The other day I posted the article Dreaming of Middlemen, explaining why self-publishing might appeal to authors. Today’s post is a companion piece about why self-published books might appeal to readers. This post doesn’t address the main reason readers tend to stay away from self-published books: concerns about quality. I’ll discuss that topic in another post, soon.
Here are 7 reasons readers might find self-published books appealing:
1) Self-publishing allows authors to publish ambitious work that publishers won’t touch.
James Joyce had to self-publish Ulysses, one of the most critically acclaimed novels of the 20th Century, because it was too weird for any publishing house to have it. That may be an extreme case, but it also applies to many everyday instances of more modestly ambitious books. Even my book Growing Up Humming. There’s a popular standard for children’s picture books to be exactly 32 pages long, with 500-750 words; and this standard is adhered to fairly rigidly by the publishing industry. My book is 44 pages and about 2,000 words, and cutting it down to fit the standard would have considerably worsened it. Furthermore, my book is its own unique genre; it doesn’t fit neatly into any of the preexisting categories. It’s also an oddity in regard to the aim of truly appealing equally to all ages from small children to elderly adults. (The reviews indicate that I succeeded at this.) For all of these reasons, it would have been nearly impossible to get my book published through the publishing houses.
Every year, innumerable books are written which are too ambitious in some manner or another for the risk-averse mainstream publishing industry. If you want to read these innovative and interesting works, then open yourself to reading self-published books. That’s where you’ll find most of them.
2) Self-publishing makes it possible for the author to keep full creative control.
Publishers demand creative control over books as part of the contract to publish them. They exercise this control toward making books more commercially viable, which often diverges from making the books more entertaining, more informative, or more artistically significant. Sometimes publishing houses make substantial changes to books. Self-publishing keeps full creative control in the author’s hands. This can be a double-edged sword, depending upon whether the author has good judgment, but when it’s good, it can be very, very good to get the unfettered work exactly the way it was intended to be.
3) Self-publishing gives readers greater variety.
If you’re avoiding self-published books, then you’re ignoring about half of all new books published this year. Among them are all variety of highly specialized books. Do you have any really obscure niche interests? If you do, there’s a good chance that the publishing houses don’t find bringing books to market on those topics to be worth their effort. Self-published authors are more likely offer such works. The same is also true for the more esoteric sub-genres of fiction. Self-publishing also includes a large number of books that were originally published by the publishing houses long ago, but went out of print; when authors are able to get back the copyrights to their old, out-of-print books, they often republish the books themselves. These are just a few of the many reasons that self-publishing can add to the variety of books available to readers.
4) Self-publishing can be more rewarding for authors and can help them keep making more books.
When publishing through a publishing house, authors usually get only a small percentage of a books’s cover price. Authors often have to give up writing careers for work that pays better, or have to write just a little bit, in their spare time after work. Their output is often thereby limited by the amount they can make. Authors can often get 5 or 10 times as much per book sold when self-publishing. The higher profit margins can help authors you especially favor make the money they need, in order to focus more on writing, and less on other sources of income.
5) Self-publishing allows authors to publish more, by removing artificial limits imposed by publishers.
Putting aside the argument in #4, there’s another way that your favorite authors can publish more books through self-publishing than through publishing houses. Most publishing houses only let an author publish 1 or 2 books per year. (You can read more about this, here.) Meanwhile, many authors are capable of writing several times that amount. Self-published authors often can and do publish several times as many books per year as authors publishing through publishing houses. So, if you find you’re always champing at the bit for writers you like to release their next books, then perhaps you should try self-published books, where you’ll be more likely to have the next book in your hands in a few months than in another year.
6) Self-published books are often less expensive than books published by publishing houses.
By cutting out the middlemen who take the vast majority of the money, self-publishers can often simultaneously charge readers a lot less for a book while still making a greater profit per book. This is especially true for ebooks, which almost always cost much less when self-published.
7) Self-published books stay in print.
Publishing houses tend to take books out of print as soon as the first print run is completed, unless there’s a huge demand for a second run. They also tend to pull books from distribution as soon as the initial wave of sales starts to slow down. In practice, many books are no longer available after just a few months, and most become unavailable within a few years. However, this is not the case with self-published books. Through ebooks and print-on-demand paper books, self-published books can remain available. Most self-publishers intend to keep their books on the market forever. If you’ve ever tried to purchase another copy of a book you liked long ago, only to discover that it’s only available used at high collector’s prices, or that it simply can’t be found at all – you might like that self-publishing keeps your favorite books on the market for the long-term.