I know we’ve sounded very positive about this whole process, which we are, but there are downsides to self-publishing! Here are a few for starters:
1) Getting to grips with self-publishing sites. We looked at a few self-publishing sites and ended up with Lulu. It seems set up for beginners (which we were!); included options for worldwide distribution both directly from their site and via book distributors (so libraries could buy copies); and you could bring your own ISBN along (which means we were the publisher, not the site). It was still hard work though! It wasn’t obvious how certain things worked or how to fix them … and we were responsible for everything. No-one to complain to or pass things to. It took a long time and lots of work to get files to work okay through the self-publishing site – which we wouldn’t need to worry about if we went to a traditional publisher.
2) Ebook standards! Blimey, it was hard work producing an ebook in multiple formats using free software on evenings and weekends. Again, passing the work onto other people just isn’t possible when you self-publish, unless someone with those skills owes you a favour or (more likely) you are willing to pay. The ebook still doesn’t do all the things we’d like it to, but at least it should work on most devices :-S
3) Promotional work. No chance of adding the book to a professional looking catalogue which is sent out to thousands of libraries. No staff waiting to take copies or take leaflets to major conferences on our behalf. No press releases sent out for us. We’ve had to do it all ourself. That said, although it was extra work, we think we’ve done a more focussed job than a publisher could have. It’s been sent for review to journals that match up well to our potential audience in Australia, USA and the UK. It’s been advertised on mailing lists in the UK and US. It’s been widely picked up on Twitter, We’ve written short articles and blog posts for people that have helped promote it. Just a lot more work than having a commercial publisher do it for you!
4) Cost. Instead of the only real cost being time, it has cost both more time (see above points!) and also money than if we went to a publishing house. We’ve had to pay for various things up front and it is a gamble whether we will cover costs at all. Still, at worst we’ll make a small financial loss as opposed to a reliable small profit with a traditional publisher.
5) Ongoing commitment. We can’t just sit back and relax once the book has been completed. We’re the publishers and have to make sure we keep an eye on things! Do we need more promotion? Is the platform we’re hosting the book on stable? Should we be pulling reviews into one place so we know how things are going? Should we update the book and bring out a new edition? What else do we need to worry about?!
These are a few negatives as the popped into my head, but the good news is they are outweighed by all the positives. Plus the negatives will be even less significant if we do another book in the future, as hopefully we now have a better idea of what we’re doing