Why I Won't Pursue a Publisher for The Query-Free Freelancer

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on July 27, 2010 in Ghostwriting / Books, News & Updates
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Yesterday on Twitter I noted that I finally made a decision regarding the book I'm working on -- The Query-Free Freelancer -- and whether I would pursue a traditional publisher or opt to self-publish the book.

I've chosen the latter.

I put a lot of thought into this over the last few months, and was already leaning towards the self-publishing route. But recent events in the publishing world solidified that decision. Today I'd like to talk about why.

Why I'm Choosing to Self-Publish

  • I can afford to. While this isn't a reason on its own to self-publish, if you really can't afford to go this route and stick it out, then it's a good reason not to. Remember that just because I made this decision for myself, I'm not saying it's right for you or any other aspiring authors.
  • I have a strong platform and large reach in the niche. In other words, the fact that I have what publishers are looking for (a large audience in the book's niche who would be waiting to buy, and sales of other previous products to back it up -- e-books in my case) is actually a perfect reason to go it alone.
  • I have the marketing and PR background. Most authors don't come from the background of having run a PR firm. Not only that, but I specialized early on in working for independent artists -- including authors -- so the world of book marketing / promotion is nothing new to me.  I've always intended to bypass the author / agent relationship because of this actually. I don't need someone else with the skills to sell my manuscript. There's no one better to sell it than me -- I have those same skills, a solid history, the contacts, and more knowledge and passion around the project than anyone else ever would. And I'm in a place where if I need to take more time away from clients to sink into promoting the book, I can do that without it upsetting my earnings (one of many reasons I've actually cut back on my work schedule already).
  • I have an amazing network. -- I know plenty of agents, authors, and editors who I can bring in to help with the project if needed, on a contract basis. I also know amazing designers (for cover art), and other marketers and PR folks if I ever do need a hand on the promotion front.
  • I'm not just an author, I'm an entrepreneur. -- I don't just want to write. I know how to take something to market. I've done it successfully in the past numerous times, and I believe that in this day and age it's important for writers to embrace the business side of things more than ever before. To me that means doing my market research, creating a product people will want, and then bringing in a team of people who can make the launch a success. And when it comes to this book, I plan to be at the helm; not having a publisher make those decisions for me. Again, if this were fiction I'd probably put it in their hands... just not when I know my own market quite this well.
  • I'm stubborn about my rights. -- Here's what it really came down to. There are certain rights I just wouldn't give a publisher, no matter how big of a name they are. That includes any rights related to merchandising or film (which I'd put to use with ancillary products, video teaching series, etc. in this book's case). More importantly, I would not, under any circumstances, sign away electronic publishing rights. And I know that's pretty much a no-go with publishers these days. Frankly I'm disgusted by Amazon's posting of misleading stats to hype up the Kindle recently, and I'm not willing to allow any print publisher to negotiate policies I find unacceptable regarding e-book sales with them or anyone else. I've been in the e-book game for a long time, and not just in this niche. I know how to make those products very profitable, and I know how to do it without bowing down to Amazon. I won't let a traditional publisher step in and screw that up (although I know a few probably have more sense). If I were selling a mass market work of fiction, that might be another story. But I know my niche. I know its size. I know its sales potential. I know my reach. And I know that you can't treat all books as similarly as they are in the current e-book frenzy (which I'm betting will settle in the next few years just as the previous wave most consumers don't even know about did before it... at least when it comes to this type of book). In a niche like this, it's not about massive sales numbers. It's a relatively small niche compared to others I work in. And you have to target that market differently. Fortunately I know enough from my years of experience doing just that (and well) to know how I want to go about it. And that's precisely what I plan to do.

So that's the gist of my decision. And in my personal case, with this specific book, it makes a great deal of sense. I might choose a different approach in the future with other books, especially fiction or some children's book ideas I have in the works. We'll see.

Have you had to make this decision? What did you choose, and why? Is it a comprehensive decision you made about your writing career, or was it project-specific where you might choose something else down the road?


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EDIT: There are actually two fairly big reasons for making this choice that I forgot to mention before, so I wanted to go back and add them now.

  • Pitching this book to publishers would make me a hypocrite. -- And we all know how I feel about that. Why? Because this book is all about getting to a point where you can be a truly query-free freelance writer -- one where clients come to you instead of you having to pitch or query them to land new gigs. What kind of example would I set if I then turned around to pitch this book to publishers? Not a very good one. My other options (which was seriously considered) was to put the book proposal here on the website in short-form and make it available to publishers on request -- then turning my attention to making even more of those contacts and spreading the word within my existing network. It might have worked. But it's not the option I settled on, and it would take a very convincing offer to make me even consider changing my mind.
  • I have a lot of ties within the indie community. -- Keep in mind that I used to work with indie artists predominantly. I've also been involved with independent authors (self-published). It's a huge passion of mine. Hell, the freelance lifestyle itself is about as "indie" as you can get. And I'm launching a big project along those lines later this year at IndieLounge.com. It will cover indie music, indie film, indie publishing, and independent workers (like us). So I feel taking this route keeps me grounded within my target audience as a whole more than traditional publishing for this particular title could.
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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7 Comments

  1. Cyndi L July 27, 2010 Reply

    Although I’ve published plenty of work in other people’s books (guest chapters, special projects, etc) and have written for magazines for a long time, when I finally began to put my book together, I chose to self-publish. I don’t have the background that you have, Jenn, and I know that I’ll be making a lot of mistakes, but at least they are my mistakes to make. That feels better to me than to sign away rights that I didn’t even know I *should* be protecting.

    • Jennifer Mattern July 27, 2010 Reply

      Well, a big part of the rights issues for me is that b/c I’m looking at the nonfiction book as an entrepreneurial endeavor, I already have a lot of product, service, and other ideas in my head to increase earnings. And the risk of losing any of that potential due to working with a traditional publisher is not an option for me.

      And don’t worry about not having a similar background. There is plenty of great info out there on self-publishing. I adore Peter Bowerman’s Well-Fed Self Publisher for example, and I’m sure I’ll be turning to that a lot in my process (not choosing the POD route in my case), and hopefully he’ll let me pick his brain again when the time comes as he so often has in the past. Check his book out. :)

      • Cyndi L July 27, 2010 Reply

        Thanks for the suggestion. I’m doing the e-book thing rather than POD. It seemed like the best choice because of the heavy heavy photo content of each of my chapters. I released the first chapter free as an introduction, and each additional chapter is very inexpensive. When they are all finished (who knows when that will be…), I’ll look into bundling them.

        • Jennifer Mattern July 27, 2010 Reply

          That’s actually an interesting approach. I do plan to release one or more free chapters here to entice people to buy the book and I might offer an e-book version as well, but hadn’t thought about selling a chapter at a time for e-book-only releases. :)

          • Cyndi L July 28, 2010

            Part of my reasoning is that each chapter is pretty long…as long as some complete e-books that I’ve seen, but mostly because my stuff is so photo intensive. The first chapter is an introduction, and it includes all the basics someone needs to get started. Each additional chapter makes reference to the first but goes in a new direction introducing new materials and techniques.

            I make it sound like dozens are done, but right now I’m only working on chapter 3! It’s just that it’s been living in my head for quite awhile :-)

            Help yourself to a copy of the free chapter if you’d like: I don’t know that you’re particularly interested in bead embroidery, but you can still see how I’m structuring it if you’re interested. Just promise me you won’t laugh at my first attempt!
            http://www.beading-arts.com/p/e-books.html

  2. Carol Tice July 28, 2010 Reply

    Have to agree, given your book’s concept, querying publishers or agents about it doesn’t seem like a good fit! Can’t wait to see it. Maybe I can swap you for my Make a Living Writing e-book, which I’m hoping to get out next month!

    • Jennifer Mattern July 28, 2010 Reply

      Yeah, the idea of that made me very uncomfortable. If the platform helps me land something else in another topic area, by all means I’m fine with that. But blatantly pitching the first one when the whole premise is that writers don’t have to do that in the freelance world just feels a bit skeazy to me.

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