Taking control of your publishing future

In a Sunday New York Times Book Review essay, “The Case for Self-Publishing,” Neal Pollack details why he is going to self-publish his next novel, Jewball. (And as he writes at Twitter: 40,000 words! My novel is now only seven thousand words shorter than The Great Gatsby, and almost as good. —@nealpollack) His main point in the article:

But for a writer like me, which is to say, most working writers — midcareer, midlist, middle-aged, more or less middlebrow, and somewhat Internet savvy — self-publishing seems to make a lot of sense at this point. Early in my career, because of some lucky breaks and a kinder economy, I was able to get advances that helped me support my family over the months it took to write a book. I haven’t been a huge best seller… . But I’ve built a modest audience and a name. Now that the advances are smaller and the technology is available, why not start appealing directly to those readers?

But basically he says don’t do this unless you’ve already built up that audience. NOT something for first-time authors as far as he is concerned. Unless of course you are a first-time author with a blog and lot of followers that you’ve building up for a while. Given the amount of time he’s invested in building his own followers, Pollack is making a bet that the number of copies of his book he can sell, be it an e-version or a limited-edition hardback, will bring in more money than what he would garner from a publisher’s advance. (And I would venture to say that part of the appeal is taking control of the whole process.)

2 responses to “Taking control of your publishing future

  1. Geez, where have I been? Didn’t know you were blogging, Erik! I still remember your sage (and prescient) counsel to me 4 or 5 years ago to consider bypassing the mainstream publishing industry — which Seth has been promoting of late. As my magnum opus approaches completion I may well take the self-publishing route. (My NY agent has probably died of old age by now anyway.) Thanks!

  2. Erik Hansen

    John, good to hear from you. One of the points of the article is that you want to have your own band of followers in place before you decide to self-publish. Some folks with traditional publishers are now self-publishing and some folks who have been self-publishing are now getting traditional publishers. Maybe the whole publishing picture is a bit like online learning versus classroom learning. It seems what is happening is that there’s a mix of the two. The thing about the digital world now is that you can float some shorter version of your book out there as an ebook to get your ideas out into the world and at the same time get feedback on those ideas. We should talk on the phone some time.