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Scott Berkun on Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

Scott Berkun has enjoyed fame and fortune as an author working with a traditional publisher (O'Reilly), so why did he venture into the world of self-publishing for his latest book, Mindfire? Is he happy with the results and will he ever work with a traditional publisher again? Those are a few of the questions he answers in this TOC interview. Key points include:

  • Self-publishing was a learning opportunity  -- Some authors are curious to learn the finer aspects of what goes into making a book and Scott quickly learned a lot with the Mindfire experience. [Discussed at 1:05]
  • Blogging and book writing have always gone hand-in-hand for Scott -- His blog is a wonderful sounding board and helps him shape whatever book he's currently working on including the title, cover design and more. [Discussed at 2:10]
  • Self-publishing is both easy and hard -- Technology makes it easy to publish almost anything these days; it's all the work that goes into not only the writing but also the editing, cover design, proofreading, indexing, marketing, etc., that make it so challenging. [Discussed at 4:35]
  • Self-publishing also requires self-promotion -- Author platforms are more important today than ever before; it's true for traditional publishing too but even more so for self-published products. [Discussed at 8:25]
  • The PR effort required was the biggest surprise -- Scott used a giveaway campaign to build momentum and extend his future reach. [Discussed at 9:54] 
  • How can traditional publishers avoid losing authors to self-publishing?  -- Scott turns the question around and asks why this decision is an either/or.  [Discussed at 17:14]
  • The opportunity to learn from self-published authors  -- Editors often abandon their authors who test the self-publishing waters when what they should really be doing is talking more with them to learn what's working and what's not, how lessons learned from self-publishing can be applied in traditional publishing, etc.  [Discussed at 20:43]



Really interesting chat. I agree with about 90% of what Scott says.

Disclaimer: I'm one of his college friends and talked to him about Mindfire at different points.

Judith Briles

I look at self-publishing the way Scott does and I agree, editors must not abandon authors who venture to self-publishing if they do not want to lose more and more authors in the future. Why not lend a helping hand instead (considering that it does still entail a price)? Even if authors do go through self-publishing, they do appreciate all the help they can get.

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