Self Publish? Why? 

I am in the process of self publishing a memoir about my life with my deceased wife, Dianna, who died in February, 2008 after battling breast cancer for 17 of the 20 years we were lucky enough to be married. This book, Dianna’s Way, should be out in early fall of 2012.

After her death and while  immersed in my grieving process, I realized she was a woman who had a valuable story to tell that would be helpful to others – certainly for those dealing with cancer or care giving for anyone who is ill – but, even more broadly, for anyone seeking to live their lives in an extraordinarily powerful way. She taught me and many others so much about how to live a life worth living.

So, I began to write.

As background, I have been writing – sometimes for publication, on and off all my life – not my primary career by any means  but along the way, had a few short stories and articles published while doing my main careers – first chemical engineering, then as a team building consultant/practitioner. Consequently, I have always paid attention to the publishing industry and how it has been changing.

In any event, as I was writing my first ever book at age 70, I began to consider how to get it published.

The conventional process one follows is: write a lengthy proposal, send it out to agents, hoping to find one who is a) competent and b) motivated to sell my book to a mainstream publisher. If I am successful in finding such an agent and the agent is successful, a mainstream publisher offers me a four figure advance and maybe 10% of the royalties, takes over complete artistic control , pays to publish my book, then tells me to market it myself since they will not be investing their marketing budget to do it. (They invest in marketing what they believe are their front list books capable of bringing financial success to them; the rest have to make it on their own.)The publisher (who pays for printing and distribution), then gets it out to bookstores who, in turn, bury it on their back shelves (I am not Stephen King) and, after 3-4 months, return any unsold books to the publisher for ultimate destruction. And that is the end of that. One more book tossed into the trash heap of history.

My prognosis is not based on a cynical view of corporate owned publishers interested only in sure winners, although this is the truth of traditional publishers today. There is no right/wrong to it but simply a process based on economic reality – and the reality of the “platform” I have to offer, as an author.

A platform is essentially whatever I can bring to the table that would support strong book sales – reputation, name recognition, notable accomplishments, personal media exposure and any other attributes that would help bring attention and credibility to the book – without regard for the quality of the book itself.

Well, it would be hard to imagine a weaker platform than my own.

I am John who? writing a book about Dianna who? who has written yet one more, odds are, boring, overly sentimental memoir with little to distinguish it from a million others out there. Additionally, since this is my first book, I am an unknown in every sense of the word. Worse, at my age, how many more books could a publisher expect I might produce for them after this one?

Celebrity memoirs may sell, any well known writer may sell, and a few topical nonfiction books may sell. These are the likely “winners” in the corporate publishing world. So, who would you bet on? Me or Stephan King or Obama’s memoir? Who would I bet on if I were in their shoes?

From my point of view, though, even if I were successful in selling my book to a mainstream publisher (highly unlikely though I would have to put in much time, blood, sweat and energy into the effort to find out for sure), what do I get in return? Loss of artistic control, a few thousand dollars advance, NO marketing assistance and a book life of MONTHS.

After putting three years of my life writing it, why would I want to do that?

Consequently, I turned to self publishing.

In my next post, I will discuss the pluses and minuses of self publishing.

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