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Date: May 30th, 2012
Category: social media
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Self-Publishing vs. Publisher: Why You Should Do Both

Last night, Mark Schaefer was in town and we held a little TweetUp with 70 of his closest friends.

He and I were talking to Bob Reed about the book publishing process – Mark having just published Return On Influence and Geoff Livingston and me having just published Marketing in the Round.

I said people think the writing the book part is hard, but it’s really the promotion and book tour part that is hard.

He asked me if I was exhausted yet (I said yes) and I asked him the same question.

Bob asked some really interesting questions, which led to this: The rights for Mark’s Tao of Twitter has been bought by McGraw-Hill (his Return On Influence publisher) in order to get a second edition out very quickly.

Why?

Because a competitor is publishing a Twitter book and they want to beat them to the punch.

Is Publishing Dead?

And just when you thought publishing was dead…

It took a full year to get Marketing in the Round out, from signing the contract and writing the book to editing and actually printing it.

A full year.

In the blogosphere, we’re accustomed to instant gratification. If I publish this blog post by 7 a.m. CT, I’ll know by 9 a.m. whether or not it hit a nerve with readers. And, if it doesn’t, I always have tomorrow to write something better.

But, with a book, it takes a full year to get any sort of feedback on what you’ve written, which is kind of crazy in today’s instant, real-time world.

Enter publishers buying the rights of self-published books. Admittedly this isn’t something I saw coming, but it’s brilliant on the part of McGraw-Hill.

You see, the book is already written. It’s already selling. The author already has a built-in audience for this particular content.

In Mark’s case, he wants to extend Tao of Twitter beyond his own network. And the publisher wants to beat a competitor to the marketplace.

Suddenly a year is shortened to less than three months. No, it’s not real-time yet, but it certainly is a way to look at publishing that doesn’t take 12 months and almost reinvents the industry.

Why Should You Care?

At last week’s Ohio Growth Summit, Anthony Iannarino and I debated the merits of the publishing world.

We come at it from different perspectives: He self-published, “How to Crush It, Kill It, and Master Cold Calling Now!

I went the more traditional route.

He talked about how effective self-publishing has been for him. Not only does he make more money per sale, he gained everything I said was great about having a publisher: Instant credibility, increased speaking fees, more clients.

And now you have Mark’s example of selling the rights to a self-published book in order to widen his network and get out into the mass audience.

What About Next Time?

I’m not sure I’d do it differently next time. I have learned a ton about organizing a book, writing a book, putting your ego aside while your book is edited, publishing a book, and promoting a book.

I wouldn’t have that knowledge or expertise without it.

But I like this idea of self-publishing something that is ahead of its time in order to sell the second edition rights to a publisher that wants to stay ahead of its competition.

Of course that means your crystal ball has to be functioning and you have to be willing to take the risk. But perhaps it gives you the best of both worlds.

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