People think of me as an literary nerd, but the truth is, I'm a business nerd. I'm the guy who reads the Wall St Journal every morning and watches CNBC on the elliptical machine at the gym. I have undergraduate and masters degrees in business. Writing is my hobby. The business side of publishing is what I want to do professionally. I'm telling you this to give some credibility to what I'm going to say next. I think about this kind of thing - A LOT.
In my last post, I mentioned a conference I attended for the Houston Writer's Guild. While I was there, I spoke to a lot of authors stuck at the manuscript stage of publishing. They had a book, but didn't know what to do next. Getting an agent is intimidating, self-publishing is intimidating. Finding and applying to small presses like Cobble Publishing which don't require agents can be a chore too. The problem for many of those writers is that they didn't see an obvious path to success.
I want to discuss the concept of Specialization, and how using that idea can cut through some of the noise and make your path a little more obvious.
Specialization is the genesis of how people grew from hunter gatherers into today's expansive economy. When our ancestors started to specialize their skillsets, they no longer had to worry about the daily (and constant) struggle to obtain food. Instead, one person gathered or grew the food, and the other people could work on refining tools / building shelters / establishing permanent settlements /forming larger communities / etc. As time went on, those specialties grew more and more specific. Today there are doctors who work on just one part of the body, coders who work in only one computer language, craftsmen who come to your house and repair one brand of appliance only.
That is specialization. It makes our economic system more efficient because that craftsman knows EVERYTHING about the one brand of appliance. That person has put in the hours to become an expert. Without specialization, a generic handyman will have to spend a lot of time figuring out how each new device works. Now, you might be able to pay the handyman less which could be a good choice when your dishwasher breaks, but the overall system has lost efficiency.
Think about that in relation to your publishing career. You might be an exceptional writer because you've put in the hours to develop your craft. Have you done the same for formatting, cover design, in-person marketing, online marketing, book accounting, etc?
You can see where I'm going with this, right?
When you have that final manuscript, and you're thinking about what to do next, consider what you want to specialize in. If you enjoy the business side of publishing, then maybe self-publishing is a good path for you. You'll have to put in the hours to become an expert, of course, but it can be very rewarding. If you consider writing your specialty, and you aren't interested in learning the full gamut of business activities, then self-publishing may be a quick path to obscurity. There are sharks in the water, and unless you want to become one, it's best to not go swimming.
Another thing to consider. When you specialize, you become an expert. You can charge more for your expert skillset, just like in the handyman example. Think about how you want to earn your bread - writing, marketing, publishing other people's books (guilty!). I can't tell you which option is best for you, because I don't know you, but specialization is a worthwhile concept to consider for any budding writer.
If you have any questions about this article, or are curious what Cobble Publishing specializes in, please reach out!