It's Kol Nidre this evening, so I'm looking forward to the fast. Being a bad Jew, it's the only fast I do religiously, I don't even notice when the other ones come up unless my sister calls to remind me. I enjoy fasting and have always looked forward to Yom Kippur as a chance to stroll up and down memory lane. I think I've found a lesson in the fasting which I can share with everybody. When it comes to your publishing business plans, the only thing fast about the fast lane is the speed at which your bank balance will go down. Fast means you go hungry.
There really aren't two popular camps when it comes to building a career in self publishing. Pretty much everybody hangs out in the break-through camp, where they talk about pushing the ball to the top of the hill and then letting it roll down, gathering momentum and sales. It's all about the big push, mortgaging the house and quitting your day job. It's about radio and TV, publicity firms and viral marketing. It's about telling millions of people about your book and getting them into a buying frenzy, and who cares if they read it.
I hate that approach to publishing for more reasons than I can list, but the #1 reason is because I have to hear about it from correspondents making one of the dumbest mistakes of their lives. When an author pushes a book over the top of the hill through deft use of their money and personality, any success they achieve isn't about the book, it's about the author. They can't tell you how to duplicate their path. Becoming somebody else is not a practical business plan you can follow, especially since there's a big helping of luck involved in becoming a minor celebrity. Even worse, the momentum for most titles is illusory. When the pushing stops the sales stop.
The slow approach to building a career in self publishing doesn't guarantee success any more than the fast approach, but it does remove luck from the equation. If you build your publishing business one customer at a time, you'll have built a career and an asset that will survive the day that the media loses interest in you and moves on to the next fashionable thing. I've heard from enough authors who have achieved minor celebrity status to have learned a couple things from their experiences. However entertaining an author is, people won't buy the book unless they have a reason. Even more importantly, most of those buyers aren't married to the idea, so they'll only buy the book if they come across it on display within a short period of time. That's why the trade industry functions the way it does, with storefront displays and super-sized print runs.
I finished filling out the rough framework for my online book about building a publishing career with a website. It needs a lot more work that I probably won't put in, because I'm convinced that most writers are addicted to the fast track approaches which run counter to everything I've written. I'd hate to be looking back on 2007/2008 from next Yom Kippur and saying, "What did you publish that book for when you knew nobody would read it?" Or maybe all it needs is a good title:-)