We have seen writers discussing self-publishing and all the wonderful things it is supposed to do for them. Have you noticed how little discussion there are about what self-publishing will do for readers? I find it odd that this topic, which is supposed to revolutionize traditional publishing and make giants like Random House quake in the knees, focus so little on getting readers to buy those books, so little on finding ways to get those books into the readers' hands. It is as if, given that bookstores are denounced by these people as evil corporate entities, readers will automatically agree and there are hundreds and thousands of readers out there eagerly waiting, their browsers permanently at Amazon, to snap up these self-published books the moment the overpriced trade paperbacks or hardcovers are available for sale.
These idealistic authors mean well, I suppose, but their pretty speeches, usually lacking statistical evidence to back up their rhetorics that self-publishing is the brave new world, play right into the market plan of vanity publishers like Lulu. Lulu, Xlibris, Authorhouse, iUniverse... they all make money selling the books they print back to their authors who will buy them back in hope of selling those books themselves. When you think about it, there is very little difference between these vanity publishers and those motivational speakers - all promise a quick and painless way to become rich, famous, or respected right away, but at the end of the day, the only person becoming rich is the motivational speaker. Or the vanity publisher.
Which is why I find the following articles interesting. John T Reed is an outspoken, blunt, and pretty funny real estate investment guru who also dabbles in self-publishing and he has written considerably (and self-published) a book on the matter. What I find interesting here is that he writes non-fiction, which we all know is one of the best suited genres for self-publishing, and he also thinks of his writing career the same way that he approaches real estate investment - as a business. He doesn't babble about a creative Utopia where there are no evil corporate pigs. He does denounce the traditional publishing model, but that's because he's a businessman who wants to make a profit in his endeavors and let's face it, middlemen in the publishing industry take a big chunk out of one's profits. And when it comes to self-publishing, Mr Reed goes the whole way: he doesn't rely on Lulu to sell his stuff, he goes to a printer and does everything himself. Perhaps self-published authors should take the same approach: cut out the middlemen (in this case, the vanity publishers and their various overpriced but generally worthless add-on marketing services), think like a businessman, and start selling. Don't see how this will work for a fiction author who doesn't want to spend a lot of time marketing his or her books, but hey, nobody says making a living out of writing is easy.
Mr Reed's Tips on Successful Self Publishing
Mr Reed thinks that symbolism is for bored or pretentious people (check out his hilarious anecdote about the time Harper Lee visited his college)
Mr Reed on cutting out the middlemen
The rest of his website is worth spending a few hours on, by the way. He exposes fraudulent real estate gurus, although given that he is exposing his competitors, you may want to take what he says with a grain of salt. Still, his BS detector guide and explanation on why you should not waste your money on expensive seminars are just some of the many good advice you will find here. He also has strong views about the military (and you may be pleased to know that he's all for openly gay people serving in the military). All in all, this is one website I've bookmarked for weekend reading.