Can You Think Like A Publisher?

May 5, 2017 | By | Reply More

When you’re an author-publisher, or self-published author, you face nearly all the choices a traditional publisher faces, but in a much more intimate, more personally-invested, more personally-at-risk way. This is a wonderful in some ways, and not so good in others.

For about seventeen years in my callow youth I worked in publishing as an acquisitions editor, marketing manager, and copywriter/creative director. In 2002 my last division got put out to pasture and I switched to freelancing. When the economy tanked, I switched to teaching English part-time. I still do that, but beginning in 2013, I also self-published three of my own novels.

Most years I’ve managed not to lose money doing so. This year I’ll actually make more from the books than from teaching, though that may be a fluke. Still, at this point I feel I have a pretty good basis for comparison between the two ways of publishing.

On the plus side, for self-publishers…

  • There are no committee meetings.
  • That new wet-behind-the-ears marketing director can’t torpedo the deal you’ve worked on for a month just because he’s not feeling it.
  • No one ever has to run a Projected Profit and Loss statement (PP&L) if they don’t feel like it.
  • You don’t have to worry about impressing the Editor-in-Chief or the Publisher or any other powers that be.
  • Chances are excellent you will excited by ALL the books in your list.
  • Authors won’t drive you crazy with questions, stubbornness, nagging, neediness, hating the title, hating the edits, hating the cover, or being appalled or confused by the royalty checks.
  • A book need not brand you a failure just because of slow sales out of the gate.
  • No distant corporate power can suddenly swoop in and eliminate your job or your entire division.

That’s the good part. Here’s the flip side:

  • There are no committee meetings. You can’t draw on the talent and expertise of senior management, development editors, art directors, cover designers, production managers, production editors, copy editors, or publicists. Unless you find them yourself. And pay them.
  • You don’t have to worry about that annoying marketing director because YOU have to be your annoying marketing director.
  • Yes, you don’t have to run a PP&L. But that could be a bad thing, because this is YOUR money you’re investing.
  • You may not have to impress any bosses, but you still have to try to exercise political skills with readers, reviewers, fellow authors, people at the day job who’ve figured out what you’re up to, and everyone else in your life who is affected by this undertaking.
  • Your beloved list may turn out to contain real stinkers. (Let’s just say my short story collection has been consigned to the category of “lessons learned.”)
  • You may not be a failure in six months, but that doesn’t mean you’ll eventually be a success, either. It also doesn’t mean any success you do experience will last. This is a tough business.
  • You’ll drive YOURSELF crazy second-guessing your decisions, wondering what balls you’ve dropped, brooding about sales, and wondering whether you should try a new title or a new cover or a new social media presence or a new promotional campaign or just try to be Zen about it all and finish the next book.
  • Nobody can swoop in and buy your company out from under you. BUT Amazon could change its algorithms or grow its own imprints, your better-positioned competition could discover BookBub, or thousands of other people could decide to do just what you’ve done. (Yep, that’s all happened.) The market WILL change, and you will have to adapt.

I offer all this as a heads up. Do your due diligence before you decide to self-publish. Respect what you might be giving up as well as what you might be gaining. Understand that success in this business is almost always a long road, no matter what path you take.

While I don’t regret my own decisions, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them to others, especially in the current marketplace, especially in certain genres. Before you leap, ask yourself: Are you really eager to be a publisher as well as a writer?

If so, get ready to wear a whole lot of different hats.

And whichever path you choose, I wish you the happiest publishing experience possible.

SANDRA HUTCHISON is the author of Bardwell’s Folly (2016), The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire (2014), and The Awful Mess (2013), all published by her own Sheer Hubris Press. She lives in Troy, New York, and teaches writing at Hudson Valley Community College.




TWITTER: @SheerHubris



About Bardwell’s Folly

What if the only way to find home is to leave it? Dori Bardwell’s father was the white Southern author of THE novel about slavery, a man who settled his large family up north in a replica of a plantation house and never spoke of his past. His tragic accident pulled Dori from college to care for her only remaining brother.

Now the money is running out, her ex-boyfriend is intent either on revenge or a second chance, a media baron has designs on her father’s last, unfinished manuscript, and her own thoughtless blackface joke is about to go viral and turn her life upside down.

With a new, media-savvy African American friend, Dori embarks on a voyage into long-buried family secrets that might just lead her right back to where she started.

If you like humorous, heartfelt book club fiction with a strong romantic thread, a love of literature, and a sharp eye for race and class in America, you’ll love this new novel by the author of THE AWFUL MESS and THE RIBS AND THIGH BONES OF DESIRE.


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Category: How To and Tips, On Publishing

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