Blogging Or Self Publishing?

Blogging or self publishing, that is the question.
Whether tis nobler to write 200 posts about publishing,
Often repeating the same advice and rants
Or to publish more books on the subject.
And by publishing, perchance to profit.
To profit, to cash-in.
No longer to write without thought
Of the heart-ache and the thousand unsold books
That self publishing can bring.
'tis a conclusion I sometimes wish.
To pass it my editor and wash my hands,
To publish, perchance to profit,
But in pursuit of profit what honesty prevails?
Against the necessities of the market and expectations.
Ay, here's the rub...

It's not everyday I get to butcher Shakespeare and pretend it's all cricket, but I just hit my second century. This is the two hundredth post to the self publishing blog, and I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts about the experience. I haven't authored a new book since 2004, and the last of these wasn't even self published, but the 4th edition of a book I write under contract to McGraw-Hill. Blogging has absolutely killed my book production, giving me an outlet to write without having to worry about my audience, or undertake any of the hard work of research, marketing or production. Writing for this blog and dealing with correspondence has been my main professional occupation for the last eighteen months, though I've probably written about a hundred posts to a variety of other blogs as well. I'd estimate over 200,000 words in all.

Some of you fiction writers may think of 200,000 words is a medium length novel, but in the genres I write, it would normally be three to five complete books. That's a lot of writing I've done to please myself rather than to build my publishing business. While some of this activity has contributed to sales of my publishing book, it's got to be one of the least efficient marketing campaigns a publisher has ever engaged in and stuck with. The most popular posts in my archives never rank in the top fifty pages on my site for visitors, and only a dozen or so reach the the top hundred. Ambiguities in statistics make it hard for me to judge how many new visitors a day the two hundred archived posts together bring, but it's only a few hundred, probably less than the total from the half-dozen or so more popular publishing articles on my site. I think it's largely due to individual archived posts fairing poorly for incoming links, and the overly specific titles.

On the bright side, I've had some fun with it and heard from some interesting publishers, which all feeds back into keeping me going. My favorite post would have to be my story about two paths diverging in the publishing world and how one author traveled both rather than standing around and peering into the distance. Of course, I'm a sucker for anything I write that I only wish was autobiographical. I'm inclined to drift more in that direction in the future as I've pretty much exhausted myself, and no doubt many readers as well, on the nitty gritty of self publishing. I might also try to do a publishing version of one of my educational flowcharts. I do get a lot of questions about the publishing process, requests, in essence, for a publishing cookbook, but I find that authors ambitions and needs vary so much that there's nothing even close to a one size fits all solution. A flowchart would give me the opportunity to mix and match some of the stages in a way a linear book can't.

The problem writing a large number of short articles is tying them together to present a coherent picture without rewriting them entirely. I flirted with doing this last fall, and spent appreciable time and money producing a book based on this blog, but I when I got the final proof copy, I just couldn't bring myself to release it to distribution. In fact, I never even quite finished proofreading it, just got depressed and stopped. I suppose part of it is that I've never written two similar books to this point in my life, excluding subsequent editions, and I can't get excited about starting now. If I were to sit down and write another book about publishing, I'd almost be inclined to write a novel about publishing instead, or maybe a collection of short stories. It's just much easier to prove one's point when one doesn't feel constrained to stick with the exact truth-)

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