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First Major Update on Doctorow’s Self Publishing Experiment

I have been a fan and a supporter of Cory Doctorow’s “With a Little Help” since he first told me about it. (I was one of two podcasters with whom he interviewed when the book launched to help promote it.) Having discussed it further with him over the course of several interviews, I love that he views the project’s experimental nature with more of a West Coast mindset, that is one of failures being instructive rather than a reason to halt lines of inquiry altogether.

He’s just released his first major update since the project officially launched. I enjoy that he doesn’t hold back, not only sharing the upsides but also those very gaffes from which we learn so well.

Paperback sales have been rotten. In the first six weeks, I sold a scant 137 copies, as well as 12 MP3 CDs and five Ogg CDs. In all, I’ve earned a lackluster $490.03 in royalties from Lulu.com. When I realized just how bad these sales were, I was gutted. So I did what every writer should do when he needs professional advice: I called my agent, Russ Galen.

Galen’s advice and insights are well worth reading and reinforce that the titular help comes from all corners of Doctorow’s world, not just his friends and fans, like myself, but his professional contacts in the realm of traditional publishing. The net-net is encouraging despite this potentially demoralizing lesson and Doctorow remains committed, in no small part because the nature of self publishing lets him continue tweaking the model. I can’t wait to see his next update, promised in a month, to see how he well he fares in tackling the challenges he lays out, especially improving exposure and wrestling with Lulu over paperback pricing.

With a Little Help: first post-publication progress report, BoingBoing

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The Command Line by Thomas Gideon
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