getting published

If you’ve spent much time reading blogs you’ve probably come across at least a dozen bloggers who are self-publishing books, or creating e-books, or selling online courses, or even getting published in “old” media. I’ve seen a lot of all of these recently.  I understand the desire to get published, whatever the media – it’s a validation of your writing ability and hopefully it has some financial benefit for you and whatever benefit you intended for your readers.   Fame is probably not a huge factor.  The number of book authors who break into public awareness is small, and growing smaller as the Internet and TV keep winning the battle over reading books (and magazines and papers) for “infotainment” – but at the same time I’m sure a minor book author is going to be far better known than a wildly successful e-book publisher.

I wonder whether getting published in traditional media (i.e. authoring a real book, with the low-tech ink and paper technique) is all that it’s cracked up to be. I suppose I’d be as thrilled as anyone to see my book in the store, but when I see some of the authors who have been published talk about the financial rewards, what I hear is this:  you put in an extraordinary amount of effort to create a product, get an advance, then hope that the publishing company promotes your book well.  Getting published a second time may rely more on their efforts than on the quality of your work.

Conversely, an e-book can be done at the drop of the hat and promoted as much or as little as the author wishes. The e-book is more or less pure profit, assuming you don’t hire a professional to design the layout or set up an affiliate scheme to promote it.  I think the e-book “brand” has been degraded in the blog world a bit; many bloggers seem to simply bundle up 20 of their best posts and call it a book.  Then again, why not?  A traditional print author like Hunter S. Thompson, whom I admired, often would bundle up a bunch of magazine pieces and call it a book.  Big deal, right? I have been disappointed in several e-books I’ve seen, and yet impressed by others. Regardless of quality, I’m willing to bet that only a tiny portion of web readers have ever done more than glance at an e-book, and most of the world has yet to ever see one.

The main motivation for getting in print – in the traditional way – is probably the family reunion factor.  Aunt Sally, who’s always talking about how HER son already finished MED SCHOOL is not going to be impressed that you wrote an e-book … but she’ll probably shut up when she hears you have a book she has to see every time she passes it at the local Barnes and Noble. It’s not bad to want to be recognized as excelling in a certain field.  I’m not sure when e-books will equal (let alone surpass) traditional books in this sense.  Maybe when 10% of Americans have Kindle-like devices?  20%?  I don’t really know.

Let’s hope that both e-books and traditional books keep coming, though. I like to read – a lot – and although blogs and various websites can be entertaining it’s a far different experience from reading a book, or even a well-written e-book. I’m sure I’ll give writing a book a shot at some point… if for no other reason than to keep Aunt Sally off my back next year.

7 comments

  • Hi Steve – I make a lot of money writing; it's the one thing that I seem to be any good at. Most of my stuff is technology-related, but I think the concepts are the same.

    1. Don't write books; the profit potential is almost nonexistent. That said, if you have a unique angle, self-publish, and can afford to spend the time and effort to promote it, your chances improve from a billion to one to a million to one (I've also self-published).

    2. Find out who is publishing in your area of expertise. Offer to do some article writing for free, or ask if they have a freelance policy. If you are on time, readable, and technically correct (in that order, oddly enough), it doesn't take long to get a good reputation. It took me about three years.

  • I would assume that most bloggers have their blogs because they enjoy writing. There is probably a good chance that person had a little dream at one time, even if it was only long ago, of publishing a book. It's a natural extension that bloggers would gravitate toward the book publishing concept.

    What I'm curious about is this- given the choice, would you or I choose a more financially successful e-book or a less rewarding, but more well known traditional book that could be found on paper in a book store?

    Personally, I would opt for the latter because it's just more cool. 🙂

  • It does not have to be an ebook versus traditional book dichotomy. What you need to do is to negotiate with your publisher for rights to the ebook. You can then take your ebook and sell it for what you want.

    The publisher I use, Outskirts Press, not only gave me rights to the ebook, but also put an ebook link on my author page. We split the profits 50 – 50 if someone buys from my author page. If I sell my ebook on my own page, I keep 100% of the profits.

    What is fascinating about this approach is that I can sell my ebook for cheaper than the printed book, but I actually get more per sale otherwise.

    You can click on my name in this comment to look at what my publisher set up and how both a printed version and an ebook version sell side by side.

    In terms of my opinion on whether one should published a book or an ebook, no doubt about it that you need to do both in the 21st century. The perceived value of a traditional book is much higher than the perceived value of a downloaded ebook. This reason alone is enough to get a book published. My recommendation is that you do both by negotiating rights for the ebook with your publisher.

  • I have to believe that getting a book published (print) is a huge accomplishment and status builder. You can always say you are a published author, get financial benefits, and let's be honest, I'm sure it can boost the ego in the short run. I understand what you are saying that publishing companies may or may not promote the book, but that's not stopping you. With online tools like blogs, twitter, etc, you can easily go about promoting your book to you audience and fan base, and from there trying to build word of mouth. If you get published, I'd be glad to buy your book.

  • It's definitely a different feeling to have an ebook in your hand vs. a real book. I mean, look at how easy it is to churn out a blog post versus a magazine article. Someone has to approve, want, and pay for your article at a magazine. Whereas in the blog world all you have to do is publish it yourself. Obviously, in fiction it's way different than publishing something like a personal finance book, but I still think fiction is wayyyyy tougher to publish than anything else.

  • I much prefer the feel of a bound book, and they are easier on the eyes. An ebook is no substitute for a good novel, in my opinion (at least for the type of reading I prefer for entertainment). But I also like that ebooks can provide a lot of value in a small, easily accessible package.

    Ultimately, I would love to publish a novel, but an ebook is something that is much more achievable – at least at this stage of my life.

  • I much prefer the feel of a bound book, and they are easier on the eyes. An ebook is no substitute for a good novel, in my opinion (at least for the type of reading I prefer for entertainment). But I also like that ebooks can provide a lot of value in a small, easily accessible package.

    Ultimately, I would love to publish a novel, but an ebook is something that is much more achievable – at least at this stage of my life.