Self-publishing is both possible and in many ways, fun. But it’s also really exhausting. And I’m wondering if we can find a way to avoid going to a publisher for the next Anarchists in the Boardroom print run, without also burning me out… What do you think?
Me talking about the book at the Open Development Camp, Amsterdam
It’s been an amazing experience, and have made it down to the last 50 copies already!
It’s been a really successful experiment in what can be done without traditional institutions, though it has had some limitations.
If I’m honest, I’m not sure I can keep up with the work involved in self-publishing. It’s been seriously exhausting and has at some level made it harder to enjoy the many amazing conversations that the book has opened up.
There are so many aspects to the work a publisher and their partners traditionally do, even after the book is printed: store distribution, individual book distribution, speaking tour bookings, web selling software, arranging reviews and interviews and finding publications for guest blogs and editorials…
I’m a big fan of DIY – when I was 17 I started a hip-hop promotion company to give myself stages to play on, and had self-produced a vinyl 12” on my own a few years later. I co-founded an international youth exchange without an organisation when I was 20. I really, really enjoy the learning process of taking on a whole new project, and figuring out the skills I need to make it happen along the way.
But this book is proving a massive task. And the time I’m spending with a range of the tasks involved is keeping me from a) doing the stuff in the process I know I’m actually good at and enjoy, and b) doing the paid work needed to pay rent.
It’s also been a significant part of my 60-80 hour work weeks for the past two months.
But enough about me, let’s talk about you!
Having sold almost 500 copies in the first two months, without institutional backing, I reckon odds are pretty good that I could go to a traditional publisher with this and see if they’d like to take it on. This would free up a lot of my time and hopefully provide a bit of institutional backing for some of the logistics of the process.
But it would also mean less control over the process.
Alternatively, I could not print any more and leave it as a Pay What You Feel It’s Worth ebook, and see where it goes in exclusively digital format. This wouldn’t address doing any of the publicity, but would take care of some of the practical and administrative logistics. It’s the lowest effort option, and one that would leave the book’s future in the hands of the universe and see what people do with it…
The other option is more collaborative: what if we collectively became ‘the publisher’?
Basically, what if we figured out all the things that needed to happen to keep this book growing (logistics, publicity, distribution, etc) and shared some of the jobs around?
If there were a small crew of people who wanted to get involved in helping with these things, I would happily share book income around accordingly (though wouldn’t expect this to be a massive amount).
I’m open to ideas, but wanted to avoid a totally traditional division of labour, instead seeing who might be up for sharing a bit of the various tasks involved.
Anyway… I’m just tossing ideas around, but wanted to see what others thought about the 3 possibilities I’ve put forward – or suggesting a new one, if you can think of an option that I haven’t. Here, once again, are the options as I see them:
1. Approach a publisher – lose some freedom, gain some time; get some publicity and distribution support 2. Offer the ebook only going forward – save time on logistics, still have to do publicity work, and miss out on having something to sell at events 3. ‘Collectively self-publish the next batch’ – share the load, may involve extra coordination, maintains freedom about the process, addresses some of the questions of scalability of self-publishing.
Anyway, I haven’t totally thought the details of the 3rd option though, but I’m keen to discuss if you’d like to add ideas to the comments below.
Thanks so much for being a part of the journey!
PS – if you order one of the last 50 copies, I’ll inscribe something personal in it, either for you, or the lucky recipient you choose to give it to for a gift this holiday season 🙂
Julian Dobson has written what will hopefully be the first of many guest posts here about a phenomena in which a local community has constructively subverted their local institutions to create something far better than what was there before. You can help to crowd-fund the book about the Incredible Edible community/guerilla gardening project here.
Incredible Edibles Todmorden
After five years of austerity and with more to come, the need to rethink local economies is more pressing than ever. Governments are not going to do it for us. The big society has evaporated as a political idea. Many of the new private sector jobs are precarious, low-wage roles with few prospects, barely keeping body and soul together.
No wonder people are looking at new approaches to local economies and better ways of doing society – ways that reflect many of the ‘more like people’ principles promoted here.
For six years now one of these experiments has been taking place at the back end of a neglected Yorkshire valley. Frequently dismissed as just another community growing scheme, Incredible Edible Todmorden is serious about rethinking the local economy. But it recognises that economies start with people.
Incredible Edible has come a long way since its co-founder, Pam Warhurst, came back from a conference inspired to take action in her community; since community worker Mary Clear dug up her rose garden and planted vegetables with a big sign saying ‘help yourself’; and since ‘propaganda planter’ Nick Green turned the derelict medical centre where mass murderer Harold Shipman used to practice into a free feast for passers-by.
So here are ten tips for an incredible edible community, neighbourhood or town.
1 Start with what you have. Get out there and do stuff – see Pam Warhurst’s TED talk.
9 Reconnect businesses with their customers. Local food is about local business and jobs. Have a look at Incredible Farm which is selling fruit trees and salads and providing classes and workshops for young people.
10 Redesign your town. See the Green Route in Todmorden that links the town up with edible veg beds and bee-friendly plants. And then think about how the whole town can be different.
And if you like the sound of these, support our Kickstarter campaign to help spread the word and tell the Incredible Edible story. We have just two over weeks to make it happen, so if you’d like to support it, please join us.
There were over 300 hundred Tweets from over 70 people, expressing their support and sharing their ideas and actions for making their organisations ‘more like people.’ (See some of the Storify highlights further down).
There were several blog comments sharing success stories more widely, as well as links to resource and ideas that people felt were relevant to the ‘more like people’ themes…
Now I won’t pretend that this week has changed the world in any major ways, but it’s definitely done something to demonstrate the potential of some of the principles it is about.
Paul and I, with an ocean and a six-hour time zone spread between us, working entirely via Twitter, a few emails and 2 Skype calls, with nothing to back us but our own enthusiasm and that of the people who got involved, helped the ‘more like people’ ideas find their ways onto the UK national media radar, and into the consciousness of far more people than had previously known about it.
Beyond a few targeted Tweets to people we felt would be specifically interested, there was no top-down communication, not even an email list, to get things rolling. We just put it out there, approached some editors, and shared our own experiences and ideas around.
Sidestep the steps that aren’t working for you!
Has your organisation ever planned an awareness-raising or action-focused day or week around the theme of your work? Did it take more than a few hours to plan it? I’m guessing the answer is ‘yes.’ I’m also guessing that you’re not alone.
One of the big frustrations Paul and I have often had with so many organisations, is their inability to get things done, particularly within a reasonable length of time. The endless processes that inevitably need so many levels of approval make it very hard to organise anything in a timeframe that allows individual passion and energy to still play a part.
And though we might often feel we need to follow these processes, the truth is, there is always unmediated space to make things happen. Just because you could write a proposal, ask for approval, redraft the proposal, secure some budget, and allocate roles, doesn’t mean you always have to!
If this last week was about anything, I hope it was about showing that you don’t need HR or Senior Management (not that either can’t play positive roles!) to make our workplaces better than they are. There are always things we can start to improve, and you never know what kind of ripple effect they might have if we give them the chance. Individual change can encourage other individual changes. Gradually, more people acting differently can shift cultures, systems, organisations… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – the point is we have more power than we often realise, so why not try exercising it more?
Obviously we’ve played our hand for a ‘More Like People Action Week’ for the foreseeable future, but these ideas can travel much further than they have since last Monday. So don’t let this random allocation of time stop you from helping your own organisation to be more like people, whenever you feel so inclined!
Maybe you could start your own ‘More Like People Action Week’ at your office? It wouldn’t have to take more than an email on Monday morning with some encouragement for people to share their contributions more widely, on Twitter, or a blog.
Strategy? Let it happen. Budget? No need. Approval? What for? ‘More like people’ should feel infinitely easier than the processes we’ve become so used to in so many of our organisations. I can’t think of a good reason why an employer would be against it, but if they somehow were, I can see even less reason why you’d feel the need to ask for their permission to do it. Think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate some initiative for improving the organisation, at no additional cost to those higher up!
But maybe you just want to practice it yourself, thinking of something you can do a bit differently to make your office a more human place to be? If so, feel free to comment about it on this blog, or Tweet about it using the #MoreLikePeople hashtag on Twitter, so others can be inspired or can try your action out themselves…