Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

pros and cons

What Are the Primary Advantages of Self-Publishing?

The advantages of self-publishing are numerous:

  • You retain full control over the content, design, and marketing of your book.
  • You retain all rights to your manuscript (with the exception that self-publishing is itself a use of “publication” rights; you cannot then sell a book to a publisher as a “new,” unpublished work.)
  • You retain all revenues earned from the sale of your books.
  • You may be able to exploit markets that a larger commercial publisher would overlook or ignore, because of your special expertise in a particular area or simply because of your commitment to your book.
  • Your book may have a greater chance of success simply because you’re more committed to the process of promoting it than a publisher who has hundreds of other titles.

What Are the Primary Disadvantages of Self-Publishing?

Unfortunately, the disadvantages of self-publishing are also numerous!

  • Print self-publishing (which is still the method by which you are most likely to sell the greatest number of books) is expensive. You will probably need to invest a minimum of $3000 to $5000 to get your book into print.
  • Self-publishing requires a huge investment in effort. You must be aware that you are setting up a business — and what you get out of it will be directly proportional to the time and effort you are willing to put into it. (See “Tasks,” below.)
  • Self-publishing requires an ongoing investment of funds. While it is possible to accomplish a great deal of marketing online today, you may still find that you need to fund advertising and direct-mail campaigns, as well as pay to ship books to reviewers. It is these ongoing expenses that make it difficult to “break even” in the self-publishing business.
  • Self-published books still lack respect in many areas. Many reviewers will not review self-published books; many bookstores and libraries will not deal directly with a small press; and many professional organizations will not consider a self-published book as “published.”
  • It can be very difficult to get self-published books into bookstores and libraries, or accepted by wholesalers and distributors. Most bookstores and libraries prefer to deal with distributors who can provide hundreds of titles, rather than small presses that can supply only one. This means that most of your marketing efforts will be focused on reaching the consumer through other channels, such as space advertising, direct-mail advertising, web promotions, online bookstores, non-traditional markets, etc.

Moira Allen is the editor of and the author of more than 300 published articles. Her books on writing include Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals (Second Edition), and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests.