Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Self v Trad Publishing: It's a Business Decision

Deciding to self-publish vs traditionally-publish any creative work -- from a writer's perspective -- has to be the point at which the analytical part of the brain tells its creative counterpart to shut its pie-hole. It's also the time a few of those college general ed classes come in handy. Micro Econ any one? Intro to Business 101? No? Let me summarize.

There are six things that must be considered when making this business decision, Make no mistake -- it is a business decision:
  1. Product Intention
  2. Consumer Expectations
  3. Competitive Landscape
  4. Return on Investment (ROI)
  5. Opportunity Cost
  6. Measuring Success
Product Intention: What is your reason for putting the product on the market? This may seem like it has a simple answer. "Make me money, duh." If that's all the more thought you put into it, then you're screwing yourself right out of the gate. Consider reasons like: building personal-brand awareness (a.k.a Name Recognition), maintaining consumer loyalty, and personal satisfaction. It is very important to be honest and clear with yourself on why you are truly putting your product on the market. It affects how you approach everything and how you ultimately decide if all your efforts are worthwhile.

Consumer Expectations: The Who, What, Where, When and How of the product you are selling from a buyer's perspective. Answer questions like: Who has interest in your product (publishing houses, high-tech tweens, mainstream ages 20-50, international markets, niche markets, etc)? What is their threshold for quality (editing, formatting, customer service, etc.). How do they expect to receive your product (digital download, print copy, local bookstore, online site, etc)? If you fail the consumer, they will not be a return buyer. That may or may not matter to you depending on your Product Intention.

Competitive Landscape: Who else is offering a product like yours? How are they offering it? How well is the market responding to their offering? If you don't take the time to become familiar with your competition, then you can't learn from them and you set yourself up for disappointment through unrealistic expectations. There is no such thing as being so unique as to not have competition. If you're thinking that, you're thinking with your ego not your analytical brain.

Return on Investment: How much of what you put in are you going to get back? There are short and long term answers to this question. Remember, you are investing more than money and time. What you get back may have nothing to do with either. Only you can decide the value of your investments and returns.

Opportunity Cost: The value of what you are giving up while you are investing in/working on the product. There is only so much time in a day. In order to spend an hour on X means you are not spending it on Y or Z. Does the value of Y plus Z exceed X? It's not an algebra question. It is a question of priorities and risk. This is where your personal life collides with your professional. Also, this is where your choice of Path A excludes you from Path B.

Measuring Success: Get ready to grade yourself on the previous categories. This ought to be the simple part, but you're not always going to have control over (or access to) hard data. When you establish what metrics you will use to gauge your success, be realistic on what information is available to you. Numbers aren't everything. Your product could earn you a million-dollars, but have cost you custody of your kids.

Success is what drives all good businesses, but only you can decide when you are truly successful.


  1. Really excellent breakdown, KAK. You look cute with that ruler, too.

    1. thankyouveddymuch ... The clip-art chick even manages a smile, which is more than my most of my under-grad profs did.

  2. Major kudos on the brainy approach to the subject. :)

    Great info.

    1. Thanks! Ooo, maybe I should have used a brain with a ruler for the image. ~rubs chin~