Recently by James Altucher: The 10 Keys To Selling Anything
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.