Bob Baker's Artist Empowerment Blog

Rage Against the Publishing Machine: It's Like Complaining About Gravity

Even if you're not a published or aspiring author, you should read this post. Why? Because it contains an important lesson that could alter the way you view your creative place in the world. This is a new article I will be adding soon to my Self-Publishing Tips & Resources page. It puts an added spin on a similar post I recently wrote for my Indie Music Promotion Blog. Please read it, absorb its message, and apply it to your own artistic situation.

Do you complain about gravity? If not, why not? I mean, it is the source of so many frustrations -- scraped knees when you trip and fall, body parts that sag as you age, trees that crash and damage property during thunderstorms. Not to mention more extreme gravity-related tragedies like airplanes that fall from the sky or asteroid collisions that could alter life as we know it on the planet.

With all these obvious negative aspects of gravity, why don't you hear more people griping and moaning about it? "I am so sick and tired of the damned gravity on this planet!"

I suppose you don't hear any complaints because gravity is a basic law of physics. Everyone accepts it as a natural way of life. And what good would it do anyway? No amount of complaining would change anything.

What does this have to do with your book publishing efforts? Hang in there with me and you'll see ...

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

When it comes to gravity, human beings generally don't complain about it. In fact, we have learned to use the qualities of gravity to our benefit.

If we didn't have gravity, we wouldn't have exciting activities like parachuting, surfing, skateboarding and windsurfing. There would be no home runs or pinpoint quarterback passes or Olympic diving competitions. Instead of accepting that gravity will forever keep us on the ground, daring engineers like the Wright brothers figured out how to use gravity (and other natural factors) to create lift and powered flight.

Instead of fighting with gravity, we have learned to work with it and use it to our advantage.

You know where this leading. How much do you complain about the bewildering publishing industry or the impenetrable bookstore market or uncaring book review editors or the lack of support from ... whomever? And what good does all the moaning do?

The Weird Science of Book Publishing

I'm not suggesting that the state of the book business is somehow related to the laws of physics. But there are certain things that you can always count on: people who won't support you when you feel they should, distributors that won't carry your book, reviewers who won't write about you, and on and on. If you search for things to complain about, I guarantee you'll find plenty.

The trick is to treat these obstacles like gravity. They're always going to be there to some degree. But if you're smart, you'll find a way to use whatever you have to work with to your advantage.

  • If the book review section of the paper won't touch your book, try to find an angle that interests the editor of the lifestyle or travel or business section.

  • If Borders or Barnes & Noble won't carry your book, try your luck at an independent bookstore or don't pursue retail sales at all. Use the Internet and public speaking instead to reach your target audience.

  • If organizations you target won't book you to speak at their meetings, present your own workshop at a community center or specialty retail shop.

  • If a bookstore or a distributor or Amazon is asking for too much of a discount, then raise your cover price, find a way to lower your per-book costs, or just bite the bullet and deal with the discount. Or bypass the middlemen and sell direct to buyers so your profit margin is higher.

What Do You Want?

Don't waste your energy complaining about what you don't like about the business. Instead, pour your energy into what you want: more people who know about you and your book, and more book sales. Don't become a victim of the limitations that so many authors and publishers buy into. Keep your eye on the ultimate prize, so to speak, and figure out a way around whatever naturally formed book industry obstacles you encounter.

Think of publishing realities like gravity. Then make like an aerodynamic engineer or a parachutist or a major league slugger ... and make something exciting out of the perceived weaknesses.


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