Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing a Business Book
If you have an idea stirring in your head that you believe would make a great book, then you are naturally wondering how you will publish it. Should you get an agent? How do you approach publishers? This day and age, though, presents a new question: is self-publishing the best option for me?
Self-publishing is a touchy topic. It is an excellent avenue for business-to-business ebooks or resources for entrepreneurs, but individuals hoping to share business-related wisdom do not have the same platform or inherent legitimacy that companies do. So what should you do? Let’s look at the pros and cons.
First, let’s define the different avenues set before you.
Traditional publishing: If you want to go through a publisher, you will need to find one that accepts submissions or find an agent that likes your manuscript. Agents have the proper connections in the publishing world, so they are helpful resources that can get your manuscript onto the right desks. If a publisher likes your book, you sign a contract that allows them to take over marketing, copy editing (they will likely have you do the substantial edits), and other steps of the process. You do not pay them for their services, and you receive a royalty for each sale (but this percentage is often small).
Self-publishing: You may have heard the terms “independent” or “indie” publishing, which are the same thing as self-publishing. You do everything a traditional publisher would do for you such as proofreading, formatting, marketing, and deciding where your completed work will be sold (online? In stores through a by-demand printer?).
Self-directed or hybrid publishing: These methods are similar, but you hire other professionals or a company to help you perform the tasks you are not an expert in. This route costs more, but it may prove less stressful and result in an improved final product.
Pros and cons
One of the most appealing aspects of self-publishing is that you get complete creative control over your work. You do not have an editor telling you what changes to make or what your cover design needs to look like. The format is your decision, so you can choose between print, e-books, a series, or whatever else you think is feasible.
Another plus side is that you receive better royalties. Traditional publishers usually keep 85 to 90 percent of sales—there are a lot of other people involved who need their salaries paid—but self-publishing allows authors to retain a much higher percentage. Your book will also have a longer shelf-life. Bookstores are continually changing their inventory and re-prioritizing which works have the privilege of storefront displays, but self-published virtual pieces remain on digital shelves indefinitely.
One of the most significant downsides, however, is that you have complete creative control. If you are not an expert in editing, formatting, design, or marketing, you will most likely be at a loss regarding how to make these things happen. You probably do not have the same media contacts when it comes to advertising. Hiring freelancers is possible, but you are otherwise alone in your endeavor.
Now for one of the biggest caveats: it lacks legitimacy. Anyone can do it at any time, so there is a certain stigma around self-published books. People cannot help but wonder if a major publisher did not like your work, and the process’s openness allows for low-quality content to make it online or to print. The big houses screen their submissions thoroughly so that even work from debut authors is polished and does not appear amateurish.
What is better for business books?
The genre of a book is a factor to consider. Fiction authors arguably have more reasons to self-publish: even professional editors cannot be completely objective, so maybe writers want their stories to remain untouched. Perhaps they are okay with smaller audiences or the lack of legitimacy because they write their books for personal reasons rather than monetary. Getting the attention of a major publisher is also frustratingly difficult, so going rogue may be the less stressful option.
Business books, however, depend on legitimacy. Your work most likely includes all sorts of facts, data, and experiential anecdotes that need professional verification. If you have fostered a widespread reputation throughout your career, then maybe self-publishing is a viable option for you because your audience will not immediately turn away. However, business books are not exactly jumping off the shelves the way Harry Potter is, so business writers who need credibility and are hoping to make money may be better suited with a traditional publisher that can offer both authentication and marketing expertise.
Self-publishing requires authors to walk a thin line. Each writer needs to consider their reputation, reasons for writing, what tasks they can commit to before they decide how they want to present their work to the world. Do you plan on self-publishing your business book?