Scott Burkun answered a question yesterday on his blog about self-publishing, or not, for a first book. Much of his advice was good, basic stuff that new authors need to consider. Like the fact that even if you land a publisher, you’ll still be responsible for much (if not most) of the marketing.

I also cheered this paragraph (although I did snort at the “this happens often” bit):

“More than anything, my advice is this: write the book and publish it. Don’t let this decision be the one that holds you back for year after year. If you can’t decide, self publish. No one can ever stop you from self publishing. And there is always the possibility you can release the book again with a publisher later (this happens often). The real challenge is the book itself and don’t let this decision stand in its way.”

I’m making a presentation in August to a local small business development center on book publishing, and this is the message I plan to hit hard. If you don’t write the book, nothing else matters.

Burkun had me scratching my head at this bit, though:

If you can find an editor and publisher you’re happy with, and they believe in the specific book you want to write and how you want to write it, all other things equal I’d say go with a publisher for your first book. It will let you focus on writing a great book, and if the first book does well you’ll have more flexibility in what you do the second time.

I’m assuming he’s not talking about fiction (although he never says one way or the other.) I don’t know of many (if any) outlets that will take a fiction book on spec. I also believe that there aren’t many non-fiction publishers that will take a book on spec, unless you’ve got a major reputation in your field or celebrity status.

I think he should have emphasized how big an “if” that is to find an editor and publisher to allow that focus on writing the book. When it comes to an author’s first book, better advice, I think, is to write the book and then see if a publisher will take it. If that fails, self-publish.

Anyone want to tell me I’m wrong? Are there still enough publishers out there who will take a first book from a proposal from a no-name author to make it worth investigating that route?


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