‘Hot Bed of Innovation’ *


Flexibility, control, copyright, maximum percentage earnings.  

These seem to be the key words for a new breed of entrepreneurs emerging in the publishing industry.  As more and more writers self-publish, what was previously regarded as vanity projects are now big business – both for writers and for the digital book industry.

Where before books would languish in drawers, writers with some knowledge, a lot of time, perseverance and social media presence can self-publish and hopefully with some or even lots of success.

Self-publishing has many positive elements:  


  • The middle-man, retailers, are cut out and books are sold directly to the reader.numbers2
  • The earnings from the sale per book are increased for the writer in comparison with traditional publishing; the latter which have to take into account their work, marketing, printing and selling costs. The figures banded about are 10% in traditional publishing and copyright tied up for x-number of years against 70% in self-publishing with copyright retained and non-exclusivity. Of course, there are variations of numbers and contractual  terms within both sectors.flexi
  • Flexibility of sales technique is a major asset for those who decide to go the self-publishing route. There is the option to reduce and vary price,market special offers, including special promotions when a book might even be available for free. I know the latter is usually a major hit with many takers on the offer and resulting in increased reviews online. Also some authors can decide to part release chapters of their books via social media to tempt readers in. One major success of this tactic was Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’.  He released his book chapter by chapter on his blog, before collating it into a complete book for self-publishing as an e-book, audio book and physical book. By then the word was already out and the book was picked up by a division of  Penguin Random House. It’s now a Hollywood blockbuster.  
  • Self-publishing also allows an author to publish a book no one in the traditional trade will touch as they consider it out of step with current market trends. One such example of miscalculation is the hugely successful ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, which E L James decided to self-publish following lack of interest by the publishing houses. She self-published, the book flourished and in due course was picked up by Vintage Books, which had the capability to bring the physical books nationwide and to an international market as well as offering the full support of its marketing team. To date the whole series boasts sales of a 125 million books!
  • Many self-published authors have realised the popularity of series books and often have the flexibility to bundle the books together as such when selling them, giving the reader a better deal and for the writer an opportunity to increase financial sales and hopefully win longterm readers in the process.
  • Another positive aspect to self-publishing is that books do not have to be standardised regarding length, with books varying much more in number of words and offering a larger scope for refreshing variety of books.

So how big is the self-publishing industry?  

This is books scramble. Many books on white background.

No one knows for sure, particularly as the largest operator (Amazon Kindle) refuses to release their sales figures, however it is believed that between 12-15% of books sold are self-published.  Although the number might not seem large, according to Author Earnings the earnings from e-books by self-published authors in America is collectively more than earned by authors represented by the Big Five publishers.

This is a massive amount and one that is only increasing. Its own success spawns trouble for newcomers who are entering a flooded market and have to work so much harder to try and win attention and interest in their book. It is not impossible but it can be trickier than ever the experts admit.

There are numerous difficulties facing a first-time self-published author.


  • It can be an arduous task to release over many platforms such as Amazon,Kobo, Google Play and Apple iBooks. For each platform there is the need to reformat the book each time. This can be both time-consuming and requiring yet more new skills. 
  • Furthermore there is the all important book design cover to consider. Whether to try and achieve this on ones own or search for help.
  • The blurb is vital with any book and it is important to get this right!web
  • Last but not least the actual marketing falls upon the self-published author alone; not only to organise but also to carry out without support. This includes both the social media/online marketing and perhaps outside promotional events in eg. bookshops and libraries.dollarpound 
  • There is of course also the financial risk to factor in. Many writers will want to have their manuscript professionally proofread. Perhaps a professional cover will be commissioned. Also if producing the physical books there is the printing costs to consider. Douglas Wright, a former journalist, took the opportunity to self-publish his first book but he is only now starting to recoup the costs. 

If it all seems too much there is a huge network of support out there. Many here in WordPress are wonderful  bloggers offering help, advice and support for various or all elements of the process.  

Furthermore several companies exist to help with the whole package of self-publishing including Whitefox Publishing Services, Reedsy. Support forums also exist, such as Royal Road Self-Publishing Forum, Authors Alliance.

Finally, on a personal level the information above is of great interest to me as I consider which direction to take in the future. So many bloggers have successfully self-published not just one but many books and I hold them in high esteem. My admiration for their books and their ability is immense as I begin to realise the epic journey that awaits anyone contemplating this route. I am pretty tech savvy but the thought of trying to put all this together myself into an e-book instills a certain amount of fear and trepidation. The more I read the more confused I become. I will not let this hamper my efforts though and like the writing take it step by step should I decide to go this way, calling upon your invaluable help along the way! 

* Michael Tamblyn, Head of Kobo talking about e-books on BBC news.

Data is from various sources including BBC news.


47 thoughts on “‘Hot Bed of Innovation’ *

  1. Great information here, Annika! I’ve tossed about the idea of self-pub, since my book crosses genres, and I think that has put some agents off. I’m still trying to hit the traditional route, at least initially. I don’t know if you follow Nicholas Rossis, but he just posted a good blog series about self-pub and marketing. Sounds so daunting! I’m having enough trouble focusing on finishing my WIP, I hate to think how much marketing my book would eat into that time, especially with a full-time job. I have a lot of respect for those who’ve been successful with self-pub, though my jury is still out on 50 shades (we all know why that sold, and it wasn’t because of the stellar writing)

    1. Julie, there is so much work involved in either form of publishing and as someone here has mentioned even traditional publishing now insist on a lot of involvement marketing wise, so yet, definitely time consuming. I wish you best of luck with your book. They do say go by genre but so many recently have crossed these and seem even the more successful for it, so fingers crossed for you.

  2. Hello Annika, at last getting over to you. I hope you had a wonderful weekend! This is a great post, I will continue to read with great interest as you decide over the coming weeks which path you will follow. I know of many self-published authors in my 3 years of blogging and take my hat off to each and every one of them, an amazing achievement. As I continue to revise and edit the second draft of my memoir, researching along the way, gleaning as much information as I can about the world of publishing, I am still looking towards traditional publishing, but I am definitely keeping my options open, as daunting as self-publishing seems! Your post is wonderfully informative, thank you so much for sharing so generously your on-the-ball knowledge with us. I’m so glad that we are travelling this path towards the publication of our debut books together 🙂

    1. Sherri, it is an interesting journey and such a great fluke we are just about at the same stage! If you go traditional and I self-publishing we can compare experiences – cover your ears though! I imagine my patience might be severely tested at times. I was also informed by my son that I now need to change my tagline on my blog and my about page as I have actually written my first novel – it is most definitely a new phase now. This post started as a few notes to myself to try and clarify the two processes and then I realised many others must also feel confused and unsure of which way to proceed, hence I decided to write a more complete post. I’m so glad you found it informative and helpful, thank you so much. 😀 I hope you all had a wonderful celebratory weekend.

  3. If you’re lucky to get a publisher pick up your book (either with or without an agent) then by all means do so. It’ll be a feather in your cap. I say lucky because that’s what it often is. Although, as was pointed out in some of the comments here, you’ll still be asked to be aggressively involved in the marketing of your book. But at least you won’t be rowing alone.
    Now, if you go the self-pub route there’s lots of great softwear to help you design your cover and even through Fiffer you can pick up a cover for little cost.
    As for the blurb, I’ve always found that difficult to write. A good idea is to study blurbs of books in your genre and as you’re rewriting your manuscript keep in mind key sentences you might want to use in a blurb, or ideas that pop into your mind. A blurb also has an evolutionary curve that needs to be sharpened as you go along.
    Same with the title. I hope this helps a bit. 🙂

    1. Carol, as you have self-published numerous books I am so happy to read about your experiences and thank you so much for your comment here. The zenith would be to find a publisher – but I’m also realistic, hence looking at the self-publising and some of what is involved. Thank you for your mention of Fiffer – I’ve never heard of it and will definitely take a look. Great tip also about studying other blurbs and keeping in mind key sentences from my own ms to use in it – I’ll do that whilst editing. Your advice is very welcome and most definitely helpful. Thank you, Carol.

  4. This is a very interesting post …it provides a grounding description of a process that is very multi-faceted and perhaps daunting to a newcomer–something you allude to at the end. I have no personal publishing plans but if I’m alive twenty years from now…who knows…anyway it’s a journey I am curious about as some bloggers such as yourself are embarking on it. I wish you success with your process 🙂

    1. Thank you, Janice.😀 Your word of multi-facteded sums up the process of self-publishing perfectly- the need to be competent if not expert on so many various levels. I have a feeling that it will be a very interesting journey should I go this way and one I’ll definitely share here on my blog.

  5. Doing it my way and leaving something for posterity were key reasons to self publish. Why wait for publishers to make decisions on your book when you can do that much better? I joined the Indie authors before me and have no regrets. If you want something done right, do it yourself.

    1. I love the power and conviction behind your words, Mary Ann. Your were clear-sighted about why you wanted to self-publish and then went ahead. Brilliant. I think with the opportunities out there at last for writers, why not use them. Did you do all the formatting etc yourself?

      1. Indeed I did everything myself except for the final cover version. I used my husband’s photo of a nearby nature center and allowed the publisher to design the final version. There are many packages to purchase when you publish so you can compare costs. I had to format the photos into their guidelines to make a crisp, sharp final version which was not always easy since some were old black and white photos of the family and my parents. Annika, the “easy” part was the writing. I had several people do a read through and make suggestions. The editing is sometimes time-consuming. The publisher assigned me someone or actually more than one to tell me how I had to type the poems. As much as I recall, I relied on the publisher for some of the decisions. It was actually not that much different from typing my Ph.D. dissertation. I had English teachers ask me how long I had been working on my book. I usually laughed before telling them that the first draft was written in less than one month of eight hour days. Because I was still teaching, the formatting, etc., took several months until, at some point, I said to myself that I was done. That’s it in a nutshell. Today I enjoy writing my blog which is also doing things my way. Would I do some entries differently today? Probably, but at some point in the writing process, you need to step back and say to yourself that it is finished and let the world decide. When you self-publish, you are also in charge of marketing. I hired a publicist through the publisher who set me up with social media and the blog and some radio interviews. I also had a book-signing at a local library. Good luck and happy writing and
        publishing to you!

        1. Wow! You worked your socks off on this and I’m so impressed and also slightly daunted! I think it is slightly harder to self-publish work with photos, graphics or even poems regarding formatting. I have read a lot about marketing etc so have an idea what is needed – it’s having the guts to go out there though!! All in good time I tell myself, first to the editing. Definitely time-consuming but worth it as there is no point in sending out a half checked piece of work. I think it will suit my personality and am sort of looking forward to it – if that makes sense? Thank you so much for your input. Warmest wishes.

          1. Having written, edited and published my dissertation for the Ph.D. put me through demanding steps. It was an excellent practice for writing the book. The publisher will format the text and photos or illustrations you provide. It behooves you to read and re-read and have others read to catch punctuation, etc. As a teacher and used to making corrections on written work, I treated my book in the same manner. So hopefully, you have good friends who will look your work over with a critical eye so you can make changes. I think the first writing is easier than the editing. Read it through and put it down and start over with fresh eyes. I had no real deadline and worked mainly weekends and school holidays and told the publishers that sometimes it would take a bit longer to submit what was requested. Just don’t rush yourself and even when others tell you it is fine, read it again. Your publisher will also send it back for a final review in the event you forgot a period or comma somewhere. I had to rework the entire script into single lines for the poetry. I had done everything double-spaced for ease of corrections. Single-spaced took me about 8 hours of work on a weekend. Always think of the end product. The more work you and your readers do, the better your end result. I know it will be fine. I kept my day job. Now as a retiree, I can devote more time to writing. Attention to detail is the key. All the best and happy writing.

  6. Fascinating summary. I’ll throw my own experience in, as a self-pubbed non-fiction author. If I sold my non-fic tech books through a traditional publisher, I would not make enough to live off of. As a self-pub endeavor, I do. That’s a huge difference in quality of life. The one piece I would love out of traditional publishers is their reach. It is quite possible that their marketing efforts would sell so many more books, I’d end up doing better under their umbrella.

    Then again, maybe not. And I’d give up a lot to be there.

    1. Jacqui, thank you so much for sharing your experience and what a lift to know there is a chance to actually earn enough to make a living from self-publishing. I have a feeling you are quite savvy how to go about it all by yourself so didn’t have that ‘oh, no, what do I do now’ daunted moments of many other newbies. Of course, if major publishing houses were to come in with an offer I doubt few would say no!

  7. Anonymous

    Very interesting – I didn’t know there was so much involved in self publishing. Although it looks daunting I suppose the way to approach it is in bite size bits rather than try and take in akll the options at once. Good luck!


    1. Thank you very much, Rod. I appreciate that very much since you have published two books yourself so I consider you quite the pro! Did you do it all yourself or di you find a small press to help? If so, which one if I may ask? What would you advice? I suppose it would depend on how much it would increase ones sales whether it was worth it to publish across all e-formats. I have no idea!

  8. Thank you for such an informative and interesting post Annika, just what I need at the moment. Like you I am a bit terrified at the prospect of self publishing but hopefully I’ll get there. Currently looking into book cover ideas with a friend of mine who is artistically inclined.

    1. Marje, I’m so glad that this post could provide some clarity in a very confusing publishing world. I started jotting down some notes for myself for future reference which then morphed into this post as I realised I’m not the only one in a bit of a quandary. How exciting that you and your friend are working on a cover! Has she read your book or is she working from your blurb? Have you written a blurb yet?? Best of luck with your book and do let us know how you are getting on – I look forward to reading it. Let me know if you would like a shout out at any stage.

      1. Thank you so much Annika. My friend has read a chapter describing the crystal cottage and she seems to have discovered a whole lot of things just from that chapter alone. I haven’t written a blurb yet – must get on with that. Thanks for the offer of the shout out, etc.

  9. Thanks for all this information Annika. For me I would self-publish for I know the type book I would write would meet with a lot of brick walls the traditional way. At the same time, I love bookstores and a hardcover book in my hands. Maybe there’s room in this world for both. Good luck, you’ll make the right decision.

    1. JC, I think there will always be room for both printed books and e-books – like so many, I love bookshops and as young my friends would abandon me in Waterstones whilst they looked around, what was to me, boring clothes shops! Like you say, realistically self-publishing is the only immediate option available to most writers – but who knows, perhaps you’ll be picked up by a major publishing house afterwards and then your book will be in the bookshops! Good luck to you and your book and do let us know more about it!😀

  10. Mirja

    Congratulations Annika to making a factual posting so pleasing. Both visually and verbally.
    I am quite entertained by your great pictures that breaks up the flood of information
    Personally I would head straight for the whole package for self publishing. Or ask one of
    the knowledgeable blogger friends.
    You are right that the blurb is vital, as is the front cover!
    Good luck on the steep learning curve.

    1. Mirja, I’m glad you liked the post and found it visually pleasing. I realised that such much information on its own can be rather dry so I wanted to break it up somehow. The bookshop one is so dreamy…One of my major worries is trying to write a blurb – the task is already my nemesis! Something I will have to tackle – sometime…

  11. Peter R

    Annika, surely you aren’t advocating the death of the small (and big) bookshop! Where will we be able to go, to while away an hour during a wet afternoon in town? Seriously though, I read recently that the sales of e-readers are starting to decline. I suppose people long for the feel of the real thing, just like they are boosting sales of CDs and even vinyl again. Having said that, you go with whichever way is right for you. I’m sure it will come good in the end, and there’s no point beating yourself up wondering if you’ve taken the right road. Good Luck.

    1. Peter, I love bookshops myself and this post was more about how a new writer can possibly get their books out to the general public. The stark facts are that the major publishing houses, which make up the majority of the stock in bookshops, take on very few new authors. The only other option, as so many have discovered, is to self-publish. Where before this was regarded as vanity publishing, costing the earth and resulting in perhaps a couple of hundreds of paperback books, publishing digitally in this modern world is more viable for most. E-books sales are flattening out and I think there will always be a market for real books and e-books. If Penguin was to come and offer me a contract I think my screams of joy would be heard around the world!!😀 Many thanks for your comment.

    1. Diana, thank you so much for your belief in me – and thank you for the reminder that I can always change my mind! My problem is I want everything to be perfect first time and you’d think I’d have learnt by now, wouldn’t you? I so appreciate your offer of help and believe me, you might regret that! I’ll definitely take you up on it when I am there. You must be quite unique in that you have a lot of experience in both these forms of publishing, with invaluable insight and knowledge. Thought of becoming a professional?

  12. Great article with wonderful information. I went with small presses because I didn’t want the work of formatting the book and getting it on all the sites, not to mention tackling the paperback details as well. But even with small presses, promotion mostly falls on the author, which I understand–small presses don’t have the resources big publishers do. But even lesser known authors published by the Big 5 probably have to market themselves a great deal. That’s always the tricky part for any author.

    1. Thank you, Carrie and it sounds as if your experience with small press has been positive. I’ll definitely keep that in mind. Yes, you’re right about promotion; the days of the eccentric writer hiding away all their life, far far away from any form of publicity are well and truly gone. A bit of a pity though…

    1. Before I started reading up on self-publishing, Jill, I thought it can’t be too difficult…then I felt swamped with information. Maybe we should feel reassured by how many successfully do manage it – they can’t all be tech geeks? (Well, this is what I tell myself!!😀)

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