Why Traditional Publishing Should Kiss Self-ePublishing’s Feet!

Traditional publishers should welcome self-published ebooks for the same reason major league baseball clubs are grateful for good farm teams. Fact is, traditional publishers have large infrastructures that require the books we publish to perform at a certain level. If every book we publish sells 300 copies, we’ll be out of business in a year.

But you won’t. If you sell 300 copies of a $10 book, you just made $3000. OK, take some off the top for editing, design, conversion, etc., but you get the point.

Following are five reasons why I, a guy who makes his living from traditional publishing, am grateful for self-epublishing:

  1. Self-published ebooks allow anyone with a computer to publish a book. It is nothing less than historic that I can write that sentence. It’s FREAKING AMAZING!!!!
  2. Because of self-publishing, I don’t have to feel so bad when I decline a proposal. I can point to a great alternative!
  3. Self-epublishing adds an indicator of whether an author’s proposed book will be viable for us. Essentially we can crowd-source manuscripts before taking one on. If an author’s self-published work sold thousands of copies, chances are, her book with us will do even better.
  4. It gives you and me both a way to generate income! All we have to do is write a book and self-publish it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a few ideas rolling around.
  5. Self-publishing is a great way to help someone, including authors we publish, build a platform.

Does self-epublishing spell the end for traditional publishing? I doubt it. We provide a host of services in addition to bookstore placement that add value to the publishing process. And I suspect bookstore placement will continue to play a role, albeit diminished.

But frankly, if technology is such that traditional publishers are no longer necessary, so be it. It was never about us anyway. It’s about the content.

In Baker’s case, it’s about “high-quality writings that represent historic Christianity and serve the diverse interests and concerns of evangelical readers.” If we can help provide such, awesome, we’d love to keep doing so. If we’re no longer necessary, that’s okay too. The important thing is that content is available and readers can get to it. I’m fairly agnostic about how that happens.

Want to know more about the ins and outs of self-epublishing? Erin Ulrich wrote a great book on the topic, and she’s currently blogging a series titled 31 Days of Self Publishing.

If you were going to self-epublish a book, what would it be?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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  • Chad, you put a very positive light on this. THANK YOU. For so long, self-publishing has been the unloved step-child. I’ve avoided it because of the stigma that says it’s only for those “who aren’t good enough for REAL publishing.” Lately I’ve been flirting with it more and more and, as those prejudices fall, I gain a bit more courage to go it alone.

    I have a few projects I may take that way, including the Bible studies I’ve written, a devotional for moms and a memoir (of sorts) depicting community in the face of personal trials.

    I do, of course, still have a book or two that I’m clutching tightly in hopes of traditional publishing. 🙂 We’ll see …

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  • LOVE Erin!!!

    I am def moving towards selfpub and like you, think it is freaking amazing that anyone can publish without getting permission or needing tons of money for print runs. It has never been a more exciting time in the history of humankind to be a writer.

    I plan to subscribe to your blog, Chad. How did I not before?!

    • Erin’s a rockstar, no question. Totally agree that this is the best time ever to be a writer. And thanks for subscribing! I subscribed to your newsletter–sigh–many, many moons ago. Thanks for coming around at long last. 🙂 No, seriously, thank you!!! And your feedback is welcome. I’m a baby at this thing!

  • So IF I had a bestselling novel that had sold half a million copies years ago and I wanted to publish it as an ebook now (and owned the rights to do so) what would you advise? Going with an established publisher or self-publishing? What would be the advantages with each?

    • Sue, thanks for writing, and good question. If you own the rights, I assume the book is out of print, which means it had its day in print and then tapered off, which is typical. You could ask a publisher or two if they’re interested, in which case you could avoid the costs associated with self-epublishing, but if you don’t get interest fast, if I were in your shoes, I would self-publish an ebook. And I’d start with Erin Ulrich’s material (referenced at the end of my post) to begin. Hope this helps!

  • I’m eyeballing a memoir of the season of semi-pro football as a place kicker at the age of 49…

  • Great post. You can adapt to changing times and profit from it, or cling to grand daddy’s way, and we all know grand daddy’s are not immortal.

  • Loving your blog. Just discovered you about a week or so ago. Thanks for this! With two self-published ebooks on Amazon, I’m encouraged. I didn’t realize what my numbers sold would look like to traditional publishers and that’s awesome!

    • Hey Rachel, thanks for checking in and commenting! Yes, we’ll definitely look at how an authors’s self-published book has sold in determining whether we want to publish it or something else from that author. Self-published sales matter to traditional publishers (or at least to this one!). Thanks again.

  • This is good encouragement. I think I still dream of being published traditionally and receiving the support that provides. But, it’s encouraging to have additional viable options. I especially like the prospect of having an ebook available to supplement a novel as a gift to readers, such as deleted scenes, or practical information that goes along with the story line.

    • You point to another possibility when it comes to ebooks–products that are ancillary to something else. The something else could be a traditionally published book, but it could also be a talk you’re giving, a blog you’re writing, a picture you’ve posted, the list goes on.

  • Alan Hirsch

    That’s my Chadwick!

    • Cheers, Al!

    • He calls you Chadwick?

      Alan calls me “Mad Pam,” though I’ve no earthly idea why. 😀

      • Yeah, he calls me Chadwick, but I call him Hirschy, so we’re even.

  • This is very interesting. I read both kinds of books. I tend to read traditionally published books – the ones I can hold and turn the page of – for pleasure; and ebooks when I’m doing professional reading (although sometimes they are paper books too). The ebooks I tend to read are self-published. They enable me to read the ideas and experiences of all kinds of people and I love them for that reason. So I’m thankful for both kinds of publishing. As for that little novel in my computer…I’ll probably self publish it one day 🙂

    • Why not?! But note Sally’s point above about quality!

  • Thanks Chad, I totally agree with the inspiring article you wrote. I tried your idea with a German e-public company last year. I was amazed to see how easy it was and this little book I wrote called TORIANA has been selling well (almost 1000 books now sold in South Africa, England, Europe and USA). I would love to know how you could help me as I am busy writing my second book.

    • Catherine, reading between the lines here, it sounds like you’re in Germany. If so, it’s hard to offer you much advice because the German market is so different from that of North America. But thanks for commenting! I think you’re my first German commenter!

      • Actually Chad I am a traveller – that is my work. I am actually South African and will be in South Africa next week and will remain there for a while. I was surprised how well an English book sold and was ordered from a German website! I used this German company because postage and ordering is more efficient than in South Africa. It really has worked well. So well that I printed 2000 copies in South Africa and it is being sold in various book stores in South Africa without using a publishing company at all.

        • Catherine, that’s terrific! Keep after it!! I love hearing stories like this.

  • Good points. I’ve thought about self-publishing a YA/new adult novel that I’ve written. It’s done and if no one gives me a contract for it, I will self-publish it for sure. Why leave it in the drawer when it’s finished and self-publishing is so cheap these days? However, I believe to self-publish well, you need to do a lot of work. Some of the junk people put out is appalling. Most of it is appalling. Good editing and good design are really important. Otherwise it’s not only a waste of time and not helpful to your career, it’s harmful to your career. Because who wants to work with someone who does shoddy work?

    Thanks for the links. I’m going to check them out.

    • Excellent point, Sally. Quality is quality, regardless of the medium.

  • I’m curious to hear more about your idea that someone who sold thousands of copies on their own could do better with you, because I keep hearing opposing viewpoints on this. Some say it’s better to self-publish a book now than let it languish, because it’s easier for a publisher to pick it up with editorial and design work already done. Others say it hurts you to have a book with low sales under your belt and that counts as a mark against you ever breaking into traditional publishing whether it’s with that book or future books. What do you think? Maybe there is a distinction between getting a particular self-published book picked up and self-publishing a book and then trying to get a subsequent book picked up. Thanks!

    • If you publish with a traditional publisher and the book does not do well, that does hurt your chances the next time around. My boss likes to say the door to publishing is always swinging open or swinging closed, and he is referring to whether an author’s current (traditionally published) book is performing well or not. Different standards apply to self-published books.

  • Jim Powell

    thanks chad. encouraging for those of us who are trying to break in.