Bob Mayer asserts that to “self”-publish, you need a team. He explains that seeming contradiction thusly:
Thus, I believe the term “self”-publishing primarily means that the author retains most of the rights to his or her work (most particularly electronic) but teams with others in order to bring a story to market, including sometimes selling rights to print, foreign and audio (although we are big fans of Audiobook Creation Exchange). And this last bit is key: Authors create product, which is story (not book), and readers consume product through a variety of mediums. Everyone else is in between. Authors need people of value in between in order to get story to reader.
I’m fascinated with the various business models that are emerging in the ongoing disruption of the book publishing industry. Bob makes his case for the Cool Gus model:
Why do authors need a team to publish?
Two heads are better than one. Seems trite, but clichés are based on truisms. … The key to team success is trust, and it’s important that those working with you to publish your stories should have more than a flat-fee, one-time concern; they should be vested in your future.
I think this may be the most controversial assertion, that others working to publish your stories should be vested in your future.
You need creativity (right brain) and technical savvy (left brain). …
We are in the digital age. To succeed, an author has to negotiate the digital world to reach readers. So you need both. Which means a team. Find someone who complements the way you think and act.
You need to write. This one sounds simplistic, but there’s simply more work to go around than an author can do on his or her own and still write. There’s a reason so many people work at traditional publishing houses. They do important things that help books get sold. The same is true of selling story. For example, each time you have a new release, your team should go back through every single one of your old books and update the buy links, a time-consuming but essential process. One of our mottos at Cool Gus is that the best promotion is a good story; better promotion is more good stories. So you have to focus on writing.
E-books are organic, not static. …
Your team has bigger reach. …
The author is in charge. When the music business imploded a decade ago, the artists who survived did so in one of two ways: touring or owning their rights. Since I’m not likely to sell out the Meadowlands along with The Boss, owning rights is key. With a team that works for the author, the author maintains not only the rights, but the final say on a number of critical decisions (with expert advice from the team, of course) such as pricing, distribution, exclusivity, marketing campaigns and promo specials, among other duties.
The bottom line is that while many authors like the idea of going indie, the truth is that it’s necessary to have a team to help get story to readers while maintaining control of rights. As writers, our story is part of us. And a team that helps us get that story out while we still control it is priceless.
There’s a lot going on in Bob’s article. You could read it as an ad for Cool Gus, but I think that misses the point. He’s laying out a successful business model, but we should ask ourselves if that’s due to its inherent qualities or his team’s unique capabilities.
I call this model the “profession” model because it reminds me of the economic organization of law and medical practice in the U.S. The doers are in charge, rather than managers. The doers hire a team of support staff so that the doers can concentrate on the income-producing activity. The number of doers per practice varies from one to hundreds. Of course there are differences. It’s not likely that a solo practitioner in law or medicine could get by with no staff, but a writer could. But should you?
Do you need a team? Or do you like the DIY approach? If you are a freelance editor or formatter, what do you think about Bob’s “vested interest” argument? Is the extra cost of a team worth it in the long run? We’ve seen several articles recently that assert that it is getting harder for indie authors to sell well over time. Would having a team behind you make a difference in that regard?
I’m phrasing all these comments as questions because I don’t know the answers and I think these are important topics for the community here. If you’ve been hanging out here for very long, you know I’m not shy about expressing my opinion when I think I know the answer. I expect that something like the Cool Gus model will eventually dominate publishing, but I could be wrong. As you post your responses, don’t forget that you can only win arguments by losing.