I’ve heard a lot of mis-information bandied about lately regarding book publishing, specifically geared toward bloggers. And it’s DRIVING ME CRAZY. I live this industry every day, and have for the last 8 years, and I often find that my knowledge of the industry versus what is being spread around is vastly different.
I know a lot of you who read are interested (either now or in the future) in being published, and I want you to be successful in that. So, I’m gonna try and dispel some of the myths, and give you some truths, about publishing.*
Publishing is dying.
Myth. Sorta. Publishing is undergoing a massive change in the business model, very similar to what happened to the music industry when the digital revolution changed that industry. What is happening is that book publishing is facing that same digitization–and all the resultant challenges to the business model. BUT this doesn’t mean that publishing is actually dying.
Truth: There is a lot that’s up in the air for the industry, but I don’t think there are many people who would claim that books (as in the content) are going anywhere. And for the foreseeable future, as long as there are books being written, there will be publishers to get books to consumers.
Publishers are scrambling for writers–in particular bloggers with their built in audiences–because of the problems in the industry.
Myth. Do you know how many books are published every year in the U.S.? For 2008 & 2009, it was right around 290,000 (update: for 2010, the numbers were around 315,000). You did not read that number wrong, it was actually 290,000. That is how many books are “traditionally published.” This doesn’t include the 1,000,000+ titles that are self-published, print on demand, or reprints of public domain works. This also doesn’t include ebooks. A lack of writers isn’t any more of an issue than it has ever been, and if anything, more books are published than ever before.
Truth: Publishers are always looking for writers to publish, whatever field they may come from be it blogging or somewhere else…given that that writer has a book in them that a publisher thinks they can sell in one way, shape or form (preferably more than one).
Having a big audience on your blog/Twitter/Facebook will bring publishers to you.
Myth: Unless we’re talking HUGE numbers, the odds of this happening are really, really small. REALLY small. And even if you have huge numbers, it most likely won’t bring publishers to your door.
Truth:Having a big audience can help make your book proposal more attractive to agents and publishers as ONE part of the package. If you write fiction, this is an easier selling point. If you write non-fiction, it gets a little more complicated as numbers aren’t the only name of the game. This is part of the dreaded platform that trips up many non-fiction writers, but it IS an important part of the overall package you present to publishers.
If you’re a good enough writer/blogger, publishers will find you.
Myth: Again, the chances of this happening are pretty small. Remember that 290,000 number up there? And the 1,000,000 in “non-traditional” publishing? There’s a ton of writing out there, it’s highly unusual for a publisher to go courting it (unless you’re a celebrity and then none of this applies). That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions to this rule, but they are DEFINITELY exceptions.
Truth: If you are a good enough writer/blogger, you have the skill that publishers are looking for—writing, telling a good story (or sharing good information), and promotion. You just need to be prepared that it will take work on your part BEYOND just writing it and hoping they appear.
Publishing a book is the best way to make money from my blog.
Myth: Publishing for the mass majority of authors is NOT a way to make a big living. I know a lot of bloggers who are making more with their blogs than they would make publishing a book traditionally—and not just people like Dooce or ProBlogger (who are kind of bad examples for anything by the way. They’re outliers, not the norm). The financials of traditional book publishing don’t always work that great for the author—and even when they do, you are sharing your money with a LOT of other people. You’re not in control of the sales, you’re not in control of the bulk of the revenue, and you’re not the person getting the bulk of the money.
Truth: Publishing a book can be *A* way to bring in money based on your blog. One kind of income stream, absolutely. And if you’re really good at marketing and promoting it, a good income stream. But it may very well not be the BEST way.
I love books, I love writers, I love bloggers, and I love publishing. I love when those things all collide. But please, please understand that a lot of the “conventional wisdom” floating around on the web about publishing is not 100% accurate.
*As always, I will put the caveat that this is based on MY experience in the industry, my reading of the tea-leaves, and my knowledge of how the industry works. There are always outliers and exceptions. That’s why they are called outliers and exceptions.
As always, you can find more lists every Monday over at ABDPBT!