Monday, January 13, 2014

Understanding Self-Publishing

It only takes five books to see what all of the fuss is about.

by David Vinjamuri

Want to understand self-publishing?  It only takes five books to see what all of the fuss is about.

Dust by Hugh Howey

Howey made a million dollars on his own before he signed with a traditional publisher. His deal with Simon & Schuster was groundbreaking (he gave them only print rights to the WOOL trilogy and retained his digital rights) and it also taught traditional publishers a lesson: waiting until an author explodes as Simon & Schuster did with Howey carries a hefty price tag. Meg Kuehn, COO of Kirkus notes that:

All of a sudden, every publisher is looking at the content that is self-published. By the time it hits the Kindle bestseller list a lot of the authors don’t want to sell their rights.

Howey has also proven something else that’s equally important: self-published genre fiction can be of high quality. While some of the early output of hyper-successful self-published genre writers was pulp fiction, Howey’s work has garnered glowing mainstream critical reviews.

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

De La Pava self-published this 700-page novel in 2008. After three years of building a cult following online, the University of Chicago Press acquired and published the novel. Last month, A Naked Singularity won the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, given to a promising debut work of fiction.

We’ve long wondered if gems like John Kennedy O’Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces (which was saved from oblivion a decade by novelist Walker Percy after O’Toole committed suicide ) were getting lost in slush piles, and whether self-publishing might save them. De La Pava’s masterpiece answers the question.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

What happens when one of the bestselling genre authors on the planet tries her hand at literary fiction? The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling posts huge sales (it debuts at #1 on the USA Today Bestseller List, knocking off Fifty Shades of Gray) in spite of negative reviews.  That’s not too surprising.  But what happens when the Rowling publishes her second post-Potter novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling under a pseudonym? Just the opposite, as James B. Stewart reports for The New York Times:

The early reviews were positive — far more so than those for “Casual Vacancy” … But those in Publishers Weekly and Booklist were a single paragraph, and they failed to generate much buzz or help it stand out from the masses.

The Cuckoo’s Calling had sold “in the hundreds” of copies when a turnaround came: a law partner told his wife’s best friend of the book’s secret authorship and she tweeted it. Only then did sales explode.

If one of the bestselling authors of all time teemed with an estimable publisher can’t create a bestseller without her name attached, it’s a good sign that the book market isn’t automatically surfacing the best books.

The Way Back Home by Barbara Freethy

Romance author Barbara Freethy is an indie author by choice rather than necessity. She’d already hit bestseller lists and established herself as a published author when she chose to go independent. Her homebrew of marketing techniques had surprising results: her formerly out-of-print titles started to hit bestseller lists.

Freethy didn’t lose the respect of her peers along the way. The Way Back Home was nominated for the RITA award by the Romance Writers of America this year.  She has shown that it’s possible for a genre author to take over the entire publishing role – and do it better than a traditional publisher.

How Roland Rolls by Jim Carrey

There are other celebrities (including Dr. Phil and George Takei) who self-publish, but none as prominent as Jim Carrey. Carrey told Publisher’s Weekly that the issue for him was one of control:

I wanted the book to be exactly from its original source. I didn’t want other people to influence it, which is just the way of the world.

Like Freethy, Carrey had other options. His decision to self-publish suggests that the perceived stigma of self-publishing has diminished in the mainstream. Carrey is an indie author in a sense more common to the film world: someone who wants complete control of his vision.


David Vinjamuri writes the “Brand Truth” column online for Forbes where he covers brands, advertising and publishing.  David is also Adjunct Instructor of Marketing at New York University and the founder of ThirdWay Brand Trainers, a leading brand marketing training company whose clients have included American Express, Starwood Hotels, The Corporate Executive Board and the U.S. Army.  David has over 22 years of marketing and management experience.  He started his marketing career at Johnson & Johnson.  As a Brand Manager, David twice received the Johnson & Johnson Achievement Award and successfully launched a new OTC consumer product (Uristat®) from concept to market in 11 months.  David worked in field marketing for Coca-Cola, ran promotions for DoubleClick and was VP of marketing for two other consumer companies before founding ThirdWay Brand Trainers in 2004.  David graduated from Swarthmore College with High Honors and from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy as a Citicorp-Walter Wriston Fellow.  David studied marketing and manufacturing at Harvard Business School.

David writes and speaks frequently on marketing.  He has been quoted as an expert on brands in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, BusinessWeek, and Investor’s Business Daily.  In addition to writing online for Forbes, David has contributed to both BrandWeek and Advertising Age.   He has appeared on television as a brand expert on the BBC, Fox Business News, Bloomberg TV and MSNBC.  David works worldwide and has advised the German pharmaceutical industry and one of the leading motion picture studios in Bollywood on brands and social media.  David’s book: Accidental Branding: How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands, has been translated into both Japanese and Vietnamese.  David is also the author of the bestselling thriller “Operator” and is currently at work on a new thriller.


You can find the original article at:
It only takes five books to see what all of the fuss is about. - See more at:
It only takes five books to see what all of the fuss is about. - See more at:

No comments:

Post a Comment