Years ago, there were two ways you could become a published author. Your manuscript could be picked up and distributed by a publishing house, or you could pay a lot of money to a vanity publisher. Or, if you were lucky, had a lot of money, and knew how to construct books, you could self-publish. Self-publishing was considered the worst form of publishing: a failure's last resort. Recent technologies have allowed the self-publishing industry to completely reshape itself. Most of the stigma attached to self-publishing is gone.
Self-publishing offers complete control.
Self-published authors have control over every step in the publishing process, from budgeting to artwork to marketing. Nothing is done to their book without their knowledge and approval. This includes any changes to the content of the story itself. That's not to say that authors are control freaks or hard to work with. But in many ways these books are their babies — they live, breathe, and sleep with the character arcs and plot lines. They have a specific view of how those characters and plot lines should be presented for full effect, and self-publishing assures that can be delivered.
Self-Publishing offers empowerment.
Not just by having more control over the process in general, but also knowing from the start that their book will be published. The only person stopping them from being published, really, is them. And for many authors, that's a freeing thought. They don't have to worry about the querying process, the rejections, the looking for an agent, or trying to even find a trustworthy publisher who works within their genre.
It offers higher royalty payments.
Because there is no middle man handling distribution, self-published authors also make higher royalties per book sale on average. While average royalties across the board come out to anywhere from 10% to 15% of sales price, the self-published author can make as much as 70% in royalties. If the author knows how to market and has a pretty strong author platform, this can add up to quite a bit more money through fewer books.
It's faster to get your books out to market.
Again, a lot of this is because self-published authors are in control of the entire process. Depending on your exact process, you can bring a book from idea to published in about a week or two — not that I recommend rushing through your projects like that, but it is possible to do. Once you submit your book to a self-publishing distributor like Amazon or Smashwords, you're looking at a delay of anywhere from 12 to 72 hours before your book is up for sale. That's a pretty good timeline.
You keep all the rights yourself.
All of them. There's no need to pass on your rights of distribution over to a publisher because you are the publisher. That means if you want to turn it into a screenplay, use a hunk of it in a flashback scene for another book, or start selling in a new market, the only person you need to ask is you.
Corrections are much easier to make.
Every book has the potential for missed details and typos. Every. Book. Self-published books have somehow latched onto having the reputation of being lesser quality even though, over all, they really aren't. And the nicest bit is if you do happen to spot a mistake, you can just correct the mistake and submit another edition — simple as that. The longest you have to wait is maybe 24 hours for the change to take effect and after that all future copies will have been corrected.
Payments come more often.
Although the size of your payment will be dependent on your marketing prowess, self-published authors are generally paid at least once a month from their chosen distributors — which is much more livable than being paid every three to six months.
All in all, self-publishing is no longer the last resort of the weary, nor is it the whim of the rich. Self-publishing has reinvented itself as a viable path to publication. It's true, there are still some people out there who will turn their nose up to self-published authors as smaller than traditionally published authors. But as more and more authors of excellent talent and marketing know-how continue to flood the world of self-publishing, they will continue to elevate the industry. So trust me, it's nothing to be afraid of.