In The Four Pathways of Modern Book Publishing, I described what I believe to be the four main routes to publication for writers in the digital age.
After considering all these factors, I’ve chosen to pursue the most traditional publishing route, for six main reasons (from most to least important):
- Credibility and authority that comes with a big name publisher
- Access to expertise on what sells and what readers look for
- Access to the networks of editors, agents, and publishers
- Speaking opportunities
- Unique and interesting experiences
- Possibility of hitting best-seller lists
None of these benefits are as explicit as the control and profit margin of a self-published book. None of them are actually guaranteed, even if I do get published. They are tacit benefits that depend strongly on the skills and knowledge of the person cultivating them.
But I believe that being a full-stack freelancer makes me uniquely well-suited to turning these benefits to my advantage. Let me briefly describe each one, and how I plan to leverage them.
1. Credibility and authority that comes with a big name publisher
Traditional publishers are no longer the only route to mainstream success, but they are still by far the most common one. Just take a look at the writers and thinkers having the biggest impact, and the great majority of them will have been published by an institution.
Paradoxically, the more the industry declines and consolidates, the fewer books they choose to publish, the more powerful the social proof when they do. A well-known logo on the cover or inside flap is still the fastest way for someone to distinguish between a fledgling amateur, and someone with establishment approval.
Why is establishment approval important to me? Because my ultimate goal is to reach the institutions where most learning still happens: schools, universities, government agencies, non-profits, think tanks and research institutions, and corporations. I’ve had a great time being “internet famous,” but the people who most need these techniques are not tech-savvy digital natives. It is everyone else.
The gatekeepers and bureaucrats at these institutions don’t judge a book on its merits. They look for traditional signals of quality that will help them defend their decision and justify the investment needed to run pilots, conduct studies, and translate the ideas to different grade levels and learning environments. Educational institutions run on multi-year curriculum cycles, and deciding to adopt a book is a risky decision for them. I’m willing to put my ideas through that simplifying filter if it means more people in more contexts will have access to them.
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