This week, we intended to take on our most contentious topic to date: how do we publish our book? Self-publish or try to find a traditional publisher for our work? We envisioned an epic post where we battled out the pros and cons of the argument, revealing our decision in a breath-taking climax…
The truth is that once we talked it through, it wasn’t really much of a decision at all. We’re going to self-publish and here’s why:
Time to Market
Writing a book is only one step in the journey, publishing is a whole ‘nother process. Traditional publishing knows how to produce a book, but it’s a long process, like up to two years from the time they get a manuscript. How do we feel about adding a year or two to our timeline?
Not good. We’ve deliberately built the story of WMD around real-life events (past and future) because we think this tactic will resonate with our reading audience. Adding two years to the timeline is a non-starter for us.
From a business perspective, I’m even less forgiving. To me, querying for an agent and then seeking out a traditional publisher—all if which happens before we even start the publishing process–is a flat-out waste of time. I went into this topic in a blog post a few months ago called “Why Querying for an Agent is a Waste of Time,” so I won’t belabor the point here. Suffice it to say that I’d rather spend my time writing another book.
Writing a book is a time intensive, but inexpensive, process. Basically, you need pen, paper, and a lot of coffee. Publishing a book, on the other hand, can cost you. Upfront money is the downside of self-publishing. It costs money to hire an editor, get a cover, and promote a book. I know, I’ve done it, and it’s worth every penny.
JR and I have talked about a Kickstarter campaign as a way to defray the upfront expenses as well as reach new readers. More on that in a future post.
I used to think of this topic as a two-edged sword. Traditional publishers are slow, but they know how to produce and market a professional book. That’s true, but it’s not the whole story. The publishing industry has downsized so much in recent years that many of those book production professionals are now freelancers, which means any self-publisher with a wallet has the means to produce a book every bit as good as a traditional publisher. (see Money above).
But it’s more than that; having creative control means taking charge of my own work, being accountable to myself to produce the best work I can at this point in my creative career. I LIKE having control of my own destiny. I LIKE making my own creative choices. Will I always make the best decisions? No, but that’s part of the process, too.
Marketing is where a traditional publisher could add real value to our project. We would like to go BIG on this story, and it makes sense that the resources of a large publishing company could make a huge difference in getting our book in the hands of readers.
But they don’t. I know authors who are traditionally published and they say that for new authors most of the marketing effort (and expense) falls on the author.
Marketing in its most basic form is about making connections with customers on their terms. As a professional marketing guy, I can tell you there are no short-cuts in this department. With Weapons of Mass Deception, I’m hoping to open my fiction to a new group of readers and I’m excited to get started.
Imagine for a moment you walk into a Barnes and Noble and see your book on the shelf…
If we self-publish, that will probably never happen. It’s time to be honest with ourselves and talk about how much pride we would take in having a “big name” publisher pick up our work.
For me, I got over this a long time ago. I’ve made my peace with the fact that if I wanted the challenge of self-publishing then I needed to accept the downside—anonymity, at least for a while. But the more I learn about the publishing business, I’ve come to realize this is a false choice.
How did you select the last book you read? The author’s name? The cover? The book description? The reviews?
When was the last time you chose a book based on the publisher? I’m guessing never.
People buy books for a few reasons: (1) you recognize and trust the author’s name, (2) it was recommended by a friend or other trusted source, or (3) something about the book caught your eye, such as the cover. How much of that is determined exclusively by the publisher? Zero.
And the winner is…YOU
So what does a traditional publisher have to offer that we can’t get anywhere else?
External validation. The comforting feeling that some gatekeeper picked your work out of the (literally) thousands of possible choices.
I’ve got a better idea: CHOOSE YOURSELF. *
JR and I choose to tell our story the way we want it told. We plan to hire the best people to help us make that happen and to bring it to you as quickly as we can get it done.
We’re excited to have you along for the ride.
*a tip of the hat to James Altucher for this phrase.
David Bruns is the creator of the sci-fi series The Dream Guild Chronicles, and one half of the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series about co-writing the military thriller, Weapons of Mass Deception. Check out his website for a free sample of his work.