In a recent media interview, I told the reporter if he used any quotes from me to attribute them to, "Morris Rosenthal of Foner Books, a self publishing advocate." I'm not a self publishing guru, though I do live on a mountain top, wear funny clothes, and answer questions from truth seekers. A guru in the modern sense is somebody who puts in plenty of road time making public appearances, sits on panels, publishes a newsletter and stays on top of the game with regular book publications. If you're seeking a self publishing guru, I'd start with Dan Poynter. If you're tempted to follow anybody else, I'd do some serious due diligence as to their success stories. That doesn't mean reading the testimonials on their websites or believing what you hear in Internet discussion groups. All that is easier to fake than a Martian driving license. Likewise, publishing conferences are hungry for speakers, just because somebody is introduced as an guru doesn't make them one.
Choosing a self publishing guru, if you're inclined that way, isn't as simple as deciding whether or not to take advice from somebody. I've already written about spotting the self publishing experts amidst all the busy bodies and frauds who raise the noise levels on Internet publishing lists, but a guru has to offer more than good advice on choosing a printer or a distributor. The role of the guru is to embody a whole way of living, or in our case, of doing business, the publishing business. So here are a few things to check for before shaving your head and drinking the Kool-Aid.
#1 Has your potential guru been successful self publishing books on subjects other than self publishing?
#2 Can you find (and talk to) other self publishers who have been making a living for at least a few years following the guru's plan?
#3 Can you find run-of-the-mill self publishing experts who have something nice to say about the guru?
#4 Is it possible to follow the guru without paying the guru hundreds or thousands of dollars? (note, in some cases, a legitimate guru will be happy to accept hundreds or thousands of dollars for personal counseling or seminars, but that doesn't mean they are required to be a follower.)
Aaron Shepard is on his way to becoming the guru of Amazon centric publishing, a model that I've long advocated with caveats about putting all your eggs in one basket and missing other opportunities. But I don't know that Aaron will be willing to bite the bullet of regular newsletters and public appearances, which are a required guru bona-fides. I'm also a fan of Steve Weber's web marketing approach for books and regular blogging. I'm more or less settled in my advocate role since I'm too lazy to write more publishing books and too nutty to charge for my time. Besides, being a guru is a little like being a successful actor who gets typecast or a rock star whose fans want to hear the same songs from twenty or forty years ago. I'm in enough of a rut already without having people admire me for it:-)