Monday, April 16, 2012

Amazing Adventures in Self Publishing! Part Two

[Continued from Part One.]

My time spent in traditional publishing--from my time with a very small publisher, then with a very nice but incredibly unorganized magazine publisher, and then a with a larger publisher--afforded me innumerable important lessons about the industry.

At my last gig, I worked for the smartest person in the book business, and I literally learned something every single day from him.

At previous jobs, I learned how not to do things--which, as I was told back in my baseball-playing days, is also quite valuable. One of my first coaches told me that you can learn a whole heck of a lot more by watching someone do everything wrong than you can by watching someone do everything right.

In publishing, a whole lot of folks have been doing a whole lot of things wrong for quite a while now.

One friend in the book biz likens even mid-size publishers to large ships incapable of changing course quickly. Publishers, no matter their size, should be just the opposite--small, quick vessels able to turn on a dime. Especially in today's don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-the-next-big-thing environment of technology, publishers need to realize that the old ways, though maybe not dead, are certainly in need of repair.

But the words "publishing" and "technology" haven't exactly fit well together since that Gutenberg guy came along.

Somehow, there's a 10-year-old kid at the Apple store in the mall who is more technologically advanced than the heads of most publishing houses today, large and small. I got so tired of asking questions about technological advances (like, "Hey, shouldn't this be an ebook?") that I left publishing altogether and now work in digital media.

I have a Kindle that I don't use (two, actually). I go to used book stores on a frighteningly weekly basis. I collect first editions. I am the guy that will never prefer an ebook to a printed book. But I'm also smart enough to realize that the rest of the world doesn't agree with me.

Digital isn't the future. It's last year.

The next big thing just flew by my window. He's being replaced tomorrow.

So the publishers, slow as they were to embrace digital, now finally have thrown themselves into the fold. Good for them. And, with the emergence of new and awesome digital products, the same publishers are now putting out lots and lots of new, exciting books and genres and characters to take full advantage of the new, exciting digital landscape, right?

Sure. Just this year (it's APRIL!!), there have been 100 books on Titanic published. IN THE UNITED STATES ALONE.

New and different, indeed.

I could honestly rail all day long on how publishers big and small refuse to take gambles or are simply restricted financially from taking a risk on something that's unique to the marketplace.

I've seen enough Profit and Loss reports to know how mind-numbingly difficult it can be to justify the expense of publishing a book. In that sense, it's an absolute wonder anything gets published.

But, for my part, I think I just got tired of hearing the word NO. Then, it dawned on me.

When you self-publish, there is no one to say NO.

So, along with two of my best friends in the world, I started a publishing house. Initially, we were going to open things up to a whole slew of unpublished and untested writers and artists and photographers and circus clowns, but I realized that, A. I'm deathly afraid of circus clowns, and B. In order to attract others to our cause, we'd first need something of our own to show.

Something professional and cool and different and, well, something that we did completely on our own, without the help of a "real" publisher. Without the help of agents or writing coaches (whatever that is) or a marketing team.

Just three friends looking to do something fun that might just work and might just attract others.

And it all started with a doodle on a Post-It note and a conversation in a diner.

But more on all that in Part Three.

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