Today, There Are No Meaningful Differences Between Conventional And Self-Publishing

Way back in 1998, people who were interested in a topic did one of a few things:

(1) They went to libraries; and

(2) They browsed in bookstores.

They bought things called magazines, and hard and soft cover books. And usually, they settled for what they saw on the shelves, believing naively that the harvest before them represented the best and for the most part, the only material on the subject.

If you were an author lucky and talented enough to write a book that a conventional publisher would buy, that firm would get your book onto the shelves of Barnes & Noble and independent retailers, at least for a while.

Most writers don’t appreciate that traditional publishers are “consigning” books to
Barnes & Noble and to smaller stores. If your titles don’t “sell through” to retail customers, the books are returned to publishers, generally for 100% credit.

This makes retailers impatient to discover and dedicate space to books that will sell.

So, traditional publishers and everyone in the supply chain GAMBLED, rolling the dice, hoping they’d win big every so many times.

But authors weren’t asked to gamble, not in the same sense.

We were given advances, generally non-returnable fees for submitting our manuscripts. So, when publishers bought, they were out of pocket to us and they needed to recoup.

General wisdom was when publishers paid bigger author advances they had more skin in the game and they were much more likely to PROMOTE our titles, as well. So, authors got cash up front, distribution to stores, and promotional push, at least proportionate to what publishers thought of the promise of financial gain from titles they acquired.

If authors purchased any books for themselves, to sell to their clients and to give away and to hawk from the back of seminar rooms and speech venues, publishers appreciated the gesture, but this was not the main reason they contracted with authors.

Publishers expected their paydays to come from retail sales.

In the last ten years, much of this has changed, especially the expectations between authors and conventional publishers. Authors are expected to buy in bulk and to personally promote their own titles. Publishers realize their business model that depends on consignment is fundamentally flawed, so they expect fewer titles to be sold in stores and more online.

Instead of being equal partners, or revered contributors to the process, authors are demeaned and publishers treat us as if they are doing us a great favor.

What I call “The Tom Sawyer Model” of business relations is gaining momentum, where in this case publishers are insisting we whitewash their fences and pay them for the privilege.

So, there really isn’t a “choice” that authors have, to use conventional publishers or to self-publish. TODAY, IT IS ALL SELF-PUBLISHING, if you look at the reverse delegation of the key functions that has occurred.

When conventional publishers push onto authors the responsibility for (1) Writing; (2) Suffering through the book acquisition process and editorial sloth; (3) Foregoing advance monies; (4) Purchasing their own titles in bulk; (5) Publicizing their own titles; and (6) Opening new channels for sales, i.e. to their own corporate clients; really, what difference is there, functionally between doing your own ebook or going to Kinko’s and making a limited production run that you pay for and inventory?

If you take it upon yourself to publish yourself you’ll avoid wasting your time and emotions on business partners that are fundamentally, undeserving. You’ll be much faster to market, and able to determine the robustness and scope of your market, because conventional book publishers take nine months to a year to produce your work and to get it into stores.

The POD system isn’t much more attractive, from my viewpoint, but that topic will have to wait for another day.

I hope this helps you, and good luck.

Final thought: Publish for the joy of self-expression, because you truly love to write.

If you develop a large, profitable, and grateful readership, then you’ve reached the bonus round of the publishing game.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is a top trainer, conference and convention speaker, sales, customer service, and negotiation consultant. A frequent expert commentator on radio and TV, he is also the best-selling author of 12 books, more than 1,000 articles and several popular audio and video programs. Visit Gary’s web site for product information:, or contact him directly at:

Author: Dr. Gary S. Goodman
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