James Altucher has published eight books in the past seven years, five with traditional publishers (Wiley, Penguin, HarperCollins), one comic book, and the last two he’s self-published. He has already sold more than my five books with traditional publishers, combined.
If you, the entrepreneur, self-publish a book you will stand out, you will make more money, you will kick your competitors right in the toosh, and you will look amazingly cool at cocktail parties. I know this because I am seldom cool but at cocktail parties, if I were to be like, “Oh, yeah I’ve written and published a book,” I could probably take anyone in the room home with me. But don’t believe me, it costs you nothing and almost no time to try it yourself.
The rest of this article is really three discussions: Why self-publish rather than use a traditional publisher, why entrepreneurs should self-publish, and finally, HOW does one go about self-publishing.
A) Advances are going to zero. Book publishers are getting more and more squeezed by declining booksellers so they, in turn, have to squeeze the writers. Because of so much free content on the Internet, the value per unit of content is going to zero unless you are already an established name-brand author.
B) Lag time. When you self-publish, you can have your book up and running on Amazon, paperback and kindle, within days. When you publish with a traditional publisher its a grueling process: book proposal, agents, lawyers, meetings, edits, packaging, catalogs, etc that ensures that your book doesn’t actually get published until a year later. Literally, as I write this a friend of mine just IMed me the details of his book deal he just got with a mainstream publisher. Publication date: 2014.
C) Marketing. Publishers claim they do a lot of marketing for you. That’s laughable. I’ll give you a very specific story. When James published with Penguin they then met with a friend of his whose book they wanted to publish. They didn’t realize she was his friend. She asked them, “what marketing did you do for James Altucher’s book.” They said, “well, we got him a review in The Financial Times and we got a segment about his book on CNBC and an excerpt in thestreet.com.”
Here’s what’s so funny. He had a weekly column in The Financial Times. He WROTE his own review. As a joke. For CNBC, he had a weekly segment on CNBC. So naturally, he spoke about his book during his regular segment. And for thestreet.com excerpt, he had just sold his last company to thestreet.com. So instead of doing my usual article for them he did an excerpt. In other words, the publisher did NOTHING, but took credit for EVERYTHING. Ultimately, authors (unless you are Stephen King, etc) have to do their own marketing for books. The first question publishers ask, even, before they look at your proposal is, “How big is your platform?” They want to know how you can market the book and if they can make money on just your own marketing efforts.
D) Better royalties. i.e. when James self-published he made about a 70% royalty instead of a 15% royalty with a traditional publisher. He also own 100% of the foreign rights instead of 50%. He hired someone to sell the foreign rights and they get 20% (and no upfront fee).
E) More control over content and design. Look at this cover for “SuperCash” designed by a traditional publisher for James (this was his third book). It’s hideous.
Now look at the cover for his last book (self-published), “I Was Blind But Now I See”. You may or may not like it but it’s exactly what he wanted. Publishers even include in the contract that they have final say over the cover and this is one detail they will not negotiate.
You also don’t have any teenage interns sending you editorial comments back that you completely disagree with. YOU control your own content.
WHY SHOULD ENTREPRENEURS SELF-PUBLISH
A) You have content. He has enough material in his blog right now (including his “Drafts” folder which has 75 unpublished posts in it) to publish five more books over the next year. And I’m sure that number will increase over the next year as he writes more posts. You’re an entrepreneur because you feel you have a product or an idea or a vision that stands out among your competitors (if you don’t stand out, pack it in and come up with a new idea).
You know how to do something better than anyone else in the world. How do let the world know that you are better? A business card won’t cut it. People will throw it away. And everyone’s got a website with an “About” button.
Give away part (or all) of your ideas in a book. You’re a brand new social media agency? How should social media work? Write it down. You’re a new CRM software package? How should CRM be better? Tell me. How should online dating services work? Tell some stories. Heck, make them as sexy as possible.
Don’t have time to write it. Then tell it to a ghostwriter you outsource to for almost no money. You don’t need 60,000 words. Do it in 20,000 words. Throw some pictures in. Just do it. Then when you meet someone and they ask for your business card, how cool will it be when you can say, “here, take my book instead.”
B) You have more to say. More and more companies have blogs. Many of the posts on the blog are “evergreen”. i.e. they last forever and are not time specific. If you just take the posts (mentioned in the point above) and publish them people will say, “he’s just publishing a collection of posts”. A couple of comments on that.
1. So what? It’s ok if you are curating what you feel your best posts are. And for a small price people can get that curation and read it in a different format.There’s value there.
2. Don’t just take a collection of your posts. A blog post is typically 500-2000 words. Usually closer to 500. Do a bit more research for each post. Do intros and outros for each post. Make the chapters 3000-4000 words. Make a bigger arc to the book by using original material to explain WHY this book, with these chapters, presented in this manner is a different read than the blog. Have a chapter specifically explaining how the book is different from the blog.
With his last book, “I Was Blind But Now I See” he had original material in each chapter and several chapters that were completely original. Instead of it being a collection of posts, the overall book was about how we have been brainwashed in society, and how uncovering the brainwashing and using the techniques he describes can bring happiness. This was covered in a much more detailed fashion than the blog ever could even though the material was inspired by several of my posts.
C) Amazon is an extra platform for you to market your blog. Or vice versa. You won’t make a million dollars on your book (well, maybe you will – never say never) but just being able to say, “I’m a published author” extends your credibility as a writer/speaker/enterpreneur when you go out there now to sell your book, syndicate your blog elsewhere or to get speaking engagements, etc. And when you do a speaking engagement, you can now hand something out – your book! So Amazon and publishing become a powerful marketing platform for your overall writing/speaking/consulting career.
D) Nobody cares. Some people want the credibility of saying “Penguin published me”. James can tell you from experience – nobody ever asked him who was my publisher when Penguin was my publisher. And, by the way, according to James, Penguin was the worst publisher he ever had.
E) How will I get in bookstores? I don’t know. How will you? Traditional publishers can’t get you there either. Often bookstores will look at what’s hot on Amazon and then order the books wholesale from the publishers. In many cases, tradtional publishers will take their most-known writers (so if you are in that category, congrats!) and pay to have them featured at a bookstore. As for my experience, James’ traditional publishers would get a few copies of my books in the bookstores of major cities (i.e. NYC and that’s it) but nothing more.
OK, I’M CONVINCED. HOW DO I SELF-PUBLISH
There’s lots of ways to do it but I’ll tell you my experience.
A) First write the book. For his last two self-published books, as mentioned above, he took some blog posts, rewrote parts of them, added original material, added new chapters, and provided an overall arc as to what the BOOK was about as opposed to it just being a random collection of posts. But, that said, you probably already have the basic material already.
B) Createspace.com. He used createspace because they are owned by Amazon and have excellent customer service. They let you pick the size of your book and then have Microsoft Word templates that you download to format your book within. For his first book he did this by himself, for my second book, for a small fee, he hired Alexanderbecker.net to format the book, create the book design, and create the final PDF that I uploaded. He also checked grammar, made proactive suggestions on font (sans serif instead of serif) and was extremely helpful.
C) Upload the PDF. Createspace approves it, picks an ISBN number, sends you a proof, and then you approve the proof.
D) Within days its available on Amazon. It’s print-on-demand as a paperback. And by the way, your total costs at this point: $0. Or whatever you used to design your cover.
E) Kindle. All of the above (from Createspace) was free. If he didn’t hire Alex to make the cover he could’ve used over 1mm of Createspace’s possible covers (he did that for his first book) and the entire publishing in paperback would be free. But with Kindle, Createspace charges $70 and they take care of everything until it’s uploaded to the Kindle store. Now you are available in paperback and kindle.
1. Readers of James’ blog who asked for it got the first 20 copies or so for free from me. Many of them then posted good reviews on Amazon to get the ball rolling.
2. He had been handing out the books at speaking engagements. Altogether, he’ll do around 10 speaking engagements handing his latest book out.
3. He writes a blog post about how the bo0k is different from the blog and why he chose to go this route.
4. Writing guests posts for blogs like Techcrunch helps and he’s very grateful.
5. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ are also very helpful.
G) Promotions. You’re in charge of your own promotions (as opposed to a book publisher.). For instance, in a recent blog post he discussed the differences between his latest book and his blog and he also offered a promotion on how to get his next self-published book (“Bad Behavior”, expected in Q1 2012) for free.
Entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to stand out, promote their service, and get validation for their offerings. Writing a book makes you an expert in the field. At the very least, when you hand someone a book you wrote, it’s more impressive than handing a business card. It shows that you have enough expertise to write the book. It also shows you value the relationship with the potential customer enough that you are willing to give him something of value. Something you created.
And you can’t say the excuse “I don’t have time, I’m running a business.” Entrepreneurs make time. And they have the ideas so, again, at the very least you can use elance.com to hire a ghostwriter.
Over the next year he has five different books planned. All on different topics. He’s super-excited about them because he’s allowed to push the barrier in every area he’s interested in and there’s nobody to stop me. There’s nobody he needs validation from. He gets to pick himself.
You can do this also. And now, you should do it. There’s no more excuses in this environment. Good luck and feel free to write James with any questions.Source: James Altucher, Tech Crunch