I recently read an article (I forget where; I read a lot of articles), in which the author said that the single best way to establish credibility as an expert in one’s field is to have published a relevant book with a major publisher. Those of us have print books on the shelf would probably concur—to one degree or another… At least, we would have 10 years ago. Have things changed?
For many technical authors—especially those like me who write books about epublishing, digital publishing, Photoshop, InDesign, and other creative professional tools—the business of book writing is changing and rapidly moving away from publishing houses. Traditional technical book publishers aren’t able to keep up with the new order of things vis-a-vis epublishing and workflows that have to move faster than one book taking 5-9 months to produce and subscription software like Adobe Creative Cloud that used to update every 12-24 months but now releases new features as rapidly as every three months, and so on. The inability (and often unwillingness) of traditional tech publishers to adapt to the new world has many of us authors moving into self-publishing.
At the same time, self-publishing has become easier for the masses. Indeed, many of us, myself especially, work very hard at teaching the average person about the tools and business of self-publishing. That means it’s not only the established experts who put in the hours of research, testing, and real-world, on-the-job experience are out there self-publishing. Even if we’re the only ones self-publishing in a particular field right now, we will eventually not be the only ones.
If anyone can self-publish, and if anyone can produce a good looking ebook/digital publication, then how do the genuine experts differentiate themselves from those who are well-meaning but misinformed, sharing flawed and incomplete information?
Since the creation of the Web we’ve seen such a situation, with experts sharing vetted, often tech-edited information and misinformed or under-equipped amateurs sharing error prone information and advice. On the Web, the two types of individuals are differentiated by their credibility, credibility that was often established by one or more major imprint books bearing the same byline for sale in the Website’s sidebar. Now every non-expert produce a self-published ebook or print-on-demand book. Simultaneoulsy, most bonafide experts are moving away from traditional publishers and into self-publishing. Those two facts combine to negate the credibility imparted to the article or blog author by having authored a book.
My first self-publishing foray, ePublishing with InDesign: Creating Fixed-Layout eBooks, has done remarkably well, but then again, I also have six prior books published in print (and ebook) with major technical publishers. I didn’t begin my writing career with that 2013 self-published book.
Going forward, is a printed book from a reputable traditional publisher a requirement in order to establish credibility in the market? If so, just how do technical authors accomplish that when print book publishers are unable to build workflows that make books in their fields profitable and thus are unwilling to buy such books from authors?