Do You Need a Print Book with a Major Publisher in Order to Have Credibility?

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. Simultaneously, 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?

[This arti­cle also appeared on LinkedIn.]

Pariah Burke

Author, consultant, trainer, guru: Digital Publishing, ePub, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Quark. Empowering, Informing, Connecting Creative Professionals™

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