Self publishing AND traditional publishing?

Published on June 04, 2013 by Jesse Storimer

Today my friend and fellow self-publisher Pat Shaughnessy announced that his excellent self-published title will be re-released in the fall backed by a publisher.

After waving the self-publishing eBook banner last year, I’ve gone over to the dark side. This Spring I decided to work withNo Starch Press to bring Ruby Under a Microscope to print. We plan to have it available online and in bookstores sometime this Fall.

I appreciate his comment about the dark side, but, these days, there's lots of overlap between self-publishing and traditional publishing, with lots of books existing in both worlds. This is a good thing. I've seen many examples where the two blend nicely, including my own experience.

My experience

I've self-published three books now. You can buy them from me, but you can also buy them from PragProg. PragProg is a great publisher with a great reputation and an audience bigger than mine. I'm lucky to work with them.

Though I self-published, I still get to reap some of the benefits of a traditional publisher. After a few months of self-publishing I contacted PragProg to see if they were interested in distributing my work. The best part about this? I didn't go to them with an idea and predictions, I went to them with a finished manuscript and sales numbers to prove that I really had something valuable. 

Sure, I took the risk. Nobody paid me an advance, but this gave me the freedom to write the book how I wanted, on my schedule, and do some major tweaking based on feedback after the launch. All of these things are historically tricky with a traditional publisher. PragProg even offered the services of an editor to work on the book with me, but I declined so I could focus on other projects.

The best part about all this is that PragProg has non-exclusive rights my work, so I've continued to sell directly and do my self-publishing thing while getting the benefits of being listed as a PragProg title.

I didn't have to choose between self-publishing and traditional publishing, I got benefits from both.

Other Examples

Pat's book is the latest example of a niche tech book that started as a self-published title, then moved into the world of traditional publishing.

Learn You a Haskell For Great Good and Learn You Some Erlang For Great Good were both published online for free to begin with before No Starch worked with them to provide dead-tree and ebook editions.

Rails Test Prescriptions and 3D Game Programming For Kids were both available as self-published titles before being made available as official PragProg titles. The Prags have also distributed a number of self-published works without re-branding.

Chris Guillebeau self-published a number of titles before writing two books with a publisher.

I'm sure there are more, let me know in the comments which I forgot.

Not every book will find a home in both worlds, but some will. Other times, self-publishing can lead to a traditional publishing deal. Self-publishing by no means confines you from crossing the line into traditional publishing, you don't have to choose.