Recently, James Koerts self-published a book of arrangements called Be Still. If you click on that link, you can buy and download it instantly for $15. Some might not like the fact that you cannot buy a printed book, but going forward, you are going to see this more and more. (Think Kindle!)
The arrangements are great and typical of what he writes so if you buy arrangement books, go buy this book now at http://koertsmusic.com/downloads/be-still-piano-collection/.
Now that my very thorough review of the book is done (LOL), I want to talk about the business side of this for a second. I have been watching an interesting conversation on his blog discussing the pros and cons of self-publishing. Here they are as I see them:
* Writer earns 100% of the sales rather than the 10-20% a publisher would pay. It costs $0 to deliver a product like this by digital download.
* Writer can get products to market on their own schedule and without the uncertainty of submitting to publishers and the editorial process.
* Writer owns his/her own brand and stays independent.
* Writer has to take responsibility for marketing themselves. He/she has to build demand as well as credibility with potential buyers.
* Writer has to underwrite the project. A project like this one cost Koerts nothing because he engraves (formats for print) himself, but many writers cannot engrave. If you have a printed book, there are printing costs and design costs and if you have songs outside public domain, there are licensing costs. Also, there may be costs associated with hiring an editor to double check your work.
* Writer generally has less oversight so quality can suffer.
I am wary about jumping into this fray because I like so many people in the publishing world. I mean I genuinely really like them. I know many published writers and I know many people on the industry side of publishing and they are great people and my friends.
Except for one submission some years ago (which was rejected, BOOO!), I have never pursued getting published. However, at the risk of sound arrogant, I will tell you that several publishers have approached me about writing for them. I am not saying I would never accept one of those invitations, but to date, I have always declined.
People in the industry for the most part cannot understand why I find it more beneficial to give away arrangements here for free (which gets a lot of people to the site and increases my visibility) rather than get them published. But nevertheless, that is best for me.
I am not a person who thinks the writers get shafted by publishers who “only” pay them 10-20%. It is expensive to publish music and publishers are really struggling right now. But when I consider how long it would take me to write a book of ten arrangements and compare it to what my publishing royalties would be, at present, it is not an attractive option.
Now, that being said, I am concerned for James Koerts in one area that was brought up by a publisher on his blog. Koerts is well published by everyone from Alfred on down and you could make the case that those publishers have done the heavy lifting to build his brand for him. They could get upset that after the brand is built, he moves to self-publishing and effectively cuts them out. In other words, he may be burning his bridges in the publishing world.
That is a valid concern and I don’t know how that will shake out. It may be that at least until publishers get used what is happening, writers will not be able to straddle that fence; they will have to decide to go one way or the other.
I don’t want to minimize the moral implications here either. I don’t think Koerts is wrong to self-publish a book. I talked to him at length about it when he was considering it. I think it would be ethically questionable however if he cut off his publishers entirely at this point because they have indeed done a lot of work on his behalf. They might want to cut him off because of his direction but I think he should consider at least offering to send them music. (By the way, I know that he is planning on continuing to do just that.)
People like me that have never been published (in the traditional way) or writers just getting started should especially carefully consider self-publishing. There are more responsibilities involved such as marketing and you have to work harder on quality or hire an editor to help keep the quality high.
But I think there is a reality that needs to be considered. Traditional publishing is on a decline overall and I see little evidence that it is going to turn around. Like I often say here, the safe, traditional way is actually probably more risky than going off the beaten path. Don’t be afraid to do things different in the world of publishing if you think you have the necessary skills.
Oh by the way, I am posting a new free arrangement tomorrow!