Is Digital Self-Publishing the Best Business Model for your Novel?

Be very clear about why you are self-publishing. What are your objectives?

 The time and energy needed to create publish and market a book as an independent publisher is a serious undertaking with no guarantee of a financial return.

So you must be crystal clear about your goals before you create a distribution strategy for your work and investigate the best publishing and marketing options.

  ebooks and print books

Photo Credit: Flickr/katerha

When I started writing contemporary romance I knew that the romance fiction I enjoyed reading and writing the most were fairly short. Probably 50,000 to 70,000 words. Long sagas were not for me, although my friends loved them.

The ideal home for my 50,000 word contemporary romance was the Harlequin series romance lines. Harlequin Mills and Boon are experts in distribution around the world, and they released my books in print and as digital editions.

That was an ideal outlet for that kind of mass market short paperback romance and the perfect business model for series of linked books with the same style and tone and packaging.

But completely the wrong fit for a stand-alone 80,000 crime book!

What worked for a category romance will not work for a non-branded crime book. Bookstores will not stock it and I don’t want a contract with a publisher to write several more crime books so I can build a new brand in that genre.

For my single title crime book, self-publishing is the ideal publishing model.

 For me there are two starting positions for any author.

Option One. I want my book to be read more than I want the Income from any sales of the book.

 Is your goal to distribute your stories to as many readers as you possibly can, and you are not interested about making any money from that process?

Then self-publishing would be an ideal option for you.

You should offer your book for free, as an eBook on all of the online bookseller platforms.

My recommendation would be to load your book onto the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing website and then use a distributor like Smashwords, and similar aggregators, who will manage your eBook for you on all of the other online booksellers besides the Kindle Book Store.

From the survey data Mark Coker from Smashwords presented in 2013, free books were downloaded 92 times more than the paid books. That’s a lot of potential readers who are out there ready to discover and love your work.

You still have to learn the business of creating your eBook and distributing it but pricing is no longer an issue.

Option Two. I want my book to be read AND I want the maximum Income from any sales of the book.

You are running your writing career as a business, no matter how small and you want to earn some well-deserved money from all of the hard work and sacrifice that you have invested in creating your book.

You are looking for ways to reach the largest possible number of readers and intend to price your book competitively so as to maximise any income from the sales of that book.

 Option tree

Once you are clear about WHY you want to self-publish, then you can work on HOW you want to share that story with the world.

Is digital self-publishing the best business model for your particular novel?

 You have probably spent a lot of time writing your novel. The average length of genre fiction single title novel will be 75,000 to 120,000 words, with some genre differences. That represents a huge investment in your time and emotional energy as well as the financial costs.

It is worth the time to think through all of the possible markets for your work.

Once you have made the commitment and self-published your novel, it would be very difficult to offer that same book to another publisher.

Time to ask yourself some tough questions;

*What kind of book have you written?

*How long is it? What is the word-count and how many pages does it have?

*What genre would best describe it? Or does it cross-over into more than one genre?

*Is this a mass market commercial genre novel such as a romance, crime or science fiction novel or…

*Would your work appeal to a small niche audience that you understand well?

*Who are the best readers for this Novel? What are they looking for, and where do they buy those books? Will your Novel deliver the expectations of your ideal audience as a self-published book?

*Do your readers like to borrow printed books from their public library?

Your book needs to be accessible so that readers can find it easily. Where are you going to find your ideal readers and how are you going to make it easy for them to discover that your book exists in the first place?

Example One. There are many romance writers who specialise in historical regional romance novels which are published in small numbers in a hardback form.

These authors know that their readers prefer to read a printed book and would be very unlikely to read a digital copy of the novel.  They may not even own a computer or want to order online.

For these authors, digital publishing would not serve their readers and therefore would not be the best model for their novels. 

But perhaps these authors might consider self-publishing a printed book? How would that book be ordered if your readers are not comfortable with online book buying?

Example Two. Many of the free eBook websites only make your eBook available through their own website. Would your readers go to those sites?  

OR would they look for reading material through online booksellers which they are familiar with, based on their eBook reader.

If they have Kindles they might shop first at Amazon sites, if they have a Nook it would be Barnes and Noble, Kobo for a Kobo reader and Apple iTunes if your readers use Mac pcs and iPads and iPhones.

The answers to these questions should help you decide the best way to distribute your book to potential readers.