The following is the text of a presentation I gave at the Didsbury library in Alberta on February 13, 2018.
I’ll start this presentation with a disclaimer. What I’m presenting tonight results from my research into various forms of publication and my recent experience. I’ve now self-published three novels. This talk has also been influenced by conversations and interactions with writers who have a lot more experience with this than I have. The other thing is this subject is huge and evolving on a daily basis so the best I can do here is give you a starting point. I will focus on today on the actual nuts and bolts of getting your stuff out there. What I will not talk about is how to promote your writing once it is there. That is a subject so complex that entire conferences are often arranged around it. But before you get to that point you have to either find a publisher or publish your book yourself. I’ve chosen to self-publish and I will talk more about that choice later.
The calibre of the writing.
No matter what form of publishing you pursue you must produce a professional calibre book. Do not send your work out to publishers/agents or attempt to self-publish, before you’re ready.
I don’t know about you but I have learned that I’m not the best judge of my work. This is where being involved with a writers group is important when your book is still under construction. You’ll need the feedback of other writers. Not all writers groups are created equal. I live in a suburb of Edmonton and that means there are many writers groups in the area so I have choices. If you live in a smaller community, you may not have these. All writers groups can work for the betterment of their members if they keep one overriding goal in mind. The intention should always be to help each other improve their writing. Writers groups should not be a completion, they should be a support group.
The other thing I know for sure is that getting one’s work professionally edited is not an option and you must do it regardless of which method of publishing you choose. It’s a rare writer that can edit their own work and unless you have friends and relatives that are professional editors, it would be unwise to entrust your work to them. Professional editorial services will cost about 2.5 cents a word so a 100,000-word manuscript will cost you about $2500. That’s a lot of money. You can get it done cheaper, but this involves reducing the work that the editor has to do when he/she gets your manuscript. I have tools I use to help me prepare my manuscript for an editor. The first is a software called Prowritingaid. If you frequent websites that talk about writing you will see adds from this company. The other big one is Grammarly but I prefer Prowritingaid. If you write on a Windows-based machine and use Microsoft Word, ProWritingAid can be integrated into that software. This doesn’t work with the Mac version, but the extra step you have to take is a minor inconvenience. Also if you have the latest version of Microsoft Word, 2016 edition or later, those later versions of Microsoft word also have a reasonable grammar checker within the program. So what I do when preparing a manuscript for an editor this first run the manuscript through ProWritngAid, then through Microsoft Word’s grammar checker, and finally if your computer allows for this, I have the computer read the manuscript back to me. The reason I do the latter is that while grammar checking programs might be excellent tools, they will often miss obvious mistakes like missing words or inappropriate word use. If you listen to your work being read back you will often pick up these mistakes. This takes time, but it also saves you money. An editor that’s working with a clean manuscript will cost you a lot less money than one was working with a manuscript that’s riddled with mistakes.
Capitalism: Your book as a product
Put a lot of thought into who your reader will be. I’ve learned from experience that’s it’s much easier to do this before you begin a project than after.
With traditional publishing, if it is not clear to the publisher/agent who your target audience is, then regardless of how well written your book is, they will have reservations about publishing you. Before they even read your manuscript, many agents or publishers will ask you which well-known authors write books like yours, to whom would you compare yourself to. This sounds like a vain question but it serves two purposes. First, it tells the publisher/agent what genre you think your books fits into and it tells the publisher/agent whether you’ve done your marketing homework. Understand that what the publisher/agent is asking you here is not who your favourite authors are. They are not asking you who your influences are. If they were to ask me who my favourite writers were, I might come out with a list that includes Barbara Kingsolver, Robert J. Sawyer and Ian Rankin. A literary fiction writer, a science fiction author, and the person responsible for a series of Scottish detective stories. What they want to know–and what you should think about–is where your book would sit on the shelves in the local bookstore and which authors would be on that shelf with you. Just as important, if you want online sales, is picking the right sub-genre. Is it zombie horror, a historical romance, Cyberpunk, urban fantasy, is it industrial espionage, etc. And yes, it is important that you know what the sub-genres are in your broad genre. Here’s why. If you walk into your local book store and go to the science fiction section, you will see science fiction books of every sub-genre all lumped together because the average bookstore is only carrying a small selection of sci-fi authors. But online places like Amazon carry a vastly greater selection of books and customers use sub-genres to pare down the offering to what they’re looking for.
I know this talk is about self-publishing but I think it’s important to put that discussion in context so I’m going to discuss the other options before I get to self-publishing. I going to start with traditional publishing which I will further break down into big five publishers and small presses.
Big Five Publishers
Includes Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, MacMillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Shuster.
Each of these companies has its headquarters in New York and each has multiple imprints.
In most cases when a beginning writer is thinking of being published this is the publishing model, they have in mind.
These are the folks that have the most power and money and most of what winds up on the New York Times best-seller list comes from big five publishers.
Most of the Big Five imprints require that an author be agented before they will look at your book. This means you have to get a literary agent, one that’s based in New York before these folks will pay attention to you. And by the way, it’s often the case the Big Five imprints look and act like small or medium presses. The dead giveaway is if they require your work to be agented.
This may seem paradoxical but agents own the toughest slush piles. This is because they make their money by placing your book, usually with a Big Five publishers, and what they want to see in their slush piles is material that will be an easy sell. Do you write legal thriller books like John Grisham? Great, they can sell that. You’ve written a book about a mid-life crisis in Norway? Maybe not.
The big five use agents as gatekeepers and most of them would also rather work with agents than writers. The reason is agents know how the economics of the publishing industry work and they will generally not make unreasonable demands on the publisher. Authors frequently do.
One reason authors want to be published by Big Five Publishers is that they perceive these companies as having large promotional budgets. The truth is these promotion budgets are almost always reserved for their A-list authors. So even if you are published by a Big Five company chances are you will wind up doing your own publicity. And if you do not sell well, they will drop your contract. Once a Big Five company has dropped you, you are unlikely to be picked up by another. So if you want to go the traditional publishing route, you might want to start with a small press.
These still fall within the category of traditional publishers but there are a few key differences.
The first of these is that most small presses are speciality presses that deal in one or more specific genres. So depending on the book you’ve written you’ll need to research which small press to send it to.
The second difference is that most small presses have moved to a print-on-demand (POD) model of publishing.
A third difference is that it’s a rare small press that has the money to offer advances.
They generally have smaller slush piles so, under normal circumstances, you’ll hear back from a small press quicker than you will from a Big Five publisher or even an agent.
Their promotional budgets are small and so the writer usually has to do their own publicity.
There are a lot of small publishers out there and they’re not as well connected so being dropped by one doesn’t mean another won’t pick you up.
If you are published by a small press and you do well, that increases the chances you will be noticed and offered a contract by a Big Five Publisher and, because you’ve done well with a small press you will generally be treated better as a new author by the Big Five.
Although small presses will accept agented material, they will usually also accept direct submissions by authors.
Sometimes there are distribution issues with small presses. Many are regional and don’t have a wide reach.
Since many small presses are POD, they often can’t get your books into brick and mortar bookstores. Most sales are online. This means that if you want to get your books into bookstores, you must take them in and put them on consignment. This arrangement is usually not very helpful to the writer because the bookstores frequently want up to 45% of the cover price of the book in fees to sell your book.
One disadvantage with small presses is that they are sometimes bought out by larger presses or by other businesses. One asset that the small press will have at the time of sale is the publication rights to your book. Sometimes when a bigger press buys out a smaller press, they’re doing it because the smaller press has the publication rights to authors they want. The problem is it also has the publication rights to authors they’re not interested in and that may mean that, if your small press publisher sells out, your new publisher might own your publication rights without the obligation to publish you. They may hold on to your rights anyway because they’ve already paid for them, and you as an author might become important in the future. So, if you can, try to get a clause in your contract where the publications rights revert to you if the company is sold or goes into receivership.
Vanity and Subsidy Presses
When I first looked for a publisher for “A Walk in the Thai Sun” back in the 90s, there were two options available: traditional publishing, which includes small and large presses, and vanity or subsidy presses.
The simplest way to describe a vanity press is that you pay them to publish your book. Their business model is not about selling books it’s about printing books at the author’s expense. They may or may not care if your book sells; they definitely do want to sell you their printing service. In the old days what would frequently happen is a desperate author would have a vanity press print hundreds of copies of his book. Then the author would attempt to sell that book out of his garage or the trunk of his car usually winding up with a huge cache of unsold books and a big financial loss. This model of publishing only works if you’re an expert in some field and do a lot of public presentations where you can hock your non-fiction books at these events. It NEVER works for fiction. The biggest success story for this kind of publishing is David Chilton who wrote “The Wealthy Barber” an is part of the cast of Dragons Den.
There are modern versions of vanity presses that will sell packages ranging from, printing, cover design, eBook formatting, editing, various kinds of online promotional packages and so on. These companies sell book packages that cost thousands of dollars for stuff you can do yourself. If you’re a writer who’d much rather spend your time writing than deal with all the other issues, then you can see the attraction. But going with a vanity or subsidy press is almost always a bad idea. When you go to a subsidy or vanity press website, they usually go to great pains not to reveal the cost until they’ve had a chance to convince you that you need their services.
I began my creative life as a professional musician and so I still pay attention to what’s going on the music industry. About twenty years ago two things happened that changed how music was marketed and produced. The first of these was the advent of compressed audio formats (MP3s), which made it possible to upload and sell music recordings online. The second thing was the development of sophisticated music software that allowed musicians to produce quality recordings of their music using their home computers. What these developments did was to turn the music industry on its head. Now putting aside all the questionable stuff that happened with Napster and other illegal music sharing sites, I think this was a positive change if for no other reason than it democratized the marketing of music. Add the newer streaming services to this and it is far easier for an indie musician is reach an audience than it has ever been. What we’re now seeing in the publishing industry is the literary equivalent of what happened in the music industry twenty years ago. It is, if you like, the eBook revolution.
Now self-publishing is more than just the selling of eBooks but it is the selling of eBooks that is driving the changes here. I have little doubt that many if not most of the people in this room would much prefer to read a traditional book. Curling up with Kindle or Kobo eBook reader doesn’t work for most people. In the music industry when MP3 files first showed up, everyone claimed that the sound quality was inferior. The first generation of MP3 players could only hold about 2 CDs worth of songs and played the music through tinny headphones. Then four things happened, (1) MP3 players gained a lot more capacity, got better headphones and became easier to use, (2) Napster happened where people could get music for free. (3) When Napster was shut down, iTunes happened making it easy to buy music cheaply, at a higher quality than Napster, safer because you weren’t also downloading viruses and it made it possible to get to get that music almost instantly. (4) Apple turned iPods and iPhones into a fashion accessory, making it cool to listen to music on those devices. So over a short time, digital downloads became the preferred way of consuming music by most young people. In fact, young people prefer the sound of a compressed M4A or MP3 file to uncompressed audio. They have been conditioned to prefer compressed music.
So how does that relate to eBooks? It’s cheaper to buy MP3 or M4A downloads for your iPod or iPhone because you’re not buying a physical CD with all the printing, pressing and distribution that goes with that. The same is true with eBooks. They’re cheaper, often much cheaper, than physical books because there is no printing and little distribution involved. And just like modern iPods can store a lot of songs, most eBook readers are high capacity and can store a lot of books.
If you research self-publishing right now one thing you will find out is that most of the conversation centres around eBooks as opposed to physical books. The reason for this is simple. eBooks can be produced easily, the cost of distribution is low thanks to Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Draft2Digtal and other companies and larger traditional books retailers now sell eBooks online.
There is a subculture right now in publishing akin to the indie music scene of 20 years ago. Many of the more successful self-published writers are selling as much as 90% of their work in the eBook format and some of them don’t publish paper books at all. Part of what’s driving this is the belief that within a few decades, most people will do the lion share of their reading on digital devices. I would argue that this is almost inevitable. And the reasons are simple. Economics and convenience. It is much cheaper to by eBooks than traditional print books and it’s also easier. The other thing that is driving the indie publishing subculture is their extreme dislike of traditional gatekeepers; publishers, agents and anyone else who would tell them whether their book is worthy. The final thing that driving indie publishing subculture is potential profits. Potential is the operative word here.
The word “professional” when that word is used together with the word “writer” does not mean “professional” in the income sense of the word. Professional when that term is used with writer usually refers to the skill set not to the income. In a recent survey of Canadian professional writers, the average yearly income was $9,380. Low incomes are the reality of most of the arts, but even within the arts writer’s incomes are on the low end of the spectrum.
Let’s talk about writers income for a moment. If you are the average traditionally published author, whether or not you’re published by a Big Five publisher, you can expect to make somewhere around 10 % of the retail cost of your paperback book in royalties. It may be more or less depending on your contract. So at 10% if your book sells for $20 the maximum you can expect to earn from that sale is about $2. If you sell that same book as a self-published eBook you will receive up to a 70% royalty. That means that you can sell your book for $2.99 and make a $2.10. eBooks sell for an average of about $5.99 so your profit then is $4.19 cents. And whether you’re selling your book for $2.99 or $5.99 your eBook is still much cheaper than the paperback sold in the brick and mortar bookstore and therefore much easier to sell and you are earning more money on a per unit basis. So you can see the appeal.
Amazon is the big player here. They sell 70% of all eBooks worldwide, and they’ve also made self-publishing on Kindle eBooks easy. They have a print on demand option that allows you to sell print copies of your books through the Amazon website. And they have Audible, service to produce and sell audio books. So Amazon is the big player worldwide but in Canada, they’re not as big. The reason for this is when Amazon first brought out the Kindle eBook reader, for some strange reason they didn’t release it in Canada. Kobo beat them to the punch so many Canadians have Kobo eBook readers and not Kindles. It’s also because Chapters/Indigo sells both Kobo eBook readers and eBooks in the ePub format and they are the biggest Canadian book retailer. The other factor is Kobo has a direct link to Overdrive which is an eBook distributing service used by many if not most Canadian libraries. Amazon has no such relationship to traditional libraries because they have Kindle Unlimited, which is an online library that gives Amazon customers access to exclusive Amazon eBooks for a fee of about $1O a month. So they’ve set themselves up as direct competition to libraries like this.
There are two basic eBooks formats Mobi, and ePub. Some books are also available as PDFs but those files are not resizable so you’ll need a bigger screen to read them. Mobi is the Amazon format. It works with Kindle eBook readers and you can download software that allows you to read the Mobi format on Macs, PCs, iPads, iPods’ iPhones and any device that runs the Android software. It should be noted that there is no Kindle reader software available for Kobo or Nook eReaders, for obvious reasons, and the biggest drawback, as I’ve said earlier, is you can’t borrow Mobi files from public libraries. Epub is the other common format for eBooks but there are several versions. The reason is Mobi is exclusive to Amazon so they only need one version. But the ePub format is used by everyone else and they all have their own versions. Apple’s version has an encoding that ensures that anything purchased through iTunes can only be read on an Apple device or using Apple software. Kobo and Nook also use encoded versions of ePub.
There are lots of services out there that will convert a Word file to an ePub for a modest fee. I’ve learned how to do this myself using Adobe’s InDesign program. I can go from Word document to an ePub in about three hours. Now I want you to notice that I’m talking about the ePub format and not Mobi. Why? Because Amazon will convert a novel submitted to them in an ePub format to the Mobi format. And this takes about 15 minutes. They’re happy to do it. There is also software out there that will allow you to do this yourself but I have learned that Amazon doesn’t like it when you submit 3rd Party Mobi files to them. The reason for this is that Amazon is constantly tinkering with their Mobi format, and the Mobi you submit to them may not be up to their current standards. Apparently, it’s easier for them to convert an EPUB than it is to convert a poorly formatted Mobi file.
One thing that indie self-published writers like to do is write books about how to succeed as indie self-published writers. I’m telling you this because the market is flooded with such books, often written by people who only have a modest track record as self-published writers. What they have done is noticed that books about successful self-publishing sell well. Before you buy any of these make sure they have many positive reviews.
If you haven’t tried self-publishing yet, I will tell you that this is a great time to do this. When I started this there was a confusing set of options out there and sorting through them all was a lot of work. I started out by learning how to create an ePub by taking a video course by Pariah Burke that showed me how to do this by using Adobe’s InDesign program. This was a great course because Pariah not only showed me how to create the ePub, he also had an extensive section on how to get your book on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play and Apple iTunes. So it was a one-stop shop for everything I needed to get my book out there. There were two problems with this. The first is that Adobe InDesign is an expensive program. You lease it from Adobe for about $250 a year. The second problem is you have to visit each of these different companies and set up accounts with them and that’s a lot of work. Pariah is also an American and his teaching is aimed at American writers. There are subtle but important differences between Canada and the US when it comes to self-publishing. The first of these is a good difference. In the United States you have to buy your ISBN numbers. In Canada they’re free. But by far the biggest problem concerns taxation. Canada and the United States have a reciprocal taxation agreement. This allows Canadians earning money in the United States to be taxed by the Canadian government and vice versa. The problem is you need a special tax exemption so that Amazon and other American companies won’t automatically take a 30% of your income and send it to the IRS. To avoid this, you need an ITIN number which tells IRS that you will be taxed in Canada. Getting one of these is a pain in the butt and usually takes about three months. You don’t need an ITIN number to publish on Kobo because Kobo is a Canadian company.
The reason I said this was a good time to get into self-publishing is that there are now some great aggregate publishers out there. What is an aggregate publisher? The best way to think about this is that an aggregate publisher is a one-stop shop for all your digital self-publishing needs. For the longest time, the biggest player in the aggregate publishing field was Smashwords. Basically, you set up an account with them, they send you a Microsoft Word template, you would paste your novel into that template and reformat it to fit there, send it back to Smashwords. They use it to create an EPUB. Then they distribute that EPUB to the different Ebook selling websites. Without you having to take any further steps, Smashwords will get you on Apple iTunes, Google Play, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and a variety of other sites. They have a fee for doing this but I can’t remember off the top of my head what is. However, the biggest drawback with Smashwords is they don’t have a great relationship with Amazon. You usually still have to put your Ebook on Amazon yourself.
Enter the new kid on the block. Now I will preface this by saying that I don’t know that much about this company. I only discovered them two weeks ago. Draft2Digital is getting rave reviews from self-published authors so I thought I check them out. Here is what I discovered. Draft2Digital will take your Word file, turn it into an EPUB and get it into the hands of every company out there that matters, including Amazon. I love their business model. They charge no upfront fees to do this and instead take 10 per cent of the retail price of your book on every sale you make after they have distributed your books. So instead of getting a 70 per cent royalty from Amazon, you will get 60%. The reason I like this model is that Draft2Digital have a vested interest in how well your book sells. They don’t get paid unless you get paid. So they do a lot more on the promotion front than most aggregate publishers. I wish I could say more about them but I just discovered them and I don’t know that much more at this point.
As I said at the beginning of this talk, I’m not going to say much about promoting your book’s once they’re published. One book that I suggest you get is “Write. Publish. Repeat.” By Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. These guys kind of epitomize the whole indie publishing aesthetic. They’re also part of a trio, the other member being David W. Wright, and together they produce the longest running self-publishing podcast called—wait for it—The Self-Publishing Podcast. It’s widely available and there’s a video version on YouTube. They’ve produced hundreds of hour-long podcast episodes on all aspects of self-publishing. Here’s the thing. These podcasts can be annoying because Sean, Johnny and Dave love to riff on whatever’s on their minds whether or not this any anything to do with the subject of the podcast. The trouble is they’re also right on top of everything that’s going on in self-publishing and they’re indispensable. And it’s not that these guys are great writers, they’re average but they’re masters at the art of online marketing and their books sell well for that reason.
Another person I will mention here is Mark Coker because he’s the founder of Smashwords. Mark has several books out on self-publishing including “Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success”. Until recently Smashwords was arguably the biggest player in self-publishing besides Amazon, but their influence is waning. Still, Mark has a lot of good information in his writing and in his YouTube presentations.
I’d like to go back to Amazon. They dominate the market. There are two basic ways to publish eBooks on Amazon. The first of these is Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), in which you download a file to their website and along with a cover graphic, decide on your price and search criteria and submit it. It usually takes less 48 hours for your book to be available for purchase. Instant gratification. If you use this method of publication, you’re not giving Amazon exclusive publishing rights to your eBook. You can then turn around and list it for sale on other sites like Kobo, Google Play and Apple. However, Amazon has a second program called KDP select. What happens here is that in return exclusive rights to market your eBook, Amazon will give you more promotion and put your eBook in their lending library (Kindle Unlimited). Then you not only get paid for eBook sales but you also paid when people borrow your eBook from Kindle Unlimited and read it. The average payout for this is $2.16 which is more than you would receive if you sold the eBook at $2.99 or sold it as a paperback at $20.00 in a regular bookstore. Then there’s the whole issue of discoverability. If your book is available through Kindle Unlimited, more people will discover it. And because they have already paid the fee to join Kindle Unlimited in the first place, there are no further fees involved in downloading and reading your book. The consensus among indie authors is that this is a great program for someone who is just getting started, but less helpful for more established authors. I decided not to give Amazon the exclusive digital rights to my books. There are two reasons for this, the first is that I am a Canadian writer and a disproportionately large number of Canadians read e-books on Kobo e-book readers for the reason I mentioned earlier. That means if I went only with Amazon, I would exclude those folks from my potential readership. The other reason and this is much more troubling, is that Amazon has very strict rules regarding how book reviews are handled on their website. If you’re an indie author, book reviews are important. The more positive reviews you have, the more books you will sell. (This is the reason by the way that writing reviews of the books that you buy is very important to the authors.) There is understandably a great temptation to try to manipulate this system. If the writer could find a way of generating a large number of false positive reviews for his book, he or she could game the system. So Amazon has put in place several safeguards to stop this from happening and if they suspect that you are generating false reviews for your book, they will shut down your account. The problem with this is if someone wanted to hurt you, if they were, for instance, jealous of your success, they could generate a bunch of false reviews for your book. That happened last year to an Alberta author. He gave Amazon exclusive digital rights to his book in exchange for inclusion on Kindle Unlimited. And because he gave Amazon exclusive rights to his Ebooks, Amazon was his major source of income. Then these false reviews showed up and Amazon shut him down. He took three or four months to get this problem sorted out, and in the meantime, he lost a lot of sales and a lot of income. This is the reason I don’t like giving Amazon exclusive rights to my Ebooks. It leaves you vulnerable to this kind of thing.
There’s one other very tiny elephant in the room and that’s Apple. It may seem odd to talk about the world’s biggest company in that way but Apple only as about a 7% share of the eBook market. But they have come out with a handy-dandy little app called iBooks Author. You can download it for free from the App Store. This is a user-friendly piece of software that allows you to create wonderful eBooks specifically for sale on iTunes. The problem is if you use it then you can only sell your eBooks on iTunes and like I said they only have 7% of the market so why would you do that?
I mentioned at the beginning of this talk that I have chosen to self-publish. There are several factors that went into this decision. But before I tell you what those factors are, I will tell you about my recent experience with traditional publishing. A few years back I went to a writers conference in Calgary where I had a pitch section with one of Canada’s largest science-fiction publishers. I told him about “Planet song,” the first book in my science-fiction trilogy. And he was intrigued enough to ask me to send it to him. When I did, he gave the novel to his acquisitions editor. Within a few months, I was receiving messages from this young woman expressing her enthusiasm for my book. I was elated. It looked like I would be offered a publishing contract. On boxing day of 2015, I received an email from the owner of the company offering to publish my book. But to be honest I was rather astonished at the details of the offer. He told me that there would be no advance, that the book would initially be published only as an Ebook, that I would earn 30% royalties from that Ebook publication, and that whether the book came out in a paperback edition or not depended on how well the e-book sold. I refused the offer. At that point, I had already investigated self-publishing, and I knew the Amazon and Kobo would give me a 70% royalty rate. That meant that the publishing company would get 40% and giving me 30. Also, their initial unwillingness to produce a paperback edition of the book made it impossible for me to have a book launch. “Planet Song” the book was the first book in the trilogy and it made no sense to give him the publishing rights to the first book in a trilogy without a commitment to publish the next two volumes. This publication offer was low risk for the publisher and high-risk for me. He apparently thought that I would be so desperate to have my book published I would agree to any contract just to get my book out there. Frankly, I regretted sending the book to his company because had I self-published, the book would’ve been already on the market months before.
Here are the other reasons that I self-publish. The first is my age. One of the universal truths about making it as a professional artist, no matter what medium you are working in, is that you have to pay your dues. It’s rarely the case that an artist becomes an overnight success. It may seem that way from the public’s point of view, but most artists toil in obscurity for years before they have any kind of break. And no one cares how old you are when started the process. You still have to pay your dues. Starting that process when you’re in your 60s will not shorten the time that you have to do this.
The second reason is creative control. I decide when my book is ready for publication. I decide what the book cover will look like and how it will be formatted inside. I decide how it will be promoted. I have complete artistic freedom.
The third reason will seem less obvious but it concerns the current state of publishing. Things are changing at a rapid rate. No one knows what publishing will look like in 10 years’ time. I would argue that there is less certainty right now in the broader publishing community then there has been in recent memory. People just don’t know how all of these new options are going to shake down, how they will affect their business models. Under the circumstances, it does not seem wise to be wedded to an old way of doing things when that way is likely to change soon. With self-publishing, I have complete control over what I create. And that includes the option of going with a traditional publishing model at if an attractive offer comes along.