Self-Publishing Is a Gamble. Why Is Donald Trump Jr. Doing It?

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From The New York Times:

There is a lot about Donald Trump Jr.’s second book that is unusual.

One of his father’s most effective surrogates, Donald Trump Jr. plans to release “Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats’ Defense of the Indefensible” in early September, during the final fevered weeks of the presidential campaign. His last book sold well. The Republican National Committee can use the new one for fund-raising, as it did with the last.

His plans to self-publish, however, along with the book’s unconventional rollout and distribution plan, make it something of a curiosity in publishing circles.

“It’s a risk,” said Jane Dystel, a literary agent. “And it’s your time.”

Mr. Trump’s first book, “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us,” was published last November. It has sold 286,000 copies, according to NPD BookScan, and is still selling steadily. But when the coronavirus pandemic grounded him in New York in March, he decided to write another.

. . . .

Center Street, an imprint of Hachette, published his first book, and it made an offer on the second one. Mr. Trump turned it down.

There are a few key differences between going through a traditional publishing house and doing it yourself. One of the big ones is money. Authors who sign with a publisher typically receive an advance payment before the book goes on sale, then about 10 to 15 percent of hardcover sales after they earn back their advance. If the book is self-published, there is no advance but an author can generally walk away with anywhere from 35 percent to as much as 70 percent of the sales. Because Mr. Trump has his own platform — and the promise of bulk purchases from the R.N.C. — he doesn’t need the publicity arm of a major publisher.

. . . .

But those big percentages don’t factor in expenses, which add up quickly. There are lawyers to pay, printed copies that need to be delivered to stores and warehouses, book jackets that need to be designed. There are fussy little details, like registering an ISBN number, filing for copyright, proofreading and more proofreading. Indeed, a typo on the cover of “Liberal Privilege” when Mr. Trump first posted it on Twitter was met with see-how-it-goes-without-us giggles in much of the publishing world. (That typo, an errant apostrophe, has been fixed, but another remained on his personal website this week, after a quote about the book from “Laura Ingraham, Host of The Ingram Angle.”)

So writing and releasing a book on your own is not only a gamble, it is also an unwieldy, complicated project, which is why the biggest-name authors generally don’t bother to do it.

One thing that is guaranteed when self-publishing is greater autonomy. While there’s no reason to think Mr. Trump was held back when he wrote “Triggered,” self-published authors hire their editors and can fire them if they don’t like their advice. This time, Mr. Trump can say truly whatever he wants.

. . . .

The R.N.C. said it raised nearly $1 million from signed copies of “Triggered.” The book was a New York Times No. 1 best seller last year, but it appeared on the list with a dagger symbol next to it, signifying that bulk sales — which came from the R.N.C. and other conservative groups — helped to boost its ranking. The R.N.C. said it has bought several thousand copies of “Liberal Privilege” so far and plans to buy more on a rolling basis.

“Don Jr.’s first book was a fund-raising powerhouse for the party, and we have no doubt this book will be the same,” Mandi Merritt, the press secretary for the R.N.C., said in an email.

Unlike Mr. Hannity’s book, “Liberal Privilege” will not be in bookstores. A person with knowledge of the project said that it will be $29.99 on Mr. Trump’s website, where presales are being handled, and on Amazon, along with an e-book and an audiobook narrated by Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior campaign adviser and Mr. Trump’s girlfriend. It’s unclear if any major retailers will carry the book, though managers at some traditional distribution channels said last week that they hadn’t heard anything about it.

. . . .

Another unusual aspect of the book is Mr. Trump’s collaborator, Sergio Gor, who has acted as his literary agent, consulted on the content of the book and has overseen the team managing everything from the editing to the print run.

. . . .

“It’s a big job to self-publish,” Ms. Dystel, the literary agent, said, “and it takes your attention away from other things.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Big Shot Publishers? We don’t need no stinkin’ Big Shot Publishers!

Big Shot Agent? We don’t need no stinkin’ Big Shot Agent!

Big Shot Barnes & Noble? We don’t need no stinkin’ Big Shot Barnes & Noble!

Big Shot New York Times? We don’t need no stinkin’ Big Shot New York Times, but thanks anyway for the giant sales boost from your snarky article!

Do-it Yourself takes your Attention?

No Attention paid to Big Shot Agent, No Attention paid to Big Shot Publisher, No Attention paid to Big Shot Barnes & Noble, No Attention paid to Big Shot New York Times.

My Attention? Getting the book out the door and into the hands of a zillion readers!

Big Job to self-publish?

Big Shot Agent, Big Shot Publisher, Big Shot Barnes & Noble and Big Shot New York Times? That’s your Really Big Job!

Big Publisher, Big Shot Agent, Wait until Barnes & Noble gets copies out to all its stores, New York Times article? Impossible Job before November if your name is Trump?

Ya think?

Do-it Yourself is the Ultimate Big Cinch!

Plus Big Fast is Amazon’s middle name!

Anybody going to be dumb enough to use Big Shot Publisher for election-year written book ever again?

There’s your Big Gamble!

9 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Is a Gamble. Why Is Donald Trump Jr. Doing It?”

  1. I thought DT,Jr already has a staff taking care of minutia for him?

    So instead of “perfecting his craft and letting the universe take care of him”, he’s letting his employees do the *optional* grunt work of calling up, say Ingram, and ordering a half million print run. ($$$$$)

    No need to surrender copyright to a tradpub like the one that doesn’t seem to have done much for his first book. Trusting a BPH seems more of a gamble than rolling your own when you have a posse covering your back.

    The real risk, methinks, is that other politicians might follow his example and the BPHs will lose their influence peddling lever.

    • Unless I missed it, Junior isn’t running for any office right now; he doesn’t have to find workarounds for those pesky campaign finance laws.

      It’s also nice to see that this book will make profits for Ingram (based in Nashville, TN) instead of Hachette (owned by a Euroconglomerate).

      • Ingram is simply the easiest, quickest way to go and US based.
        Author/publishers willing to upfront a few thousand dollars have for years been able to contract with the same Canadian and Chinese printers as the BPHs for even less than Ingram.

        In this case, though, foreign-sourcing the pbooks can probably be ruled out. 😉

      • he doesn’t have to find workarounds for those pesky campaign finance laws.

        This is the key to the whole situation. If Trump Jr. were a Democrat running for high public office, he would be eligible for a fat campaign contribution from a BPH, uncleverly disguised as an eight-figure book advance. But he isn’t, so he ain’t.

        Since he has name recognition, he can command wide distribution for his book. Since he’s on the Wrong Side, he can’t command an inflated advance. Those are the only two reasons why he might be better off going trad with this thing. In a case like this, Big Publishing’s competitive advantage is… nada.

        • He will also be commanding $29.95 per book. I’d love to see the analysis that generated the price. I doubt it was a SWAG.

          • That is pbook list. And low, considering a lot of pbooks go for $35 list.
            The actual printing cost is under $5 a copy via lightning source. (Quantity 10,000. Half a million will be much lower, say $3.) To get into B&M stores the wholesale price is typically 50% off. So the real price to him is $15.

            The PACS might get it cheaper to use as a fund raiser for the masses or at full list if its their way of feeding him cash.

            There’s flexibility in going Indie.

            And no fear of the NYC crowd dragging their feet to reduce distribution of playing Hollywood accounting games. The OP lists pbook sales but not the number printed, “returned”, and pulped. Returns are on his dime, after all.

            For his purposes, going Indie also brings confidence he isn’t being gamed.

    • You’re probably right about the grunt work, Felix.

      Perhaps he hired a content editor who works with one or more of the big publishers to polish it up.

  2. So writing and releasing a book on your own is not only a gamble, it is also an unwieldy, complicated project, which is why the biggest-name authors generally don’t bother to do it.

    Compared to lots of other business projects people handle everyday, a book project is no big deal.

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