Dummy or Complete Idiot?

Self publishing has been around as long as the printing press, and how-to books have always been amongst the most marketable titles. The leading series for how to do just about everything are Dummies (Wiley) and Complete Idiots Guides (Alpha). The acquisitions editors at these two presses are neither dummies nor complete idiots, so it was only a matter of time before they realized there was a real market for books about self publishing. Titling being one of their strongest points, they recently gave us The Compete Idiot's Guide to Self-Publishing by Mark Victor Hansen (October, 2005) and Self-Publishing for Dummies by Jason R. Rich (August, 2006).

Amazon lists the Dummies book as a second edition, but try as I will, I can't find any evidence anywhere that a first edition ever existed. It's either an error or a clever new marketing ploy, though I suppose it's also possible I'm too big a dummy to find it. Neither of the books are challenging the old leaders on Amazon, such as The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter, currently in it's 15th edition (for real:-) or Complete Guide to Self Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross.The Idiot's and Dummies books obviously aren't self published, and the Ross book is by Writer's Digest Press. If I were in the market for a book about self publishing, I'd be much more inclined to buy one from a self publisher than from a large trade publisher.

Fortunately, I wrote my own book, Print-on-Demand Book Publishing, so I don't need to buy one, and I know several other successful self publishers who have written publishing books of their own. There's Aiming at Amazon by Aaron Shepard, How to Start and Run a Small Book Publishing Company by Peter Hupalo, and the pending book from Steve Weber that I blogged about a few weeks ago. None of us are getting rich writing about publishing, but we all had publishing experiences we wanted to share, and writing a book on the subject seemed the most logical way to do it. The Dummy and Complete Idiot books probably dominate sales in the bookstores where they have excellent shelving and a trusted brand name, but on Amazon, we all compete heads-up.

Strange to say, I don't remember ever reading a Dummies title, though one of the smartest people I know was a big fan, at least in their early days. It seems to me that my old business partner once gave me an Idiot's book about finding an agent, or getting a trade publisher, something along those lines. My memory is that I couldn't take the formatting, lots of little boxes pointing out what somebody thought was important in the preceding text. I just prefer to make those decisions for myself.

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