Thursday, March 20, 2014 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Why I Chose to Not Self-Publish (for now) with Becky Lower

Publisher or Self-Pub. Learn today what author Becky Lower has to say on the subject.

It’s the wild west in the publishing world these days. With the legitimization of self-publishing by the Romance Writers of America (acceptance of self-pubbed books in the RITA, many conference sessions on the nuts and bolts of how to go about it), more authors than ever are jumping on the bandwagon, resulting in thousands of new titles being released monthly.

I say hurray to those brave souls who are navigating being their own publisher. And, someday I may join you. But, for right now, I’m content to be with my small press, even with smaller royalties. Why, you ask, would I turn my back on larger royalties? Here are my reasons:

1.  Time. As a debut author, I knew I’d be spending a lot of time building my brand and my backlist. I’m slow to learn new things on the computer, so I had to decide whether I wanted to learn the nuts and bolts of publishing my own book or if I wanted to establish a presence.

2. Money. If you’re going to self-publish the right way, you have to outlay some cash up front. To pay for editing, cover art, formatting, ISBNs, copyrights, the going rate for any self-pubbed book is $2,000-$5,000. And that’s just to get it out the door. Promotion is a completely separate cost. And I have less money than I do time.

3.  Validation. Call me crazy, but the self-doubting author in me wanted a legitimate publisher to tell me my books were worthy of their time. My books don’t fit into a traditional line, since I choose to write my historic romances about America in the 1850s and 1860s, and my contemporaries always feature women over 40. I was rejected by the Big Six because, although they were good stories, they didn’t know what to do with them. Small presses are more flexible. They just want good stories.

4.  Editing. This one is big for me. I’d never been through the editing process before, and didn’t know a good editor from a lousy one. How could I possibly have sifted through all the editing services out there today if I didn’t know what I was looking for? Now that I’ve been through the process a number of times, I can spot good editing from the first page.

5.  Cover art. Another biggie for me. Having been through this now seven times, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted for the cover of my latest historic. It was the first time I had a clear vision of what was to be on the cover. My publisher gave me their reasons why I shouldn’t go down that road, and gave me several choices, none of which made me happy. They finally gave me two choices—one as I pictured it in my head and the other a lovely young woman. They were right. My version sucked. But, if I’d been doing it on my own, I’d have gone with the cover from my head.

6.  Help with promotion. Since my funds are limited, I can’t afford a big ad budget and get my books in Bookbub, The Romance Reviews, RWR or any of the hundreds of other places where a presence wouldn’t hurt. Nor can I get Amazon to publicize a Kindle Daily Deal on my own. Sure, as a self-pubbed author, you can play with the pricing, but can you get the word out to everyone on Amazon’s list when you drop your price to 99 cents for the day? I still do a lot of promotion on my own, such as setting up blog tours, keeping my own blog up to date, being a contributing editor on a number of national sites, but the assistance I receive from my publisher is vital to my success.

7.  Distribution. Want to hold your book in your hot little hand? That’s a whole different ball of wax with self-pubbing. It’s one thing to throw it up on ebook sites, quite another to have it in print. A good publishing house will be able to sell your books directly from their site, as well as on all the ebook sites. And they’ll offer print versions within six months of publishing the ebook version. They’ll arrange for distribution to brick and mortar stores, and make them available to the sites bookstore owners and libraries use to purchase their books. If you’re a self-pubber, that means you’re also your own distribution source.

8.  Fellowship. Last, and probably most important is the friendship with other authors. Becoming a success in this business means forming circles of fellow authors, through publishing houses, through local chapters, through a social media presence, and at national conferences. They can help you with promotion, aid you in picking one cover over another, assist with proofreading and writing those tricky cover blurbs. And, most important, they can write a review for you and help spread the word to their friends. The heads of the publishing houses know people in the industry that I don’t, and help spread the word if they enjoy a book.

Writing may be a solitary profession, but it takes a village to get a manuscript to print and then into the hands of the public. I’m grateful I have the help as I attempt to get my foothold in this business and keep writing, so I can have a decent backlist. The one argument I keep hearing over and over from self-pubbed authors is that they’re control freaks and need to be involved every step of the way. Well, when you submit a book to a publisher, it doesn’t just automatically go from manuscript to print while you sit on the sidelines. There are multiple editing steps to get through, reviews to garner, covers to approve. If the publishing house is a good one, you have a locked-in release date and can begin to promote it on your own months in advance.  I still can control the outcome, and to some degree, the success of my books, by leaning on the publishing house to assist me in my efforts.

That’s not to say that I will never take the plunge into the world of self-pubbing. I enjoy writing a series, which do well in self-pubbed land. But right now, I’m picking my battles and trying to keep my head above water.

In 1858 New York City, Halwyn Fitzpatrick thinks he's off the hook for attendance at the annual Cotillion Ball. He has no sister to shepherd down the grand staircase this year and no real desire to go through the rituals of courtship and betrothal himself. Besides, he'll know the right girl when he sees her, especially now that he has new spectacles. But his mother has other plans for him. At 27 years of age, her son is in dire need of a wife.

Grace Wagner needs a husband by July, in order to inherit the trust her father has left for her. Her stepfather, though, has plans for the money that don’t include Grace, and the last thing he wants is for her to find a husband before she turns 21, thereby fulfilling the terms of the trust. She's been in love with Halwyn since she was thirteen, but he hasn't noticed her at any of the balls they've attended over the years. With the aid of his new eyeglasses, he spies Grace from across the room and they share a dance. Grace decides to present him with a business proposition that will satisfy them both. But, can a clueless knight in shining armor and a desperate damsel in distress find a way to turn a marriage of convenience into something more?

Avalailable at Amazon

About Becky:
Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west in the 1850s or in present day middle America. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a regular contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After column. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at Visit her website at


RyanJoSummers said...

Well written. Anyone thinking of going the self pub route can learn from this. Thank you for outlining it so carefully.

RT Wolfe said...

It sounds like you know what you want/need and are going for it, Becky. Best wishes to you. You deserve it!
-R.T. Wolfe

HiDee said...

Becky, thanks for being with us today and sharing your thoughts. Every author has to choose for themselves which route is best for them. Best of luck with your books!

Jaye Garland said...

Fabulous post, Becky! All valid points and well worth consideration. I was going to say, especially number...?...but would have had to list them all. Thanks for sharing!

D'Ann said...

I don't even know where to start here.
I don't know where you got your #s but there's no way SP costs that much. Not even close.
I left my small publisher with my first three titles when I made in a month what three titles made in a year.
My covers are professionally done, my editing is also professionally done.
My validation comes from the readers who buy my books.
I do as much promotion on my self pubbed books as I did when they were with my small press pub. And, no, I don't have a big budget.
To each their own. But I couldn't be happier with my self pubbed, well edited, great covered books!

Deborah O'Neill Cordes said...

I agree with D'Ann. My indie novel cost around one tenth of your quote, and I feel confident it can hold its own and even surpass traditionally published works for professionalism. That being said, I enjoy being a "hybrid" author with my feet firmly planted in both publishing worlds.

Emelle Gamble said...

Great info and post, Becky. I agree with two alternate points...small press publishers can't get you into stores or libraries. Soul Mate doesn't, and selling only via amazon, etc. is not as good as in a physical book store as about 40% of the market still buys that way. Secondly, the time lag between indy and small press is enormous...most small presses are 6-9 months from contract to listed on Amazon. that's a long wait if you're trying to get 3 out a year. Other than that, I think your figures are totally correct. Websites, art for facebook, art for book covers, editorial and copy editing, first year publicity via boost posts or ads or giveways, easily $2,000 and closer to $5,000. The best thing newbies could do for themselves is realize that on one hand they are 'creative' types who need to produce a great book, but indy or small press, you also need to view your role as one of a small business owner. You need to publicize, plan, get out there. Thank god for the fellowship, as you say, both for the emotional support and the info sharing.

Lynn said...

Fun discussion! We appreciate the opinions and thank you for sharing your own experiences.

Téa Cooper said...

Thanks, Becky. I've got the same list sitting on my desk and at the moment have chosen to stay with a publisher for all the same reasons. As you also said - for the time being. The best thing about it all is the fact, as authors, we have a choice.

Terri Patrick said...

There's lots of information on how to self publish well and for much less money than you stated, Becky. But that aside, all the other points hold true for me. I have one novel with SMP, one non-fiction with a small press, and am planning to pitch the next novel, and another non-fic, to an agent. My goal is to be a hybrid author until the day I can devote full time to being my own business. By then I should have a diversified back list and will even have rights reverting back to me. I want my author life to be a career not a sprint to print.

Becky Lower said...

Thanks, HiDee, for hosting me today. Glad to see such a lively discussion. Maybe my figures were off on how much it costs to self-pub, but I know what my friends are spending, and it's right in that range when you include everything. And one of my small press publishers has gotten me into libraries, and are beginning to place books in bricks and mortar stores. My local bookstore is able to buy my books for resale from his vendor, and I don't have to provide him with them. But, as so many have pointed out, we're lucky to be able to have a choice, and many of us are becoming hybrid authors. Each person must select her own path, and for me, for now, this is the most comfortable.

Violetta Rand said...

great topic/discussion. I'd like to share my experience, because I think your costs are way too high. And its easier than you may think.

I'm about to release my first self-pub novella (20,000 words). After releasing two books with SMP, I'm about to release a third and fourth, I have a great agent who doesn't rep novellas, I have a following, I'm comfortable doing it. Let me assure you, I spent very little on the cover (picked a wonderful photo I purchased on Stock Photos at a cost of $8), relied on myself and a friend to do the graphics, I'm investing in a two month long tour for $220, I'm an editor and have great editing/critique partners to help make sure its a clean manuscript, ISBN costs about $55, and formatting my manuscript is easy. Not sure where all your costs come from.

There's also other positive factors for self-pub. First, approaching writing as a fulltime career as I am requires me to keep a multi-faceted portfolio. Traditional pub, ePub, and self pub.

The general idea is, the more titles you have out there, the more royalties you bring in.

Also, companies like Book Baby offer great packages for people who aren't tech savvy for under $300 to get a title up and running.

I suggest taking a closer look at costs.

I do agree, however, that genre has much to do with success on self pub books.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Sharon Clare said...

Great insights, Becky. There are pros and cons to each publishing model, so you've been smart to play to your strengths and time. It's working well for you, so well done! Yet the door to SP is always open.

Great comments with this post as well. It's good to hear all sides.

Catherine Castle said...

You make some very valid points, Becky. Nice post.

maggie mundy said...

I heard Bob Mayer at a conference saying how great it was to go with the self pub route. Of course he already had a back list and a following and his fans followed.I am with you that I want someone to hold my hand at this stage.