J.K. Rowling was rejected a dozen times before someone finally agreed to publish her novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It took Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, 39 tries to get a publishing house to print her future bestseller. Instead of facing the seemingly inevitable rejection of traditional methods, many budding writers turn instead to self-publishing, once a seemingly outlandish method that is gaining popularity among aspiring and accomplished writers alike.
Traditionally, authors allow a company to print, market, and distribute their books for them in exchange for most of the revenue from the book sales. The costs associated with this process can leave authors earning very little money. On the off-chance the book is a bestseller, the writer could make a decent amount of money, but few make themselves any significant income: The average royalty is a mere $1.25 a book.
Self-published authors, on the other hand, keep a much larger share of the revenue generated by their books by cutting out this middle man. When authors handle the business aspects of getting their work to market themselves, they keep every penny after expenses, which can double or triple the author’s profit margin.
Major beneficiaries of this trend are students of all ages. High school and college students who want to get their work out there to attract a university or employer or for publicity now have a new option. Self-publishing balances the low costs of the Internet with the prestige of traditional print methods, making it great for exposure to the general public without breaking the bank.
How can you get in on this chance to share your brilliant novel with the world and spruce up your apps? It’s simple. Dozens of websites exist to make the process of self-publishing as easy as possible. For a flat fee per book sold, companies like Lulu and CreateSpace will make your book available either as an ebook or as a print-on-demand service, which is manufacturing each copy as it is ordered instead of in large batches. Generally, this limits the books to being sold online through sites like Amazon, but some self-publishers do also offer distribution to Barnes & Noble and independent chains.
Seeing your book on the shelves of Labyrinth Books or the “You May Also Like” section of Amazon might seem like an expensive, far-off dream even with an agent and publishing house. However, due to the low-to-no setup costs of self-publishing, you may not spend a penny. There’s no initial order for which you have to pony up; instead, your books are only printed when someone buys them.
For those writers whose works are shorter, nontraditional, or simply not suited to print, the process also has its benefits. Simple submission of a manuscript to Amazon provides exposure to 65 percent of the US ebook market, and authors receive 70 percent of the proceeds from every copy sold—with no upfront costs whatsoever.
Self-publishing is great for getting exposure and recognition as a student, but don’t expect your writing to replace your allowance. Very few self-published books (with some notable exceptions like 50 Shades of Grey) reach the wide audiences that large publishing houses can, and still fewer generate enough money for a living wage. However, self-publishing could still benefit you: After all, who doesn’t want “published author” on their college application?