3 Myths About Self-Publishing A Book – Debunked

A woman at a typewriter ponders

Self-publishing is a great option for authors, unfortunately far too many authors avoid the self-publishing route because of myths relating to the topic.

It can be hard to decide if you should take the traditional route and submit your manuscript to literary agents, or if you should bypass all that and self-publish your book instead.

Many people avoid self-publishing because they believe the myths that it is too expensive, takes too much time and effort, and they won’t be taken seriously as an author. These myths simply are not true.

In this article, I want to go through these three big myths about self-publishing, break them down and show you why they just aren’t true.

Let’s dispel those myths once and for all so you can move forward with confidence.

Myth 1: Self-Publishing Is Expensive

When people think about self-publishing, many of them still think about old-school vanity publishing, which involved buying hundreds, or even thousands, of copies of your own book and trying to pitch them to bookshops.

This idea is completely out of date.

The cost of self-publishing has come down dramatically in recent years, thanks to advances in technology. These days, you can easily upload your book to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform and make it available for sale within a few hours—and it won’t cost you a penny.

It’s not just for ebooks either, you can upload a print-ready file of your book and make it available as a paperback, and with just a click of a button, you can send that book to the catalogues of thousands of bookstores across the world.

Of course, there are other expenses to consider if you want to produce a professional quality version of your book, including cover art and editing. But these services don’t have to cost the earth.

Remember: if you were publishing traditionally, you would still have to pay for these services from your royalties. (Check out this author’s blog for a real perspective on traditionally published author earnings)

By taking control of publishing yourself, you have complete control of the upfront costs of creating your book, and in the end, you take home a far higher percentage of the royalties.

So really, it’s a wash in terms of costs.

Myth 2: You Won’t Be Taken Seriously

It is very difficult for a passing reader on Amazon to tell if your book is self-published, or published by one of the big five publishing houses (Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan).

When deciding on which book to buy next, readers will look at the cover, the book description, the reviews, and then perhaps the sample that Amazon offers. Readers won’t even glance at the publisher. They don’t care; they just want a good read.

But perhaps you aren’t worried about the reader taking you seriously.

You might wish to avoid self-publishing because you’ve heard you won’t qualify for the Hay Festival or the Booker Prize, or any other of a number of prestigious literary accolades.

First, Jill Paton Walsh became the first self-published author to be short-listed for the Booker Prize for Knowledge of Angels all the way back in 1994. Read her account of the whole process here.Opens in a new tab.

Second, if you are writing purely for awards or accolades, you may want to take a moment to pause and consider why they are so important to you and ask yourself if no such prizes existed, would you still want to write? Why?

The answer you give to that question is fundamental to your long-term mental health, as well as maintaining your motivation in a challenging career.

Authors who focus on improving their craft and reaching their audience will do better and be taken far more seriously than those who focus on winning prizes and gaining accolades.

By self-publishing your work, you will be in the esteemed company of authors such as Margaret Atwood (Double Persephone), Mark Twain (The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin), Andy Weir (The Martian), and, of course, Jill Paton Walsh (Knowledge of Angels). All these authors have reached millions, won prestigious awards, and even had their work turned into Hollywood films.

If you take your writing and your career seriously, then others will too. No matter how you decide to publish your work.

Myth 3: It Takes Too Much Time and Effort

It takes far less time and effort to self-publish your book than it does to publish it traditionally. Particularly if you choose to use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, which we mentioned earlier.

Querying a book with agents is an exhausting and demoralising process, and that is before the agents’ pitch to a book publisher. It can take years, sometimes decades, to find a publisher, and the process of pitching your work is a profession in and of itself.

Once your book is finished and sitting with a publisher, they will fit the book into a launch timetable which suits them. This can add yet another year or two to the time it takes to see your book on the shelves.

All that time and effort before the book even reaches the reader’s hands and starts getting reviews!

Meanwhile, the self-published author has focused on honing their craft and building their audience. They have published ten books in the time it has taken a traditional first-time author to publish one, and because of this, they have been able to read real reviews, learn from their audience, and improve time after time.

Perhaps the self-published author’s first book is not as polished as the traditional author’s debut novel. But that’s okay, the self-published author has now earned enough money to reinvest it into their back catalogue and relaunch with a beautiful second edition.

Of course, promoting your own work takes considerable time and effort. But this is true no matter which route you choose to go (traditional or self-published). Don’t be under any illusion that you can take your millions in advance money and hide away in a castle, sending the occasional manuscript to your devoted agent.

Your publisher and agent, should you be fortunate to have either, will spend a fixed amount on a launch, which will come from your book’s royalties, and then move on to the next book in their catalogue.

The hard graft of promoting your book will be up to the author. It may take some time and effort to get things up and running, but then you should allocate about 10-20% of your working time to marketing tasks, any more than that, and you are wheel spinning.

Mega-authors like Stephen King and Brandon Sanderson still have to promote their work themselves. Even Charles Dickens used to do promotional tours for his new books.

Publishing books is hard, no matter which path you take. But if you want to learn and improve, you have to write, publish, and repeat. The best way to do that is to self-publish.

If you want to know more about where to start on your self-publishing journey, take a look at my article Is It Hard To Self-Publish A Book? (And where to start)

In Summary

Now that I’ve debunked the three biggest myths about self–publishing, perhaps it’s time for you to give it some serious consideration as an option for getting your work out into the world.

Yes, it takes time, effort, and perseverance. But then, so does every career worth having. And the rewards can be great.

What do you have to lose?

Good Luck, and Happy Publishing!


Niamh Murphy is a bestselling author of YA adventure fiction, proudly publishing independently since 2013.

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