“Well,” he said, “it would be hard to do worse…”
Let’s take the last question first: Would I prefer to have a real publisher instead of taking on the challenge myself? Frankly, my answer is much different today than it was only a few years ago, and the answer is: No.
I had seven real publishers for my first three books, thanks to mergers and consolidation. I lost all contacts for my first book, following two mergers within two years. The publisher of my second book used it as a premium gift (NO ROYALTIES) in order to sell other products. The third book was handled properly, except for the lack of marketing support that was a common theme among all seven publishers. If I wanted my books promoted, I was welcome to do so on my own dime. In return, I earned 10-15% royalties, except for the publisher who found a way to cheat me out of any royalties whatsoever.
Still, as I got close to finishing my fourth book, I started looking for a real publisher. Self-publishing, I said, was for amateurs.
Or was it? Since my first book in 1994, the whole definition of publishing changed from paper-based products to content dissemination. Independent bloggers like the Drudge Report and Huffington Post won readers and credibility in competition with magazines and newspapers. At the same time, online and traditional booksellers opened their channels to create fundamental equivalence of traditional and alternative publishers. Today, the average reader doesn’t know or care about provenance. If it’s a good read, people buy it. If not, they don’t. Nobody wonders how it got there.
Ultimately, I dropped my search for a traditional publisher and set up my own imprint for (Your Name Here) GUIDE TO LIFE. So… what did I gain and lose in the process?
Certainly, I lost bragging rights that might go with a big publisher’s name. My decision to use BookSurge makes it harder to reach libraries and bookstores, although other resources do offer this access. I also absorbed the cost of design and pre-print production.
In return, I gained a much better writing/editing process than was the norm with prior books. I also gained a higher royalty percentage and the opportunity to learn a new business. Most important, I control the marketing process, which means I can make sure there IS a marketing process, even if it means writing a million e-mails at midnight.
It’s hard to imagine that I’ll do a worse job of promotion than the people who handled my first three books. Besides, the entire process is more fun and more interesting than the path I took before. It’s hard to imagine going back to the traditional way.