Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pros & Cons of Self-Publishing

(Official Kindle giveaway stop for Nov 13 so comment to enter before Nov 20!)

Today’s little bulleted list of the “Pros and Cons of Self-publishing” comes from someone who has been there. I’ve had agents, not had agents. I’ve been rejected hundreds of times. I’ve published in major, small, and independent presses, and now primarily self-publish. I’ve been a bestseller and had books I couldn’t make someone read at gunpoint. And all of the routes are difficult. If you think it’s hard to write a book, try selling one.

Pros of having agent
1. Most writers can’t arrange lunch with an influential publisher, talk over salad, and leave with book deal.
2. An agent can get you more money, usually more than the 15 percent commission.
3. An agent can guide you for an entire career, point out the landmines, dun publishers for money owed, and stay ahead on trends.

Cons of having an agent
1. The best book in the world won’t matter to them if they can’t sell it.
2. Your book immediately becomes New York-centric, measured by all the other deals, relationships, commodities, industry politics, and corporate bottom lines, as well as the pecking order of your own agency.
3. It’s possible the agent becomes a roadblock or black hole, where your work vanishes for years.

Pros of having a publisher
1. They do most of the work besides the writing.
2. They have a system in place designed to distribute and promote books.
3. They can pay you money immediately.

Cons of having a publisher
1. They take most of the money.
2. They may keep your rights virtually forever.
3. They solely determine the fate of your book, via profit-and-loss statements, print runs, and the amount of the advance, so there’s automatically a ceiling placed on your book.

Pros of doing it yourself
1. You keep all the money.
2. You get to find your own audience.
3. You control everything, and the success and failure are yours alone.

Cons of doing it yourself.
1. You keep all the money and there may not be much.
2. You have to find your own audience.
3. You control everything, and the success and failure are yours alone.

More and more writers are developing hybrid careers, where they have agents or use publishers but also self-publish material that’s either been out of print or has a small audience. This will probably become the standard working model for middle-class writers in the next few years. But to make it work, pay attention to the rights you sign away in contracts—the fairest deals should return the work to you after a certain period of time or when sales drop below a certain level. After all, it’s your work. If you don’t care about it, why should anyone else?

Scott Nicholson is author of 12 novels, including the thrillers Disintegration, As I Die Lying, Drummer Boy, Forever Never Ends, The Skull Ring, Burial to Follow ,and October Girls. His revised novels for the U.K. Kindle are Creative Spirit, Troubled, The Gorge, and Solom. He’s also written four comic series, six screenplays, and more than 60 short stories. His story collections include Ashes, The First, Murdermouth: Zombie Bits, and Flowers. His web site is

To be eligible for the Kindle DX, simply post a comment below with contact info. Feel free to debate and discuss the topic, but you will only be entered once per blog. Visit all the blogs on the tour and increase your odds. I’m also giving away a Kindle 3 through the tour newsletter and a Pandora’s Box of free e-books to a follower of “hauntedcomputer” on Twitter. Thanks for playing. Complete details at



author Scott Nicholson said...

Special make-up giveaway post for Nov. 13--those who entered the aborted Blood Red Pencil post listed here have been entered:

randymir@gmail. com
dreamer dot ima at gmail dot com
mrluckyATcharterDOT net
bluefrog62@yahoo. com
lorraine_lanning[ at]yahoo[ dot]com
chey127 at hotmail dot com
dulcibelle [at] earthlink [dot] net
bonnje@embarqmail. com
whitejw@ameritech. net

Thanks and sorry for the confusion.


Brenda said...

I'm entering the special make-up giveaway...unless it's more of that zombie make-up. Thank you, Scott, for listing all the pros and cons. You confirmed some of those things I've been listing mentally, plus added some new stuff for me to think about. The idea of a hybrid career is appealing, too. varbonoff22 at cox dot net

The Undead Rat said...

Interesting how the pros and cons for agent and publisher are generally different but the pros and cons for self publishing are absolutely the same -- give or take a handful of words.

It is food for thought.

--Greg Fisher

Teawench said...

I had the same thoughts as The Undead Rat so I'll just leave it at that. :-P
teawench at gmail dot com

Books and Bane said...

Oy!! You can't run! The stalker will find you anyway!!

nedsped at verizon dot net

Eric said...

Thanks for reposting this Scott. I was looking forward to reading it yesterday and when I couldn't find it, I was bummed. :(

calseeor (at) gmail (dot) com

monapete said...

Thanks for reposting..

monacart32 at hotmail dot com

Cathy M said...

As always, great fun facts, Scott.

caity_mack at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

I'm not a writer, but I like the idea of a more direct relationship between author and reader, it makes the books more meaningful.

Thanks for transferring my entry but I enjoyed reading the actual post.

SapphireReads said...

I'm not a writer but I've always wondered what the advantages and disadvantages are of self publishing

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Great pro/con list, Scott.

The only thing I would add is that with traditional publishing everything takes so long. I just didn't have the patience for it.

I have been very happy with the sales of my six Kindle books. And I have just added a seventh book, NAKED FRAME, which is the first book of my new Rebecca Ranghorn Mystery Series.

Congratulations on your well-deserved success in the Kindle Store!


would you believe i saw a kindle book selling for MORE than the paperback! i checked another book by the same author and same thing....want to guess what i am not buying?

Armand said...

Nice try, but we found you... currently reading "The Farm" since I started following this blog tour...

Armand Rosamilia

Tiffany Christie said...

I am loving this blog tour. It's fun to keep up and read the great articles ....Tiffypoot @ (

The Undead Rat said...


I forgot to add my e-mail address.

Thanks for the contest,
Greg "The Undead Rat" Fisher

theundeadrat (@) gmail (.) com

Margay said...

This is a good list to consult time and time again for aspiring authors.


hendy said...

So do the pros outweigh the cons?....:)
hmhenderson AT yahoo DOT com

Katie said...


kt1969 at comcast dot net

jpearson said...

Count me in too.!

Dee Martin said...

well I admit to being totally confused yesterday, though I read some good articles there as well. thanks for posting this - I have learned a lot from you already :)

Jesse said...

It'd be interesting to see the possibility of big names such as King, Koontz, Grisham, etc turning to self-publishing. Do you think that'll ever happen?

conrad.jd (at) gmail (dot) com

bluefrog said...

Glad you posted, I think these are important points.

Debra L Martin said...

Thanks Scott for a great post.

author Christa Polkinhorn said...

I'm too old and impatient to wait for an agent/publisher deal so I decided to self-publish my debut novel. It's been fascinating, interesting, sometimes frustrating but, for me at least, definitely worth it--not as far as making money goes, but for the experience, the readers/authors I have met and been in contact with, and just for the sheer excitement.

Kristie said...

Obviously there are things I never considered about publishing. Thanks for the info. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com

Rabid Fox said...

Some good quick advice. Which reminds me, I should browse through some of the articles in Write Good or Die again.


Neal Hock said...

Interesting points.


Monster A Go-Go said...

"the aborted Blood Red Pencil post"

Oh my stars! And YOU were the father, as we know! Have you NO SHAME!!?? And here you mention the abortion here blatantly! Shocking!

Gotta dash!


Sirhijinx said...

Keep up the good work Scott!!

deanna said...

I would LOVE a Kindle DX. Thanks for the opportunity to win one! :)

P.S. Click on my name for my contact info. ;)

Inspired Kathy said...

Please enter me in the giveaway bkhabel at gmail dot com

JL_Bryan said...

Yep, I would say the pros and cons of self-publishing are the same list.

Dale said...

The Pros & Cons of self publishing are so true and I glad to see you pointed them out.



author Scott Nicholson said...

Oh there are plenty of pros and cons, I could write an entire book about them.

@jesse King self-published more than a decade ago--The Plant. And he's done a couple of Kindle-only works. I hear Grisham self-pubbed his own book but also heard it was small press so I don't know

@dee blood red pencil is a good blog but they rescheduled and I didn't have time to change the blog schedule again so this post will have to do.

Also, everyone, don't forget to "Follow" the blog to be entered for a paperback giveaway of Blood Lite 2: Overbite anthology.



stefanie647 said...

I don't think there is any "best" way to get published. It really all depends on the writer and how much work they are willing to put into promoting themselves. There's give and take to both sides, and all comes down to what you are willing to give up for the convenience of having a publisher or an agent...

Anonymous said...

Deciding to self-publish must be a big step. How many times can one be rejected and still feel they can write. I guess it is a case of each writer doing what they feel is best for them. Not everyone can handle going it alone.

librarypat AT comcast DOT net

James Rasmussen said...

Thanks for the short lists, Scott.

jamesemr (at) gmail (dot) com

ylime1981 said...

Great list!
Emily ebdye(at)gmail(dot)com

author Scott Nicholson said...

Pat, rejection is far easier once you understand the needs of the industry--it's really not personal at all. You can write a great book and it simply doesn't work for buyers, or is out of fashion, or is dated, or any number of things. The book market is very narrow and specific--until an awesome, trend-defying book comes along and starts a new cycle.


Krista said...

Hey there. Enter me for the Kindle :)

Sharon S. said...

well said. I know an author that self-published and got #1 on the kindle for a while and then got a publishing deal. She took it. Hope things work out for her.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, I'm going to be looking into self-publishing more in the future.


ok, i've read and thought about it....i don't want to be a writer...just a reader!

flutterby said...

Thanks for this info :)


Coscom Entertainment: Publisher of Monster and Superhero Fiction said...

You’ve pretty much summed up things regarding traditional vs. self-publishing.

You might want to add that self-publishing is a boatload of work, something that is not for the writer who simply wants to write. And that, of course, is a topic on its own.

Coscomentertainment [at] gmail [dot] com

POSSESSION OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIE FIGHT NIGHT (and others) for just TWO BUCKS at the Amazon Kindle store. Grab your copies here!

Mommy Dearest said...

Some times you've just got to do for yourself. Rock on Scott!

Hank Brown said...

Finding the audience has been the most daunting for me--most of them have seemingly turned from books to video games in the last several years.

How do I get the makeup thing?

Twitter: MachineTrooper

Douglas said...

Enjoyed the post. I have been struggling with this issue myself. I am ghostwriting my mother's book and she being 79 years young, envisions hard copy printing as the only way to go.



Andrea I said...

I'm only a reader, not a writer. I enjoy reading all the information about writing and publishing.

JC Phelps said...

My favorite part are the pros and cons of doing it yourself -
Great post!

Emily K said...

Great post!

emilyking630 at yahoo dot com

Onge said...

Interesting post! I haven't heard much about the selling side of books. Thanks for the giveaway!!

Jess (The Cozy Reader) said...

I applaud any author that tries, whether they succeed or not, at self publishing. I worked for years at a book distributor and know how the publishing side works. I can't imagine how difficult it can be to be an aspiring author. :)


author Scott Nicholson said...

Thanks for entering, everyone, 53 comments plus the 10 moved over from Blood red pencil is 63 entries (minus my comments and duplicates).

@andrea, we LOVE readers!

@douglas do Mom's book as POD through Amazon and do ebook at the same time--everyone wins

@hank I don't think reading is dead quite yet--go the book fairs and school and see

@jess now the distributor is the Internet--easier than ever

@AP I think the writer who does nothing but write may not be all that valuable to the world anymore. It's not just about sales, it's about what people want and need.

Good luck and stick around for the final week!


byonge said...

A digital book should be priced significantly less than a paper book. Why is that not always the case?

dor said...

Ha, great post. Some day, I'll wrtie too.
dorcontest at gmail dot com