I recently had a discussion with a client who looked down on self-publishing. He saw it as an exercise in vanity. That was true for a long time, but not anymore. In fact, Google has made instant ebooks a reality, and not just for frustrated writers who can’t get published through traditional publishing houses. If you can get an agent and an editor with a traditional house, the common wisdom is that from now until the clock runs out in about five years, that’s still the best way to go for most projects.*
However, self-publishing is right for a lot of people. There is one group for whom it is essential. If you’re a professional speaker, you need to be talking at the front of the room and sell your books at the back of the room. If you leverage the marketing platform you already have, you keep more of the profit and cut out a middle man. Also, the middle man has committees and hoops for you and your brilliant idea to jump through. The client was shocked to find the book project could take one to two years to make it to publication (if it were accepted immediately.) Even if a project is identified as a winner, each publisher has budgetary restraints that can hold up publication. They can’t publish every book they’ve identified as saleable in one year.
The client wants to speak professionally, but still wants to go the traditional route. Fortunately, he has a solid contact with a publishing house. Had he not, I would have pushed harder for him to self-publish. As it is, I’ll be helping him put together a killer book proposal so he’ll have a book to sell as he works the room and works his magic.
If you already have a platform (or stage) from which to sell, DIY is the best way to go. Publishers are offering authors less and less. They offer tinier advances than ever, unambitious promotion, and less editing than ever. Traditional publishers have diminished themselves to distribution networks. Once the distribution becomes less relevent, what credibility they add will be largely be forgotten as well.
The publishing people I know all say, “We have to learn from the mistakes the music industry made.” That’s true. But that’s where that conversation ends. Either they don’t know what mistakes the music industry made, or the analogy doesn’t bear up across the two industries.
*Self-publishing is also the ideal route for a memoir that’s meant for a small audience (e.g. your family) or for some projects that are distinctly regional if you have a platform.
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How do I build a platform?