At this point, my mind was swirling. There are aspiring authors everywhere for whom a book offer would be a dream come true. I felt very humbled and very honored.
At the same time, I battled pride, foolishly (and wrongly) believing this somehow bumped me up to a new level. The truth is, a part of me longed to join the ranks of other bloggers who were making the leap to “published author” status.
A huge part of me said I would be crazy to let the opportunity go. Would I ever have the opportunity again?
Let me be clear. I LOVE that publishers are seeking out bloggers (very smart move) and that bloggers are going for it!
Yes, this was an exceptional opportunity. But was this the right opportunity for me? Right now?
Was I pursuing this because I was convinced I could help more people if my time management tips were in “real” book form? Or was I pursuing this because I thought this was somehow going to make me finally “be somebody”?
Wacky, flip-flopping emotions aside, there were very valid reasons to pursue it. But there were also five nagging questions I couldn’t quite resolve.
1. Brevity: Could I really justify making it 7 times longer?
My ebook is about time management. I purposefully made it short so one could read it today and start implementing the tips tomorrow. Its brevity is what sets it apart from other time management books; I’ve said that publicly on numerous occasions.
I proudly adopted the tagline “What if you could change your life in less than 30 pages?”
Bottom line? It was hard to justify adding seven times the content just to make it fit into a traditional-sized book.
An interesting tidbit about book length:
Here’s a conversation about publishing between Michael Hyatt (former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers) and Seth Godin (bestselling author many times over and cultural pioneer). It’s completely worth listening to the whole thing, but 9:49 minutes in, this was the exchange:
Michael: I personally love the shorter books, because I think you can develop the idea…and the truth is, I shouldn’t say this either, but as a publisher, most books are full of padding, you know, to justify the retail price that you’re asking. I can’t believe I just said that, but that’s really true.
Seth: It’s true.
Michael: It’s a benefit, frankly, when your time and attention are rare.
I couldn’t agree more.
2. Affiliates: What about those who had already supported me so well?
The reason I’ve been able to sell as many ebooks as I have is because there are hundreds of people (affiliates) helping me spread the word. I am overwhelmingly grateful.
I have been outspoken about the benefits of partnering with affiliates and the need to treat them well.
Bottom line? Accepting this book offer would mean cutting off my affiliates. I simply did not feel right about ditching them because a big publisher came knocking.
3. Money: Did the numbers really work in my favor?
While the advance and the royalty rate were lovely, I was making a whole lot more per book selling them on my own. Granted, I had various sales causing my per book profit to fluctuate (sometimes dipping below what I would have made with the royalty rate), but from a purely business standpoint, the crunched numbers did not side convincingly with traditional publishing.
According to their forecast, the publisher didn’t expect my book to “earn out” the advance (the vast majority of books don’t, remember?). Only a very small percentage of authors are wildly successful and frankly, the odds were not in my favor.
Defeatist? Maybe to some, but in light of the traction I had already gained alone, and in light of what I was learning about the possibilities of self-publishing, I didn’t think so. At the time I was only projecting, now I know for sure.
4. Time: What about all the waiting?
As we know, traditional publishing takes a very long time. Whether good or bad, in the age of 140 characters and instant everything, a year or more is an eternity. These days, a lot can happen in weeks or months, let alone a year.
The lapsed time in the publishing process wasn’t a huge issue fifty, twenty-five or even ten years ago when everything moved at a much slower pace. But things are different now. I don’t think publishing as we know it will be able to keep up in the long run.
As Seth Godin says in the interview mentioned above (at :51),
“Right now, there’s a revolution going on and all these industries are changing. And our mindset is, ‘How do I hunker down? How do I get through this? When will it get back to normal?’ And my point is, this is the new normal. This is actually a chance of a lifetime. How do we reinvent what we do?”
While I waited for my book to roll off the presses, what opportunities would pass me by? Would my ideas still be fresh over a year later? I would have to stop my own sales. How much would be lost? Would I lose marketing momentum? I would have to put other projects on hold while I hammered out a full-length manuscript. What would I miss?
Bottom line? I didn’t want to wait and find out.
5. Marketing: Would I have to start over?
It also became apparent I would be largely responsible for marketing and promoting my book once it was published.
A common misperception among new authors is that the publishing company will handle the bulk of the marketing.
Here’s a quote from Michael Hyatt’s very enlightening Four Reasons Why You Must Take Responsibility for Your Own Marketing:
“In the old world…Authors created the product and relied on their publishing company to market it. But that world is dead. That doesn’t mean that publishing companies expect you to do everything. But it does mean that they are more effective if you have a platform already in place. It provides something for them to leverage.”
And from Copyblogger’s, 7 Dirty Little Book Publishing Secrets that Every Writer Needs to Know,
“Even if an enormous New York City publishing house publishes your book, you will have to market it.
A first-time author rarely gets help from the publisher. Accept that you will be on your own when it comes to marketing — a fact I’ve discovered first-hand, the hard way.”
And from Seth Godin’s, Advice for Authors,
“3. There is no such thing as effective book promotion by a book publisher.
This isn’t true, of course. Harry Potter gets promoted. So did Freakonomics. But out of the 75,000 titles published last year [this quote is from 2005] in the US alone, I figure 100 were effectively promoted by the publishers. This leaves a pretty big gap.
This gap is either unfilled, in which case the book fails, or it is filled by the author.”
I was already promoting my book. If I were to pursue the traditional publishing route, I would have to temporarily stop (you can’t promote something that’s not coming out for a year). Then I would have to start from scratch, by myself (especially if I had alienated my affiliates by then). It seemed like a pretty big step backward.
The bottom line?
In the end, even my excitement didn’t trump my questions.
So I declined the offer.
Next time, I’ll tell you what I would do if I were you.
By the way, has this series been helpful? If so, would you consider sharing it?