➻ If you are working on a book and in the process of thinking about how you’re going to get it out into the world, I would highly recommend reading some Reasons Not to Self-Publish in 2011-2012: A List by Edan Lepucki. Edan’s perspective is that of a literary fiction writer, but I think there is a lot in the list for all authors to consider. Such as the experience of a Peter Straub, who she reached out to for the article:
What he [said] gave me a special kind of hope:
“Most of the editors I have worked with over the past thirty-five years have made crucial contributions to the books entrusted to them, and the copy-editors have always, in every case, done exactly the same. They have enriched the books that came into their hands. Can you have good, thoughtful, creative editing and precise, accurate, immaculate copy-editing if you self-publish? … ”
This—this!—I get. Even though my first novel was rejected by traditional publishers, one assistant editor’s notes on it—notes that were thorough, thoughtful, challenging, and compassionate—were enough to show me that these professionals are valuable to the process of book-making. I know you can hire experienced editors and copy-editors, but how is that role affected when the person paying is the writer himself? What if the hired editor told you not to publish? Would that even happen?
That said, I think self-publishing in the business genre—in which many writers use their book as more of a business card than a way to make a living—is a bit more attractive. But those who do go it alone are almost always turning out less-polished products and putting a lot of their own skin in the game to do so.
➻ And if there’s anyone out there who is wondering What an Editor Does, Steven Harper’s got you covered over at the Penguin Community blog. At the publisher level, an editor is much more of a manager than a red pen, ushering authors and their work through the publishing process.
Your editor will discuss future projects with you. She wants to know what else you have up your creative sleeve, and the earlier, the better. If you have a project she’s pretty sure isn’t marketable, she’d rather tell you up front so you don’t waste time on it. On the other hand, if you have something really cool, she’d like to know so she can anticipate it.
For business book authors, so many of whom tend to be idea people constantly churning out new thoughts and things to try, this can be a most important role. And the publisher pays them and you.
➻ Mike Shatzkin, who knows publishing as well as anyone, wrote recently about Publishers adding value on the marketing side. The post profiles two publishers, one traditional and one eBook publisher, and the strides they’re making in marketing. Both companies have built their efforts into the very fabric of their companies, and both could be game-changers. I can do neither justice in the small space I have here, so I’ll leave that task to Shatzkin’s article, but I would like to note a bit of it to demonstrate that even the majors are reorganizing their efforts:
[T]he other major publishers are reorganizing themselves constantly into more marketing-focused and less bureaucratic organizations. Just this past week, Simon & Schuster announced organizational changes which effectively shift resources from physical store sales to online marketing (which is admittedly an oversimplification.) The big companies all have great leadership and they’re well aware that they have to change.
As legacy publishers and the myriad others entering the publishing fray continue to build and extend their efforts on behalf of their authors, the entire industry is likely to become more author-centric and the benefits of working with them will become increasingly apparent.
➻ Of course, you don’t have to go with an existing publisher. But I would counsel that, instead of simply self-publishing your own book, study the industry very closely for a while, develop an idea of what you want to do and start your own imprint. After all, if you’re really interested in publishing yourself, then why not figure out how to do it well? And if you know how to do it well, why not go all in and put your knowledge in the service of other authors you believe in? Build a team that’s been there before around you. And even if you’re reasonably comfortable that the only author you’ll ever publish is you, you will have a team (there are plenty of freelancers out there) to keep your offerings polished and voice consistent.
I love new publishers, small publishers, indie publishers, people trying something new. I believe that they strengthen the overall industry and output of material, and that we can always use more of them.
And so I was saddened to learn that Seth Godin has published The last hardcover in The Domino Project. It was a seemingly successful project, and one that was fun to follow. Seth explained some of his thinking as he wrapped up the project on his blog this week:
I’ve posted a history of what we built, along with some of what we learned along the way.
By most of the measures I set out at the beginning, the project has been a success. So why stop? Mostly because it was a project, not a lifelong commitment to being a publisher of books. Projects are fun to start, but part of the deal is that they don’t last forever.
The goal was to explore what could be done in a fast-changing environment. Rather than whining about the loss of the status quo, I thought it would be interesting to help invent a new status quo and learn some things along the way.
Head over to Seth’s post to discover some of what he learned. If you’re an author making decisions on what to do with your book, it could be one of the best reads you come across in a while.
➻ And while we’re on the subject of interesting ideas in publishing, Welcome to the Storyverse.
➻ And then there was Frippertronics.