When I started writing self-publishing was frowned upon. It was seen as the expensive route for gullible and inadequate writers whose work was not up to published standard. Now, for many, it is preferred to the conventional route. In 2015, on average, a third of Amazon’s best-selling 100 books each week, were self-published.
This change is driven mainly by the advances in digital technology and electronic publishing. In some cases, such as Kindle Direct, you can publish an ebook for free. With lower costs, and no need to negotiate with agents and publishers, you retain control over content and pricing. You can even design your own cover. The difficultly, particularly for new authors, is in marketing.
Books do not sell themselves. Just because it sits there on an electronic list does not mean that people will buy it. You have to draw their attention to it. Offering a cheaper introductory price might help, but other authors do the same. There are about four million books in the kindle store today, compared with 600,000 in 2010. Amazon estimate that only 40 self-published authors have ever become successful, defined as selling over a million copies of their books. Many of these have spent heavily on advertising.
Self-published authors have to divide their time between promoting existing work and writing new books. Few have the means to do this full-time. It is hard work but so is the task of finding a traditional publisher. Even if you defy the odds to do this, chances are the publisher will expect you to get involved in marketing and promotion.
I haven’t gone down the self-publishing route yet. Earlier this year, I tested the water with Kindle Scout, a curious hybrid that pays for selected titles after a sample campaign. It was a valuable experience which demonstrated that both the book and my marketing skills were not up to standard.
Writing is a learning curve. Amazon and their competitors now give more opportunities to direct that curve. It has never been easier to get published but never harder to make an impact.