For a lot of people who’ve struck out in finding an agent or publisher, or who have decided they want their book immediately, self-publishing looks like a great option. For some people, it is. But for the vast majority, it is a subtle kiss of death for their future as authors.
Because if the book fails to sell well, it will look like you really aren’t very good at marketing or selling, which are far more valuable skills in the minds of publishers than your ability to write. Most self-published books severely under-perform the author’s grand vision. The minute any piece of intellectual content (book, other) has an ISBN number on it, it is trackable by a sophisticated system called “Bookscan”. Agents and publishers can easily research exactly how many copies sold since publication. How many you sell in the back of the room (if you’re a speaker) is irrelevant to our calculations. If you sell fewer than 1,500 in the first year, you will look like a failure the way we think about things. It is surprising difficult to sell even just 1,500 books!
Here are the facts as I see them, having lived in this industry since 1989:
If you do not have a platform, you should not self-publish because the book doesn’t build platform per se.
This is NOT a chicken-and-the-egg scenario. The book does NOT come first. Build a platform to test your content (e.g., a mailing list of 5,000 or more active fans, another 5,000 or more Likes on Facebook, 10+ paid speaking engagements in a year, etc.) THEN self-publish if you must. (Although with even a modest platform like that described above, you would have the option of getting a small publisher). THEN the book will grow your platform, and as your platform grows, you sell more books.
If you do it that way, the right way, you will have the option of getting an agent and then a publisher. Otherwise, most self-published books are a concrete block around an author’s neck.
300,000+ titles are published annually – your readers WILL NOT find your book magically and you’ll become a miracle story.
To build your platform, click here for our best-selling course. If you’ve already self-published within the last 2 years, and you’re not selling a lot of copies through Amazon or other bookstores, you desperately need this product!
The decision to self-publish can help you or haunt you – it depends on how wisely you undertake it. Probably a dozen or more times a week, someone will pitch me their self-published book. I ask them how many copies it has sold, and rather than answer directly, 100% of the time they launch into a story about why it didn’t sell more. A word to the wise: think this one through very, very carefully. You will be impacting your future options for at least the next 2-5 years.