Do You Own Your Job?
Under normal circumstances, a letter announcing that Amazon.com is trashing its BookSurge self-publishing imprint and renaming it CreateSpace would be a big ho-hum.
But I just signed a deal with BookSurge to publish “A Treasury of Takeaways,” goodies from the past five years of this e-zine.
On the surface, everything about BookSurge seemed wonderful, right down to the splendid logo—an open book that looked like a soaring bird in flight.
Alas, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos—the Web marketing genius who created the world’s greatest distribution and marketing system for books—is a lousy talent picker. He turned his publishing arm over to amateurs.
Every person in business should study this transition gone sour, make a note of the broken rules and avoid making the same mistakes.
Self-Publishing, a Quick History
An author who cannot sell a book to a mainstream publisher has two choices: (1) stick it in a trunk (or computer file) or (2) self-publish.
Until the turn of this century, self-publishing—or “vanity” publishing—would routinely cost an author $3,000 to $7,500. This would buy 1,500 hardcover books stacked in a warehouse. Six months later, the author would receive notice that the 1,345 books remaining in the warehouse were about to be trashed unless the author cared to buy them for $2 each. Most self-published authors couldn't bear to see their precious output turned into landfill and would pay the additional $2,690 (plus shipping) to have them delivered to their garages and start parking their cars in their driveways.
In reality, the authors had already paid for the books and owned them, but the vanity publishing thieves happily billed them twice, and the majority of authors didn’t realize they were being screwed.
Today, instead of printed books stored in a warehouse (or garage), self-published titles reside in computers and can be produced via a print-on-demand machine that will print and bind them profitably in quantities as small as one-offs. The technology and efficiency are dazzling.