prepared to spend a little to make a little.

If you have your mind set on getting up near the top of the pyramid, well, it’s possible.

Be prepared to make a huge investment in time and to invest a little money. But, you never know!


More reading: Publishing A Book? Give It The Best Opportunity For Success

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

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