Adrian Zackheim on the Perils of Self-Publishing

adrian zackheim e1312414780276 Adrian Zackheim on the Perils of Self Publishing


Adrian Zackheim is the publisher of Portfolio, Penguin’s business book imprint, as well as Sentinel, its dedicated conservative imprint. We assume that it’s because many self-published authors tend to consider themselves businesspeople that Mr. Zackheim has now put out a blog post to tell them why it might not be worth it, from one businessman to another. He writes:

Despite the hype, the fundamental rules of publishing have not really changed very much. Now, as before, the greatest challenge facing a new writer is to find readers, not to finish and print a book. If anything, self-publishing has made the shelves, both virtual and physical, even more crowded. The obstacles to being noticed are even more forbidding, not less. In a world where anyone can upload a Word doc and call it a book, it’s more valuable than ever to have experts curate the works that are really worthy of a reader’s attention.

It might only strengthen his argument to mention that two of the self-published writers he cites as examples (namely J.A. Konrath and Barry Eisler) both of them vocal proponents of self-publishing, have now signed contracts to be published by Amazon Publishing. And since Mr. Zackheim brings up the question of advances, Mr. Eisler told us back in May that he got a decent one from Amazon.


  1. Anonymous says:


  2. Bob Mayer says:

    Curate is an interesting term.  In my 20 years in traditional publishing I experienced very little ‘curating’.  I had books thrown into production with no editing.  I had publicity departments never return a phone call.  I also was a NY Times, WSJ, PW bestselling author, so I wasn’t some schmuck.  Yes, 99.5% of people self-publishing will fail.  But many people in traditional publishing will be looking for jobs because they just don’t get the digital revolution.  Agency pricing is a classic example of that. 
    BTW, I sold over $100,000 worth of eBooks in July.  More than most advances I received over the years.  Eisler was never indie– he went from one trad house to another.  Konrath is now working with his agency, so that muddies the water.  I agree that the ‘indie’ movement is morphing into the new publishing model.  The question is: how much is traditional publishing morphing into the new publishing model?

  3. Laurel Saville says:

    Yeah, maybe, but the curators get it wrong all the time. Let’s remember how many famous authors, including Poe, Woolfe and Whitman, who self-published to get noticed by those same curators. The curators told me I had a great book, the writing was “as good as it gets”, but they still wouldn’t pick it up. If I hadn’t self-published, I never would have been noticed and then picked up by AmazonEncore myself. Sometimes self-publishing is a means to a different end. In my case and many others, it was totally worth it.

  4. NSRob says:

    So writers (like myself) are supposed to just suck it up and not publish at all, just because a bunch of publishers decide they’re not going to publish one? Nuts to that. I’m freaking tired of spending money just to get a bunch of rejection notices if I’m lucky.

  5. Tmoore91423 says:

    Self-publishing is the direct line between author and reader, and most of the “gatekeepers” of traditional publishing don’t know good books. They only think they do. I would rather self-publish, sell books and reap most of the profits than give in to the model which has blocked literary classics from being published sooner, and caused other authors to commit suicide only to be published post mortem and hit the NY Times Bestseller list too late. Fie on the old school way of publishing! My response is, blaming the process for the dearth of good literature is a dogerel.