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Gini Dietrich

Traditional Book Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

By: Gini Dietrich | October 3, 2012 | 
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On Inside PR, Martin Waxman, Joe Thornley, and I took what was supposed to be a one month summer break.

Two months later, we got the band back together to get back in the groove and restart our weekly recordings.

One of the questions they asked me yesterday was how six months of book tour travel and speaking had gone and whether or not I’d self-publish my second book.

I tell this story when I speak so you may have already heard it.

Book Publishing

Book publishing is fascinating. In today’s immediate gratification, fast-paced world, book publishing is on its own time.

Geoff Livingston and I signed the contract for Marketing in the Round in May 2011. It took us a few months to outline, research, and write the book. Then, during the holidays last year, we edited the bad boy. It was all due to the publisher the first week of January.

The book came out in May of this year. So it took a full year to hold something in our hands. It took another couple of months for people to read the book and write reviews. And, of course, we’ve both been speaking and selling books everywhere we’ve gone this year. It’s been a 17 month project (to date). No small feat.

But what’s even more interesting is, if I publish a blog post at 8 a.m., I know by 8:45 whether or not it resonates. If I write a book (granted it’s a bigger project), it takes more than a year to determine whether or not it resonates.

But the thing that gets me? We have no idea how the book is selling. Sure, Amazon gives us stats (10 days delayed) on Author Central. But it only includes hard cover sales, no Kindle or bulk sales (which is the majority of our sales).

And the publisher sends reports. Quarterly. The last report we received was in June.

As a business owner (and someone who loves to see efforts tied to results), this kills me.

Digital Age of DIY

But is having a publisher the only way to go?

This was my first book and I would say yes. Sure, we’re in the digital age of DIY, but having a publisher has given me a ton of credibility in speaking and has afforded me the opportunity to increase my fees. It also serves as an amazing leave behind in business development meetings. Who doesn’t want to hire a published author ahead of someone who is not?

But there also is a slow creep toward self-publishing, like indie rock musicians and food truck restauranteurs have discovered. It’s not happening as quickly in our world as it has in those, but it is happening.

E.L James self-published Fifty Shades of Grey and, just yesterday, Emma Watson said she’s considering playing Anastasia Steele in the movies. Imagine that! A movie deal from books you self-published.

Perhaps fiction is different. You have mass appeal with a novel. Something you can’t achieve with most business books (particularly PR or marketing ones). I think I’ll ask Terry Fallis to weigh him, having just published his third novel (one self and two with a publisher).

A Fickle Bunch

But the reality is…we’re just a fickle bunch.

The instant gratification world we live in requires something new constantly. That’s why blogging and social media work so well. It’s why YouTube stars are made. It’s why half of the new titles published in 2011 were self-published.

Either the public will love you and reward you or not.

But you’ll know in an instant; not in 17 months. And, if they don’t love you, the time and effort spent can be better invested elsewhere as you figure out what’s next.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

103 comments
ShennandoahDiaz
ShennandoahDiaz

Hey Ginnie, 

 

Great post! There are many things to consider and both traditional and self-publishing come with their own pros and cons. Despite its many downfalls, traditional publishing does come with a great deal of credibility as well as some pretty high standards in terms of content and production. Self-publishing varies greatly in both quality and distribution reach. Instant gratification aside, we still want quality and we still expect traditionally books to be more thoroughly vetted than self-published books. Not to mention as a self publisher you are in charge of everything--editing, book design, printing, distribution--the works. That's often more than the average writer--fiction or nonfiction--can handle. So its important to do one's homework, weigh the options, compare each option to your unique needs and goals, and go their direction that fits best. There no "right' answer and certainly one size does not fit all. Congrats on getting your book out (a feat in itself). I look forward to the next!

Collin Canright
Collin Canright

I may be late to the party on this one, but it's a great post and discussion, and here's my 2 cents against and for self publishing, as I do play both sides of the fence. We produce books for authors to self publish, but guess what. . . The main reason we do it is so that an author has something--sales--to take to an agent or major publisher. Yes, major publishers are slow. Yes, their business model is archaic to say the least. Yes, they require most authors to do their own marketing. Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, yes, but: major publishers know how to get books in stores (still relevant) and libraries, and they know their business. Yesterday I saw back-cover copy written by a major publisher for an author I work with. It was great, perfectly tuned and targeted. The author could not have written it that way, nor could I have. I may decide to do my own book, and I likely will self publish. But I'll do it to ultimately get the credibility and support of a major publisher.

 

JimKukral
JimKukral

My first big book was trad published too. But not having the stats absolutely killed me. You can't tell me how many Kindle books I sold at least? Really? Forget it. I am self-pubbing now and haven't looked back. 7 books later.

 

Jim F. Kukral

http://www.authormarketingclub.com

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

I always marvel at your ability to do all this and still be as responsive to your community and pingbacks and comments elsewhere; your business; your team; your family...and, uhmm, yourself. 

 

The chicken and the egg is, however, how do you know your content is good enough for a publisher? 

Latest blog post: This Business of Breasts

NetMinds
NetMinds

@mgrimme there is a middle ground... Team publishing. You don't need to sell UR idea or go it alone.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Unless you hand write on Papyrus really I mean why would I read anything anyone writes. Must be on Papyrus. And not some synthetic version like @jasonkonopinski writes on. Or that imitation birch Paper @Sean McGinnis uses for his law documents.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis

(Semi)Serious question. Could it be that you can't access the kindle data because the publisher set up the account? Just wondering out loud here. I have to think there is no way in hell Amazon would not provide that data in this day and age. I smell a channel/silo issue. Perhaps the publisher prefers to provide that data as part of their quarterly update? Or maybe someone didn't press the right button when the account for the book was created?

 

Again, just wondering out loud, since I'm not published and have never seen an Amazon report before.

TerryFallis
TerryFallis

Hey Gini,

 

Congrats on the book! It's a great read. But I feel your pain. It was easier to keep up to date on book sales when I was self-puiblished back in 2007. But since then, I've had a mainstream publisher Random House/McClelland & Stewart and have the same challenge getting timely sales information. But in the end, I much prefer being with a major publisher.

Justjeffpls
Justjeffpls

@ginidietrich Ur kickin this dog around a bit! What's the deal?

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

I think there could be a fascinating study done on the perception of value and worth with self-published material vs. traditionally published, especially with fiction.  Some literary giants self-published their work: Upton Sinclair, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandberg, James Joyce, Beatrix Potter, Henry David Thoreau, to name a few.  Joyce's magnum opus "Ulysses" was self-published, as was Strunk and White's "Elements of Style". 

 

Of course, the Kindle self-publishing platform does make it easy for mindless dreck to make its way into the market. In some ways, it's exactly what has been said of bloggers. The ease of launching a platform makes it an incredibly competitive space, so you need to understand how to connect with an readership and stand out. 

Latest blog post: The Art of Arting Harder

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

So many different directions to go in here. I plan on self publishing my fiction and using my blog to promote it. Part of that is because it is fast, easy and I'll have access to metrics. Some of it is because of the learning opportunities.

 

All of this leads to the discussion about the value of "hiring" or "using" professionals. Company XYZ can do all of their own PR and save the money they would spend on hiring an agency, right.

 

The question is are they really saving money. Is their an advantage to letting the man/woman who is good with people and a strong writer figure out how to handle PR on the fly.

 

It could go either way, couldn't it.

JoKelly09
JoKelly09

@MonicaMRodgers @SpinSucks Indeed! Thank you for sharing this info.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@janthonyrivera Everybody's friend might be a slight exaggeration

megan_g
megan_g

If I played a role in the movie version of Marketing in the Round, I would like to be the person (fine - heroine) who breaks down the silos and gains the respect of all!  Although, I need to study up quite a lot for that role...

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing And then it took me a day to get back to you. Oy.

 

You know, I've always wanted to write a book. It's the reason I minored in creative writing in college. But I didn't have the confidence to do it until I began blogging and people began reading. So that's how I knew it was good enough, but I also was scared to death they'd read the proposal and tell us we were out of our minds. Sometimes you just have to take the leap.

Latest blog post: #FollowFriday: Karl Sprague

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @thejoshuawilner It really could go either way. We really considered hiring a PR firm to help us with the book marketing, but decided it wasn't an investment either of us were willing to make. In retrospect, it probably would have helped to have someone helping us...even if it'd been our own teams.

janthonyrivera
janthonyrivera

@ginidietrich Have you been p*ssing people off lately? :)

janthonyrivera
janthonyrivera

@ginidietrich Oh, c'mon! *we-all-know-better grin*

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @megan_g THAT is hilarious! We could give you a script so you'd just have to memorize lines.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis

 @ginidietrich Well then...color me igronant. How surprising. Is it because they don't want to give up the % shared - is that private info? Is that the issue?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@janthonyrivera I'm sure I do on a daily basis.

ShennandoahDiaz
ShennandoahDiaz

 @ginidietrich  @Sean McGinnis The author percentage on ebooks/kindles is factored differently. For hardcover (esp through non-Amazon channels) returns and other issues affect final quarter sales totals, which is why the average sales cycle is 120 days for books. The key is having a book for direct sales and for securing high paying speaking engagements. A book is a marketing tool nowadays, and less of a revenue stream. 

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

 @RebeccaTodd  @ginidietrich  @jasonkonopinski yes Rebecca is an honorary Alien.

 

Here is the real discussion. Can you get distribution self publishing. Being on Amazon is not distribution. It is just being available. There are 500,000 Android apps and 750,000 Apple apps. How many do you have? 20? 50? Good luck having your app downloaded. I bet 90% of the ones on your phone have VC support or Name Recognition.

 

How does one get their book found on Amazon if self published? Self promotion? You blogging 'I have a book'? 

 

That said in music when CD's were $14.99 the artist got $1 and the writers of each song I think $0.10. Sell your book for a $1? But if no one can find it what good does that do you? (offer it with a happy meal!)

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

 @RebeccaTodd  @ginidietrich Sure, but there's a real difference between high literature and pulp fiction, both of which have equally dedicated readerships. 

 

Matthew Arnold wrote about this in an indirect way back in the 19th century. His argument then was that it was the responsibility of the cultural critic to filter out the crap so that the reading public could be assured of quality in some way.  However, there's no accounting for individual taste or standard for excellence, right? 

Latest blog post: The Art of Arting Harder

janthonyrivera
janthonyrivera

@ginidietrich You are too kind. It's no wonder there are 25,784 reasons to follow you around the Innertubes. :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@janthonyrivera I thought that went without saying...

janthonyrivera
janthonyrivera

@ginidietrich Hmmm. And all along I just thought it my ceaseless abilty to charm... Oh well, I'll take that too. :0)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@janthonyrivera LOL! This is why you'll always be one of my favorites

janthonyrivera
janthonyrivera

@ginidietrich With that smiling face? (looking at profile pic) :) And with Pete always 'at-the-ready'? Nooooo waaaaaay.

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