How I got a big advance from a big publisher and self-published anyway

I have a new book out today. It’s called The New American Dream: A Blueprint for a New Path to Success. You will notice that the link goes to Hyperink. They are an independent publisher.

I sold this same book, two years ago, to a mainstream publisher.

I have been reporting on research about on how to be happy for almost a decade. It’s important to me that everyone learn what I learned, which is if you want to have a good life, you shouldn’t focus on happiness, but rather, on making your life interesting. That’s what makes us feel fulfilled. Searching for happiness is making us crazy. And creating an interesting life is actually intuitive to most of us, it’s just that we feel like somehow we are doing something wrong. This book explains why you are probably on the right track, and all that stuff you hear about the pursuit of happiness is from another time. A time of ignorance, when we knew a lot less about what makes us human.

So I sold my book to a mainstream publisher and they sucked. I am going to go into extreme detail about how much they sucked, so I’m not going to tell you the name of the publisher because I got a lot of money from them. I’m just going to tell you that the mainstream publisher is huge, and if you have any respect left for print publishing, you respect this publisher.  But you will not at the end of this post.

To be clear, I wrote my book, and they paid me my advance, in full. Three months before the publication date, the PR department called me up to “coordinate our efforts.” But really, their call was just about giving me a list of what I was going to do to publicize the book. I asked them what they were going to do. They had no idea. Seriously. They did not have a written plan, or any list, and when I pushed one of the people on this first call to give me examples of what the publishers would do to promote my book, she said “newsgroups.”

I assumed I was misunderstanding. I said, “You mean like newsgroups from the early 90s? Those newsgroups? USENET?”

“Yes.”

“Who is part of newsgroups anymore?”

“We actually have really good lists because we have been working with them for so long.”

“People in newsgroups buy books? You are marketing my book through newsgroups?”

I’m not going to go through the whole conversation, okay? Because the person was taken off my book before the next phone call.

At the next phone call, I asked again about how they were going to publicize my book. I told them that I’m happy to do it on my blog, but I already know I can sell tons of books by writing about my book on my blog. So they need to tell me how they are going to sell tons of books.

“LinkedIn.”

“What? Where are you selling books on LinkedIn?”

“One of the things we do is build buzz on our fan page.”

I went ballistic. There is no publishing industry fan page that is good enough to sell books. No one goes to fan pages for publishers because publishers are not household brand names. The authors are. That’s how publishing works.

“You know what your problem is?” I said, “Marketing online requires that you have a brand name and a following, and the book industry doesn’t build it’s own brand. But I have my own brand. So I’m better at marketing books than you are. I have a voice online and you don’t.”

I scheduled a phone call with my editor’s boss’s boss to tell him that. I told him his business is online marketing and his team has no idea how to do it, and he should hire me.

He told me, “With all due respect [which, I find, is always a euphemism for I hate your guts] we have been profitable every year that I’ve run this division and I don’t think we have a problem.”

Then he told me he really needs me to work well together with the marketing and publicity team, so they flew me to their office to have a meeting. There were five people in the meeting.

Here’s what I learned at the marketing meeting, where I sat through an interminable set of PowerPoint slides on the book industry.

Print publishers have no idea who is buying their books.

More than 85% of books sales are online, mostly at Amazon. It used to be that a print publisher could look at the data about which stores are selling the book and which are not, and then they’d have a good handle on who is buying the book. Suburban people or city people. Northern people or Southern people. Business book stores or gay and lesbian bookstores. It was decent demographic data. But Amazon tells the publishers nothing. So the publishers have no idea who is buying their books. Amazon, meanwhile, is getting great at understanding who is buying which book. The person who has the relationship with the customer is the one who owns the business.

When I pointed this out to my publisher, they told me that for my book, they expected to sell more than 50% of the books in independent bookstores. And then they showed me slides on how they market to people offline. They did not realize that I ran an independent bookstore while I was growing up. It was the family business. I ran numbers for them to show them that if they sold 50% of the sales they estimated for my book, they would single-handedly change the metrics of independent booksellers. That’s how preposterous their estimates were.

Print publishers have no idea how to market online. 

The old ways that publishers promote books, like TV spots and back-of-book blurbs are over. They don’t sell books in an online world. Those offline marketing tactics have no accountability, whereas online marketing is a metrics game. If you tell people to buy something, you have very good data on what caused them to buy. You know the marketing message that drove them. You know the community you were talking to, you know how many sales happened. Print publishers have been too arrogant to learn how to run a grassroots, metrics-based publicity campaign online. They cannot tell which of their online efforts works and which doesn’t because they can’t track sales. They don’t know how many people they reach.

The profit margins in mainstream publishing are so low they are almost nonexistent.

It takes a print publisher about a year to publish a book, after it is written. It’s unclear what the  publishers are doing during this time. For example, in the age of the Internet, where most books are selling online, the cover needs to be very simple so that it works as a small image on Amazon. It’s hard to imagine going through months of design iterations for a cover that is going to be seen by most potential buyers as a photo on Amazon. Book aficionados might argue that there are essential things being done with books over the course of that year. What I will tell you is that newspaper people said the same thing. Right before they all got laid off. The most breathtaking example, I think, of how terrible margins are, is that if I sell my own book with a link to my publisher, I make a little less than $1 per book. If I sell Guy Kawasaki’s book  on Amazon, I get a little more than $1 per book in their affiliate program. So it’s more profitable to me to use my blog to sell someone else’s book than to sell the book I published with a mainstream publisher.

In the middle of the meeting, the high-up guy who had come in to make peace got so fed up he said, “If you don’t stop berating our publicity department we are not going to publish your book.”

I said, “Great. Because I think you are incompetent. And also, you have already paid me. It’s a great deal for me.”

That’s how the meeting ended.

Then I did six months of research to learn about the future of the publishing industry.

Here are the new rules for book publishing:

1. Self-published books are the new business card. It’s a way to remember someone and also know what’s interesting about them.

2. Nonfiction writers write books to get something else—speaking gigs, consulting gigs, a steady flow of job offers. Books are good for a lot of things, but direct sales from a book are rarely a way to support a life.

3. Book sales are about community. If you have a community of people who listen to you via blog posts, then you have a community of people who will be interested to know how you put a bigger idea together in a book.

4. Book sales are about search engine marketing. The only markets that exist on the Internet are search terms. If no one searches for xyz, no one will land on a page that sells xyz. You can only sell what people are looking for.

5. The only reason to have a print book is to be in Barnes & Noble. You can achieve just about every goal you might have for book publishing by publishing it electronically. An electronic book serves a lot of purposes: you can talk about bigger ideas than a blog post allows for. You give people an easy way to know you for your ideas. You can create a secondary revenue stream for yourself. A print book is mostly about vanity. It’s about being able to go into Barnes & Noble, when you are there for the magazines and the free Wi-Fi, and stroke your ego by holding your own book.

I also did a lot of research about self-publishing. I had lots of offers. Freelance editors, book designers, turnkey solutions, almost-turnkey solutions. What I realized is that I want to be a person known for ideas. I love love love my blog. And the result of loving my blog is that I develop ideas that are bigger than a blog. Those are good for books. And I need a book editor to help me put them into a book.

After six months of research, I decided to use Hyperink. Their focus is helping people take blog content and turn it into books. They have an incredible editorial team that helps bloggers move from single, blog-post ideas, to larger, big-picture ideas. My editor was Theresa Noll, and I have to give her a shoutout because every experience I’ve had in the book industry was awful. But I loved working with her. I was blown away with how competent Hyperink is. They knew exactly how to make a book cover that looks good as a thumbnail and in a blog post photo. They understood that the idea mattered way more to me than the proofreading. They are great at SEO and they know more about marketing books online than I do.

Finally. I figured out how to do book publishing in a way that works for me.

 

 

Posted in My books
209 comments on “How I got a big advance from a big publisher and self-published anyway
  1. emily says:

    I had the exact same experience in the mainstream publishers industry, so I believe you. It was about six years ago now, but I remember sitting in a meeting when then big wigs in marketing were asking us to explain to them how a blog worked. There are bloggers, they said that will promote your book – we just don’t know who they are or what they do.

    We had an incredible editor though – so I do think there are still people in publishing who care about books. It’s just that the businesses have gotten so big and bloated that the departments within the organization don’t talk to each other . They just have some sheet that says the title of a book and a pub date and then they go through the regular routine for every single book, no matter it’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

    so. congratulations! i love how you can by the book, from one place, in multiple formats – including pdf. and go you for forging ahead with new ideas in new ways – we are forever grateful for your example.

  2. sohini says:

    Great post, but…

    “My editor was Theresa Noll, and I have to give her a shootout”

    I think you meant shoutout, right? :)

    • lynelle paulick says:

      THAT is hilarious. Good eye! I mean–I think I’m this pretty cool editor, and I totally walked right by that one.

      These comments are so great.

      p.s. website still under construction, fyi

  3. cheddar says:

    “This book is about how to get an interesting life. And if youre dead set on being happy, ….”

    Yikes. I always tell my students to bury their typos near the bottom of the page but your editor put yours right on top.

    • jen says:

      “It is very tender and sensitive, and it is usually drummed out of people early in life by criticism (so called ‘helpful criticism’ is often the worst kind), by teasing, jeering, rules, prissy teachers, critics and all those unloving people who forget that the letter killeth and the spirit giveth life.” From Brenda Ueland and If You Want to Write

  4. CL says:

    I love how you shut down the big publisher to show them with data that they were completely wrong. I’ll be buying this book once I figure out which format I want it in. I love that Hyperink gives you a lot of different options.

    • Deborah Hymes says:

      Cool Hyperlink note: When you purchase, you get to download ALL formats. For the same price! I esp love that they offered a PDF version.

      I’ve never used — or heard of — Hyperlink before, and this has been a fabulous introduction. Now I’m hooked! Of course, I still went over to Amazon and ordered the paperback as well. ;)

      • pfj says:

        At first blush, we are ALL reading that brand name as if it were Hyper Link. But it isn’t, it’s Hyper Ink. Ink. As in publishing . . .

        Cute, but a disconcerting name when every other instance (that we see on the internet) is in fact “hyperlink” with an L.

      • Mitra, Editor at Hyperink says:

        Yep! Deborah knows her Hyperink stuff.

        Happy reading, all–

    • Mitra, Editor at Hyperink says:

      Hey CL–

      We’re glad you like the options but you don’t have to choose. When you buy one of our books, you get all the formats for it.

      Hope you enjoy the read!

  5. Blandy Costello says:

    You have to give Theresa a shootout. That’s funny. : )

    Great post!

  6. Alex says:

    Congratulations! Ordering now. Excited to read it.

  7. Donna D. Fontenot says:

    USENET! Ha!! Glad I hadn’t just taken a sip of coffee, because I would have choked on it as I laughed when I read that. I’ve just gone through the self-publishing experience with my novel, and I have no doubt that I made the right decision. Still, I was happy to read this as it really confirmed it for me. Thanks and best of luck!

  8. Ruth Zive says:

    Lately I’ve been reading all of my books on my iPhone, through iBooks (can’t remember the last time I stepped foot in a book store). But yours isn’t available yet via iBooks.

    • Deborah Hymes says:

      Ruth, I bought the Hyperlink downloads and it turns out you get all 3 formats delivered to you for the same price. One of those — I forget if it’s .mobi or .epub — works with iBooks.

  9. deborah l quinn says:

    Pretty strong indictment – not only of print publishing but Amazon, too. Why shouldn’t it be asked (read: forced) to share its demographic data? Doesn’t seem quite fair, given that it’s publishers & authors who gave/give Amazon its content. How would you suggest someone determine which online publisher would be the right fit?

    • Rebecca says:

      I thought the exact same thing. How did the publishers let that happen? My hypothesis: in the beginning the publishers probably didn’t pay much attention to Amazon, and now it is too late. Amazon owns them. Nobody forces Amazon to do anything at this point.

      • Heidi Angell says:

        Even if they cannot get demographics information from Amazon, there are other ways that they can get demographic information. It would be great if Amazon provided that (However, taking a look at reviews on your book page can give you some of that.) But there are creative ways to see on Goodreads the profiles of people talking about your book. If they are talking about it, then they probably read it. You can use amazon associates on your blog, and most blogs give you demographics. You get a lot of sales through your Amazon Associates account, then you know where those come from! Yeah, you have to find creative ways to bend the rules, but you can get around Amazon’s close out. Just depends on how much you care about the information. Which anyone who is publishing SHOULD care about!

  10. Sam Davidson says:

    Just ordered the book.

    Having written three books now (with two different publishers), every word in this post is spot-on. Kudos.

  11. Greg says:

    Fantastic! I bought it, and read it, and it’s really nicely done. Perfect timing, too, since I’ve been pondering these very topics.

    I also shared the PDF with some friends. Good choice on the publisher — Hyperink has a really nice interface.

    My one question about the publishing biz: why is fiction treated so differently? If an author wants to be considered literary, self publishing usually dooms him in terms of perception and economics. But in nonfiction, it makes him look entrepreneurial and smart. What gives? Aren’t artists also entrepreneurs?

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      I have thought a lot about this question, actually.

      Nonfiction is about earning money. The author is writing the book to generate some sort of action that will earn the author more money than any book can earn.

      Fiction is about art. The writer is looking for some sort of authority on this art to say the book is art. The publishing industry actually still serves as a good gatekeeper for this sort of thing.

      The publishing industry probably would have rejected Fifty Shades of Grey as trash even though it became a self-published bestseller. But in general, the publishing industry establishment has a good eye for good literature. That’s why self-publishing fiction is so different.

      Penelope

      • Ian Lamont says:

        @penelopetrunk: “Nonfiction is about earning money. The author is writing the book to generate some sort of action that will earn the author more money than any book can earn.”

        One can survey the paid pundits of the world and conclude that their prodigious published output reflects the needs/goals of the nonfiction publishing world. I would argue that not every nonfiction writer makes his or her living speaking at conferences, making tie-ins to other paid media formats (e.g., TV), or boosting a consulting business. Many have expertise and/or “big ideas” that they feel compelled to share with the world, as opposed to promoting some other business.

        • Gayle says:

          Eh… I have a hard time believing that many non-fiction writers are doing this for the “good of the world.”

          If you want to get your knowledge out there, there are many more effective ways — a website, for instance. Or a website + free ebook + a physical book.

          I don’t see many non-fiction writers doing this (though some do). Thus, I suspect that most of them are doing it, directly or indirectly, for money / credibility / etc.

  12. Roddiek says:

    Hi Penelope! I’m wondering if the book is available on any other site because hyperink doesn’t seem to have a gifting option and I’m trying to get someone to buy me your book for my birthday. (Though if it isn’t, I’ll just ask hyperink about how to go about getting someone to gift it to me.)

    And while I’m on a roll with my first comment, let me just say that I love your blog. I love your ideas and your writing. I love a lot of what you say, even if I don’t agree with some of it, because it makes me think and it’s all so engaging.

    In this post for example, I really like how you highlight that book marketing has moved online, which means social media is way important, especially for self-publishing.

    Congratulations on your new book by the way! It looks pretty great and definitely interesting. I’m way, way excited to read it.

    • Editor at Hyperink says:

      Hi Roddiek,

      The book will be available via Amazon and other distribution channels on Friday, so you’ll be able to gift it at that point if you wish.

      Happy reading!

      Very best,
      Hyperink Team

      • Deborah Hymes says:

        @Editor at Hyperlink . . . perhaps I’m misremembering, but I believe that right after I purchased the Hyperlink downloads, your UI delivered a page encouraging me to gift this title — and others in my “bookshelf” — to my friends. So I think the gifting option IS available on your site now!

        • Mitra, Editor at Hyperink says:

          You’re remembering correctly, Deborah! And we do still have that feature to share with your friends. Glad you enjoyed it.

      • Roddiek says:

        Thanks for your prompt reply! I’ll try to find that gifting option on your site.

  13. Cesca says:

    This is fabulous.

    I am an educator (lots of experience, leadership etc.) and am currently writing a book on how we should just teach kids in this country opportunity seeking skills and not worry about much else.

    Maybe I’ll just self publish, or do the revise as you go options. Seems smart.

    As usual, thanks for the sound advice and great story telling. In all genres, you are a great writer.

  14. diana says:

    I am just surprised that you didn’t have a handle on your publishing co’s marketing plan BEFORE you chose them. Isn’t that a big big reason for choosing them in the first place? I would be interested to know what made you choose them, Pen. Was it the money? It was the money, wasn’t it?

  15. Travis Scott says:

    Interesting! Good information for all!

  16. Gayle says:

    “The most breathtaking example, I think, of how terrible margins are, is that if I sell my own book with a link to my publisher, I make a little less than $1 per book. If I sell Guy Kawasaki’s book on Amazon, I get a little more than $1 per book in their affiliate program. So it’s more profitable to me to use my blog to sell someone else’s book than to sell the book I published with a mainstream publisher.”

    That doesn’t make sense. You’re not comparing apples to apples here. What if you used your blog to see your book on Amazon? Then you’d get the Amazon commission AND your royalty.

    I’ve (very successfully) self-published and traditionally published. My self-published book averages around #500 on Amazon out of all books and is the #1 book in the entire Interviewing category.

    None the less, I have to disagree with what you say.

    1. My traditional publisher, Wiley, has been great as far as publicity spots. I’m sorry that you had a bad experience with yours.

    2. Self-publishing does NOT mean electronic books. Please stop confusing these. I self-publish yet I *only* sell my book in paperback form.

    3. You can, in fact, get a self-published book into physical Barnes and Noble stores. It just takes a lot more work. But it can be done.

    • Erika Napoletano (@RedheadWriting) says:

      +1 to this, Gayle. That’s all.

    • Angela says:

      She gets a little less than a dollar when she sells her book through a link to her PUBLISHER, not Amazon.

      • Gayle says:

        Yes, I understand. And it’s technically correct to say that she makes more per book placing a link to Amazon to someone else’s book than to her book through her publisher. It’s a sort of useless / silly statement. But sure, it’s true.

        The problem is the next statement she makes: “So it’s more profitable to me to use my blog to sell someone else’s book than to sell the book I published with a mainstream publisher.”

        No. It’s still more profitable (per book) to use her blog to sell her own book, provided she places the link through Amazon.

        It’s really quite simple: Amazon offers around a 6% referral rate per purchase. She probably makes around 7 or 8% per book (of the retail price) from her publisher. If she links to an expensive book, then that 6% may exceed in actual value that 7 or 8%.

        This doesn’t mean that she should link to someone else’s more expensive book. It just means that she should be picking up *both* commissions and linking to her own book.

  17. Jeevan Sivasubramaniam says:

    I suppose someone should step in for the publishers, and since I’m the only one in all of publishing that knows how to use this interwebs contraption…

    First, I regret to say that you are correct to some extent. Most authors have a contentious relationship with their publisher — hinging on adversarial. That said, your experience was an extreme example. You received a hefty advance, it appears — the type of advance that only a large and established publisher could provide. Authors mistake the size of a publisher as well as the size of an advance with the effort they should expect from a publisher, and this is an inaccurate assumption. Think of it more as a trade-off.

    Did you explore smaller publishers? There are plenty of high-quality publishers who provide excellent services and who defy the generalizations you have made about print publishers. At a time when larger publishers are bumbling about, smaller publishers are doing quite well (or as in our case, having some of our best years ever). We do so by knowing our audience and knowing how to market to them. And lest you think we only deal in small numbers, our per capita sales as well as titles that hit the bestseller lists are significantly higher than those of large publishers (as are those of many smaller houses). Now, what we can’t offer you are the big advances. If a big advance means a lot to you, then you’re going to have to settle in other arenas.

    I also want to raise one important issue that few if any self-published authors raise and that is the quality of the editing, design, and layout in self-published books. I firmly believe that no one can edit their own work. Not only that, but as long as you are signing the checks of those you hired to do the editing, you’re not going to get solid, experienced, impartial guidance. Sure, the book will look and read great to you — hey, you wrote and guided the design for it after all — but its quality and appeal in the marketplace will be questionable, at least that’s what I believe. Most publishers I know can look at a table of contents alone and immediately tell if a book was self-published or not. Whether this matters for your audience is something that you would have to decide.

    Please don’t think I’m aimlessly defending all publishers. I agree that there are major issues that need to be addressed in this industry, but at the same time, authors need to know that there are other options before resorting to self-publishing.

    • Alexis Grant says:

      Interesting that you say “resort” to self-publishing, Jeevan. More and more, authors are *choosing* that route.

      • Deborah Hymes says:

        True! James Altucher has some great posts explaining why:

        How & Why I Self-Published a Book: http://bit.ly/MgR6Xv

        Self-Publishing Your Own Book is the New Business Card: http://bit.ly/PBViF1

        Here’s What I’ve Learned: http://bit.ly/PCcASx

        James has written extensively about his experiences in self-publishing vs legacy publishing. He’s published 8 books in 7 years, five of them with legacy pub houses. His stories of how they did/didn’t promote his book are funny and eye-opening.

        • Penelope Trunk says:

          Oh. Those are great links. The link from James about the book being the new business card is so perfect for my post, I can’t stand that it’s not there. So I added it. Is it okay to add links after the fact? Thanks. I am feeling so thorough now…

          Penelope

    • Denise Grover Swank says:

      “Not only that, but as long as you are signing the checks of those you hired to do the editing, you’re not going to get solid, experienced, impartial guidance.”

      I am self-published. I have a developmental editor and a copy editor and neither one has issues telling me exactly what is wrong with my manuscripts. And even what’s right.

      My developmental editor has worked for publishing houses (and continues to work for one as a freelancer) and sends me 12-15 page editorial letters. She told me to rewrite half of one of my books. And I did. Sure, *I* pay her, but I pay her to give me the God’s honest truth, not blow sunshine up my butt. I’m paying her for her expertise. The same with my copy editor. If I thought they weren’t telling it to me straight, I’d find someone else. And they both know it.

      • Sunblower says:

        Denise, if you, uh, need someone else to blow some, uh, sunshine up your butt, I’m available.

    • T.K. Marnell says:

      “I also want to raise one important issue that few if any self-published authors raise and that is the quality of the editing, design, and layout in self-published books.”

      This stereotype aggravates me to no end. If we aren’t willing to give away our rights, money, and creative control, we must not be serious about producing high-quality work, right? Mr. Sivasubramaniam must have read the one or two self-publishing blogs in existence that do NOT talk about the importance of copyediting and formatting if he believes that “few if any self-published authors” care…though I doubt he’s ever bothered to look at any at all. It’s much more comfortable to just make assumptions and claim superiority.

      Of course it would be very convenient for publishers if it were true that we didn’t care, and that traditionally published books were indisputably cleaner than self-published ones. But as Dean Wesley Smith said just yesterday on the topic, it’s little more than a myth that traditional publishers feed naive writers to keep them on the leash. (See the post here: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=7343). “Solid, experienced guidance?” Don’t make me laugh. I’ve heard from the mouths of staff from big houses that the days of giving a Tinker’s dam about editing are gone. Low-level editors are fresh college grads without any experience or specialty training. Copyediting is outsourced to freelancers. For smaller publishers, cover and interior design probably are as well. The only thing left to offer is marketing, and from the results of surveys of experienced authors, publishing houses (both big and small) barely lift a finger to promote their works. Penelope’s experience is not uncommon; most authors have to do all of the legwork themselves or hire a publicist independently.

      Now what, pray tell, is to stop me from hiring all of these people directly, instead of signing over my copyrights to strangers to pass the work down the line, and then reap the profits for the entirety of my lifetime plus seventy years? Then I’d actually have a say in what they do, and how they work for me. Imagine having an editor who /edits/, instead of ordering me to rewrite to his liking, or the deal’s off and I have to pay back the advance. Imagine getting to tell your graphic designer that you don’t like the concept, instead of having to sit back and take it when they say, “Oh, your story’s about an African American and we put a white girl on the cover? Tough. Black covers don’t sell.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/aug/10/bloomsbury-book-cover-race-row)

      Far from “resorting” to self-publishing, I’d rather fight to the death before I have to “resort” to handing over my manuscripts to businesses who have the supercilious attitude Mr. Sivasubramaniam exemplified here.

    • Mark says:

      I would like to echo Jeevan’s comments on editing:

      “I also want to raise one important issue that few if any self-published authors raise and that is the quality of the editing, design, and layout in self-published books. I firmly believe that no one can edit their own work. Not only that, but as long as you are signing the checks of those you hired to do the editing, you’re not going to get solid, experienced, impartial guidance. Sure, the book will look and read great to you — hey, you wrote and guided the design for it after all — but its quality and appeal in the marketplace will be questionable, at least that’s what I believe. Most publishers I know can look at a table of contents alone and immediately tell if a book was self-published or not. Whether this matters for your audience is something that you would have to decide.”

      This is such a critical point that people self-publishing need to realize. I write book reviews on a niche topic and every time I get a self-published book to review I cringe. By far the worst books on the topic have been self-published. They are typically so poorly written that even if they have useful information(most are nonfiction books) it is such a painful process to understand it, sometimes it is easier to move on to something else.

      On a related note:
      “[Hyperink has] an incredible editorial team that helps bloggers move from single, blog-post ideas, to larger, big-picture ideas.”

      I’ve not looked into hyperink, but this is another thing I’ve found in too many self-published books I’ve reviewed. Creating a book out of a concept that started as a blog, or other episodic source of information is very hard to do right. Nothing is worse than reading the book and thinking “Boy, this would’ve made a much better website (post sometimes!) than book” is very discouraging to a reader.

      On that topic I would also encourage authors to take the time to research book design. Jeevan mentions he can tell self-published by the table of contents and I would agree. Take the time to understand what information should be in a table of contents, front matter, index etc. Don’t take a bunch of existing documents, make a few notes here and there, add your content to propel your idea and call it good. It will look like you took a huge word document, hit print and bound it up. This works sometimes for blogs, but not books. Also, don’t just dump all the information raw, or processed into your book. Please edit it down. The only thing worse than a poorly written self-published book is one that is way to long for the amount of information it contains.

      My point in this is not that all self-published books are crap, but that if you are going to write a book for self-publishing, please get outside help on editing and book design. I think some of my issues above are, at least for me, one of the main reasons self-published books have the reputation they do. This is changing slowly, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

      Please take a look at your competition from the traditional printing arena to see how things can be done. I’m not saying they are always the correct way to do things in all cases, but the industry has had a long time to work on a lot of the overall book design; learn and improve upon them. Don’t try to blaze your own trail on the overall book design and layout. Save that for the content that you’ve written! This can mean that after you’ve written the content of your book, you still have a lot of work to do on the design and presentation of your ideas. Don’t put all that effort in writing and then give only a passing node to the layout and design. It will show all too well.

  18. Suzanne Kaplan says:

    Aside from the info you present in this post, what makes me happiest is to know that you love your blog. Sounds funny, but I like knowing that you love what you are doing after all these years.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for the really nice comment, Suzanne. You know what made all this book publishing stuff bearable? Me thinking to myself that I’ll write about it on the blog.

      At one point, I told the publisher that all the stuff they were saying would be going on the blog. Then we had a week-long silent period while their lawyers told them they had to keep talking to me. It was a great moment for blogging, really. Knowing that I could write about the insanity of the book industry made all the meetings more fun.

      Penelope

      • Deborah Hymes says:

        OMG, that’s AWESOME! James Altucher says this is the “choose yourself” era, and your story is a great example. By choosing to self-publish you reclaimed your power from the clique that got to decide who’s worth reading. You & James are changing the world. ;)

        The Choose Yourself Era – How To Sell 300,000 Books: http://bit.ly/PD2bWF

  19. wen says:

    You’re right on all counts. Just bought the book. Thanks!

  20. Tonja says:

    “Not only that, but as long as you are signing the checks of those you hired to do the editing, you’re not going to get solid, experienced, impartial guidance.”

    That’s a pretty hefty insult to the integrity of freelance editors–some of whom have worked in the industry longer than many small presses have been in business.

    • Jeevan Sivasubramaniam says:

      @Tonja, it was not my intention to in any way belittle freelance editors or the work they do. I am simply alluding to the fact that when you work for the author, you take your instructions from the author. As such, whatever work that you do is based on the author’s own view on what needs doing. True, there are some who will give you a manuscript and ask for help and a firm hand, but even then, you are limited by what you can do. Also, to clarify, there are many freelance editors who have been working as such for a long time, but they don’t work in publishing houses which means they are not privy to various industry trends and market shifts the way publishers are. I realize that’s biased opinion and not fact.

  21. Leah Cutter says:

    I hear a lot of these stories, and no, I don’t think yours is extreme at all. I think you were lucky, that they let you pub it on your own, and didn’t instead decide to “publish it dead” — publish it but in such a manner that the book was guaranteed to have no sales.

    I have one disagreement, however.

    >>The only reason to have a print book is to be in Barnes & Noble.

    Really? ebooks are only a small portion of the book market. The majority of books are still sold as paper. Personally, I tried an e-reader, found I was no longer reading, and switched back to paper. So why not do a paper edition of your book (via CreateSpace or something) and also sell it on your web site?

    But maybe you meant that the only reason to have a print book via a traditional publisher was to be in B&N.

    • Deborah Hymes says:

      FACT: Per Forrester Research, “Over all, e-books account for only about 14 percent of all general consumer fiction and nonfiction books sold.”

      ALSO A FACT: As of April 2011, “Amazon sold 105 books for its Kindle e-reader for every 100 hardcover and paperback books, including books without Kindle versions and excluding free e-books. ‘We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly,’ said Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, in a statement. ‘We’ve been selling print books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four years.’”

      http://nyti.ms/MgVq90

      SAD FACT: Borders is out of business and other bookstores are barely hanging on. The publishing industry in and of itself is not entirely to blame for this, obviously. But their arrogance and ineptitude have hastened the decline beyond all expert estimates from 5 years ago.

      • Also Facts says:

        The one number that really sticks out to me in your post is the claim that 85% of books are sold online, “mostly at Amazon”. Unless something has radically, radically changed in the last six months, this is completely untrue, and dovetails with the statistics you’re quoting above. Ebooks are 14%, not all of which are kindle (though a sizable portion are); the remaining 86% of books are paper, 70% of which are sold at Barnes & Noble. The publishing industry is in transition, no mistake, but Amazon is not the leader yet. Borders made a series of colossal business mistakes and folded; BN is struggling; but these business facts are actually separate from the subject of marketshare, and if BN does go down, a whole lot of authors and publishers go with it, because it still carries the majority of the market.

        There are other things over which I would quibble — plenty of authors in fiction and nonfiction do make their living from selling books to big mainstream publishers — but that 85% thing is nuts.

    • Deborah Hymes says:

      I do find that I read/use books as technology evolves. Although ebooks are easier to manage/store, I sometimes want a paper copy for various reasons. E.g., if I’m going to be extensively consulting a book for guidance, or if I just want it with me or on my desk for inspiration, then I’ll purchase a printed copy in addition to the ebook.

      But unless it’s a photography book, I *always* buy the ebook first and then maybe/probably buy a printed copy.

      • Lianne says:

        Which is why I cannot figure out why no publisher yet has offered a deal where if you buy the print book you can get the ebook for an extra $2.00, or even for free. They would sell more print books. There are so many books where I’d like to have a portable version for travelling, etc. but would still love to have a print version to refer to. As it is now, I buy the ebook only – I don’t want to pay twice for the same book.

        • Folklorist says:

          Baen has been bundling ebooks with print books for years. They publish speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy).

          When I suggested to the head of one of the publishing graduate sh=chools that it would be great if the larger publishers started to bundle ebooks with their hardcovers, she looked at me lke I had grown a second head.

          I’m glad I didn’t throw 6 grand down that black hole.

        • Stephen S. Power says:

          Publishers would love to offer print/ebook bundles. The problem is, Amazon’s print and electronic carts aren’t linked. You can’t put a print book in the Kindle store cart, nor can you put an ebook in the print store cart. This will change, of course, but given the underlying architecture of the carts it will take some time.

          • Diana Finch says:

            Hi Stephen: Good point. I understand that publishers and distributors have also had great difficulty figuring out what the royalty would be to the author on a bundled print and ebook sale- which edition is the highly discounted one, and what does that do to the author’s royalties and how does one keep track of that. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that it has proved quite difficult.

          • brandy says:

            couldn’t you just add a coupon for the eBook free when you buy the hard/paperback? then plug coupon code into kindle store and viola, free ebook.

          • Gayle says:

            It’s very difficult to include a coupon with the physical book. (Not impossible — just difficult / expensive.)

            You can’t really print a coupon *in* a book, as books are printed in bulk typically and are therefore identical to each other. (Again, it doesn’t HAVE to be done this way, but that’s the way it’s cheapest.)

            You could insert a piece of paper into a book with the coupon. But then you need to ship the books from the printer to you, insert paper into all of them, and then ship them over to Amazon or wherever. That’s expensive and time-consuming.

  22. redrock says:

    So, if you ditch the publisher for any reason (and disagreement of promotion and such is certainly a valid one) you actually can keep the advance? I always thought that you get the advance under the conditions that you hold up your end of the bargain – namely supply a manuscript?

    • karelys says:

      I think (from what I read) that the company ditched her first and then she didn’t backpedal.

      It seemed to me that they were saying “if you don’t behave we won’t publish you.”

    • Diana Finch says:

      Yes, part of this story has been glossed over. A publishing contract is not canceled just on strength of an outburst by a marketing exec during a meeting, particularly after a title has been delivered and, we presume, put into production (3 months from pub date), and the full advance has been paid. Further discussions were had, I’m sure. On the other hand, publishers are on the whole quite reluctant to sue their own authors, it’s not good business.

    • K00kyKelly says:

      I was wondering about this also. Doesn’t an advance come with a contract with terms that disallow competing with the publisher by doing something like self publishing?! Plus it’s horribly unethical? Something important is missing here.

  23. jseliger says:

    If you haven’t read Philip Greenspun’s “The book behind the book behind the book,” and you still care about other people’s experience in book publishing, you should drop everything and check it out.

    It turns out that he had an experience with conventional publishers that was shockingly similar to yours, except that his started in the mid-90s, and publishers then were as clueless as publishers now.

  24. Deborah Hymes says:

    Bought! And congratulations! And I can’t even tell you how much I love that you gave the publishing house hell for their arrogance and incompetence. That’s our Penelope! =)

  25. Fred says:

    Most likely P left out the part where the publisher said “we’ll sue” and she replied “go ahead and try”.

  26. Anonymous Coward says:

    I published through a traditional company, I don’t want to name names but let’s call them Filey for the purpose of this discussion.

    Filey contacted me to tell me about my poor sales and how I can market better, especially in getting my big name friends to push my book. They didn’t understand that the reason my book didn’t sell is because they didn’t put it in the book stores. My editor at Filey told me that book stores would rather order titles for their customers when they come in and ask for it, than to keep it on the shelves. So here we are. Me with a book that didn’t sell and Filey with an iron clad contract that doesn’t let me publish with anyone else unless they give their almighty blessing. Guess who loses?

    • Gayle says:

      I was published via Wiley and *was* put in Barnes and Noble stores. They do not have complete control over what’s in B&N — they make a pitch to B&N, but it’s up to B&N to approve it.

      Did your book sell well on Amazon? If not, then it sounds like it has to do with the book and not its placement.

    • Diana Finch says:

      Anonymous Coward, publishers don’t ‘put’ books into bookstores, bookstores order books from publishers based on the stores’ guesstimate of how many they can sell. Publishers will recommend to bookstores how many copies they should order (and in a very few rare bestseller cases, less common now, simply ship a set number to a store – but that’s rare!)

  27. Jeevan Sivasubramaniam says:

    Here are the facts –for authors –based on more than just a few people’s experience. I encourage you all to please not jump to conclusions:

    http://malwarwickonbooks.com/2012/03/19/the-10-awful-truths-about-book-publishing-2/

  28. Michael says:

    Just bought one, thank you.

  29. Irina I says:

    God, I love it when you tell it like it is! You speak the truth, Penelope. This is the best line:

    “What I will tell you is that newspaper people said the same thing. Right before they all got laid off.”

    I literally laughed out loud as I was standing in line to buy lunch.

  30. Carol Frome says:

    Brava!

  31. D says:

    Congrats on the book!

  32. Stephen S. Power says:

    I work for a publisher very much like the abovementioned “Filey,” and I think this analysis is spot on–especially the bit about covers, which I’ve advocated myself in-house. I disagree with only one statement:

    “There is no publishing industry fan page that is good enough to sell books. No one goes to fan pages for publishers because publishers are not household brand names. The authors are. That’s how publishing works.”

    The first three sentences are true at the moment, but the last assumes they must always be true. Publishers can’t work this way anymore. The only way they will survive in a world where self-publishing is so easy, especially for those with followings likes Penelope’s, is if they create communities around themselves, make the strength and reach of their communities a reason for authors to sign with them, especially those authors without followings like Penelope’s, and listen to these communities and respond with better acquisitions. They could also make the community store more attractive by offering fans better discounts than they would find at retailers. Basically, publishers have to get out of the book business and into the community business, with the books monetizing and even advertising the community.

    Will it happen overnight? Not likely. Approaching publishing this way will take an entirely different set of skills and procedures than publishers currently employ, not just in marketing, but in editorial and sales. Financial models will have to change, especially financial expectations for both publishers and authors. Publishers, fortunately, are willing to change, though. They have ideas. They just can’t patch them onto the old models. They have to recreate themselves.

  33. Jim Henderson says:

    I have been published 5 times and each time I get underwhelmed more than time time before. I try and tell them the things you point out but its as if they have no incentive to do things differently. I have been contemplating my next book and after reading your post decided I will use Hyperink. I BOUGHT YOUR BOOK online because YOU TOLD THE F!%R&* TRUTH. How refreshing. You made too many good and obvious points for me to respond to but the one about the business card was killer. Thank you

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for the nice comment, Jim. And all the other authors who confirm that their experience with print publishers was similar to mine. It’s nice to hear loud and boisterous discontent – makes me think the replacement for old-school publishing is going to be a lot of fun!

      Penelope

  34. e says:

    “It takes a print publisher about a year to publish a book, after it is written. It’s unclear what the publishers are doing during this time.”

    So, in your six months of research on the publishing industry (six whole months! I bet you know everything!), you weren’t able to find out the actual steps involved in the publication process? I’m not sure I’d want a book self-published by a person with that level of deficiency in research.

    “For example, in the age of the Internet, where most books are selling online, the cover needs to be very simple so that it works as a small image on Amazon. It’s hard to imagine going through months of design iterations for a cover that is going to be seen by most potential buyers as a photo on Amazon.”

    It may be hard for you to imagine, but producing a clean, simple design that is readable in a thumbnail version, but also compelling enough to make someone click on it, but *also also* different enough from every other clean, simple, readable, clickable cover design that it makes a book stand (as a brand) in a very crowded marketplace — this is not actually very easy. Just because you don’t know very much about it and have difficulty imagining what is involved does not mean that it’s simple. Surely you would be insulted if someone said that because they don’t know what’s involved in your job, it can’t be very hard?

    “…newspaper people said the same thing. Right before they all got laid off.”

    No, I don’t think newspaper people talked much about how it takes a year to get their product out. Nor were they laid off in droves because they insisted on producing quality work. Mostly they were laid off because of certain economies of scale at work in the internet age and because they made the colossal mistake of giving away their product.

    • Deborah Hymes says:

      I take your point. But it still makes zero sense that it takes around 2 years to publish and distribute a book. We’re living in a print-on-demand world. Although I’m sure that those who are still working at the big publishing houses spend their days doing things that seem important to the end result, they clearly need to rethink their process in a leaner, more nimble way.

      They can start by joining the 21st century. *They still think they’re selling books when they should be selling their authors! Interesting POV from James Altucher:

      “I’ve published five books with major publishers. The majority of books now are sold through Amazon.

      Not a single publisher told me I can log into Amazon Author Central, create an author’s page, link my author’s page to my blog, upload a video, have my twitter feed in there, have an FAQ in there, and all the other basic tools Amazon uses to market your book. Why? This is the world’s biggest bookseller. Why wasn’t I told about a basic marketing platform I could use?

      I just learned about it last week after writing books for eight years. Now I have it all hooked up and I have a feeling I’ve only begun to explore the Author Central area and what Amazon can do for me.”

    • redrock says:

      Actually, my highly technical book took a year of writing, an intense 4 weeks of editing, another 2 weeks without sleep to acquire appropriate copyright, about 2 weeks to design the cover (with several high end images easily recognized on amazon webpage) and then 3 more months until it was on the bookshelf. Not sure where the year after finished manuscript submission happens, not my experience.

    • pfj says:

      e –

      one of the single biggest reasons that newspapers are in such trouble — CraigsList. Free and fast advertising, that used to be slow and really expensive.

      CraigsList sucked the life out of a great deal of advertising revenue, lots of those little “classified ads” that used to help pay for newspapers.

      Of course, the largest advertisers may still be there, but they are not enough. It’s like trying to build a house with 2 x 4’s but no nails.

  35. Jeevan Sivasubramaniam says:

    Okay, well, I’ve been getting non-stop notifications and it appears that there isn’t as much debate going on as there are a large number of “right ons!” and more than a few jabs at publishing. Alright, let me explain why I think a traditional publisher could have helped with this work while you’re busy patting yourselves on the back:

    1. Have you researched the title “A New American Dream” to see how overplayed and old it is? Also, competing with one of Suze Orman’s subtitles is something a publisher would have warned you about. Regardless, people searching for it will encounter several titles before getting to yours.

    2. Did you stop to consider that your subtitle is excessively wordy? Also, blueprints are for buildings, not paths, and having both in the same subtitle makes it clunky and redundant

    3. The color scheme suggests that this is a political work (which it is not). The lack of any specifics also suggests this.

    I think this book will launch quite successfully as you mobilize your followers in this way, but in the long view, I’m sorry, but I don’t think it will have the staying power.

    What “e” said above is rather strong and confrontational, but I do agree in spirit with what he is saying. No one ever bothers to go inside a mechanic’s shop to tell them how to repair cars, but apparently everyone knows what publishers do and how lousy they are. I do also think that six months of research is a poor foundation.

    We don’t get into this business for fame or for a hefty salary, so it’s quite off-putting to have others say how publishers are just greedy giants out to screw everyone.

    Also, it amazes me that for all the criticism heaped upon publishers that everyone is cheering on someone who basically kept her advance but not her side of the bargain. At the base, that is unethical and wrong. What is most worrying is the absolute certainty with which so many are buying into this story.

    Confirmation bias is a dangerous thing.

    • BK says:

      Smart response. I enjoy Penelope’s blog a lot, but as an editor with a publishing company, I agree with your points.

      Penelope, what you indicated about the company’s knowledge of online marketing was both sad and enlightening.

      • MichaelG says:

        From what I’ve read on blogs by self-published authors, there are some overriding considerations:

        – It takes too long to get a book published through conventional means. If you are a blogger testing the waters with a book, you want feedback now, not in a year or two.

        – The odds of rejection are very high. No one wants to get an agent and wait months while the book is submitted and slowly reviewed by multiple publishers, only to have it never published. On Amazon, you can have the book out in days and start getting reviews. No possibility of rejection. You can also play with price and marketing in a way that a conventional publisher simply will not allow.

        – Even if you get published by a conventional publisher, they keep all the money. Crummy sales on Amazon can net you more than great sales at B&N through a publisher. And you still own all your work and can do what you like with it in the future.

        – Readers simply don’t care much about typos, formatting, cover art, etc. I know you don’t believe that, but Baen books sells “advance reader copies” with limited editing for MORE than the final versions. For some titles, readers would rather have it fast than perfect.

        • redrock says:

          We all love the stories about the author rejected many times by a publisher and the soaring to great success after deciding to self-publishe. However, this is a very rare thing, most of the time the publishers reject for either lack of quality in the writing, or they know that the book will be hard to sell to their audience. Nobody likes rejection, but sometimes they are made for a good reason. And amazon is no angel – they make money from self-publishing authors because there are so many people who desperately want to publish their work – quantity over quality.

        • Steph says:

          “Readers simply don’t care much about typos, formatting, cover art, etc.”

          We don’t?! News to me! I was raised by a mother who corrected sale signage at grocery stores with a ballpoint pen and who wrote to a publisher (who we later sorted was a vanity press) to say how disappointed she was with the quality of the book she’d been so interested to read given the local angle.

          I’m part of a writer’s group connected to a national writing organization; we pay annual dues to be a part of this group. I’ve met fantastic writers through this, both traditionally published and self-pubbed or through a small press. I looked through all of their websites recently so I could support my friends and .. wow. Someof the sites look like they’re hosted on tripod with late 90s graphics and many of the book covers are atrocious; like they were edited in Windows 95 Paint. I know these writers are talented, but honestly, I am not going to buy a book that looks so “home sewn.” While my mother is willing ot bypass a janky cover for the sake of a story, when she found all those typos and grammar issues, she was definitely not willing to let that go.

          Readers want good stories. We want stories that are told well and free from distractions. I want a cover that at the very least doesn’t look like airbrushed fantasy art I can find at a fair. Even so, that’s still better than some junk I see online. Just imagine how successful these hastily pushed forward books would be whether better editing and professional looking covers?

    • NetM says:

      As an independent writer, I wanted to address the three points brought up by Jeevan:

      1. Have you researched the title “A New American Dream” to see how overplayed and old it is? Also, competing with one of Suze Orman’s subtitles is something a publisher would have warned you about. Regardless, people searching for it will encounter several titles before getting to yours.

      My note: This can be an advantage as it aligns your book’s SEO with that of an established work. You may be in publishing, but I don’t think you understand ebooks or how search rank influences sales.

      2. Did you stop to consider that your subtitle is excessively wordy? Also, blueprints are for buildings, not paths, and having both in the same subtitle makes it clunky and redundant

      My note: Readers don’t care. Total non-issue for the electronic market. They’ll read the subtitle on Amazon’s webpage.

      3. The color scheme suggests that this is a political work (which it is not). The lack of any specifics also suggests this.

      My note: This one, I agree with, but it may have been intentional. We don’t know what demographic analysis was done prior to publication and how much of the cover and title were influenced by SEO.

      My criticism would be that the cover is not eye-catching and carries no message. Something like the Brazen Careerist cover would have been a better choice. The current cover is very dull, almost academic, in my opinion, and does not entice or excite readers who don’t already know Penelope.

      M

  36. Jorge says:

    Your words on happiness and making one’s life interesting helped me to connect some dots in my life. Thank you.

  37. BJ Gallagher says:

    Sorry you had such a bad experience. You’re not alone. I have author friends who’ve had bad experiences with big publishing houses, too. And I have plenty of author friends who’ve had wonderful experiences with big publishers. So I’m sorry that you’ve taken one bad experience and condemned the whole publishing industry because of it. In my experience, book publishers are not all the greedy idiots you depict them as. Book publishing is filled with tens of thousands of good people, bright people, doing right by their authors.

    I’ve written and published over 25 books in the past 20 years, with about 8 or 10 different publishing houses. Some publishers were good, some left much to be desired, and a few were incredibly wonderful! I especially like small publishers – often referred to a boutique houses. Especially those in the SF Bay Area – they just seem to “get me” and what I’m up to with my books.

    The very best of these houses is Berrett-Koehler, in SF. Here is an article I wrote about them recently. Hope it’s helpful to you, and perhaps to readers of your blog. Publishers aren’t devils. In fact, some of them are angels!

    Best regards, BJ Gallagher

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/thepowerofpositivedoing/2012/06/big-lessons-from-the-best-little-publishing-house-on-the-planet.html

  38. Carmen says:

    I still can’t fathom writing a book myself. I’m sure I’d become obsessed with the process and have to quit my job or something. I find it so humbling when people like anything I write on my blog, so I won’t be writing any books yet. Looking forward to seeing what you’ve done with this one.

  39. BJ Gallagher says:

    Here is another article that may be of interest to you and your readers: “The 10 Awful Truths – and the 10 Wonderful Truths – About Book Publishing.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bj-gallagher/book-publishing_b_1394159.html

  40. Vicki says:

    I just self-published my first book for all the reasons you outlined here. Sales-wise, it was pretty much a failure because I’ve barely made back what I invested in it, i.e. 20 bucks and I’m still paying for web hosting on one of my promotional sites, so I guess technically I didn’t even break even.

    But the amount of STUFF I learned about the publishing industry, e-books, Amazon, marketing, and business strategy during the process was amazing. I wrote about it here: http://blog.vickiboykis.com/2012/05/i-basically-just-paid-myself-eight-cents-an-hour-to-learn-that-i-dont-need-an-mba/

    The other plus side that you don’t talk about, but which is absolutely true, is that kids who love to write grow up dreaming that they’ll publish a book. When they’re grown, they get mired in the world of agents and publishing houses and become disillusioned and forget the real reason they wanted to write in the first place. Self-publishing may not yet be prestigious, but it gave me the amazing feeling I’ve been wanting my whole life: for people to read my finished ideas in longform.

    • Sadya says:

      Vicki, your blog post is very informative. Its great that you’ve talked about how your tried Amazon and the other alternatives. You’ve documented the process pretty well. Thanks

  41. Joan says:

    Just downloaded. Little excited. Was super easy, but I am using the kindle app on my iPhone and purchased on my laptop so hit a snag but Kevin from Hyperink emailed me in 30 seconds flat. 2 minutes later I am up and running. Thank you Kevin. http://www.hyperink.com/

    Last time I purchased your book it was on Amazon and through my own impetuous-ness and Amazon’s bad website design I accidentally purchased it on audio book CD and it doesn’t work in my car :( Now I just use http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ for everything as it’s free shipping and I live downunder.

    Looking forward to the read, thank you Ms Trunk

  42. Will says:

    Penelope, great post and congrats on releasing the new book independently… I love the calling-it-like-you-see-it attitude.

  43. Clara says:

    Congrats on publishing youe book! Great post about the business of publishing. It’s no surprise that the publishing industry is in the fix it’s in. I’m not gloating, since I wish that weren’t the case, but service providers who take the kind of cut that publishers take should know more than their clients about what they’re doing.

    In the days when publishers played Wizard of Oz they were able to get away with what they did because they were the only ones behind the curtain. Now that the curtain is transparent, they’ve changed neither their offerings nor their behavior. So much for focusing on the client and the clients’ needs.

  44. downfromtheledge says:

    “If you could see a movie of your life before you lived it, would you want to live it?” F*ck no! But what a thought-provoking question. I enjoyed all 3 of the excerpts, and it’s rather timely with some recent nudges I’ve gotten to take my dreams more seriously.

    “It used to be we had a midlife crisis. Then we had a quarterlife crisis. Now we have a constant crisis.” That’s not even an exaggeration. Have you ever read O’Connor’s “Undoing Perpetual Stress: The Missing Connection Between Depression, Anxiety and 21st Century Illness”??? We are living embodiments of the ‘constant crisis’ you speak of.

  45. Gayle says:

    A counter-pointer — http://www.technologywoman.com/2012/07/09/the-dirty-truth-about-self-publishing/

    I’m self-published and traditionally published — in fact I’m quite successful self-publishing. And I can tell you — self-publishing has A LOT of drawbacks. Penelope’s case is very different, as she’s already built a name for herself.

    (And also, Penelope didn’t self-publish really. She went through an independent publisher.)

    I do love being self-published, but to say that it’s “the” right choice is missing a lot.

    • Shawneda Marks says:

      Gayle, each publishing experience is different. The information in your post is geared more toward a non-fiction niche genre publishing. For many authors self publishing is a viable option. I believe pitting one against the other is counterproductive. An author should be honest about what they want from the publishing experience and go after it with no apologies. For me that meant controlling my publishing experience and for others it means pursuing traditional publishing.

      • Gayle says:

        I totally agree. I’m not against self-publishing at all. There are a lot of pros as well as a lot of cons. People have to know what they want to put into it and what they want to get out of it. People who self-publish (which Penelope did *not* do) should be aware that it’s not a trivial process, if you want to really do it well. But it can definitely be the right choice (it was for me — as was using a traditional publisher, when I did that).

  46. John@PGISelfDirected says:

    Bazinga! This is perhaps one of the most insightful posts I’ve ever come across today.

  47. sarah tucker says:

    Love your energy Penelope. you go girl! xxx

  48. Sadya says:

    The title name is very cliched but is a smart choice in terms of SEO. Why didnt you use the term ‘Gen Y’ on the tittle or subtitle, wouldnt that have been absolute gold for SEO and to target your audience?
    Also why is Deborah Hymnes all over in the comments section??

  49. JD says:

    One take on this tale is that a savvy hip author beat the clueless publishers at their own game. Another version has the author intentionally sabotaging the deal by unleashing her full-force psycho side, getting her the cake to have and eat too.

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