Building a publishing empire

Note: This is a repost of a post from 2009 or so. It’s interest how all of this still holds. I ultimately found a solution with createspace for the paperback and kindle for the ebook. This was the semi-easiest solution because they’d do roughly half the publishing work. It’s technical, but to put it in short terms, they’re publishing it for me, while I’m still the publisher. The waters get a bit murky since this is a new thing. I figured I would hold off on the whole empire thing until I wrote several more books. This is preventing me from publishing it on Nook, iPad, etc. but on the other hand, demand for those devices have been pretty much nonexistent, so I’m not going to go through with a $500 circus to sell a couple of books in an alternate format.

I apologize for all the publishing posts lately, but it is pretty much all that has been on my mind. Thanks to everybody who has written me by email and suggested various solutions. I’m sorry I have not gotten back to all individually, so I figure I would do a general response here.

According to the informal book store survey, I think I can (tentatively) conclude that bookstore distribution (by a publisher) works a bit in the same time-limited way as an ebook. Books older than a year or so do not exist any longer. Thus they must rely on either the publisher’s marketing or the author’s marketing. Since my last name isn’t King or Rowling, it would probably fall on me.

Now, this blog’s growth rate is about 120%/year, but on an absolute scale it is still small. By the time the book comes out by a regular publisher, something which I’m told can take around 18 month, the blog would by 3–4 times bigger. I must admit though, that I can not guarantee that I will still be sufficiently excited to write another 500 posts before seeing action.

Furthermore, traditional publishing requires signing over publication rights. Uh oh! I don’t like that.

This leaves print on demand. I can do this two ways. I can either act as a writer in which case I am currently very much favored towards which seem to have the best terms as far as I am concerned. In particular, they will only have nonexclusive rights to publish. Or I can act as a publisher.

Writer first. If I go into this as a writer, it would be published under createspace’s ISBN which would make the book available on amazon (it would look like any other book up there) and on their estore (where I would be able to offer coupons). They also have extended distribution packages allowing people to order from order places but likely the book will never be in stores. I already have the business infrastructure to do this.

I can also go in as a publisher. This requires me buying and using my own ISBN numbers and setting up as a business. (This would cost about $500 total in various fees.) In this case I can submit the book to several places. Createspace could handle amazon. I could use Lightning Source to handle orders to bookstores via Ingram. I could submit the book to Barnes&Noble, Borders, or even Walmart. In principle, I would be no different than a traditional publisher, except I would score the money which would otherwise go to the publisher. At least this is how I see it.

Now, and here’s the kicker. I could do, first one, and then the other. In other words, if the first book proves popular, I can pull it and reissue it as my own publication. Frankly, I think being my own publisher of just one book is overkill. If I do a second book (like a work book similar to how the Fifth Discipline has a mainbook and a work book), this could work.

Otherwise I think the best marketing strategy for me is the online approach and keep growing it. The message is just too complex to fit into soundbites. Consumers (97% of the population) can relate to getting a deal or using coupons and salaried people can relate to index funds and mutual funds. No way can I make a convincing point about an alternative to everything they hold dear in 2 minutes. A better approach would be a slow approach rather than a buzz strategy.

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Originally posted 2010-05-21 09:57:07.