“I love the old school spirit of craftsmanship...” Fernando Gros.
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Blog // Thoughts
August 22, 2018

Why I Won’t Be Self-Publishing My Next Book

Having self-published a non-fiction book I’ve decided next time I will work with a publisher instead. Here’s why.

Several times over the summer I was asked whether I was writing a new book and when it might come out. This sometimes segued into a conversation about conventional versus self-publishing.

So, to answer the question, yes, I am writing my next book. No, I don’t know when it will be released; or even finished. And no, I won’t be self-publishing again.

The first two are kind of easy to explain. It’s still early days and whatever the new book becomes it will be quite different to the last one. And of course, I’m writing in the midst of other projects, including creating new posts for this blog.

The last might be a surprise to long term readers of this blog. So let me explain.

My Self-Publishing Experience

Self-publishing No Missing Tools was a fascinating experience. I don’t regret the way the book was made. In this YouTube video I outlined what I learnt from the experience.

It became clear to me that producing a book is really three distinct processes – each with it’s own set of creative business decisions. Writing and editing the manuscript. Designing, laying out and making the book (in physical and digital formats). And, marketing, selling, and distributing the book.

No Missing Tools turned out to be a book that was liked by the few people who read it. Good reviews. Very limited sales. Put simply, I did OK on the first two parts of the process and terrible on the vital third aspect of book publishing.

Why I’ll Still Self-Publish Smaller Projects

My zine, Modularity, is self-published (new edition out soon, I promise) and I’ll continue to put projects like that out myself. The economics of this small-scale artisanal product are very different. A book is years of work, thousands of dollars in editing, and a serious design challenge. The zine is something far more quickly assembled in the studio – almost on the fly.

It’s like comparing a symphony to a three minute punk rock tune. Both can be brilliant, but in different ways, requiring very different resources.

Also, the zine sold to a known audience, people on the mailing list and from my social media following. The way things are for me I couldn’t hope to break even on a book that way.

Next Time Something Different

So I will work with a publisher for the next book. Of course this will be a challenging process. But, I’m looking for challenges that bring fresh, inspiring people into my circle. Working alone is tiring. One of the best parts of publishing No Missing Tools was the people I met in the process of editing and designing the book.

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