Archive for June, 2009

Is a Traditionally Published Book Superior?

Friday, June 26th, 2009

I’ve been having a friendly discussions with a traditionally published author on Linked-In. He maintains that self-publishing is bad because it floods the market with poor quality products. The traditional publishing system is designed, in his opinion, to weed out the inferior work because a manuscript has to go through many vetting steps before it becomes a published book. To ignore those steps and let just anyone who thinks they are an author publish a book is harmful to the industry.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?

I’ve thought a great deal about what he had to say and I can see where he is coming from, but after all is said and done, I have to disagree.

  1. Self-publishers, especially in the current business climate, are incapable of flooding the market. Big book sellers like Barnes & Noble, and Borders have plenty of inventory to fill up their shelves from traditional publishers. They don’t have to consider self-publishers, and they don’t. You couldn’t crack into that lock with a crowbar and dynamite. It wouldn’t happen now–but it could in the future. If The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors grew big enough, and powerful enough we could change things. But for now traditionally published authors are safe.
  2. I would also like to address the vetting system. Come on now–when faced with the choice of publishing a masterful work by a new author and the next annual piece of junk from a popular author, who wins? My money is on the popular author because like Deep Throat said in the movie All the President’s Men, “Follow the money.” Publishing is first and foremost a business. If the business isn’t profitable it won’t stay in business. My argument is not about the choice, but with the assumption that a traditionally published book is somehow superior to a self-published one.
  3. If Mr. or Mrs. Tiny Book Publisher has an idea that they want to put into book form, tell me again how that is harmful. Maybe they’ve written a 250 page treatise to their hair follicles, how many copies will they sell? The real vetting process is the marketplace. The readers will buy what they want to read, and publishers sensitive to the will of the people will find products that they hope will appeal to the marketplace. You can’t force someone to buy a book, any more than you can force them to read it. They have to be enticed, otherwise why even have a dust jacket? An unappealing book on an unappealing subject will never get through the gauntlet of readers. There is no reason to fear. They aren’t a threat.

Is there anything to be done about this stand-off between the self-publishing upstarts and the traditionally published? I think there is. I believe that The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors is a good place to begin. Self-publishers need to learn the ropes. They have to have support and encouragement to seek good editing, art, and printing. A professional looking product doesn’t appear by accident. Then they have to be shown how to sell the book, and run a publishing business.

Furthermore, if enough self-publishing authors join the cause there is power in numbers. Our voice gets magnified. Perhaps that power will be useful in cracking open those previously closed doors. In the meantime we can explore many other marketing paths and find other ways to promote our books. The intention of the association is to help every market-worthy self-publisher earn a decent living so they can continue to write and not have to keep their day jobs.

If the traditional publishers looked at it like a baseball metaphor, and saw the self-publishers as a huge minor league, or farm team, whose players could be called up to the bigs when they’ve proven themselves, then they wouldn’t have any reason to be critical or derisive. Can’t we all just get along? Our goals are the same. We all believe that the world is a better place because of books. Where would we be without them?

The Hidden Secret Behind the Self-Publishing Paradigm Shift

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I’m not sure that authors reading my blog entry titled Are Self-Publishing Authors Saps? really caught what I was trying to say.  So I’m going to take another crack at driving the point home. Unless you are science textbook writer you probably aren’t into mathematics, but I will have to use a little 3rd grade math here, so stay with me. If you are considering self-publishing, you probably have a day job. According to the census the average American earns around $40 K per year. Suppose you paid less than five bucks each for a nice trade soft-cover book and could sell it for around twenty dollars? That would give you $15 profit per book. To replace your salaried income would require that you sell a tad over 51 books per week.

Let’s be honest here. No major publisher will be interested in a book that  sells only 51 copies per week, but if 51 books a week replaced your salary wouldn’t that be great? What would happen if you sold 100 books, or 200? Again, these aren’t numbers that will impress a big time publisher. They wouldn’t consider it longer than the time it takes to flick a fly off their foreheads, but what could it mean to you? Think about it.

This is the hidden secret: you don’t have to be a best selling author to make a decent living as a writer, but:

  1. You do have to put in the time. You will soon learn that writing the book was the easy part. Marketing and promoting the book will consume all you have to give.
  2. You have to be willing to take the risk. You will incur costs getting your book ready to print, not to mention the printing costs themselves.
  3. You have to learn the ropes. You probably aren’t going to sell your 51 books a week standing on a street corner hawking them like newspapers. You have to learn from the real pros, and therein is a rub. I hate to tell you this, but the Internet is crawling with wolves and knaves. Anyone with a tincture of information and some copy writing skill is trying to pass themselves off as your savior, the answer to all of your problems. If you follow their advice, the promised great riches will indeed appear–they’ll appear in their pockets–and disappear out of yours. Knowledge is the shield you need to protect you.
  4. You have to have a marketable product. It doesn’t matter what route you take. If the public isn’t interested in your book it won’t sell well no matter what you do. Take a good hard look at your book. Try to stand away from the emotion of your work and look at it for what it truly is. Everyone thinks that their’s is the most beautiful baby in the room, but love blinds. Listen to your critics. Weigh their advice carefully, but always remember that critics are often wrong. Their opinion is just an opinion. Ultimately the choice is yours to proceed or not.

Writers write because they have to. Did you get that? They have to. But a writer without readers is a cow without an udder. Producing the milk is one thing, but if there isn’t a way to dispense it, the readers go thirsty, and the cow bloats and dies. I don’t necessarily mean a literal death, but the death of the writer’s talent, a potentially promising career, and a unique voice.

You, the author, have something to say. You have some information to impart, or a story to tell, or maybe some humorous material. Whatever it is, you wouldn’t have started writing if you didn’t feel that people needed to hear from you. It could be that your particular audience isn’t very large, but are they large enough to sustain steady sales of your book? You may never interest a traditional publisher, but you could, and should aim at creating an adequate income to support your writing career. Who knows, if you are financially able to keep writing, and keep publishing, that illusive best seller might just come popping out sometime. Wouldn’t that be great?

Oh, by the way, don’t forget to keep up with The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors. With mutual cooperation we will soon know which of the services available have merit and which to avoid.

Are Self-Publishers Saps?

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I hope you have been reading my information on The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors. If not, you may want to stop here and click on the manifesto. Today’s publishing reality is that approximately 4% of manuscripts submitted to publishers ever become books. If you have written a book you need to face the truth. The odds of getting your book published through traditional methods are slim to none.

Recently a self-publishing author of my acquaintance inked a deal with a major publishing company for some very large bucks, maybe the largest in history for a new author. How did he do it? I’ll tell you.

  • He is very well connected. He was one of the founders of The Franklin planners. His expertise was in training. This work brought him face-to-face with the biggest names in success and motivational circles Og Mandino, and the family of Victor Frankel. He was also able to borrow credibility from the likes of Spencer Johnson author of Who Moved My Cheese and co-author of The One Minute Manager; John Assaraf author of The Answer; Teacher in the Secret; Stephen M.R. Covey author of  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; and Richard Paul Evans author of The Christmas Box.
  • He brilliantly, if I do say myself, chose me to expedite the printing of his book. We worked together and created a showpiece book that in the words of one NY publisher, “Would stand up against the best in the industry.” What value is there in handing a prospective publisher a completed, well-crafted book instead of a dog-eared manuscript? You tell me.
  • His friends introduced him to a successful agent who believed in the potential of the book, plus the author is a very personable man and excellent salesman. You won’t get far in any enterprise of worth if you can’t effectively self-promote. If you expect your writing to save you by itself, you are mistaken. b21bdf9aWhy was Mark Twain one of the best selling American authors of all time? Was it the quality of his writing alone? No, I don’t believe it. The flamboyance of the man helped his career immeasurably. Think of other examples. Best selling authors have always had a hook, even the poet Emily Dickinson had her spinster sheltered life to engage readers. emily-dickinsonThe back story is important. Find yours and promote it.
  • The agent held an auction. She didn’t beg the book from publisher to publisher hoping to find one. She put it up on the action block and invited publishers to compete for it, and compete they did.

To duplicate his success would be very difficult. You’d have to have the connections and the support of the best minds in your field, but does a self-publisher have to sell millions of books to make money? No. In fact, you don’t have to sell very many books at all to make money. If you can get a book published for let’s say $5, and you can sell it for $19.95, you have a profit of $14.95 per book. One thousand books could bring you $15,000, and five thousand books would net $74,750. To sell five thousand books you are looking at less than 100 per week. How hard could it be to sell 100 books a week? If you market it right, go to book signings, use social Internet sites, and promote it with purpose, 100 books should be a snap. How about 200 or 300? Think about it.

If you have a Facebook account you can join The Red Hen Association group to keep abreast of the progress. Red Hen is also on Twitter under redhenassoc. As soon as our website is launched and we have established an opt-in program I’ll be announcing it. Membership will be free. Saftey in numbers will be invaluable. Please hop on board, we need you.

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