What is self-publishing and what is it not?
Self-publishing in the book market means the independent publication of a book. Authors either take on the tasks of a traditional publisher themselves or look for suitable service providers to do so - they can therefore also be the publishers of their book themselves. The tasks include proofreading or editing, book typesetting and cover design before the actual publication. When it comes to publishing, self-publishing service providers are usually used to produce the books as a printed book and as an e-book, as well as distributing them in bookstores. Self-publishing or self-publishing are also used as synonymous terms for self-publishing.
Self-publishing not limited to e-books
Mistakenly, self-publishing is often equated with publishing an e-book. However, with e-books stagnating at just under 6% of sales in the overall book market, authors miss out on 94% of potential sales when they publish a book exclusively as an e-book (Source: Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels).
This misconception has arisen because, with the launch of the e-book, there were quickly providers offering an e-book in self-publishing. This service is significantly less costly than the production and distribution of a printed book for self-publishing authors.
Tip: The special thing about self-publishing is that you decide yourself whether, when, in what form and at what price you offer your book. Self-publishing authors use this freedom for their book success to publish their books in a completely different way than classic publishing titles.
The readers who exclusively read a printed book - and they are just becoming more again - differ. So ideally, you shouldn't just publish one type of book (softcover, hardcover, e-book), but bring all types of books to market. Let's think outside the book market for a moment. Authors and buyers/readers are kind of stuck in the confines of the traditional book.
One content - several book types
No other self-publishing service provider than tredition and hardly any classic publishers offer a book in several book types. Even among classic publishers, there are pure "e-book publishers". What's the point? How a reader wants to consume it, let them decide for themselves, please. Imagine a car manufacturer offering only one type of car (e.g. VW Golf) in one color with one engine and one transmission type. That would be unimaginable.
So it makes perfect sense to take advantage of the opportunities in self-publishing by publishing in several book types, i.e. softcover, hardcover and e-book - and at tredition even in large print. For example, almost 20% of all book buyers only buy hardcovers. If a book is not available as a hardcover, they won't buy it - no matter how good the content is. So successful self-publishing is not just publishing ONE book, but offering content in numerous book types to provide each reader with their preferred book form.
What is the self-publishing process?
- Editing: After the content has been completed, it should be edited or at least proofread. The author should not do this himself, but hire an independent editor.
- Cover Design: That authors not only Writebut can also illustrate, is rare. Therefore, it is recommended to hire a professional illustrator for the cover design. The book cover is the first and most important of with potential buyers with a book. Here is a special attention to it.
- Design of the interior: Readers expect impeccable, professional book typesetting. There are rules on how a book should be designed. There are suitable programs or service providers for this.
- Choosing the right self-publishing service provider: Determine what's important to you about book publishing. This can be the sales and marketing performance or a personal contact person. Based on these important criteria, you can then check which of the different service providers come into your shortlist.
- Determination of the selling price: Don't sell your book short. You've worked on it for a long time and now you've invested in editing, cover design and typesetting. Readers are willing to pay for that. Find out what prices are relevant for your genre or get price recommendations from tredition.
- Metadata creation: To ensure that a new book title can be found easily, the data in the catalogues used by the book trade are important. This includes keywording, i.e. under which terms a book should be found, and a meaningful author vita. In addition, the short description should attract attention.
- Advertising and Marketing: Start getting the word out about your book. There are many ways to do this. The most effective ones are social media, i.e. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Through these you can reach many potential readers very quickly. In addition to postings, you can also place ads that are displayed to suitable interest groups. Try to establish contact with bloggers and journalists so that they write a review about your book. The most difficult way is to contact booksellers directly. They usually plan their assortment well in advance and rarely include titles in their assortment in between.
- Periodic Review: Analyze your sales figures to determine whether or not your measures make sense. When choosing a self-publishing service provider, make sure that you are provided with meaningful statistics.
Decision for self-publishing service provider or on own initiative
When we started tredition in 2006, the biggest challenge was ensuring that our book titles were listed, catalogued and orderable in bookshops. Covering the logistics channels as a single author is a major challenge.
We have managed to have an excellent connection to the book trade and can therefore recommend publishing with tredition with a clear conscience, as your book is available nationwide in bookshops. If you publish on your own, you should inform yourself about the distribution channels in the book trade. Specifically, how your book will be listed in booksellers' catalogues and how your book can be ordered by booksellers. If a title is not listed there, no reader will be able to find it.
Listing in the catalogues of the bar ranges (book wholesalers) is particularly important. This is where the approx. 6,000 German-language book retailers order their books. The bar assortments accept almost no new (small) publishers and have even just delisted the titles of very many smaller publishers because they do not sell in sufficient numbers. With a single title, self-publishing authors will in all likelihood not even be included in a bar catalogue.
So we don't recommend publishing on your own. Our experience shows that printing your own book is usually not a big hurdle. Unfortunately, you will then have a few thousand books at home that no retailer will list. This can quickly become a financial disaster.
Tip: To make your book as widely available as possible on the book market, it is always a good idea to get support from a self-publishing service provider!
This is how you proceed step by step in self-publishing
Editing / proofreading
Every book should at least be proofread. However, proofreading is recommended, i.e. also the stylistic and logical examination of the content. In the case of a publication in a classic book publishing house, a publisher takes care of this. In self-publishing, the author is responsible for this himself. Since a self-publishing title competes with the extensively edited books from classic publishing houses, it should also have the same professional level as a publishing house title.
The Book cover is the first contact with a potential buyer. Whether in an online shop or in a bookstore, it is because of the cover that a potential buyer makes the decision to take a closer look at a book title. Therefore, it is very important to create an outstanding book cover. Some self-publishing service providers offer an online cover designer for this purpose, where authors can choose a design from various templates and then customize it according to their own wishes. Of course, you can also hire a graphic designer or illustrator yourself. They will then create a suitable book cover according to your individual wishes and the content of the book. The costs for this are a matter of negotiation and are usually between 200 and 800 euros.
How much your book stands out from the mass of currently more than 2.5 million available book titles in the German-language market depends strongly on the persuasiveness of your book cover. There are illustrators who charge well under a hundred euros for a cover. Ask yourself the question, can this be good? It is really important for your book's success that your cover is individual and special. Good design has its price!
The inner part of the book with the Typesetting is the inner appearance of their book. By now, almost all online booksellers have the option to browse a book digitally. If your book is available in the bookstore, every prospective customer can browse through it. Therefore, the design of the book's interior should also be in no way inferior to the design of publisher's titles! Because interested buyers automatically perceive the book typesetting, i.e. how the font, the line spacing and, if applicable, the illustrations look. tredition offers an online book typesetting service developed in-house for this purpose:
- Simply upload unformatted book content
- Select appropriate book typesetting style
- Astonish - and if necessary still adapt the style to your taste
If you order a manual, professional typesetting, you can expect a price of about 3 € per page. Please don't underestimate the effect of amateurish typesetting. Readers will not finish a book if reading the lines is simply uncomfortable. This can be the case if the font is too small or the line spacing is too small. Again, the same quality standards apply to self-publishing authors as to a publishing title.
Determination of the price
With self-publishing, you can set the sales price yourself. Of course, it should cover the costs of production and distribution. The average price of a new publication in Germany is over 20 €, and the trend is rising. A misconception, especially among new authors, is that they should offer their book as cheaply as possible. A cheap book has the following disadvantages:
- Booksellers earn little: Booksellers earn between 30 to 40% of the net sales price (i.e. after deducting VAT) on a book sold. With a selling price of a softcover of €9.90, this leaves just between €2.77 and €3.70 for a bookseller. So a bookseller avoids recommending very low-priced books to his customers. If a self-publishing title is particularly cheap, a bookseller is very unlikely to include it in his range or recommend it.
- Readers do not buy based on priceStudies among book buyers show that book buyers do not make their purchase decision on the basis of price. Of course, this must be within certain limits. A novel for €100 is too expensive. But it doesn't matter whether a novel costs €14.90 or €17.90 if the content can arouse a buyer's enthusiasm and interest. A survey among just under 4,000 readers in Australia found that only one in five even looks at the price of a book. In Australia, there is no fixed book price, so that the price of a book actually varies between retailers. Of course, people like to take the cheapest one. In the German-speaking book market, hardly any readers pay attention to the price because of the fixed book price.
- Prices that are too low arouse scepticism: Prices that are too cheap make potential buyers look at a book with skepticism. Is it of poor quality? Has it been proofread? Is it made on cheap paper? A market price gives book buyers the feeling that they are buying a high-quality book.
Depending on the genre, different prices are common. Specialist and non-fiction books sometimes cost significantly more than fiction books. When you start your book project with us, we will make you a proposal for a sales price. This price is based on the average price of new publications in your genre.
We urge authors to be clear about what exactly they are selling.
Authors don't sell printed paper or an e-book file. They sell
- Hours of suspense or heartbreak
- Education with which the career can become more successful
- Health tips that make life better
- Imagination for children to dream as long as possible
Ask yourself whether €2.99 as an e-book or €6.99 as a printed book are reasonable prices. The buyer is willing to pay more if your book is worth it!
No one will buy a book that no one knows about. Therefore, it is important that you are aware of your marketing and promotional activities early on. For this purpose, we provide detailed articles on how to draw attention to your book in social media, for example, or how to win over booksellers. You're competing for an equal number of book buyers with more than 100,000 new books hitting the book market every year. If book sales are important to you, marketing is the most important task in self-publishing.
How big is the self-publishing market?
Self-publishing has always existed. The term has been used in Germany since around 2011. Authors have regularly published books on their own before that. Currently, just under 70,000 new publications from traditional publishers still appear on the German book market every year. The trend is downward. The Number of new self-publishing titles, on the other hand, is growing clearly. From 2015 to 2021, the number of new releases per year has tripled!
This trend is even stronger in the US and UK, where self-publishing new releases significantly exceed those of publishing innovations per year.
A growing number of available self-publishing titles means more competition for each book.
However, this development has a major impact on the book market. More and more books are available, but the number of books sold in Germany remains largely unchanged at a good 300 million per year. So more and more books are competing for an unfortunately declining number of book buyers. The particular challenge, especially for self-publishing authors, is therefore to stand out from the crowd with your book and as an author yourself. For marketing, please read the last chapter of this article.
What's the difference between self-publishing and a publisher?
What are the advantages of self-publishing?
In contrast to publishing with a book publisher, authors enjoy more freedom in self-publishing. You can decide on the appearance of your book yourself, i.e. the cover design and the interior, and set the sales price yourself. In self-publishing, a publication is possible at any time and a self-publishing title is available in bookstores within a few days with good service providers. Furthermore, authors can usually earn higher author fees. However, they have to finance numerous tasks for the creation of a professional book in advance.
A publisher selects book titles for publication based on whether they fit thematically into the publisher's program. Here, the editors usually make the decision whether a book title should be published or not. The rejection rate is 99.98%. Conversely, this means that only every 5,000th book submitted to publishing houses Manuscript is published as a book. Incidentally, this realisation was the reason why we founded tredition in 2006! We were convinced then, and still are today, that among the 99.98% rejected manuscripts, many books with high potential for the book market are hidden. There are numerous examples where manuscripts rejected by publishers became world bestsellers. Perhaps the most famous example is Joanne K. Rowling, who was rejected by twelve publishers. Even Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King, as this compilation. rejected English-language authors shows have first been self-published.
The boundaries between self-publishing and a publisher are becoming increasingly blurred. Many publishers are under cost pressure and are increasingly reducing their services for authors and becoming more critical in their choice of titles. Authors at publishing houses often have to contribute to the success of their book themselves. Usually only the top authors in a publishing house receive extensive marketing measures. In comparison, self-publishing service providers such as tredition expand their services for authors primarily in the marketing and distribution of a self-publishing title. In our estimation, self-publishing is the future and publishers will find it increasingly difficult to attract authors. The decision for Self-publishing or a publisher must be made by each author individually.
Publishers do editing for almost every book title. They also handle cover design, production, distribution, and marketing. Publishers like to use authors who already have a name and shy away from the risk of working with new authors. For a book title to be profitable, publishers usually need to sell at least 3,000 copies of it. In reality, publishers publish several titles per half-year. There are focus titles. These are supposed to be the main sales drivers. These are usually works by well-known authors or works licensed from abroad that have already been a success there. There are also the so-called program fillers. These are works by authors that are intended to round off a half-year programme. Unfortunately, these titles, which are often by new authors, do not receive the same marketing and sales performance as the focus titles.
Contrary to popular belief, few publishers pay an advance. An advance means that the author already receives an author's royalty upon delivery of his or her manuscript. Successful authors often receive such an advance. Unknown authors rarely if ever receive it. If the title is very successful, authors also receive success bonuses. In publishing houses, authors usually earn between 4 and 8 % per copy sold, measured against the sales price.
In self-publishing, author fees can be higher. However, you have to make them comparable. A publisher bears the costs of editing, cover design, book typesetting, and marketing. Therefore, a publisher pays out lower fees. In self-publishing, an author should also do these services himself or buy them from professionals. These costs must then be deducted from the self-publishing commission. Then the amount of the author's fee is comparable. Example:
In the above example, an author receives an author's fee of €3.00 per copy sold from a self-publishing service provider. In this example, this corresponds to 20% of the sales price of €15. For the publication, the author had the book proofread (1,200 €) and a cheap cover designed (300 €). He had the book typeset free of charge at tredition using the online book typesetting service. Review copies for sending to the press and bloggers cost €200. Running and creating his own website cost €200 and an initial advertising campaign on Google cost €200. In total, the self-publishing author invests €2,100 in this example.
If 1,500 copies are sold after one year, the example author has earned 1,500 * 3 € = 4,500 €. If you subtract the initial costs from this, you still have 2,400 €. If you then divide this by 1,500 copies sold, you get an author's fee of 1.60 € or 10.7 % of the sales price. This is therefore just under half of the fee paid to him by the service provider.
Readers often associate a publisher's brand with a promise of quality: Anything published by a publisher must be good. The fact that a publisher can also often be wrong is shown by the Worstseller list. Self-publishing is different. Here there is no decision maker who determines whether a book can be published or not. Many service providers do not check a book at all before publishing it and publish it unchecked in the book market. This has several negative consequences:
- Good authors and books are lumped together with bad ones. Authors with excellent quality books get a negative reputation because self-publishing titles are not usually checked for quality. tredition provides you with various tools with which you can make a comprehensive check yourself using various quality criteria.
- The brand suffers and is categorically excluded from the trade. If the bookstore experience increases due to poor quality, all books from that service provider will be removed from the list.
- Legal consequences threaten. Authors are not always aware of all the legal consequences that can result from publishing a book. Do you know under what circumstances a quote constitutes plagiarism, i.e. stolen content? You can find out more in our comments on Author's right.
With tredition's quality tools, you can check your book yourself and ensure that your book is in no way inferior to a traditional publisher's title. The reader decides whether a title is exciting or boring. As we all know, tastes differ. There should at least be no external criteria that negatively influence the perception of your book.
In publishing houses, EVERY book is proofread. That can be good, but many authors feel that this interferes with their creativity. The important difference with self-publishing is that publishing authors can't choose the editor and usually can't complain about the result if they don't agree with the changes. Self-publishing authors can decide for themselves whether to have their book edited. We recommend it - but it is not mandatory.
One major difference lies in distribution. Publishers present their programme to the book trade through publishing representatives with printed or digital publishing previews. The programme is therefore actively presented in the book trade. Self-publishing service providers do not do this. tredition nevertheless does a great deal Distribution for your book title.
Booksellers don't wait for self-publishing titles. With still more than 70,000 new publications from publishers per year and the growing reputation of publishers, a bookseller therefore has no advantage in displaying a self-publishing title. However, self-publishing titles also include real bestsellers in growing numbers that booksellers are unaware of. We have seen the challenges like Self-publishing and the book trade can work together compiled in detail. But keep in mind that a bookseller wants to sell ONE book. Whether it's YOUR book or another book, the bookseller usually doesn't care. So you have to influence the buyer to buy YOUR book and not just ANY book.
There is no right or wrong way to self-publish or publish. It depends on what your priorities and desires are.
What self-publishing providers are there?
There are three categories of self-publishing service providers or platforms:
- Pure e-book service providers: With these you can only publish an e-book but not a printed book. The disadvantage of these providers is that you only reach e-book readers with your book. However, these only make up 6% of the German-speaking book market.
- Print and e-book service provider: Authors can publish printed books and e-books with these providers. The choice among providers is limited here, as a very complex distribution structure is required to bring printed books to bookstores nationwide and to always have a sufficient quantity available or to offer a fast print-on-demand. With these providers, authors have the full potential to reach every reader.
- Self-publishing service provider with only one distribution channel: These are stand-alone providers where a published book is only available in their online shop. These include, for example, Tolino or Amazon. The traditional book trade, which accounts for 85% of sales in the German-speaking book trade, will not sell books from these self-publishing service providers and readers cannot order them there either.
Pure e-book service providers
Pure e-book service providers only offer the publication of an e-book. Authors have to convert their book as an e-book themselves and place it on a platform and the self-publishing service provider takes care of the listing and distribution at e-book shops. The stores include Amazon Kindle, Google Books, Apple iBooks, Tolino, and numerous smaller ones. Some service providers offer to convert a manuscript into a popular e-book format. Most of the time, this is the ePub format. The self-publishing service providers charge a share of the so-called publishing turnover as a fee for themselves. The retailers themselves claim between 30 and 50% of the sales price for themselves. Depending on how high the sales price is, this share can also be higher. In this case, an author receives less.
Print and e-book service provider
Print and e-book service providers also offer printed publication and distribution. Thus, authors have the advantage that their book can also be ordered in bookstores. Since the e-book only has a market share of 6 %, it is therefore advisable to also offer a book in print.
Stand-alone providers are service providers who do not offer a book in bookstores, but only through their own sales channels. These are, for example, Amazon or Tolino. The disadvantage with these providers is that your book cannot be ordered nationwide and through the usual bookstore channels. Since no other retailers are making money, stand-alone sellers sometimes offer higher commissions, but to the detriment of distribution and availability. We believe that nationwide availability allows for a higher total commission for self-publishing authors than if a book is only available from one online store.
More about this in our detailed Comparison of self-publishing providers.
What marketing efforts are effective in self-publishing?
Besides writing a truly outstanding book, the main task of a self-publishing author is to market the book. Provided that you have the goal of gaining notoriety for yourself and your book and realizing attractive sales figures, the promotion of your book is inevitable. Most of the time, you know your target audience best of all and know exactly how to address them. Take advantage of this knowledge and dare to start marketing on your own. Today, self-publishing authors have at their disposal a great many effective and inexpensive ways to promote their book. These include social media such as. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Furthermore, through search engine advertising (SEA) and optimization (SEO), the doors are open to make the content also findable on the Internet.
A book will hardly get any attention from readers without targeted advertising. So, unfortunately, a good book doesn't sell itself. It's the same with any publishing title. To help you make the most of your time, we've written a comprehensive guide on how best to Marketing for your self-publishing book ...you're running.
Self-publishing a book has been around forever. Since around 2011, the term self-publishing has been used for it. While the number of new publications by traditional publishers in Germany is falling, the number of new titles in self-publishing is growing significantly. However, since more books are not being bought overall, every self-publisher faces the challenge of promoting their book particularly well.
Those who do not publish with a publisher enjoy more freedom with regard to their book. Self-publishers can decide on the layout and cover of their book and set the selling price of the book themselves. In return, however, they have to pre-finance or take over numerous steps that are necessary for the creation of a professional book. These include editing, cover design, a professional book typesetting, the choice of a suitable sales price and marketing for their own book.