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Self-Publish or Traditional? When to Go Hybrid

Self-Publish or Traditional? When to Go Hybrid

Self-publish or traditional? Maybe go hybrid


The last time I counted I’d written 30 books. About half are on the self-publish side, half traditional. Since the great Kindle revolution there’s been such a backlash against traditional publishing that I thought I’d throw in my 2c since I do both trad and indie.

The Case for Traditional Publishing

Last spring, during the height of the coloring book craze, I did a little research to see if a coloring book had ever been done about San Diego. Since I live in such a tourist mecca, I thought there might be several on the market. Surprise. There were none. Since I fancy myself as a pretty decent photographer I went on a quest to shoot the city’s most famous and popular sights.

When I had close to 80 shots that I really liked, I found a vector-graphics person on Odesk who converted all of my photographs to coloring book format. The cost was around $1K. At that point I had to decide whether to self-publish or look for someone to publish for me. My original thought was to use CreateSpace but I couldn’t choose a paper weight through them, and I knew I didn’t want a “thin” paper for a coloring book.

Next, I rounded up costs for getting the whole thing printed and it was way out of my reach (or my willingness!).At this point I realized I needed to find a company that would publish for me – and one that I knew could get the coloring book into San Diego’s many tourist locations.

I found Sunbelt Publications, which was located in a San Diego suburb. They specialize in Southern California books and (this was my deciding factor) they had distribution in virtually every San Diego tourist location. Another factor was their aggressive distribution; if I had any suggestion for a place that might carry the coloring book their marketing person was on the phone making a pitch. Signed, sealed, delivered.  I met with them and signed a contract.

Would I have made more money self-publishing? Possibly. But they had ongoing relationships with dozens of the city’s locations – relationships that it might take me months or even a year to establish. Going out and knocking on doors simply wasn’t a good use of my time. I went traditional.

The Case for Self-Publishing

I’ve written several short books that are self-published, Some are for writers, others in the Internet genealogy space (where I’m considered an expert).

Although I could have pitched some of my books to traditional publishers, I didn’t want a gatekeeper making a decision about whether readers would or would not be interested.For example, my Vanquish Writer’s Block (originally titled The Visual Writer) book is fairly short but packed with tips on using images when you’re stuck. I knew a publisher wouldn’t be interested but I also knew there’s an interest in the writing community on tips and tricks to get out of a rut. In fact, this is the book that bestselling author, JF Penn (Joanna Penn) interviewed me about for her Creative Penn podcast.

I’ve also written a book on writing and publishing your first non-fiction book; again it’s packed with information but not really one that traditional would pick up. Nor would I want them to. I have a lot of information I want to share with other writers, and I know this is a field where self-publishing really sells better (in my opinion) and I feel better equipped to market writing books than I did something like the coloring book.

Plus, length is a factor.

When it comes to the types of books I like to self-publish, less is more. I can pack a whole heap of information into a short book and get it out into a reader’s hands quickly. Traditional publishing isn’t that keen on short books. As a reader, I love short books because I don’t want the WHOLE BREADTH of the topic; I want the one small piece I’m trying to understand. If I spend $2.99 or $3.99 on a short Kindle book that gives me a piece of information, I’m good with that.

As a writer, I try to produce short books that answer specific questions. I think they’re valuable; traditional pub doesn’t agree.

How to Chose Between Indie and Traditional Publishing?

For me, the #1 question is this: Who is better able to market the book? Me or a publishing house?

In the case of the coloring book the choice was clear – the publishing house had a far better reach into my target market than I did.

In the case of Vanquish Writer’s Block (and my other self-pub books), I knew that in many cases they were too short for a trad house to pick up AND I knew I could get them out to my readers faster and more effectively.

Your deciding factor may different from mine. But I hope you’ll at least give a thought to which is the better route for you. Love to hear your comments.


Newest Book Released

Newest Book Released

San Diego Coloring BookWhat started as a lark turned into a full-fledged project – the San Diego Coloring Book.

As a long-time San Diego resident and photographer, I’ve been shooting SD for years. It occurred to me one day in the spring that I had never seen a San Diego coloring book, although our city is visited by zillions of people every year. So, I decided to see what I could create.

I found a vector-guy on odesk and had him convert images to coloring book pix, then contacted a local distributor to work out a deal for getting the book out to the city’s many tourist sites. And what do you know? It actually all came together and the book was released a few days ago.

I have ideas for other projects like this, but right now am under the gun for finishing my Unofficial Guide to Workbook, completing a 2,000-word article and creating four videos for a client. So my coloring book projects have to take a back burner.

I just want to say – and then I’ll step down from the soapbox – if you want to make $$ as a freelance writer, don’t be afraid to create your own projects and your path.


Indie Author Superpack

Indie Author Superpack

indie authors courses and free books
This deal from those crazy guys over at Buck Books came out of the blue and lasts only June 8-10 (Wed-Fri).
This is insanely short notice on this, but Buck threw together a super-quick, 3-day flash sale as an unofficial launch event for Digital Freedom Academy. He calls it the Indie Author Superpack and includes
  • K.M. Weiland’s Novel Freedom Course
  • Buck’s Serious Email List Building for Authors
  • Rob Archangel’s DIY Self-Publishing Course
  • Plus bunches of books from authors including yours truly, Katie Weiland, Carol Tice, J. Thorn, and many more.
Everything that’s included sells for more than $1000, and is going to be priced at $99 for the whole kit and kaboodle. (BTW, where in the world did that phrase come from??)
Here’s the link to get the goods: 
Starts tomorrow (Wed, June 8) and only goes through Friday. Don’t wait on this one.
Simple Marketing Strategies for Authors

Simple Marketing Strategies for Authors

In my book, Sell More Books, I write about 55 different (free) marketing approaches for writers of all personalities. For example, the suggestions for the Rock Star type of author are far different than the Emily Dickinson.  Here are five of the book’s most simple strategies for marketing your book or your blog.

  1.  Set up, polish and publish your Author Profile on Amazon.  When a potential reader is viewing your books they have the option to click on your Author Profile page. This is like having a free storefront ad in one of the biggest retail shops on the planet. In addition to writing your bio, you can also link in your Twitter feed, add images, videos, events, and other multimedia. This is easy to do and it is a must do.
  2. book trailer. YouTube can be used effectively for book marketing, especially if you’re drawn to this particular medium. It’s easy to create a slideshow then upload it to YouTube as a book trailer. End the trailer with a link to your website or where readers can purchase your books.
  3. Write blog posts based on the findings of your Google Analytics. If you don’t have Analytics on your blog, get it. If you use WordPress there are several plugins to help you gather analytics. Look through your analytics report to see which of your blog posts are getting the most interest. Once you find the top 2 or 3, write more posts on the same or a very similar topic. Don’t forget, at the end of the post, to direct readers to your original post on the topic.
  4. Reach out to your personal network and ask them to do a tweet or a Facebook post that sends people to your book or blog. Most of us have family and friends who are happy to help with your marketing efforts. You can even craft a few tweets or FB posts for them so all they have to do is cut and paste. Make it easy for them to help you.
  5. Start your own free digital magazine on Flipboard. Flipboard is a free app for both iOS and Android. In brief, it allows you to curate interesting articles for people who are interested in your book’s topic. Flipboard can now also be read on the web via a browser. If you have Flipboard on a digital device, check out my magazine: Writer’s Life. As I write this, my magazine has more than 9,000 viewers. My analytics show that nearly 12% of my website visitors come from Flipboard. If you don’t have Flipboard on a device you can view it on the web with this link.

For a bonus – Michelle Campbell-Scott and I co-authored Make Your Book Work Harder – How to Use Multiple Platforms to Make More Money. It’s free on Amazon. Pick it up for even more ideas.

Thanks for leaving a comment about the marketing strategies you think work best.

How to Build Your Tribe

How to Build Your Tribe

Before writing another word, I have two questions:

  1. What authors do you follow?
  2. Why?

If you’d like to stop for five minutes and make a list of your answers, go ahead because this is important stuff.

I’ll give you a few of my own just to get things going:

Novels of Doug Preston and Lincoln Child: Because their Agent Pendergast is the quirkiest, most unpredictable and brilliant character I’ve ever read. I just purchased their Pendergast book #14. Can’t wait to dig in.  What I get: Entertainment.

Chris Brogan‘s Newsletter: Because he shares personal experiences that inspire me. He writes about marketing in a way that I find palatable. Bottom line: He’s genuine. What I get: Inspiration.

Writer’s Digest Newsletter: Because it helps me keep up on events and issues in my industry. What I get: Education.

Have you finished your list? Good, now let’s look at:

What You Want to Give

Whether you read my books or my blog posts, I hope you get one or both of these:

  1.  Education
  2. Inspiration

Education: I’ve been a full-time freelancer for more than 20 years, with experience in many fields. I want to help other authors who aren’t quite sure how to reach their writing goals.

Inspiration: I know what it’s like to hear one “no” after another. I refuse to give up and I want to inspire you to do the same.

If I could write fiction, my third goal would be to entertain. Sadly, I haven’t reached that level of craft!

So tell me now, what’s on your list?

You Are Your Tribe

This brief exercise clarifies two things:

  1.  What you’re looking for as a reader
  2. What you want to give as a writer

My belief (and you are free to disagree with me!) is that a great deal of what you want as a reader is much the same as what you want to give as a writer.  I believe we seek out that which we, too, want to offer.

That means you already have great role models.

For me: Every time I read Chris Brogan’s newsletters I’m inspired to be a far better newsletter writer. Chris inspires me to remain authentic.

And, every issue of the Writer’s Digest newsletter shows me the types of articles other writers want and need to read. They help me brainstorm what I want to write for my readers.

How to Attract More Like You?

  1. You are your own best consumer/customer/reader. So instead of following some trend that you wouldn’t read yourself [think things like wheat belly or paleo], start crafting articles or books or blog posts that you want to read.
  2. Become a smart user of social media; that means learning to use the #hashtags that people like YOU follow, or writing FB posts that get shared. If these concepts are foreign, read Frances Caballo’s book Social Media Just for Writers.  It’s worth far more than the $3 bucks.
  3. Where do you hang out online? Go there to find people of like-mind and invite them to your site; start conversations; do a survey; engage.
  4. Be authentic. We are hard-wired to love stories. Tell us yours. Don’t be afraid to show us your fails.
  5. Be generous with your knowledge and your time. I answer every email sent to me; I reply to every comment left on my blog. If you write me with a question I answer you with as much information as I have.

I hope these first steps in Tribe Building help you begin building a core group of people who love what you do and love what you write. And while you’re here, would you do me a favor and leave a comment? What Tribe Building idea do you like?