by PETER SHANKMAN
For the past twelve years, I’ve been a published author. Starting with “Can We Do That?” in 2006, and up to “Faster Than Normal” which came out last month, I’ve had five books published by four different “professional” publishers. While there used to be obvious advantages in going with a publisher, over the past several years, the benefits of self-publishing have skyrocketed, while the old-school publishing industry has blatantly failed to keep up.
I’ve always eschewed the self-published model for several reasons, and they’ve all gone up in smoke over time. So here’s why my next book will be self-published, and why yours should be too
Myth: There’s “oomph” in professional publishing that doesn’t exist when you self-publish”
Fact: The oomph isn’t for people like us. I used to think that having my book published by a professional publishing house gave me credibility, and more important, gave me the power of the big name and all that it entailed. But that’s no longer the case. Unless you’re a former president, already a celebrity, or some other kind of “major” name, publishing houses simply won’t do much for you. They’ll give you an advance, a deadline, and they’ll produce the books. But that’s pretty much it.
Myth: Publishing Houses have tremendous PR and Marketing arms, and they’ll all be working for you.
Fact: No they 100% totally won’t. 99% of the publicity I got for Faster Than Normal came from two actions: I hired a PR firm for the launch, and paid them out of my own pocket, and I reached out to media I knew personally. While publishing houses do have super-large PR and Marketing arms, they’re primarily reserved for major authors. President Obama’s memoirs? Every PR and advertising person will be on that. Peter Shankman’s book on ADHD? I’ll get one over-the-phone meeting with an outsourced PR person who’s also handling five other books at the same time. If you’re going to hire a PR firm to handle the outreach for your latest book, why shouldn’t you be reaping all the financial gain that comes when the book sells, instead of a small percentage of it?
Afraid to do your own PR? Check out Help a Reporter Out for potential PR leads, and hey, I even built a course to help you master the media on your own.
Myth: You can't do your own marketing for you book, you're not powerful enough.
Fact: You totally can because you totally are! Every single piece of marketing for my latest book was done and paid for by me, and in the end, it was years of carefully cultivating my audience that allowed me to reach #1 in across all the Amazon categories in which I was listed. I’d worked for several months before the book launched, teasing it, promoting it, building the website for it, offering freebies if it was pre-ordered, and laser focusing on my audience to promote my book in such a way that it would blow up on launch day. The publisher didn’t do any of that for me.
Additionally, with email marketing services such as ConvertKit, and services like SmarterQueue and re-follow, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from becoming a pure marketing machine. Again: Every single piece of marketing, from the press sheet to the email alerts to the behind the scenes bonus content, was all created by myself and the PR firm I hired for the launch.
Myth: Publishing Houses have the distribution capabilities, you don’t.
Fact: They do. But so do you. My friend Hal Elrod created a literal movement with the publication of his book “The Miracle Morning.” Entirely self-published, and it’s changed his entire life. My friend Nick Hawk just published his first book, “100 Kicks in the Ass,” entirely by himself as well. With Amazon’s self-publishing center, as well as many other “do-it-yourself” book creation tools out there, you no longer need the distribution capabilities yourself. They’re all available for the taking if you know where to look.
Myth: What about audio? What about foreign rights? Digital e-books? I can’t get any of those if I publish on my own!
Fact: All of that and more is now in your power without a publisher. Armed with a $100 microphone, a quiet room, and a copy of Adobe Audition, you can record your entire book yourself, and turn it into an audiobook with about one day of editing time. Submitting your audiobook to publishers is easy, and surprisingly painless.
The same is true for the online editions of your book. It’s no longer a process that only the big houses can do. Anyone can do it with a little bit of work.
Added bonus here: You can give away as much or as little of your book as you want, whether through online promotions, contests, etc. You can’t do that with a book published by the big houses, they usually don’t let you.
Myth: I can’t get a hundred copies to sell at my events fast enough because I don’t have a publishing house to make them!
Fact: Yes you can. Self-publishing has the option of operating on an “on-demand” scale. Need 50 books? Order 50 books, and charge more for them when you sell them at your event. Need 1,000 books? Same thing. The days of you sitting in the back room by candlelight like Bartleby the Scrivener to make your quota are long gone.
Myth: The publishing house helps me stay on deadline, gives me advice, and makes the whole process seamless
Fact: No they don’t. Publishing houses are designed to make money by publishing your book. Anything else they do for you is a nice bonus, an extra, and certainly not mandatory.
On most of my books, I spoke to my editor a total of three times during the authoring process: Upon signing my contract, my first meeting, and two weeks before deadline, when they called and asked me where my manuscript was. I know very few authors who call upon their editor for help during the writing process.
Being ADHD, a deadline is key. So for me, having a firm contractual deadline was great. So here’s how to replicate that without a publishing house: Join a mastermind group, where anywhere from 10 to 200 people will keep you going the entire time you’re writing, as well as make sure you’re focused, on-target, and in the position to hit the deadline goals you’ve set for yourself.
Bonus: When I have serious deadlines I want to hit, and no contractual obligation to hit them, there’s always the chance of missing it, or coming up with an excuse not to make it. So here’s what I’ve done:
When I’ve set my deadline, I go to the bank and take out $5,000 in cash. (Your number can be more or less, but make sure it’s enough to hurt you.) I put it in an envelope, and give it to my best friend, with the instructions that if I turn in the manuscript to him on or before the agreed-upon deadline, he gives me the money back. If I don’t, he keeps it. I’ve done this for more than just book writing. I’ve done it for losing weight, for training for a race, you name it. It’s a win for my friend as well, as he can put it in his savings account until it’s time to give it back to me, and earn a little interest on it. Win/win.
Myth: Publishing houses have editors that make sure everything looks great, and I don’t!
Fact: Yes, you do. There are countless brilliant freelance editors out there, all willing to help you for a small fee, and they’re just as good (if not better) than the editors with whom you’ll work at a publishing house. Additionally, they’ll handle the indexing as well – Publishing houses charge you for indexing.
Myth: I won’t make any money self-publishing, at least with a publishing house, I get an advance.
Fact: The money you make on a self-published book, like with any project you undertake, depends entirely on you. No, you won’t get an advance when you self-publish. But you know what? It’s not like you get the whole advance the second you sign the contract. More often than not, it’s divided into four payments: 25% on signing, 25% on manuscript delivery, 25% on publication, and 25% a year later. So yeah – That advance you got might take up to three years to get in its entirety.
Bonus: You can come up with an idea, write the book, and have it published on your schedule. Want the book out before Christmas? Do it. Want longer to do more pre-marketing? Do it! On average, it takes a little over a year from the time you get the manuscript to your publisher until you’re holding a sellable copy in your hands. That’s a LOT of time, and for what? If you’re handling your own PR and marketing, you know exactly how long you need to go from conception to published. A year? That’s way too long.
Myth: People don’t take self-published books “seriously” anymore.
Fact: No one cares. Self-published used to mean fifty mimeographed pages stapled together and sold on street corners or delivered by self-addressed stamped envelopes. Those days are long gone. (And if you’re too young to remember them, consider yourself lucky.)
In the end, the content of your book, the strength of your tribe, and the passion of your convictions are what’s going to drive your book, your sales, and your future career. There’s no physical difference anymore between a book published by a 200 year old publishing house, and a book self-published, printed on Amazon, and shipped to someone’s home or downloaded to their Kindle.
So… What’s stopping you?