Should I self publish or go traditional?
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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.


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