When I was speaking on my last trip, in the Bay Area, I talked about writing a book.
Here are two questions I got from one of the attendees, via email:
How does one go about self-publishing? and Why is this better than attempting to get one’s book published by a well know publisher?
There’s another, bigger, question that needs to be answered first. That is: what do you hope to accomplish with your published book? Is it book sales ($$), or is it fame, or is it a stronger brand (as an expert)? Or something else?
Knowing that might affect how you approach your own book plans.
But back to her two questions:
First question. How does one go about self-publishing?
I had an eye-opening moment when my publisher (Happy About) told me he does around (or over) 250 tasks for an author. The obvious include copy editing (the words) and layout editing (preparing it for the printer). He has his distribution channels (mainly Amazon, I think), and he does fullfillment (he ships the books when people order). He handles money, and taxes, and refunds, etc.
And over 200 other things. (hear a podcast interview he did with me on why you shouldn’t self publish :))
When I was towards the end of my second book I had totally planned on self-publishing. However, by the time I was done, I was ready to hand it off and have someone else do all of the rest of the work. I was tired, having put heart-and-soul into that big project, and I wanted to essentially outsource the rest.
My plan for my next books is to self-publish, and right now that feels right. I am getting all my ducks in a row to do this, and know I’ll spend time getting my ISBN number, working with designers and editors, the printer, etc. But it’s a challenge I think I want to undertake right now We’ll see if that changes, like it did last time.
Here’s a high level overview on self-publishing:
- Write the manuscript.
- Have it edited (copy editing)
- Have it prepared for the printer (layout editing)
- Have all book cover stuff ready and designed (including ISBN, UPC bar code, inclusion of testimonials and foreword, etc.)
- Send order to printer (assuming you’ve gotten bids and picked one)
Now, you have at least 100 books in your “inventory.” Good luck with that. What you do with those is for another blog post
Second question: Why is this better than attempting to get one’s book published by a well know publisher?
I’ll never forget when a Dan from Wiley, a major publisher, reached out to me to pitch me on a book proposal. It was very exciting at first, but after a while the whole thing fell apart. He reached out to me, and then they rejected the idea, after I put hours into the proposal.
Some of those hours were at the hospital while my wife was in early stages of labor. Yep, I wasted my freaking special time on a stupid book proposal because “we’re meeting in the morning and I really want to take this to my team.”
I got sucked into that.
It would have been worth a $15,000 advance, and some nice royalties if the book sold well.
But HIS idea was rejected by his peers, after I did a lot of legwork for it.
Our final conversation was not very cordial, to say the least, and he’s tainted the way I look at Wiley, or other big publishers.
What do you get from a big publisher? Lots of expectations. They expect YOU to market it. Completely. No matter what they say, if you don’t market it, you lose, period.
I remember Dan saying “but if you publish with us, you could then say you have a Wiley book!”
Big flippin’ deal.
Can you tell I’m still miffed about it?
The last straw was when he suggested I buy 2,000 copies in advance. I’m no math genious but isn’t that about $40,000, out of pocket, just so I can say I have a Wiley book?
I’d rather self-publish. It might cost me about $2,000 out of pocket, and some time, but I got time, and I got $2k, especially if it means I don’t have to deal with a book factory that only cares about their bottom line.
I want to do it on my own terms.
I want to keep certain things in the final manuscript (I’ve heard from other authors that their editors took stuff out).
I want to make more than 25 cents per book sale (I’ve heard from authors that they might get “a few bucks,” but I know one who gets 25 cents per sale. You have to sell a LOT of books to make any money that way.)
I want to do it on my own schedule. Timelines are good, but book writing isn’t the only thing I do for a living… and if they are riding me on a deadline I’m not sure that will be good for me.
I have friends who write books for big authors, and I think they love it.
I am simply choosing to do it on my own for now.
Will I ever do a big publisher? Sure, if I get a sweet deal, a la GaryVee (supposedly got a $1M book deal to write 10 books). Why? Because he has an audience (aka, platform). He has almost 1M people following him on Twitter.
Do you have a platform? If you do, you can take the money upfront (like he did), or you can self publish (like Seth Godin chose to do (MUST READ)), and make it on the back (and maybe make more, if you are good at hawking your books).
So we go back to the question: what is the purpose of your book?
Then, will a publisher help you accomplish that goal, or is the work really still in your lap?