I love Seth Godin's blogs. I may not always agree with him, but I usually come away with at least one tantalizing idea.
Here are Seth's big ideas:
* The launchtime for books is measured in years, this is often longer than the selflife of the ideas it contains. *
* Most book publishers do not effectively promote most of the books they publish. *
* That said, it's not easy selling books. It's difficult to get folks to read ANYTHING because reading takes time and, usually, it costs money. *
* Being a publisher is like being a venture capitalist. *
Publishers INVEST in writers; they give them an advance, spend time creating and selling the book and give printers money to produce the book. After doing all this, of course the publisher wants a large return on her investment.
Do you, as a writer, need the advance to live on? If so, then it makes sense for you to go the traditional route. If you don't, though, and if you're primarily interested in spreading your ideas, then self-publishing is something to look into.
The above is a paraphrase of some of the points in Seth Godin's article, Advice For Authors. So, what, according to Seth, is a poor author to do?
Build an asset. Large numbers of influential people who read your blog or read your emails or watch your TV show or love your restaurant or or or...Isn't that always the way? The minute, the very second, you don't need something it will flutter into your hand.
Then, put your idea into a format where it will spread fast. That could be an ebook (a free one) or a pamphlet (a cheap one--the Joy of Jello sold millions and millions of copies at a dollar or less).
Then, if your idea catches on, you can sell the souvenir edition. The book. The thing people keep on their shelf or lend out or get from the library. Books are wonderful (I own too many!) but they're not necessarily the best vessel for spreading your idea.
And the punchline, of course, is that if you do all these things, you won't need a publisher. And that's exactly when a publisher will want you! That's the sort of author publishers do the best with.
Now if only I could think of an idea ...
(By the way Seth's article, Advice to Authors, was the first in a two part series. The second part, an article ALSO entitled Advice to Authors, can be found here.)