As someone who straddles both sides of the publishing paradigm – I release books through traditional publishers and also publish my own – I have found that the straddle model really makes sense for me. Let’s see if it makes sense for you, too.
Broadly speaking, I publish two types of books, novels and how-to non-fiction. The novels are more suited to the traditional publishing model because they need the boost of reviews, national media marketing, and (even in this day and age) bookstore distribution. With my novels, then, I make common cause with a boutique publisher, sharing revenues 50/50 and using the combined clout of our marketing, publicity, and social media efforts to grow and build my fiction brand.
On the how-to side, though, I find that it’s much more effective to indy-pub, because the kind of how-to books I write are the kind of books that people go looking for. It’s a rare reader who wakes up one day and says, “I wonder if John Vorhaus has written any new novels.” But it happens every day that someone wakes up and says, “I need to learn how to write better,” and her internet searches lead her to me. In the case of the novels, then, I’m pushing content toward the reader. In the case of the how-to books, the reader is pulling content to herself. Since such a reader will come looking for my books, I don’t have to work so hard to market them, and I don’t need the marketing muscle, or the distribution functionality, that a traditional publisher offers. Thus I indy-pub and keep most of the revenue for myself.
Note that I use the phrase “indy-pub” instead of “self publishing” to describe my efforts. This is by design because, for better or worse, the latter phrase still carries the stench of vanity press, at least to people of my generation. When you say, “I self-publish,” people (well, some people) will think, “Ah, you’re not good enough to get a ‘real’ publisher.” Annoying, right? But if you say you indy-pub, suddenly you’re as cool as any alternative rock band. And not for nothing, but I hope you’ll join me in my campaign to remove “self publishing” from the zeitgeist. It isn’t helping us, and we would all be better off if we were perceived to be as cool as rock bands, yeah?
With that said, there is still a strong prejudice among writers for going with a so-called “legitimate” publisher. But consider this: a publisher, at the end of the day, is nothing but a content delivery system. [Read more…]