Traditional vs self-publishing: Neither is the perfect solution

Dan Gillmor offers an author's perspective on choosing how to publish.

This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we’ll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.

Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) is one of a growing number of authors who have published with both a traditional house as well as self-published. Like many others, he’s decided neither is the perfect solution. In this video podcast, Dan talks about the pros and cons of both options. He offers valuable insight not only for authors trying to decide between traditional and self-publishing, but his thoughts are extremely important for everyone in publishing to hear as they think about their roles going forward.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Creative Commons licensing still trips up publishers — It’s disappointing, but true, that some publishers simply refuse to deal with an author who wants to use the Creative Commons license. [Discussed at the 1:08 mark.]
  • Fear of Creative Commons is similar to a fear of being DRM free — Both of these tie back to “control,” and far too many publishers feel they lose control when using Creative Commons or abandoning DRM. [Discussed at 4:10.]
  • There’s a reason authors like to have publishers — Sometimes the lesson isn’t learned until an author self-publishes, but there are tasks and services publishers perform that authors tend to take for granted. [Discussed at 5:58.]
  • Should traditional publishers venture into self-publishing? — Be careful to not open the floodgates completely. There’s still a need to have certain guard rails in place. [Discussed at 11:30.]
  • Now is the time for experimentation — And yet, as Dan notes, “the traditional publishing industry is even more risk averse than it used to be.” [Discussed at 13:58.]
  • Even a self-published project can be a hybrid — Dan’s latest book, Mediactive, was self-published but involved at least one rights deal with a traditional publisher. [Discussed at 15:26.]
  • Errata and other minor updates should be easy to address — But they’re not! Despite all our advancements in technology and product distribution, most retailers are still unable to deal with changes to an edition. [Discussed at 23:20.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.


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