Why Self Publish?– January 19th, 2009 –
Two weeks today, I’ll be releasing the long-delayed self published book of mine, Five Simple Steps: Designing for the Web. Since I originally thought of writing my own book, producing it, and distributing it, I’ve been asked several times, ‘why not go with a traditional publisher?’
I’ve had several offers for this title, from big tech-book publishers, design publishers, through to smaller outfits and literary agents. I’ve turned them all down. Why? Well a few important reasons:
Several of my good friends have written books, and I’ve design reviewed a couple, and written a a chapter in one. Not a massive amount of experience, granted, but enough to sour the taste of traditional publishing in my mouth. The biggest concern of mine was losing my ‘voice’. I want a book I’ve written to sound like me. Not some watered down, ‘internationally-toned’ amalgam of me, my editor, a proof-reader, and tech reviewers. I want it to sound like me, and I’m hoping, my readers do too.
Writing this book has been really difficult. Luckily, I’ve got a good team around me - a designer, a project manager, a proof-reader, and an editor to shape the book (that was particularly helpful early on). But, there’s just no way I could’ve written a book in the last two years if it hadn’t had been on my terms alone. My wife and I had a daughter, we built an extension on our house, and I’ve been building a business in challenging times. To fit a book around this has been tricky, and I needed to have the flexibility imposed by my own schedule, not someone elses.
Most web design books are terribly designed. I mean, really bad. If I was going to write a book, I was going to design it too. As it turned out, I’ve art directed the production of this book, rather than designed every single page and diagram. But, the point is, it will be a design I’m happy with. I know several designers who have written books who ended up doing the design for them for free!
Although not the motivation for the book, the financial potential of just one PDF book far outweighs the traditional process (if you have an audience that is). Most author royalties are miniscule compared to the profit the publisher makes. With a PDF distribution my only costs are the time taken to write the book, and the ongoing hosting and Paypal fees.
A Printed Book
Luckily we have the skills in-house at Mark Boulton Design to design, produce and distribute a hard copy book. Currently, we’re looking at producing a limited edition case bound (hard back), high-quality book. BUT, this will only be if the sales of the PDF can support the initial outlay in getting a print run done.
Of course, there are advantages for a more traditional approach. As much as the process of writing and editing is painful, you can be assured of a good product at the end of it – even if it doesn’t sound like you. You don’t have to design it, typeset, proof (again, and again), artwork, production, delivery, customer service. There’s a lot that goes into publishing and I’m learning the hard way. But, it’s fun. The book is coming along nicely, and two weeks today, will finally be released.
It may not be a work of beautifully crafted prose. But it will be me. Warts and all.