Friday, November 06, 2009

Obama's Half Brother To "Self Publish"

A news story in the LA Times (Page A32, Thursday, Nov 5) caught my attention.

The reclusive half brother of President Obama has written a memoir. I hadn't read much about this man before and I was fascinated by his accomplishments, but the part of the story that caught my eye was this:

Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo published with Aventine Press in San Diego. The Times called it a "self-publishing press" but it is really a subsidy or partner press in the vein of iUniverse (most of these publishers offer a different set of services, different personalities, different prices).

What the Times didn't say is why he chose to publish that way and I was curious because it is obvious his book will sell well and could have made a lot of money for most any traditional publisher. In fact, it would sell well worldwide because Ndesandjo is known here, in China where he lives with his wife, in Africa and, by association with his brother's name, about everywhere else.

Here's the thing. I can't ask him. Or, at the very least, if I were able to it would probably take a long time to get the question to him and to get an answer back. Here's what I think he might have been thinking:

1. In the long run, he can make more money than he might have traditionally published. If this memoir takes off big, his profits per book will be huge compared to his royalties per book. This thinking, of course, will only pay off for him if the book sells like crazy but the possibility for this particular author is certainly out there. (By the way, 15% of his profits will be donated to a charity for children.)

2. He wanted full control over every aspect of the publishing and marketing process for his book.

3. He wanted to get the book out there fast.

4. And this is certainly a possibility, too. Memoirs are hard to sell via the traditional route. Unless you are a celebrity. Maybe the traditional presses were so shortsighted they didn't see him as celebrity material. If that's the case, I think they are wrong. Up to now he has been a quiet type. But the media possibilities are there. The article I read was a page headline, the full width (six columns) wide, filled the upper half of the page, and includes a three-column (colored!) photograph of the author.

The article didn't say whether Ndesandjo's book will be printed on digital press or offset. Aventine may offer both possibilities. I hope it's a large edition printed on an offset press becaue the profits will be greater for him that way and I know this book is going to sell big time so the risk of doing a full run (rather than a few here and there on demand) is not great.

PS: If you should know anyone who is uncertain about their publishing path, please let them know that I consult and can also coach them through the publishing process. I have published almost every possible way--from e-book to POD to traditional. And the word "publishing" is not just the printing process (a concept many publishers seem to be missing these days). True publishing includes marketing and that includes distribution, promotion, and publicity, too.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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