Self-Publishing, Yes and No

by Joel Friedlander on July 18, 2011 · 26 comments

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When writers think about their publishing careers today, should they include self-publishing as a viable option?
Yes

Don’t you find that a little bit incredible?
Yes

So now all the authors have realized they can make a lot more money self-publishing once they’ve got an audience?
No

Only some of them get it, and others still don’t think anything has changed?
Yes

But published authors are getting rights to their backlist, pushing out e-book versions and selling books, right?
Yes

And publishers have figured out that readers are now their constituents, not other businesses?
No

Well, publishers provide essential services to authors.
Yes

Author services.
Yes

But that would make the authors the customers, in a sense, since they hold all the rights to their own creations, without which publishers would have no product.
No

Well, it must be that publishing your own books, whether it’s print on demand or e-books or both, is now being accepted as just another part of the publishing landscape.
Yes

And that in itself means that many more people will consider independent publishing, simply due to all those other people doing it.
Yes

And so now writers can get all their old files out of the folders buried deep on their hard drives and start raking in the Kindle Kash?
No

Oh, wait, this is social-media driven, this surge of support for indie authors?
Yes

And that means you have to have followers, fans, raving readers?
Yes

And so how you interact with people online really has an impact on your reputation, your cred, your brand?
Yes

Which means that the biggest group of social-media aware people on the planet—bloggers—must be making a huge impact on the indie publishing movement.
No

But don’t all those bloggers realize that their archive is simply the first draft of their next book?
No

You mean that there’s a mindset problem with bloggers and other online content creators, where they just don’t think of themselves as authors?
Yes

So indie publishing is still making converts from the legion of the agent-seekers?
Yes

Probably lots of authors have started to catch onto the fact that since they sell online, they are now internet marketers?
No

But nonfiction authors especially ought to realize that the search bar is their ticket to a nonstop flow of information seekers?
Yes

So it only stands to reason that those subject matter experts who publish books are also learning the ins and outs of content marketing?
No

You mean that authors have a long way to go in making the transition to online marketing, the way it’s going to be from now on?
Yes

And that the authors who really work social media now, who know how to deliver the books their readers are looking for, the ones who climb up the Kindle charts with every release, they are the ones we should be learning from?
Yes

So in a way, self-publishing makes it easier to get in the game.
Yes

Makes our stake in the outcome much more lucrative.
Yes

And we can get ahead of the curve by learning how to create and market our content?
Yes

And that as writers, content creators ourselves, we actually have an advantage at this?
Yes

So the classic needs of book marketing—great content, solid production, smart targeting—haven’t really changed at all.
No

But there must be lots of new ways to learn how this all fits together, to get a big picture?
No

You mean you can learn one thing here, another thing there, but nothing that puts it all together?
Yes

That’s a shame.
Yes

Photo by Fernando Takai

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    { 22 comments… read them below or add one }

    Susan Kaye Quinn July 18, 2011 at 5:17 am

    Should we expect the turmoil and confusion to continue, while some pull ahead by figuring it out, and some are left by the side of the road wondering what happened?
    Yes.

    Thanks for the entertaining and useful perspective! :)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 18, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Good one, Susan, thanks for that.

    Reply

    Jeffrey Koconis July 18, 2011 at 6:37 am

    Thanks for the common sense, some of us really appreciate learning from those who’ve been there, thank goodness for all those like yourself out there, I for one am grateful.

    Reply

    Chris O'Byrne July 18, 2011 at 6:48 am

    I love this format, Joel!

    You know we’re all relying on you to be the one to fit this all together into a coherent big picture, right? :)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 18, 2011 at 9:16 am

    A tall order, but I’m going to give it a shot, Chris.

    Reply

    Joan Chamberlain July 18, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Joel, This format is so engaging. And your message is right; I have many information files that I refer to every day. But isn’t it always like this when something is in transition? By the way, my file of your stuff is the thickest. Thanks so much. Joan

    Reply

    Christopher Wills July 18, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Great format. It’s a fun way to get a message or information over although it can hide the fact that some of the statements are opinions but I still enjoyed it. And I agree with all of it. I think it is unfair of previous commenters to put the weight of responsibility wholly on your shoulders, we must all take some of the load. But you’re doing a good job :) so please keep it up.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 18, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks, Christopher. Probably all of it is opinion but, you know, that’s part of the fun of blogging.

    Reply

    Bob Mayer July 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Interesting way to look at it. One of the things I took from my time in New York City for Thrillerfest was that pretty much no one in New York sees the entire picture, from the book being written to the words on the screen of the Kindle or Nook or iPad. There are many experts in certain areas, but the big picture is rather complex and requires having experienced it, which few have done. I’ve been doing it for two years now after 20 years in traditional publishing and it took me over two hours to get my agent up to speed on just the basics of how this all works. There’s the writing, the editing, the cover, the formatting, the platform, the social media, the pricing, and on and on and on.
    We built Who Dares Wins using my backlist, but other than that, we learned pretty much everything from the ground up. We made many mistakes and had lots of lessons learned. We still do. But we have learned two key things: be willing to change when something isn’t working and push things that are; and be consistent with our message and our marketing no matter if we see results or not.
    It’s a long term process, a marathon, not a sprint. I added up my sales last week and multiplied by 52: without increasing at all (and I have 8 more backlist titles and 6 frontlist in the next year to upload) the math says over 1 million dollars earned in a year.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 18, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Bob, as you know I’m a fan of your blog and have been very interested in following your own transition to indie entrepreneur. I made this point in an interview with Dan Blank the other day, that the modern self-publisher has to have some knowledge or command of the entire publishing process, way farther along than authors in traditional publishing. It’s not for everyone, but following your 2 tips will help immensely. And hey, having 14 new titles to release won’t hurt either!

    Reply

    Scott Nicholson July 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Much is “yes,” but still, many of the indies who hit success never really know why it happened–indeed, it seems a trick of the Amazon algorithms, not necessarily talent, that drives books to the top. Hard work meets timing and luck=success. And that can be maddening if you expect life to be fair.

    Scott

    Reply

    Lynne Spreen July 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Hi Joel, I’m reading this right after the news broke about Borders closings its doors. Sad but also exciting. We live in interesting times!
    http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/07/borders-liquidation/

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Yes, it’s pretty sad that 400 more bookstores will close all at once, taking 11,000 jobs along with them. But the book itself seems robust, despite taking different forms these days. Thanks for the link, Lynne.

    Reply

    Roger C. Parker July 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Hi, Joel:
    I, too, like the format and encourage you to develop it.
    Roger

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 22, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Thanks, Roger. As with many things, this was simply an inspiration that came out of thinking about this subject. I don’t know whether or not it could be developed into something that would be readable over a longer form.

    Reply

    Christine Rabah July 21, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Hi, Joel:
    I’d like to write a book but my mother tongue is not English. Even though Word corrects your mistakes, anglophones have a different way of expressing themselves. What do you suggest? And what are the “indies” I read ever so often ?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 22, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Christine,
    I suggest you go ahead and write your book, then hire an editor who will put the book into the correct form. “Indie” is simply a short way to say “independent.” Good luck!

    Reply

    Christine Rabah July 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Thanks, Joel, for encourageing me. The book I’d like to write would be about my house in Timbuktu and the experiences I had with the people who helped me fix it up, then running it as a little hotel. I checked at Barnes&Noble and there is a book called “to Timbuktu” but the author is so wishy-washy about the places there (the hotel – no name, the patisserie which serves cold drinks but no pastries – again no name) which makes me wonder if it’s against the law to name actual places. I’d like to name people, show their pictures – do I need everybody’s permission, even if it’s a public place like a patisserie?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Christine, I’m not in the position to give you legal advice, but I believe you can take photos of the exterior of retail establishments for use in your memoir, but if any people are recognizable in your photos you will have to get their permission to use the photo. And I don’t see any reason you can’t talk about specific places and your experiences there. If you have more questions about usage, you might check this post and the long comment stream, which is still active:

    What Every Writer Ought to Know about Fair Use and Copyright

    Reply

    Christine Rabah July 26, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Hello again, Joel:
    You must be working day and night to answer all the questions beginners like me are asking you. Here is one more and hopefully the last one:
    How do I write a manuscript? Do I write it with space between the lines for corrections or should it already look like the finished book? Should I write one page per sheet or two pages? Thanks again for your expert advice. Christine R.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Christine, you made me laugh. I actually enjoy answering people’s questions, believe it or not.

    On your manuscript question, it depends on how the book will be produced. If it will go to a designer/layout person, you should not waste any time on formatting, since it will be discarded anyway (except for local formatting like italics). Just do it as a normal document, nothing special or fancy. Concentrate on the content and leave the rest of it up to your designer.

    Hope that helps.

    Reply

    Rashma N. Kalsie August 1, 2011 at 9:05 am

    But somewhere self-publishing has little snob value. It is seen as an author’s last resort and not first choice. Really who wudn’t want to be with Penguin or Harper Collins? Should one then not wait for his book to be picked? I enjoyed this blog entry, it is the very thing an unpublished author wants to know.

    Reply

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