James Altucher thinks that working with a traditional publisher is an awful idea.
In his own wildly successful self-published books, Altucher talks about all the benefits that come from self-publishing--more control, bigger profits, and freedom from outdated corporate thinking.
As he sees it, mainstream publishing houses expect you to promote your own book and then take the majority of your money in return. So in an age when the Internet gives anyone the ability to reach massive audiences on their own, he doesn't understand why would anyone choose to put their fate in the hands of these outmoded gatekeepers.
Altucher's argument seems to make a lot of sense. But it leaves out one important factor.
James Altucher is a marketing genius.
Altucher has garnered for himself a gigantic following through podcasting, blogging, and social media. He is plugged into the biggest podcasters in the world (other than himself, that is), and they regularly put him on their shows and promote his work. He has founded multiple multi-million dollar companies, which gives him a massive budget to work with. And on top of everything else, he's a great writer.
So it stands to reason that for the author of Choose Yourself, self-publishing makes perfect sense. But for most people who go this route, it is a very different picture.
There are countless aspiring thought leaders who, after spending time writing a book, get it packaged and printed on their own dime. When their sales and accompanying visibility turn out to be practically zero, they console themselves by saying that at least they have an enhanced business card. But deep down they know that their return on the grueling project was nowhere near worth the effort.
You Aren't That Good at Marketing
You can say what you want, but it is clear that having Simon & Schuster, Portfolio, or Penguin stamped on the spine of a book with your name on it gives you infinitely more credibility than one without. When you have a book published with a major house, opportunities present themselves you would never have otherwise.
You get more speaking gigs, not to mention better paying ones. Opportunities to appear as a guest on television programs, radio talk shows, and podcasts fall in your lap. For all the talk about how television and traditional media aren't as important as they used to be, being featured on outlets like the NPR and the Daily Show can still be career making. Traditional publishers have the connections to make this all happen. They also have the distribution that gets your book on front tables at Barnes and Nobles across the country.
In short, traditional publishing house still have a marketing apparatus that 99% of us can't touch.
Is all this possible with a self-published book? Sometimes. But it's exponentially harder to make happen without the infrastructure and clout of the old guard.
The Power of Experts
There is another benefit that comes with going the traditional route with your book--access to experts.
Despite whatever flaws they might have, people who work in the publishing world full time have a level of knowledge that is tough to avail yourself of otherwise. Agents and editors have their fingers on the pulse of how to package and pitch a book to give it the best shot possible. If you are spending most of your time running your business, there's a good chance you do not.
Plus, if you really have a strong idea, a publishing house will pay you a book advance. Yes, this is set against future royalties. That said, having a lump sum of cash up front to afford you the time to really get your book right helps a lot.
Its true--no one will ever care about your book as much as you do. And no one will promote it as hard as you will. At the same time, having a powerful multinational conglomerate support you in these efforts will often be the factor that separates you from the hordes of self-published entepreneur-authors you're competing with.
But What About Tim Ferriss?
Another example often used to further the case for self-publishing is that of Tim Ferriss.
The bestselling author, most recently of Tools of Titans, has come out publicly and often about the wisdom of publishing his own book. It is worth keeping in mind, however, that he released his first few blockbuster books, The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body, with Random House--one of the biggest publishing houses in the world.
In fact, it was only after Ferriss used the platform afforded to him by Random House to build his platform that he went out on his own. It was a brilliant strategy, and one made entirely possible by piggybacking off the prestige of a traditional publishing house.
Before sending your manuscript to the nearest print shop, ask yourself whether you've given your own strategy anywhere near this level of consideration.
I understand that not everyone can get their book accepted by a major publishing house. In that case, self-publishing may be worth pursuing. But if you have the choice, a traditional publisher is still the way to go.