A publisher offered me a book deal, complete with a 5-figure advance, but I turned it down and chose to self publish instead. In this post, I’ll explain why.
This post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy for details.
Update November 2017: Seven years later and I don’t regret turning down this book deal, but I know many of you reading would still love to be published and I love that! Would you like to hear the story of someone who accepted the book deal? If so, I recommend Blogger to Author: How I Went from Hobby Blogger to Getting a Two-Book Deal with a Major Publisher by Erin Odom. I know Erin and have read her book in its entirety. It’s priced a bit high, but if you have dreams of getting published, it’s like sitting down with a girlfriend who has been there and spills the beans. Erin covers almost every conceivable step of the process.
In 2010, I self-published a short ebook called Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free.
I originally published it as a geek, not a writer, because I wanted to know how the ebook process worked.
Frankly, I loathe writing and I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to finish all 30 pages of my little book, but in my wildest dreams, I’d like to think it is the best 30-page time management book you will ever read. And shouldn’t time management books be short anyway?
When I launched Tell Your Time in October 2010 I hoped to sell a few dozen. Then I sold thousands. I’m still amazed how that happened, but mostly, I am so grateful.
Then I got an email
Three months after the launch, an intriguing email landed in my inbox. The sender claimed to be an acquisitions editor from a division of a well-known Christian publisher (one of the top 5 publishers listed in the Market Share of Top Christian Publishers graphic in this post).
This is what the email said (in part):
I’ve read through your book…and would like to know if you would be interested in developing a version for publication with a publishing house?
Naturally, I was skeptical. I thought it was spam. After all, who gets emails like this? Certainly not me. I thought getting a book published was akin to moving a mountain. And they were pursuing me? No way.
I proceeded cautiously, careful to suppress any feelings of excitement, or worse, elation. I did not want to get my hopes up.
I embarked on a googling extravaganza, researching every possible lead about the publisher and the editor.
Much to my surprise, not only did the acquisitions editor appear to be legit, so did her email.
Thus began a very interesting learning process about getting published, traditional publishing vs. self publishing and so much more.
Lesson 1: What’s an acquisitions editor?
I had never heard the term “acquisitions editor” in my life. That’s how clueless I was about the publishing process. In a nutshell, the job of an acquisitions editor is to find manuscripts that would be a good fit for their publishing house.
Lesson 2: Ebooks are books too
In her email, the editor referred to my ebook as a book. This may be goofy, but for me, it was a significant moment. It was the first time I realized ebooks were being taken seriously by more than just a few bloggers who thought it was a fun idea.
Lesson 3: I’m a real writer
I’ve never considered myself a writer, but the fact that she (a) contacted me in the first place and (b) recognized my work as something worthy of publishing made me realize I do have something valid to offer.
I shouldn’t hide behind the I’m not a “real” writer because I’ve never been published excuse because it (a) keeps me from getting my work out there and (b) makes me feel less than anyone else who writes. Neither should you.
Once I realized this was a real thing, I emailed her back and we scheduled a chat.
And then I was nervous as all get out.
Lesson 4: I’m clueless
With a real conversation looming, I felt like David up against Goliath, but not because she was evil or scary in any way. To the contrary! She was nothing but kind, generous and helpful.
The issue? I was totally clueless about publishing and I knew it. I had no idea how to proceed, what to ask or what to expect. To me, the publishing industry was very mysterious. And huge. And impenetrable. And certainly not a place I ever thought I would be.
I felt really, really small.
But THANK GOODNESS FOR GOOGLE. I began self-imposed courses in Publishing 101 and Self-Publishing 101. Between the time we scheduled our chat and the time it actually took place, I googled my eyeballs out.
Going into the conversation, I decided I was simply going to listen as much as I could. I wanted to gather every single golden nugget of information from someone “on the inside.” I knew that was possible only if I would NOT TALK SO MUCH. (If you know me in real life, you know I can talk. No, ramble. Especially when I’m nervous.)
When the call began, all the questions I had collected during my research were in front of me and I had my notebook and pencil in hand. I took a lot of notes as we talked. I learned a lot of interesting things about publishing.
What was supposed to be a 30-minute chat turned into a very pleasant and informative 90-minute conversation. I asked a flurry of questions about the publishing process and she graciously answered them all. I think I had about 5289 of them.
She also gave me priceless feedback about my ebook and made a couple of suggestions that were very helpful. I was so grateful for her wisdom. She also pointed out a few parts of the book she particularly liked. That was extremely encouraging.
Sidenote: As you read further, please note that this is the experience I had. I do not claim this is the only way publishing works. I’m sure it varies and I am certainly no expert in the publishing industry. I’m just hoping the details of my experience might give others a general idea of how it works.
Lesson 5: Book length is on purpose
One of the first things I learned about publishing is that books are as long as they are because in order to be profitable, they’ve got to be sold at a specific price point. For books in my genre (time management), this price point is usually somewhere in the range of $11 to $15.
It makes complete sense really. If someone’s going to pay $11 for a book, they’re going to want it to have a little heft. No one’s going to pay $11 for a pamphlet. If it can’t be sold for at least $11, it’s not worth the cost of publishing.
All that to say, my 30-page, 8.5 x 11 inch ebook was much too short to make into a full trade book. If I wanted to move forward, I was going to have to beef it up a little. Or a lot. In fact, I would have to increase my word count from about 5500 to 40,000. That’s almost 7 times as long.
But like I said, the editor was amazingly helpful. She offered a cornucopia of suggestions: angles I could flesh out, stories I could gather, examples I could include. Pretty soon I was coming up with my own ideas too. Forty thousand words felt like a mountain, but I knew I could do it.
Plus, I was loving the idea of becoming a real published author.
Lesson 6: Books are printed in 16-page increments
The goal is to write a book that would fit neatly into 160, 176, 192, 208, etc. pages (multiples of 16). This makes for efficient and cost-effective printing because pages are bound in groups of 16.
Lesson 7: The traditional publishing process takes a very long time
In my case, after accounting for the communication back and forth, writing a book proposal, waiting for it to be accepted by the publishing board, receiving the offer, signing the offer, writing the manuscript, allowing for the manuscript-to-release date necessities, this was going to be a 2-year process. Yowza.
Lesson 8: Follow blogs about publishing
First, Rachelle Gardner is a literary agent and her blog is full of very helpful information for writers. Second, Michael Hyatt was the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Not only is his information about publishing outstanding and informative, the other topics he covers are excellent as well. Lastly, many of you know Seth Godin, a true pioneer in this digital age. Not many people know about his blog at The Domino Project. To say he thinks outside the box is an understatement. His ideas about the future of publishing are fascinating (and I agree with many of them).
Lesson 9: Book proposals are serious
Another lesson I learned about publishing is that if you are contacted by an acquisitions editor, it does not always mean you are a shoo-in (at least it wasn’t in my case and I don’t think it is as a general rule).
As I mentioned, the job of the acquisitions editor is to find authors whose writing style and subject matter “fit” with the publishing house. She found me, but I still had to convince the publishing board that it’d be a good idea to publish my book. As I understand it, the publishing board is made up of editors and other important people that together, decide what books are good ones to pursue.
So, our conversation ended with the editor’s suggestion that I write a book proposal and bio which she would then present to the publishing board. The publishing board would decide whether or not to extend an offer.
Lesson 10: Ask for an example book proposal
As far as book proposal writing goes, I don’t have much in the way of resources since my situation didn’t require much research on the topic. I was fortunate that the editor offered to forward me a sample she really liked and had been accepted by the publishing board previously. That was a major score since I knew this was exactly the type of proposal they were looking for.
If you have the opportunity to get your hands on a proposal that was already accepted by your desired publisher, go for it. If not and if I was to research it today, the first place I’d begin is Michael Hyatt’s ebooks, Writing a Winning Non-Fiction Book Proposal and Writing a Winning Fiction Book Proposal. I have not read either of them, but I trust Michael Hyatt’s perspective.
I’m not going to share the specific details of the book offer I received. I never signed it, but I’m not interested in burning any bridges.
My experience with the publishing house that contacted me was absolutely positive in every regard. I feel it’s courteous and right to keep my book offer information confidential. (Incidentally, Rachelle Gardner posted about this very thing yesterday, namely, the importance of keeping contract details confidential. An excellent read and a great reminder.)
A good next step
Submitting a book proposal and bio seemed to be a good next step, so that’s what my husband and I decided I would do.
But this was yet another step in the process about which I was completely ignorant. I had no idea how to write a book proposal (or bio).
The editor was very kind to send me a sample book proposal that I used as my guide (a proposal she said was one of the best she had seen). I had agreed to submit my own proposal within a couple of weeks, so I was very grateful to have an example to follow instead of having to research book proposal writing too!
So I wrote my proposal, including some of the helpful hints the editor offered during our conversation, as well as some of my own ideas.
She presented it to the publishing board.
The publishing board accepted my proposal.
I received a bona fide book offer.
And my questions mounted.
Lesson 11: Anatomy of a book offer
Aside from the legal verbiage that is customary with any legal document, here are some of the main components of an offer (source):
- Details of the expected work (number of pages, retail price, word count, timeline of publishing process, etc.)
- Royalty rates
- Number of free copies the author receives
One thing seems clear, and that is, the details in an offer can vary widely depending on the size of your existing platform, your genre, your publisher, the number of books you’ve sold previously (if any), how well-known you are in the world (celebrities, politicians, etc.) and the current state of the publishing marketplace.
For a complete newbie to this process, receiving the book deal was overwhelming. I didn’t want to do anything I would regret later.
It was also somewhat difficult to find information about what a first-time author could expect or should be looking for. It was at this point I began considering hiring a literary agent.
Lesson 12: Literary agents are a good idea
There are authors who work with agents and authors who don’t. Overall, the message I’ve gotten from others is that working with a literary agent (assuming yours is a good one) is worth every penny.
The benefit of working with a literary agent is that they know the inner workings of the publishing world and (ideally) have your best interest in mind. They are on your team. Their job is to act as a liason between you and the publisher, making sure you are treated fairly, helping you understand all the dots and tittles of publishing and using their contacts and know-how to ensure you get the most beneficial deal possible.
The cost of a literary agent, of course, is that they get paid. They “typically make a 15% commission on sales of your book (this means 15% of your advances, royalties, sub-rights sales, etc.)” according to Rachelle Gardner (source).
It became pretty clear that finding a literary agent was probably a good idea. I have since learned that finding a good one is best done by getting a recommendation from someone else.
Also, a tip I heard at a blogging conference is to look at the Acknowledgements of a book you like. Authors typically acknowledge their agent. (Use the same technique to find an editor if you need one.)
Lesson 13: Royalties, advances & how they work
This is where you get paid so it’s worth spending a bit of time here. Let’s break it down.
First, let’s start with royalties. A royalty rate is the percentage you will receive on each book sold. The royalty rate might be calculated against the cover price or the net price (i.e. cover price minus discount to the bookstore).
Royalty rates vary, but just for a general idea, I’ll use the reference Rachelle Gardner uses in the 3rd to last paragraph here and use the figure of $1 per book (not uncommon) for the following example. Really, you should read her explanation about how royalties work here where she gives more examples.
Next part is the advance. My super simplistic explanation of an advance is simply getting paid some of your royalties, in a chunk, upfront. Stay with me here.
See, your publisher has to make sure they don’t lose money on this deal (like print too many copies of your book that never end up selling, etc.). So, they take into account various factors that help them estimate the number of copies your book will sell.
Let’s say they predict 10,000 copies of your book will sell. (I’ve seen a wide range of “average copies sold” but let’s use 10,000 for ease.)
And let’s say you’re getting $1 a book (your royalty). Assuming your book does in fact sell a total of 10,000 copies, that would mean you would get a total of $10,000, right?
Well, as I said, the advance is like the publisher paying you some of those royalties ahead of time, at the beginning of the process, to get you started.
So, maybe they decide to pay you $6000 up front. That’s your advance. Once your book is published and as soon as copy #6000 sells, you have “earned out” your advance. Until you earn out your advance, you don’t see any additional money.
When copy #6001 sells, you just made another $1.00. Woot! As long as your book keeps selling from this point, you’ll get royalty checks.
Just for fun, let’s say your book smashes all expectations and sells 50,000 copies. Because your royalty rate works out to be about $1.00 per book, that means you made $50,000. Congratulations! The way the payments work out are: $6000 came at the beginning of the process in the form of your advance. Once your royalty checks start rolling in (well after your book rolls off the presses), they’ll eventually total $44,000 ($6000 + $44,000 = $50,000). Make sense?
As I understand it, unless otherwise specified in your contract, your advance is yours to keep, even if your book doesn’t “earn out” the advance.
According to the NY Times, apparently “7 out of 10 titles do not earn back their advance.” Just an interesting tidbit to say most writers don’t make a whole lot.
Further reading about advances and royalties:
- Again, I highly recommend you check out all of Rachelle Gardner’s posts about advances & royalties. She covers so much and is so informative.
- Brenda Hiatt has tracked the advances & royalty rates of various publishers over many years. Her focus on the romance (and YA) genre, but I did find this helpful as it gives a general idea.
- I think Joe Wikert does a good job of explaining how the advance and royalty situation works out here. His genre is computer books. In 2005, he pegged an average advance at $10,000. (Just trying to give you lots of examples here.)
- The NY Times published About That Book Advance… which is enlightening as well. The advance amounts here are high and probably should not be expected for the average first-time author. He seems to be talking about famous authors. Still, it’s an interesting read.
- Rebecca Brandewyne offers her perspective on advances and royalties as well.
- Why writers never reveal how many books their buddies have sold is interesting too.
- Why I Write Books Even Though I’ve Lost Money on Every Book I’ve Written. Entertaining if nothing else.
Lesson 14: Offers are negotiable
There’s often some negotiability when it comes to an offer, but I think this is where a literary agent would be an excellent asset.
Lesson 15: Offers vary widely so be prepared
Before I received my offer, I didn’t know what to expect at all. I mean, was a reasonable advance $500, $5000 or $50,000? I had absolutely no idea. It didn’t take me long to realize things were variable, but using the above resources, I came up with a general ballpark figure for both the advance and the royalty rate. When I received the offer, the royalty rate fell within the range I had expected. The advance was slightly more than I had expected.
At this point, I had a handle on the basics, but what about marketing & promotion? What was going to happen to Tell Your Time which was already selling at the time? What about the numbers? Was it worth it? So many more questions arose.
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 believed 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 “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.
Pressing question #1: Brevity
Could I really justify making it 7 times longer?
Tell Your Time is about time management. I purposefully made it short so one could read it today and start implementing the tips tomorrow.
Brevity is what sets it apart from other time management books and 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.
Pressing question #2: Affiliates
What about those who had already supported me so well?
The reason I was able to sell as many ebooks as I have right out of the gate is because there are hundreds of people (my 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.
Pressing question #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 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.
Bottom line? Self-publishing, for me, would generate more income.
Pressing question #4: Time
What about all the waiting?
As I mentioned, traditional publishing takes a very long time. 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.
Fifty, 25 or even 10 years ago, when everything moved at a much slower pace, the lapsed time in the publishing process wasn’t a huge issue. 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?
I had to wonder, 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.
Pressing question #5: Marketing
Would I have to start the marketing process over?
It 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 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, and had been since it launched several months before.
Bottom line? If I were to pursue the traditional publishing route, I would have to temporarily stop (you can’t effectively 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.
In the end, even my excitement to be a “published author” didn’t trump my questions.
So I declined the offer.
Lesson 16: Each situation is different
I’m not against traditional publishing. I love books!
I would certainly consider writing an in-print book if it seemed right in the future.
And I don’t think “real” books are going away anytime soon. But I do think the traditional publishing process, as we know it, will. Times are changing; it simply cannot keep up.
The world is going digital. We see it everywhere—digital TV, email, cameras, phones, music, shopping online and the list goes on.
It’s only a matter of time before books follow suit. In fact, they already are. Did you know that as of April 2011 Amazon sells more digital books than they do paperback and hardback books combined?
So what does that mean for a writer with dreams of becoming a published author?
I wouldn’t hang up your dreams just yet.
But I wouldn’t wait around for a publisher to “discover” you either.
Push the process along yourself. Now.
Sure, I got an email from a publisher, but it could have just as easily been you.
The truth is, I don’t think there’s anything particularly earth-shattering about Tell Your Time.
I like it and I put a lot of time and energy into it. It’s a system that works for me and I’m glad others have found it helpful.
But honestly, there are probably thousands of manuscripts sitting on desks or computers right now (maybe even yours) that would have an equal or better shot.
So why did a publisher seek mine out?
Because I have a platform (blog, social media presence, etc.). I’m dead certain that’s one of the main reasons.
I don’t say that to toot my own horn (lots of people have platforms a lot bigger than mine!). My point is, a platform is a huge asset for writers.
Pursuing bloggers is one thing traditional book publishers are doing absolutely right.
Lesson 17: Publishers want to see that you have a platform
It’s no mistake that more and more bloggers are signing book deals. And it’s a trend that’s sure to continue. In fact, I think it will be more and more unusual for authors not to have blogs.
I heard someone in the book publishing industry say recently that one of the first questions a publisher asks about a prospective author is this: Do they have a blog or a good platform?
Why? Because most bloggers have a following. Even if it’s not huge, they have a platform. A platform is gold in the book industry. Why do you think famous people have always gotten great book deals? Because they have platforms.
Think about it. So much of book selling is marketing. The writing is the easy part. Spreading the word about a book so people know it exists and will therefore buy it, is the hard part.
An author with an established following (like from their blog) makes the marketing part a whole lot easier.
Think about the “old” days in publishing. Consider how much time and money it took to spread the word about a book that just rolled off the presses, especially the book of a first-time author.
If you were relying on word-of-mouth marketing, shelf space (which is always scarce) and the occasional media snippet, how long do you think it took for hundreds of people to hear about that book? Weeks? Months?
Now consider what it’s like today. Let’s say I’m a first-time author, but I’m also a blogger with a mid-sized blog.
Let’s say my book rolls off the presses on Monday. Guess what? I’ll write a post about it on Monday and boom, probably hundreds of people will hear about my book, just like that. In a day. And that’s if I wrote only one post on Monday.
What if I wrote about the book leading up to the release? And after the release? And then I posted about giveaways and got my other blogging friends to post about it. And I tweeted about it. And they tweeted about it. And I talked about it on Facebook and, and, and…
Guess what? The word about my book has just spread to thousands of people (possibly more depending on how large my circle of influence is) in a fraction of the time it would have taken to spread to a few hundred in the “old” days.
I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but don’t underestimate the power of a platform. Traditional book publishers aren’t.
What does this mean for you?
If you want to publish a book, either traditionally or on your own, start a blog or website and start building a platform. Remember how I said marketing is going to be up to you? It’s true. You might as well start now.
Let me issue a word of caution. A blog or social media presence is not a magic bullet. Just because you start a blog doesn’t mean you’ll be next on the “published author” list. It’s going to take work. A lot of work. And then even more work. And the work will continue. Marketing doesn’t end. And it’s always a lot of work.
But it’s something very concrete you can do. Right now.
A blog is a great way to build your platform. Hone your writing skills in the process. If a publisher wants to work with you down the road, or I should say, if you want to work with a publisher down the road, you’ll be prepared.
On the other hand, if you don’t get published, or if publishing as we know it dies or completely transforms, or if self-publishing takes off and you choose that route instead, you’ll have a head start. Here’s how to start a blog.
I’m not the only one who has turned down a traditional book offer in favor of self-publishing. Others are singing the same song…and some are turning down a lot more than I did (think half a million dollars).
I’ve already linked to all kinds of resources that explain why you should consider self-publishing. If you’re convinced and want to know how to write your own ebook, check out my post how to write an ebook.
Traditional vs. Self-Publishing
I like how Guy Kawasaki puts it in APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book:
The problem isn’t that traditional publishers are dumb or evil. There are plenty of smart and nice people in the industry—probably more than most industries because a love of reading motivated their career choice.
The problem is that traditional publishing grew up in a world with limits and logistics such as shelf space, access to printing presses, editing and production expertise, and shipping of physical books. In the old, constrained world, somebody had to select, print, and distribute what was worthy of royalty, shelf space, and killing trees. That somebody was an employee of a traditional publisher; he served as a filter, finisher, and arbiter of taste. Several thousand traditional publishers added this kind of value for hundreds of years.
Shelf space for ebooks, however, is infinite, and anyone who can use a word processor can write and publish a book. These changes don’t mean that books are better—no more than a democratic political system guarantees better leaders—but at least the system is more accessible.
Forget the Royalties—Just Give Your Book Away – Michael Hyatt explains why YOU are in charge of marketing. Don’t write your book and be done. Use the book as a catalyst for all sorts of other opportunities. Fortunately, the internet makes that possible.
On the Future of Books: A Discussion with Seth Godin – If you’re interested in what leading thinkers think, this is a must-listen. It’s a discussion between Leo Babauata (of ZenHabits fame), and Seth Godin, two of the most well-known bloggers alive.
Why Bloggers Should Self-Publish – The theme is the same around the internet and that is, traditional publishing affords you much less control. On ProBlogger.
7 Ways to Mine Blog Posts into Publishable Gold – Instead of creating entirely new content, take advantage of what you’ve already written.
How Authors Really Make Money: The Rebirth of Seth Godin and Death of Traditional Publishing – From another leader in current thinking, Tim Ferriss.
What the eBook Revolution Means and How Copywriters Can Prosper From It – The title speaks for itself.
The End of Book Publishing As We Know It – Michael Hyatt talks about what digital publishing means for the future.
Ebooks and Self-Publishing – A Dialog Between Authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath – Both authors. Barry Eisler is the one who turned down $500,000. It’s a long discussion (I only skimmed) but interesting nonetheless. Be forewarned that there’s some language. One quote I picked out: “For hundreds of years, writers couldn’t reach readers without publishers. We needed them. Now, suddenly, we don’t. But publishers don’t seem to be taking this Very Important Fact into account.”
Why E-Books are Hot and Getting Hotter – 10 factors that are driving ebook sales. Written in 2009, but still great insight.
My Perspective on Publishing, Christianity, Social Media, and Being a Dad: An Interview – Lots of discussion in this video with Michael Hyatt interview about the future of books and publishing.
Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know – Offers perspective on self-publishing a “real” book (as opposed to an ebook). This article was written in mid-2010, so if you want to go this route, I’d look for some more current information as well.
11 Tips to Avoid Self-Publishing Traps – And old article (2004) about self-publishing a “real” book, but still some practical tips for all self-publishers.
An Interview with Kevin Weiss About Self-Publishing – Michael Hyatt interviews Kevin Weiss who runs a company that I’ll describe as a mix between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Interesting discussion.
Ebooks and Money
Why Publishers Should Pay a 50-Percent Royalty on E-Books – Author John Soares shares his experience and gives reasons why a higher royalty rate on ebooks should be a given.
The rise of the 99-cent Kindle e-book – Thoughts on the current trends in ebook pricing. Warning: some language.
Published Authors Who Are Switching to Self-Publishing
Why (and How) I Decided to Self-Publish ‘Focus’ – Leo Babauta
Authors Who Have Sold Over 1 Million Ebooks
Amanda Hocking and the 99-Cent Kindle Millionaires – More thoughts from author Nathan Bransford.
Other Resources Quoted in This Series That Would Be Good to Read in Their Entirety
Advice for authors – Seth Godin
4 Reasons It’s Easier Than Ever to Be an Author – Michael Hyatt
Not sure where to go from here? Here are some ideas:
- Read Tell Your Time.
- Start your own blog.
- Sign up for the Useletter. I share publishing tips regularly.
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