The motivation to self-publish a novel is deeply personal. It’s so important to think about why you want to self-publish, and what you really want out of it. Your end goals will determine the amount time, effort and resources you are willing to put into your book. In this article, we discuss the 3 most common motivations for self-publishing a book.
We’ve worked with many self-publishing authors over the years, and these are some of the things we hear from them most often:
- I want to self-publish my book because I need/want to make money;
- I want to self-publish my book because I want to prove to an agent that my work is good enough to be picked up by them; and
- I have a story to tell, and I want the world to hear it.
Let’s unpack these motivations.
1. “I need/want to make money.”
We advise you to proceed with caution if this is your motivation to self-publish. Selling your book can certainly make you money, but it is not a get-rich-quick scheme. You won’t be able to pay off your house and buy a new car the moment your book hits Amazon. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that.
If your end goal is to make money, then you need to be ready to commit a substantial amount of time and, initially at least, money to make that happen. Yes, you can self-publish by doing everything yourself and putting no money down, but the odds are stacked against you. Remember that you will be competing against traditionally-published authors as well as self-publishers who are committing time, effort and money to their project – and are seeing the results.
If you want to successfully compete in the same arena, you need to ensure that your book has been edited and produced to high quality, professional standards. We explore the reasons why professional book packaging is so important here.
Make no mistake, the potential financial upside to self-publishing is huge. But you must be willing to spend some money and put in the effort to make this happen.
2. “I want to get the attention of an agent.”
This is a surprisingly effective game plan. A past client of ours, Jo Watson, deployed the “self-publish first” strategy to great effect and was recently signed by a prestigious New York agency. Look out for our Author Spotlight interview with her, coming soon.
Remember, however, that for this to work, you need to be able to prove that your book is doing well in the market. This means you can’t skimp on editing, packaging and marketing your book. There are no shortcuts.
Of course, your book may never be picked up by an agent for a variety of reasons; but there is always the chance it might. If you do position yourself well and get picked up by a traditional publisher, bear in mind that you’re relinquishing control over your work. The publisher will own the rights to your book, and can let it go out of print.
On the other hand, the internet ensures that self-published books never truly die. For example, Amazon won’t de-list your ebook simply because it doesn’t sell – it will always be there waiting for you to make the effort to market and/or package it better.
3. “I want to tell my story.”
Every author has a story that needs telling. Many of our clients describe their books as “passion projects”, and are primarily motivated by the desire to have their story read by as many people as possible. Monetary return and fame are secondary for these authors, though of course making a bit of money is a welcome bonus!
In a sense, the drive to tell your story is the “purest” of motivations. Unfortunately, however, writers who fall into this category are often guilty of putting out novels of sub-standard quality. This is because they sometimes don’t see the value of investing money in having their novels properly edited and packaged.
What you shouldn’t forget is that your novel bears your name and is your legacy. You owe it to your “passion project” to produce the best quality product that you can. If your goal is to reach as many readers as possible, keep in mind that you need to deliver a professional, polished novel in order to avoid “one star review syndrome” and losing potential readers.
So what motivates you?
We’ve only covered three most common motivations to self-publish, and we want to know what motivates you. Has this article helped you to think about what your goals are? Leave a comment below now and tell us!