Self-Publishing Your Own Book Is the New Business Card

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If
you’ve just given someone your business card then you failed.
If you have a business card you might be about to fail. Nobody cares
what’s on it. I throw out all business cards.

I’ve written
before about self-publishing but more than the “why” and “how” (although
I add more info about this below than I previously have) this post
is why YOU NEED to self-publish if you are in business,
a blogger, a writer, or in any profession (essentially all professions)
where you want to stand out versus the competition. There is one
window, right now, where you have the right combination of “easy
to do”, “cheap”, and “nobody is doing it”. The key is the Era of
Validation is over. Nobody needs to pick you. You
pick yourself.

I’ve
published eight books in the past seven years, five with
traditional publishers (Wiley, Penguin, HarperCollins), one comic
book, and the last two I’ve self-published. In this post I give
the
specific details of all of my sales numbers and advances
with
the traditional publishers. Although the jury is still out on my
self-published books, How
to be the Luckiest Man Alive
and I
Was Blind But Now I See
I can tell you these two have 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 XX, and
you will look amazingly cool at cocktail parties. I know this because
I am seldom cool but at cocktail parties, with my very own comic
book, I can basically have sex with anyone in the room. 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
and others who seek to stand out for career or creatuve purposes
should self-publish, and finally, HOW does one
go about self-publishing.

WHY:

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 I published with Penguin they then met with
a friend of mine whose book they wanted to publish. They didn’t
realize she was my 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. I had a weekly column in The Financial Times. I
WROTE my own review. As a joke. For CNBC, I had a weekly
segment on CNBC. So naturally I spoke about my book during my regular
segment. And for thestreet.com
excerpt, I had just sold my last company to thestreet.com. So instead
of doing my usual article for them I 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 I self-publish I make about
a 70% royalty instead of a 15% royalty with a traditional publisher.
I also own 100% of the foreign rights instead of 50%. I 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 me (this was my third book).
It’s hideous.

Now look at
the cover for my last book (self-published), I Was Blind But
Now I See. You may or may not like it but it’s exactly what
I 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.

Now,

WHY
SHOULD ENTREPRENEURS SELF-PUBLISH

A)
You have content. I have enough material in my blog right
now (including my “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 I write 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 my last
book, I Was Blind But Now I See I 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 I describe 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.

Read
the rest of the article

January
31, 2012

The
Best of James Altucher

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