Self publishing, is it worth it ? An illustrator´s point of view 2 – To print or not to print…on demand…

I take it that you already read part one of this rambling of mine on my other initial post… right ? 😉
So… self publishing your book, is it worth it or not ?
Well, the short answer is, not.
But there´s a positive catch here.

In my opinion, it´s not worth it if you go purely – Print on demand.
Let me rephrase that… it may not be worth if you go purely – Print on demand.


The big question that many people ask is does print and demand work ?
Yes and no.
Why ? Because although print on demand is really easy to set up and it´s mostly free to get your own online shop, not only you will have a ton of work uploading your material into several of your pod-online stores but you will be so frustrating by the lack of initial visits and zero sales for months ( sometimes years ) on end that you´ll simply quit on everything. Many times convinced that your own work is totally crap when it´s not.
So this type of more immediate – self publish – solution can really become the death of your dream because you may come out of the experience thinking your work is no good or nobody is interested on what  your dream project is.
You set up your store, you upload your book, everything looks awesome and then you spend the next six or ten months looking at it while you´re the only visitor there most of the time. And then you quit, without realizing you´re really quitting before you even begun.

I bet you´re already confused.
Once again, self publishing your book, is it worth it or not ?

It all depends on what your goal is.
More… it all depends on what your expectations are when you start your self publish project.
If you´re one of those authors that are absolutely convinced your book is naturally awesome and therefore it will be easy to earn a lot of money by sailing it all over the world through the internet because everyone will be interested in it (after all we´re talking about selling in the entire world), think again.
Think again if you think – print on demand – is going to do that for you when you choose this more popular method of self publish.


Another popular question tends to be, is print on demand saturated ?
Well, how big is the internet online market ? Does anyone know ?
Because, the first catch of  print on demand is revenue. Income generated by your sales.

No matter what cover price you choose for your self published book, the company where you are selling it and where you have your online store set up, will always take the larger chunk of your hard earned money.
Therefore, to get… let´s say, -rich- by being a self published author; or even for you to quit your day job, your book really, really, REALLY needs to become an overnight sensation all over the web and sell thousands of copies monthly, even better…weekly.
Even then if you become that successful remember that the print on demand company will be seven, eight or nine times richer than you, despite you´re being the one spending money to market your book.
Because print on demand companies won´t publicize your book for free, unless you´re getting amazing sales. And in that case, they are the ones who will have all the advantage in making your work known and increase sales because in the end they are the ones who will really profit from your talent. Come to think…not that much difference from real established mainstream publishers…but that is another topic for another time…

Is print on demand profitable then ?
Right now with your work, no matter if you self publish your book on amazon KDP, at LULU or in any of all the options out there, if you charge $15 for your book, with luck you´ll get about $1 or $2 per sale…and this is when the companies don´t also deduct “expenses” or have some other “fee” on top of your earnings for the “free” self publishing service they are providing to you. It´s true they have their printing costs associated and they give you the online space, etc…but we cannot avoid to think something is not right when it comes to what an author gets in the end.
But in the end you have to deal with it. If you go the print on demand route you need to accept the rules of the system.

For example on my own -“self publish”- metallic print shop at Displate, each time I sell a $39 print with my work , I get about $2 out of that sale.


Which brings me to the second catch with the print on demand “free” option.
You have to spend money to make money.
Ok, this is true in every other business but it´s a lot more troublesome if you´re getting into self publishing for the first time, you have no budget for marketing but you managed to invest a few Dollar$ or €uros into web adds, either on Facebook, Add Words or whatever.
What usually happens with self publishing in print on demand, is that if you want to get some results out of it and generate sales, you actually spend more money on publicity than the money you make out of your sales.
This is particularly true if you´re one of those authors who cannot afford to spend a lot of money each month just on advertising your print on demand store.
So you´ll be spending your money to publicize the print on demand company more than you actually end up publicizing your own work at the end.

So, is print on demand a waste of time ?
If you have a ton of money for publicity and you are ok with the print on demand company getting most of your revenue out of all your efforts, you can at the same time end up selling a huge amount of books and actually in the end get a good income out of everything.
But I´m talking insane investments in publicity.
I know of a couple of self published authors who invest a minimum of 3K to 5K a month just on online adds. Yes, there are self publishing authors out there than can afford to invest $5000 a month just on that.
The good side of it is that they actually get results and those $5000 a month invested in publicity end up generating between more than $15.000 and sometimes a lot higher numbers in sales of their self published print on demand books.


Over the web many successful (?) self published authors claim that they don´t need to spend more than about $100 per month on adds to get really good sales and some even claim that spend zero on adds and just use social media to promote their books and even then manage to get around $3000 minimum in book sales each month.
I have no idea if this is really like this or not. Maybe if you have excellent contacts and your social media is really targeting people that are interested in your books. That I can see working.
On the other hand, in my experience I never came across a self published author that besides having a budget to pay for my artwork did not had another just for publicity.
This is actually an answer to the question… how much does print on demand cost … It costs what you are willing to spend on publicity and that´s about it.

Recently I´ve started to notice a trend for about two years or so.
Like I already said on another post, most of my illustration work used to be done for mainstream clients, but over the last couple of years, I´ve been approached by more and more self publish authors too ; ( along with indie-companies which are now -real- mainstream publishers when they initially started as self publish efforts that really worked )  so I guess all that negativism which we read all over the internet surrounding the self publish option may end up having two sides after all and the failure and success of each project in the end rests on the quality of each offer vs how each well each author can spread the word around.

Just go to the Kindle store for example. You have awesome success cases of people who started in self publishing there who actually right now only work on their e-books for a living.
As a good example of this let´s take the success of my favorite supernatural and horror author of recent years, AMY CROSS. If you never heard about her and you love scary novels, you need to check this lady´s work at the Kindle store.


Amy Cross is everything naysayers argue that cannot happen at all if you are going the self publishing route. She´s one of the great success stories that started in Amazon´s KDP so like I said before, there´s more to this self publish your book or self publish your novel thing that many detractors out there argue there is not.

Check this bit of interview with Amy Cross from another site on the web.

“Amy’s foray into the writing arena wasn’t easy. But it wasn’t as challenging as she expected. Because Amy was always writing short stories, mostly for fun, she eventually decided to take a chance by sending a few chapters to traditional publishers for consideration.

Not one ever got back to her, and Amy Cross would have been happy to forget about publishing at that point in time, content in the fact that she had given it her all.
But then Amy discovered self-publishing and realized that she did not need the help of a traditional publisher to pursue her writing dreams.

And once she discovered Amazon KDP, there was no turning back. She knew that she could produce as many stories as wanted without the irritating oversight of a traditional publisher.

Amy Cross doesn’t hold a hostile view towards traditional publishers. She just doesn’t think she could thrive in such a world. Self-publishing allows her to control the technical and financial aspects of her work.

I´m a huge fan of Amy Cross stories and I have my Kindle filled up with her books which I cannot recommend enough if you´re into paranormal imaginative stuff.
This connects to the same trend I´ve been noticing when it comes to children books regarding my work experience of the last couple of years as a children´s book illustrator available for hire out there.
Not only I´m doing now more than 50% of my work in each year for indie clients or self publishing authors but it also has become more common for many of the books which I did for self published authors to actually start generating enough sales for people to come back for sequels; so I guess someone must be doing something right without going broke paying for online adds; although at this point I cannot comment further on this with an honest opinion.
And by the way, this is also starting to be true for independent board game companies or board game authors too as many of the recent popular hit games on the board game market also started as self published/financed products that then took of in popularity either on personal websites or at KickStarter; “Exploding Kittens” comes to mind.

So, yet once again…self publishing your book, is it worth it or not ?

If you don´t expect to get rich or quit your job overnight.
If you don´t simply give up trying ( it´s very important to never stop publishing books and fill your store up with a lot of titles ).
If you don´t mind not getting much money out of your book sales when the print on demand company gets most of your price cover ; (go Kindle if you want to increase your margin by a lot).
If you are here to stay and first and above all you want to make yourself and your work noticed out there.
If you take it as a hobby that can potentially become something a lot more interesting.
If you can spend a bit of money in self marketing ( helps a lot ).
If you don´t want to have your dreams forever stuck inside your drawer.

8x10_BW_60-COVER - book1

I don´t think there´s any harm in the world for you to get into self publishing.
Even starting with this not exactly -fair- print on demand option.
Once again get into it, knowing what you´re getting yourself into and I doubt you´ll be disappointed.
Who knows what can happen. Go out there and learn to self publish a children´s book if you have one in your imagination.
If you don´t do it you´ll never know. 😉

Just make sure you put a really professional looking book out there, like I mentioned on my last post. The way you present your book can be the best or the worst thing ever. Make sure you´re not arriving with a $25 spread page children´s book that actually screams $25 in production value.
But beware… make sure you´re not going broke in the process either.
Beware of the internet traps out there who tend to promise the world to brand new authors…And this brings me once again to – vanity press – companies which is a topic that will have to stay for another post later.

For now, go create your book and I´ll see you on my next post. 🙂




If you are searching for how to hire a children´s book illustrator or concept artist take a look at my illustration portfolio (Fantasy or Childrens Book art ) no matter what your budget is don´t hesitate to contact me and let´s see what we can do together.








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