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January 09 2012

A venture into self-publishing

This post is part of the TOC podcast series. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.

MindfireCover.jpgScott Berkun is a long-time O'Reilly author, but he decided to self-publish his latest book, "Mindfire." Similar to my earlier podcast interview with Dan Gillmor, I wanted to get Berkun's thoughts on his experience of having published both ways. Why did he venture into the world of self-publishing? Is he happy with the results, and will he ever work with a traditional publisher again? Those are a few of the questions he answers in this TOC interview.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Self-publishing was a learning opportunity — Some authors are curious to learn the finer aspects of what goes into making a book, and Scott quickly learned a lot with the "Mindfire" experience. [Discussed at the 1:05 mark.]
  • Blogging and book writing have always gone hand-in-hand for Scott — His blog is a wonderful sounding board and helps him shape whatever book he's currently working on, including the title, cover and more. [Discussed at 2:10.]
  • Self-publishing is both easy and hard — Technology makes it easy to publish almost anything these days; it's all the work that goes not only into the writing, but also into the editing, cover design, proofreading, indexing, marketing, etc., that makes it so challenging. [Discussed at 4:35.]
  • Self-publishing also requires self-promotion — Author platforms are more important today than ever before; it's true for traditional publishing, too, but even more so for self-published products. [Discussed at 8:25.]
  • The PR effort required was the biggest surprise — Berkun used a giveaway campaign to build momentum and extend his future reach. [Discussed at 9:54.]

  • How can traditional publishers avoid losing authors to self-publishing? — Berkun turns the question around and asks why this decision is an either/or. [Discussed at 17:14.]
  • The opportunity to learn from self-published authors — Editors often abandon their authors who test the self-publishing waters when what they should really be doing is talking more with them to learn what's working and what's not. [Discussed at 20:43.]

Additionally, the 10 most common questions Berkun is asked about self-publishing can be found here, and our entire interview can be viewed in the following video.

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January 05 2012

Traditional vs self-publishing: Neither is the perfect solution

This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we'll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.

Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) is one of a growing number of authors who have published with both a traditional house as well as self-published. Like many others, he's decided neither is the perfect solution. In this video podcast, Dan talks about the pros and cons of both options. He offers valuable insight not only for authors trying to decide between traditional and self-publishing, but his thoughts are extremely important for everyone in publishing to hear as they think about their roles going forward.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Creative Commons licensing still trips up publishers — It's disappointing, but true, that some publishers simply refuse to deal with an author who wants to use the Creative Commons license. [Discussed at the 1:08 mark.]
  • Fear of Creative Commons is similar to a fear of being DRM free — Both of these tie back to "control," and far too many publishers feel they lose control when using Creative Commons or abandoning DRM. [Discussed at 4:10.]
  • There's a reason authors like to have publishers — Sometimes the lesson isn't learned until an author self-publishes, but there are tasks and services publishers perform that authors tend to take for granted. [Discussed at 5:58.]
  • Should traditional publishers venture into self-publishing? — Be careful to not open the floodgates completely. There's still a need to have certain guard rails in place. [Discussed at 11:30.]
  • Now is the time for experimentation — And yet, as Dan notes, "the traditional publishing industry is even more risk averse than it used to be." [Discussed at 13:58.]

  • Even a self-published project can be a hybrid — Dan's latest book, Mediactive, was self-published but involved at least one rights deal with a traditional publisher. [Discussed at 15:26.]
  • Errata and other minor updates should be easy to address — But they're not! Despite all our advancements in technology and product distribution, most retailers are still unable to deal with changes to an edition. [Discussed at 23:20.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.


October 03 2011

Failure is a digital prerequisite

This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we'll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.

In the following podcast, Jesse Wiley (@jcwiley), who works on digital and new business initiatives at John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and is a seventh-generation Wiley family member, talks about the challenges the 200-year-old company faces in the digital age. Wiley says that success and innovation depend on learning how to fail — and expecting to fail.

Highlights from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Some lessons learned: Wiley discusses treating authors and partners as brands unto themselves. He also says the company is learning that traditional print practices don't necessarily translate to digital practices, particularly in terms of discoverability: "As bookstores become less and less of a channel, you don't have an opportunity to have your brand physically represented in a store the way it has been in the past." [Discussed at the 1:25 mark.]
  • Coping with the changing landscape: Wiley says the company is constantly adapting to stay ahead of the game: "We're continually reorganizing our people and our businesses to adjust to the markets, which I think is essential — things are changing so fast, you can't just expect what worked even a year ago to work tomorrow." He says they're adapting incentive plans for editors and investing not only in technology but in the things that make technology work, such as project management. [Discussed at 10:28.]
  • Dealing with revenue streams and knowing when to make a move: Finding a balance between the print and digital business is a challenge, Wiley says, and in a way, the areas that still are doing well in print are funding the new digital projects. He also says it's important to learn to fail: "Learning to fail is not an established concept in publishing, but in the technology world, innovation is built on doing pilots and testing — learning to fail and expecting to fail, and learning from both the successes and the failures." [Discussed at 11:55.]
  • For more of Wiley's thoughts check out the full interview in the following video.

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