Getting Published by a Major Book Publisher...Is it Worth It?

Oct 29th

So a while back a major book publisher read my ebook and said they loved it. They wanted to publish it & we went right up until the day I was supposed to get the contract with them saying that it shouldn't be a big deal for me to keep ebook publishing rights. On the last day they changed their mind on that front, and if I killed the ebook to make a print one it would likely kill the business model unless I started selling services or got big into AdSense & click pimping.

I may be able to segregate out the print book content stuff and the ebook content stuff and use the print book to upsell the ebook, but generally I am a bit uncertain as to what all should go in which.

My options are as follows:

  • turn down the publishing house, continue as I have
  • kill the ebook and just make the print book an amazing value for it's price
  • kill the ebook and sell a monthly newsletter service
  • try to add more advanced stuff to the ebook and maybe pull out most the for newbies stuff (but then it may be a bit hard for me to figure out where that line is)
  • if I altered the ebook stuff in any way those who are in on the ebook free updates would get whatever else I did instead (although I probably could not afford to buy and ship thousands of print books, so that would be treated as a separate product on that front)

If I got published the upsides could be

  • added distribution
  • those who wanted a print version or cheaper price point could get my book in a format that is more appealing to them
  • I would have more credibility / authority in the eyes of some
  • I would learn about the publishing process (which in turn would make it easier for me to publish future books if the idea sounded / felt cool down the road)
  • if the marketing worked synergistically then it would cause more flow
  • updating this channel and ebook is exceptionally time intensive compared to the time required to run a network of lower effort channels. If I changed my business model (doing lots of affiliate work and click pimping stuff I would probably make far greater profit)
  • if my ebook is pretty good then more people reading a print version would mean I could help more people

If I got published the downsides could be

  • if I did not update the ebook any longer or took large pieces of it out that could piss off many people who bought it already (and I am not willing to piss off past customers to gain market share...as that is just bad karma)
  • it would take significant time
  • it could hurt the profitability of this site...since largely they would want this site to market the print book, and that could cause my added value higher priced offering to sell less
  • creating multiple price points, etc. is not one of my strengths & I think the simplicity of the current setup makes it easier to buy
  • print books have low margins
  • another company would control much of my content
  • there are already a number of print books covering the search space...I think most of them were printed to upsell services instead of another book or newsletter...am uncertain how much volume / demand there is for a print version
  • my potential publisher is one of the book publishers sueing Google, and I am not sure I would want my book publisher to do that
  • I have already sold more ebooks than the average physically printed book has sold. If I did self publishing or went with a smaller publishing house there would be added flexibility.

If my ebook was not my main source of income this would be a no brainer, but currently it is, and that makes the decision a bit harder.

I am not certain if I will say what I end up doing, but I like the idea of getting feedback.

Published: October 29, 2005

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Comments

February 24, 2007 - 1:23am

I just had my second book published by POD publishers and my first book I had printed by an small press thereby I have three books out, but I was told if I went to an ebook format my books would sell better as my first two books did not do well and I don't know how this one will do yet. After reading your comments here the balance of profit and selling seems that ebooks is the way to go and that is my choice in the future. I once had an agent who made me wait a year before announcing I would have to wait another year before a big publishing house would publish my book and I could only expect about 8% royalties, so I opted out and went POD. I am trying to make writing an income and if I have to keep waiting around I'll be 80 years old before I see a dime and my life will nearly be over by that time. I believe ebooks are the best avenue to bring in any kind of income quicker and easier.

Jeff Hope
October 29, 2005 - 6:12pm

Aaron,

If the book deal is not OVERWHELMINGLY right for you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, don't do it. It can't be undone.

Jeff

October 29, 2005 - 6:35pm

Aaron,

Personally, I think the eBook with regular free updates for the basic stuff and a subscription newsletter/service for advanced seo info might be a good fit.

I notice as I get more business, it's harder to stay on top of changes and new techniques.

I currently subscribe to one premium newsletter and I am very satisfied, but I think having another "trusted" source would be good.

As far as the print book, I'm not sure how important that is, but self publishing sounds like a better fit for you.

martin

October 29, 2005 - 7:14pm

Here's an archived podcast from ecom expo about self publishing, might be helpful.

http://www.webmasterradio.fm/episodes/audio/2005/ECOMEXPODAY3.mp3

October 29, 2005 - 7:30pm

You might want to do a variation on the SEO Book as a print publication, Aaron, so that you can gain the benefit of credibility outside your circle with a print publication (I have 20, trust me, it's one heck of a great calling card) while still reaping the benefit and offering a constantly up-to-date ebook too. I'd be happy to help you with the negotiations too, been there, done that, etc.

Marie Antionette
July 24, 2007 - 6:03pm

Stick to the Self Publishing. You keep your rights, you promote your own book with what you feel will attract your audience and eventually you will get picked up by a main publisher who will give you the deal you are looking for. Overnight success stories are over rated slow and steady always wins the race. I just returned from the Book Fair in NY (Malcolm X & Lenox between 5th & 7th) and when one get's into a contract with a major publisher you maninly work for them. But if you do your own like through Xlibris.Com or something like that, your profit may be lower in the beginnig but your headache will be less as well. Plus you will sell and you will still get recognition. A major deal is wonderful if you have the right one but I am satisfied with what I have. I get a royalty check every quater, I can monitor my sales and I am not obligated to stick with them I do have the right to shop my book around to anyone else so therefore I kill two birds with one stone. Never let anyone tell you-you can not make it doing it your way. If they do they are only tellin you that because they see the beenfit for them in you doing it their way. I don't want to loose my passion for writing because of some huge coperation and the pressures they apply! Stick with Self Publishing, especially if you are a good writer. Some people have big deals but can't write for crap and eventually end up having to owe their company if they don't sell their product. If you are a good writer, trust you book will sell!
Best of luck to you

October 29, 2005 - 7:52pm

Aaron -

Self publish, amigo! Then you own all the rights to everything and your book can be sold on-demand. Sure, it's more costly per buyer, but the opportunity to self promote and own the rights is amazing.

In some ways, that's the best of both worlds.

July 24, 2007 - 6:04pm

Stick to the Self Publishing. You keep your rights, you promote your own book with what you feel will attract your audience and eventually you will get picked up by a main publisher who will give you the deal you are looking for. Overnight success stories are over rated slow and steady always wins the race. I just returned from the Book Fair in NY (Malcolm X & Lenox between 5th & 7th) and when one get's into a contract with a major publisher you maninly work for them. But if you do your own like through Xlibris.Com or something like that, your profit may be lower in the beginnig but your headache will be less as well. Plus you will sell and you will still get recognition. A major deal is wonderful if you have the right one but I am satisfied with what I have. I get a royalty check every quater, I can monitor my sales and I am not obligated to stick with them I do have the right to shop my book around to anyone else so therefore I kill two birds with one stone. Never let anyone tell you-you can not make it doing it your way. If they do they are only tellin you that because they see the beenfit for them in you doing it their way. I don't want to loose my passion for writing because of some huge coperation and the pressures they apply! Stick with Self Publishing, especially if you are a good writer. Some people have big deals but can't write for crap and eventually end up having to owe their company if they don't sell their product. If you are a good writer, trust you book will sell!
Best of luck to you

October 29, 2005 - 8:15pm

I would keep the ebook. If you want to add a print version then why not publish it through http://www.lulu.com ? You upload a RTF or a PDF file in the proper format, add a cover and you have a print book for sale. No up front costs, just a percentage of each book sold. They take care of shipping and fullfillment I think you should go there and really see what they have to offer.

I do think there is a market for a print version of your book. A lot of people just want to get an overview of SEO so they know what they are talking about a bit when they hire and SEO or want to try PPC campaigns. With a print book they can read it on the plane. Let people choose: ebook with updates or print book.

July 24, 2007 - 6:04pm

Stick to the Self Publishing. You keep your rights, you promote your own book with what you feel will attract your audience and eventually you will get picked up by a main publisher who will give you the deal you are looking for. Overnight success stories are over rated slow and steady always wins the race. I just returned from the Book Fair in NY (Malcolm X & Lenox between 5th & 7th) and when one get's into a contract with a major publisher you maninly work for them. But if you do your own like through Xlibris.Com or something like that, your profit may be lower in the beginnig but your headache will be less as well. Plus you will sell and you will still get recognition. A major deal is wonderful if you have the right one but I am satisfied with what I have. I get a royalty check every quater, I can monitor my sales and I am not obligated to stick with them I do have the right to shop my book around to anyone else so therefore I kill two birds with one stone. Never let anyone tell you-you can not make it doing it your way. If they do they are only tellin you that because they see the beenfit for them in you doing it their way. I don't want to loose my passion for writing because of some huge coperation and the pressures they apply! Stick with Self Publishing, especially if you are a good writer. Some people have big deals but can't write for crap and eventually end up having to owe their company if they don't sell their product. If you are a good writer, trust you book will sell!
Best of luck to you

October 29, 2005 - 8:18pm

I'd suggest getting an agent, they'll be able to shop the idea around and negotiate a fair deal. You can contact me for a reference if you'd like.

Sean

July 24, 2007 - 6:05pm

Stick to the Self Publishing. You keep your rights, you promote your own book with what you feel will attract your audience and eventually you will get picked up by a main publisher who will give you the deal you are looking for. Overnight success stories are over rated slow and steady always wins the race. I just returned from the Book Fair in NY (Malcolm X & Lenox between 5th & 7th) and when one get's into a contract with a major publisher you maninly work for them. But if you do your own like through Xlibris.Com or something like that, your profit may be lower in the beginnig but your headache will be less as well. Plus you will sell and you will still get recognition. A major deal is wonderful if you have the right one but I am satisfied with what I have. I get a royalty check every quater, I can monitor my sales and I am not obligated to stick with them I do have the right to shop my book around to anyone else so therefore I kill two birds with one stone. Never let anyone tell you-you can not make it doing it your way. If they do they are only tellin you that because they see the beenfit for them in you doing it their way. I don't want to loose my passion for writing because of some huge coperation and the pressures they apply! Stick with Self Publishing, especially if you are a good writer. Some people have big deals but can't write for crap and eventually end up having to owe their company if they don't sell their product. If you are a good writer, trust you book will sell!
Best of luck to you

Steven
October 29, 2005 - 8:39pm

Aaron, be very wary of self publishing. If your book really is good enough to be published (and have any decent distribtion), a real publisher will pick it up. Otherwise, you are looking at wasting a lot of your time and money by going through Lulu or any of the other self-publishers. If a book is self published, it will be near impossible to get any reputable place to offer it for sale.

July 24, 2007 - 6:05pm

Stick to the Self Publishing. You keep your rights, you promote your own book with what you feel will attract your audience and eventually you will get picked up by a main publisher who will give you the deal you are looking for. Overnight success stories are over rated slow and steady always wins the race. I just returned from the Book Fair in NY (Malcolm X & Lenox between 5th & 7th) and when one get's into a contract with a major publisher you maninly work for them. But if you do your own like through Xlibris.Com or something like that, your profit may be lower in the beginnig but your headache will be less as well. Plus you will sell and you will still get recognition. A major deal is wonderful if you have the right one but I am satisfied with what I have. I get a royalty check every quater, I can monitor my sales and I am not obligated to stick with them I do have the right to shop my book around to anyone else so therefore I kill two birds with one stone. Never let anyone tell you-you can not make it doing it your way. If they do they are only tellin you that because they see the beenfit for them in you doing it their way. I don't want to loose my passion for writing because of some huge coperation and the pressures they apply! Stick with Self Publishing, especially if you are a good writer. Some people have big deals but can't write for crap and eventually end up having to owe their company if they don't sell their product. If you are a good writer, trust you book will sell!
Best of luck to you!

October 29, 2005 - 9:14pm

Your blog and ebook are a great contribution to the internet. By abandoning the ebook and going to print, you are essentially removing what has made it so popular in the first place, the dynamics of it. Personally I would find a different publisher that is willing to let you keep the ebook, or don't publish it at all. If you do decide to publish a print version, I think that a professional publisher is needed to get the distribution required for it to be successful.

July 24, 2007 - 6:06pm

Stick to the Self Publishing. You keep your rights, you promote your own book with what you feel will attract your audience and eventually you will get picked up by a main publisher who will give you the deal you are looking for. Overnight success stories are over rated slow and steady always wins the race. I just returned from the Book Fair in NY (Malcolm X & Lenox between 5th & 7th) and when one get's into a contract with a major publisher you maninly work for them. But if you do your own like through Xlibris.Com or something like that, your profit may be lower in the beginnig but your headache will be less as well. Plus you will sell and you will still get recognition. A major deal is wonderful if you have the right one but I am satisfied with what I have. I get a royalty check every quater, I can monitor my sales and I am not obligated to stick with them I do have the right to shop my book around to anyone else so therefore I kill two birds with one stone. Never let anyone tell you-you can not make it doing it your way. If they do they are only tellin you that because they see the beenfit for them in you doing it their way. I don't want to loose my passion for writing because of some huge coperation and the pressures they apply! Stick with Self Publishing, especially if you are a good writer. Some people have big deals but can't write for crap and eventually end up having to owe their company if they don't sell their product. If you are a good writer, trust you book will sell!
Best of luck to you!

Marie Antionette
July 24, 2007 - 6:06pm

Stick to the Self Publishing. You keep your rights, you promote your own book with what you feel will attract your audience and eventually you will get picked up by a main publisher who will give you the deal you are looking for. Overnight success stories are over rated slow and steady always wins the race. I just returned from the Book Fair in NY (Malcolm X & Lenox between 5th & 7th) and when one get's into a contract with a major publisher you maninly work for them. But if you do your own like through Xlibris.Com or something like that, your profit may be lower in the beginnig but your headache will be less as well. Plus you will sell and you will still get recognition. A major deal is wonderful if you have the right one but I am satisfied with what I have. I get a royalty check every quater, I can monitor my sales and I am not obligated to stick with them I do have the right to shop my book around to anyone else so therefore I kill two birds with one stone. Never let anyone tell you-you can not make it doing it your way. If they do they are only tellin you that because they see the beenfit for them in you doing it their way. I don't want to loose my passion for writing because of some huge coperation and the pressures they apply! Stick with Self Publishing, especially if you are a good writer. Some people have big deals but can't write for crap and eventually end up having to owe their company if they don't sell their product. If you are a good writer, trust you book will sell!
Best of luck to you!

July 24, 2007 - 6:09pm

Stick to the Self Publishing. You keep your rights, you promote your own book with what you feel will attract your audience and eventually you will get picked up by a main publisher who will give you the deal you are looking for. Overnight success stories are over rated slow and steady always wins the race. I just returned from the Book Fair in NY (Malcolm X & Lenox between 5th & 7th) and when one get's into a contract with a major publisher you maninly work for them. But if you do your own like through Xlibris.Com or something like that, your profit may be lower in the beginnig but your headache will be less as well. Plus you will sell and you will still get recognition. A major deal is wonderful if you have the right one but I am satisfied with what I have. I get a royalty check every quater, I can monitor my sales and I am not obligated to stick with them I do have the right to shop my book around to anyone else so therefore I kill two birds with one stone. Never let anyone tell you-you can not make it doing it your way. If they do they are only tellin you that because they see the beenfit for them in you doing it their way. I don't want to loose my passion for writing because of some huge coperation and the pressures they apply! Stick with Self Publishing, especially if you are a good writer. Some people have big deals but can't write for crap and eventually end up having to owe their company if they don't sell their product. If you are a good writer, trust you book will sell!
Best of luck to you!

October 30, 2005 - 1:31am

Aaron

Why don't you look at Lulu.com? http://www.lulu.com/ . They provide "just in time printing", so that people pay for the book and THEN it gets printed. With such a model, you can have the best of both worlds.

Don't give up on the ebook, though! It's what made you famous, and it is why people come to this site. If I were a management consultant, I would ranting off about core competencies and the like right now :)

Richard Evans Lee
October 30, 2005 - 2:57pm

If your publisher has a proper marketing team and budget getting booked on business radio and TV shows would expose your name to business people who don’t browse the web. Could easily convert into consulting if that is something that you seek.

Aside from a monthly newsletter I think the Apple weblog Daring Fireball has had good success in establishing a subscriber’s only section of his site.

October 30, 2005 - 3:53pm

I'd seriously recommend reading Morris Rosenthal's book on print-on-demand self-publishing* and his blog about it**. It dissects the dollars behind book publishing, particularly non-fiction books just like yours. Lulu and others like them actually all use the same print-on-demand back end: the Ingram subsidiary Lightning Source. For $250, you can get 10 ISBN numbers and set yourself up as the exact same thing Lulu is. Many authors who *have* been published by the trade publishers are terminating their contracts and striking out on their own in order to start making a living from their books.

The idea that trade publisher publishing your book is some marker of quality is ludicrous. It means one single thing: that the publisher thinks your book can make *them* more money than it will cost to pay you and the printing, distribution and marketing costs to get it out there. That's it. Quality has nothing to do with it.

When you look at the numbers of how much you'll get in royalties, how big a book needs to be to get into the "reputable" stores *even if published by Random house*, how an average 30% return rate, up to 60 or 70% discounts offered to those reputable stores, etc. It turns out you can easily make more money selling half as many copies if your company is also the publishing company.

Given the topic of SEO, the audience is pretty much online and you're probably better equipped to market it yourself anyway. This isn't the kind of topic that's going to be on Oprah or any of the typical trade publishing marketing channels. This is a practical book with a defined audience: a perfect target market for as straighforward a publishing model as you can get.

And, you get to keep all of the rights, complete control, set the pricing, control the discounts, control the free copies, etc.

The trade publication model is broken and dying for the "average" author and even more so for the targetted non-fiction author. You are likely to sell more copies, make more money per copy and be able to leverage EVERY opportunity possible with no restrictions to promote it, support it and repurpose the content without any restrictions.

*http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0972380132/102-1344073-0824111?v=glance...
**http://www.fonerbooks.com/cornered.htm

October 31, 2005 - 8:08am

if you're able to put the work in yourself i gotta imagine self publishing is the route to go. get your book in amazon, bn, etc and get a bunch of reviews and you should be golden.

October 31, 2005 - 9:55pm

As someone who spends countless hours reading from a monitor it is a nice change of pace to actually read a physical book. I think a subscription service/newsletter would be a nice way to augment and update the print book.

Depending on your time constraints you could offer these as updates to e-book purchasers or continue to update the e-book with the new content continuing your current model. Being published does carry weight with the non-SEO crowd and could end up exposing you to a slew of potential clients who otherwise wouldn't give you the time of day.

October 31, 2005 - 11:13pm

As someone who moved from the traditional publishing industry into the online arena, I can tell you without a doubt that although being a 'published author' sounds grand and garners respect, it is not a glamourous as it seems. I have written several books, both self published and pimped by big boy publishers. Neither have been significantly profitable. Self publishing is A LOT of work.

You are in control here. They want you. Tell them these are your terms and thats that. You need to keep your eBook, you need a 25k advance, and you need a limo to drive you to buy a slurpee. And thats that. If they don't like it you'll shop it around...

A typical author makes about 2-3% of the cover price. Sure they'll tell you otherwise but when they finish processing returns, overruns, discounts sales, marketing expenses etc etc. That is what you'll get. So that is a lot of books sold to make it worth your time. Luckily your book is already written saving you some effort. But is it worth the extra time and effort to make 5-10K? I already respect you so the book won't help...

Good luck in your choice.

Jim
November 2, 2005 - 3:15am

Don't do it. Print books go stale fast, and end up in the remainder bin fairly quickly.

In the long run, you will make more money repurposing your data yourself. And it will help drive future consultancy opportunities if you so desire.

Don't sell the farm for a low percentage temporary ego boost. "SEO BOOK" is really a BUSINESS; don't think about it as a book, and certainly not a print book. You're right where you need to be already; just have patience and your business will grow (profitable) wings of its own.

Shri
November 3, 2005 - 2:37am

Aaron, I think the book + a nominal subscription fee for monthly updates would be a way to go. I know we have atleast two printed copies of your ebook and a good publishing deal with get you the legitimacy you have earnt and deserve outside the core SEO community.

Notice I said "a" way to go.

At the end of the day, you have to figure out what the equation of hard word, profits and importantly the sense of fulfilment comes in from.

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