Do you remember when the term “Do it yourself” pretty much applied to home repairs and fixing things?
It became the advertising slogan for many hardware stores, which told people to release their inner Bob Villa, even if they didn’t possess a thick beard and a flannel shirt.
Today, the do it yourself slogan means much more, thanks to the infinite reach of the Internet, and for practically little or no money, one can move a good product idea or business plan from their head, to the drawing board and out to the masses fairly quickly.
These days, doing it yourself can either mean you’re reaching for a hammer or you’re hammering down on your keyboard trying to perfect an idea, and this new type of digitized self-containment has made it easier for the dreamer to become the doer, further blurring the once very visible line between buyer and seller.
In addition, the Internet gave folks new avenues to release their self-made products and most of those avenues didn’t lead to some office building with a closed-minded decision maker inside, because those guys love telling you that your idea isn’t any good and they won’t financially back it.
Anybody can write, right?
Consumers using the Internet to fuel their ideas is surely happening in music, it’s happening in fashion and in the small business world too, but arguably one of the biggest places the Internet has empowered the person who says, “Maybe I’ll do it one day,” is in the world of authors and people who choose to self-publish their book.
Sure the Internet will allow everyone who wants to write a book the chance to publish it, but there’s a slight problem with that, and that is -- well, the Internet allows everyone who wants to write a book the chance to publish it, which means your book can easily get lost and go completely unnoticed in a sea of other self-published titles.
Not to mention having to compete with those authors who have book deals and a PR team that can market their books around the clock.
So the question is, is publishing your own book even worth it these days?
Shawn Welch who, along with his partner Guy Kawasaki, wrote "APE: How to Publish a Book," says yes. APE is an acronym for author, publisher, entrepreneur.
Welch says that a person has to be realistic about the recognition and financial rewards one might be looking for.
“The average indie author sells less than 150 copies of their book, which means on average, indie authors make between $500-$1,000 on a self-published book (if they sold it for $4.99), said Welch in an interview with ConsumerAffairs.
“The reason you hear about self-published millionaires in the news is because they’re rare, not because they are commonplace," he said. "If you want to write a book, that’s great. In fact, Guy and I think everyone who wants to write a book, should write a book. It is truly one of life’s great accomplishments.”
But Welch says if you want to be a self-published author, your motivation has to come from a different place other than a place of wanting to get rich.
“If you’re writing a book because you want to make money or pay off your mortgage, you’re probably doomed from the beginning,” he says.
“Very few people can turn out a good book when the motivation is money. Money should be a side-effect not a goal. Before you write a book you should ask yourself, ‘Will this book add value to people’s lives?’ Because that is the number one reason to write a book. If you have a book that adds to people’s lives, it will probably sell.”
“Writing and publishing a book is an end in itself, it is not a means to an end," adds Welch.
"If the reality that you probably won’t make a lot of money self-publishing discourages you from writing, ask yourself why you were writing in the first place and why that reason would cause someone to pick up your book out of the thousands available.”
Furthermore, he says self-publishing really isn’t a decision, as much as it is the only avenue for most authors, because an extremely small portion of writers actually get book deals.
Deciding between self-publishing and shopping for a book deal is a “superficial choice,” he says and if you do happen to be among the 0.1% of authors who get a book deal, you’ll still have to endure long wait times and a bunch of industry battles.
“Most authors don’t have the option of choosing between self-publishing or signing a traditionally published deal,” says Welch. “If you’re lucky enough to have a deal on the table, and you don’t want to deal with the hard work involved with self-publishing, then absolutely sign a traditionally published deal, take the advance and smile.”
“But, if you’re like the other 99.99% of authors today, you don’t have a choice. It will take you 6-18 months to get a traditional publisher to respond to your proposal, so why not self-publish in the meantime? The reality is traditional publishers sign authors that already have a platform to sell books. In today’s market, an author name sells a book more than the publishing company imprint. So many traditional publishers look for authors that are already well known.”
“So if you are shopping your book around, one of the best ways to prove you’re worth signing on is to show that people want to buy your books. What better way than that to point at the sales of your self-published books? It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”
Stranger than fiction
For those of you who write fiction, writing an ebook is the best route to go, and by using Kindle, you’ll have immediate access to Amazon’s incredibly large clientele, which certainly doesn’t hurt, says Welch.
“For fiction, ebooks make up a large percentage of the market cap,” he explains.
“This isn’t necessarily true for non-fiction books, so print isn’t completely dead. But for fiction, you can do very well with just ebooks. Kindle is great because for fiction authors it makes up 80% or more of the market.”
“Print isn’t dead, but ebooks are much easier to self-publish," he says. "And to simplify matters, with one platform, and one format, you can reach a very large market. In today’s world, Amazon owns the ebook market. So a self-publishers would be foolish to ignore it.”
And how much will self-publishing actually run you?
Although using the Internet to self-publish is less expensive, it’ll surely cost you more than just a few bucks, so if you’re expecting to spend a tiny amount to get your book off the ground, you might be disappointed.
“$4,000 is a very realistic number,” says Welch.
“In general, you should budget $1,000 for content editing, $1,000 for copyediting, $1,000 for a cover, and $1,000 for book production. If you know someone who is willing and able to do one of these tasks for free, you can certainly save some money, and it’s possible to find these services for less and more. But just because you self-publish does not mean these tasks go away.”
Nothing is worse than a debut book filled with typos, misspellings, factual errors and other amateurish blunders. Such mishaps are marginally acceptable in daily news publications and amateur blogs but not in book and magazine publishing.
And if you’re a busy parent who loves writing and you always thought about publishing your own book, Welch says that you should start writing now; if you wait for the perfect time to start typing those pages, you might be waiting forever.
In addition, he advises that parents and busy adults should make a conscious decision to carve out writing time on a daily basis, as opposed to trying to find the right time when things aren't hectic.
“There’s never a good time to write a book,” says Welch.
“If you wait until the house is clean, the kids are doing well in school, or that one project is finally finished, you’ll never start. History is full of people who bootstrapped their efforts in the middle of the night to achieve something they really want.”
“If you really want to write a book, you have to make the time. Time won’t just appear out of nowhere,” he says.