Why Self-Publishing Could Be Damaging to Your Business
A book has the potential to boost the authority and status of its author unless it's self-published.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Writing a book. It's one of the most widely held aspirations and a common feature on entrepreneurs' and business owners' goals list. With the incredible results and benefits associated with authoring a book (when done properly), it's no wonder that recent years have witnessed a huge surge in professionals not only aspiring to write a book but now taking action to bring such goals to fruition. However, with this surge in book-writing, coupled with advances in technology, there have been changes in the publishing industry. Although some newly forged pathways are proving to offer avenues to success previously inaccessible to anyone besides professional writers, other changes are not necessarily for the better — and do not lead anywhere even remotely close to success.
In 2021, new platforms and cost-free strategies have led to a significant rise in the number of people opting for, advocating and encouraging self-publishing. With this new narrative, there is a pressing need to consider whether the easiest and cheapest routes are the most effective, especially when your book represents your business and brand, and when anything but professional publication can prove to be hugely detrimental to the long-term success of the book — and its author.
So what are the pros and cons of self-publishing, and how can these be offset or overcome? The following provides a breakdown of just three of the many necessary publication processes requiring critical consideration, especially when the book in question is lead-generating non-fiction being used as a means to showcase the author's expertise in their industry.
1. Cover design
"I've always been good at Photoshop. I could design a cover myself."
Famous last words — and ones I've heard myself before witnessing the inevitable book flop. It is common for those advocating self-publishing to believe an author can do everything themselves and without any monetary cost, with cover design one of the most problematic areas when it comes to getting your book out into the world. A cover is the first glimpse into a book, and first impressions count. So why risk getting it wrong?
The pro of designing your own cover: It only takes your time, so it can be done without any financial investment.
The con of designing your own cover: The final cover could convey the wrong message, look cheap and unprofessional, attract the wrong audience, discourage your target market from buying/reading, and look self-published (which is never desirable).
Solution: Either invest in a professional cover designer, with a background and expertise in cover design or invest significant time in learning the formula and creative skills governing cover design in the professional publishing world.
2. Editing and proofreading
"I'm always picking up on errors in books. I could edit my own manuscript."
It takes proper training and a wealth of experience to become a proficient editor with the skills needed to edit, polish and refine a manuscript to its greatest potential. Nonetheless, when cheering for self-publishing, it is common for authors to complete their own edits or ask someone in their immediate circle to just "go over the manuscript" for you. Neither of these will ever be sufficient, because not only do we, as writers, become completely blind to the typos in our own work and the holes in our story's plot, but there is far more to editing a manuscript than merely identifying errors. When so much work, time, energy and focus have gone into writing the book, why not strive for perfection and make it the very best version of itself by having a skilled editor complete the editorial process?
The pro of editing your own manuscript: Again, it only takes your time, and so there is no need for any money to be invested in the process.
The con of editing your own manuscript: You might miss errors and typos, confuse tense, fail to identify plot holes or tie up loose ends, not answer all of your readers' questions, neglect to take the reader on a journey, or forget to include important must-haves, such as references or resources.
Solution: Either invest in a professional editorial team, with sufficient qualifications and experience in the editing of book manuscripts or learn the skills and processes of a professional editor.
"I can just publish an eBook on Amazon."
Amazon is the biggest book retailer in the world, and although it offers a huge platform for book-readers of all genres, it remains that not all people want to read an eBook or wait for the delivery of an Amazon-printed paperback — and not all people want to buy from Amazon. Furthermore, some people still want to visit their local bookstore, pull a physical, beautifully printed paperback or hardcover from the shelves, feel it between their fingers, and take it home then and there.
With the time, energy and effort that should go into a book, it makes sense for it to have the greatest reach possible. When a book is representing an author as a business professional and their brand and company, it makes even more sense to make sure it is available as a high-quality physically printed publication and on more than one platform (i.e. not only through Amazon, but Barnes & Noble, Chapters Indigo, Waterstones, Walmart, Target, Gardners, Bertrams, and countless other key players in the book retailer arena). To self-publish an eBook on Amazon is far from the most effective and wide-reaching choice, and makes entrepreneurs' lives harder when looking to maximize lead-generation tools and marketing strategies, such as book funnels and "free plus shipping" offers.
The pro of limiting your distribution: Creating an eBook on Amazon is quick, simple and free, and comprises less than a handful of steps. Again, it only takes your time (and very little of it).
The con of limiting your distribution: Your book would achieve greater exposure and reach if it was made available across various outlets and platforms, as well as in different formats, and it would allow you to utilize other marketing avenues.
Solution: Either take the initiative to contact and negotiate the listing and stocking of your physical book in other stores and across other networks or widen your distribution network by opting to have your book listed and detailed on the world's retail, wholesale and distribution channels.
Importantly, there is never any shame in pursuing any specific route to publication if it does justice to your book, makes your book available on a large, global platform, is designed, presented and published professionally, and helps the author to achieve and attain the goals and results they outline at the beginning of the process. With that said, it is important to consider that the book's overall production needs to be aligned with the quality of service/product offered and sold by the author and company. If this is not the case, the prospect will question whether the standards of the book mirror the services offered by the company. After all, how can you claim to achieve impeccable outcomes for your clients if you can't do the same for yourself and your book?
As the founder and owner of an award-winning hybrid publishing house, which operates globally and has a team of skilled cover designers, editors, proofreaders, typesetters, publishing consultants and marketers with access to global distribution, retail and wholesale channels, my take on book-publication is simple. If publishing was as easy as self-publishing and required no financial investment at all, there would be no publishing industry. Like with anything in the world, you get what you pay for. If the most important thing is the financial investment and the need to do things on a budget, there is also the need to be realistic when it comes to the standards of production and the results that can be expected.
This isn't to say self-publishing cannot possibly be done to an incredible standard or achieve huge success. It can, but such cases are few and far between. Generally speaking, a self-published book looks self-published — and that isn't what anybody wants for their book, especially a successful entrepreneur with high-level clients.