Thursday, February 8, 2007

The case against self-publishing

I got another self-published book that somebody sent in hopes of a review. On my way to the discard pile (that's where about 99 percent of the self-published books I receive end up), I noticed an obvious typo in the subtitle on the cover. Yikes.

I understand why self-publishing seems like a viable option to so many business writers. They've heard the horror stories about publishers -- crappy contracts, marketing, sales, cover art, titling, editing, proofreading, yada, yada, yada. They've heard a story or two about a very successful self-published book. They want more control over a publishing process that will yield a finished book faster. I get it, but I still think self-publishing a business book only makes sense if your book has been rejected by every mainstream publisher in the country.

The primary reason I say that is because self-published books lack credibility. It is difficult to get the business press and reviewers to pay attention to a self-published book. They are being bombarded with books from 'real' publishers and they know that the odds of getting high-quality content in a self-published book are not very good. (Witness my discard pile.) Further, many business readers feel the same way.

Another reason is cost. Sure, a self-published author can make more money on book sales (...if the book sells). But there are lots of 'ancillary' fees associated with self-publishing, like editing, proofreading, layout, storage, etc., etc. In terms of net profit or loss, a business book author is almost always better off negotiating a reasonable advance, royalty rate, and author pricing with a trade publisher.

And finally there is distribution. Unless you feel like getting a part-time job, you really don't want to distribute your own book. Some self-publishing outfits will help authors distribute their books, but there will be more fees for those services. A conventional publisher already has a distribution pipeline. In fact, that's what they really do well because that's how they make money -- pushing product through the pipeline.

So, get a conventional publisher and, like every other author since Gutenberg invented the printing press, complain about it. There's no reason to mess with tradition...yet.

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