The Brand Limitations of Self-Publishing

Is self-publishing a wholesale replacement for publishing in other people’s channels? Do we really need to deal with the Harvard Business Reviews, Sloan Management Reviews, and their ilk these days, trying (often in vain) to convince them of the merits of our articles? Should we continue to reach out to them when in fact we can publish our thoughts right on our own websites?

A number of B2B firms with highly attractive print and online publications have been going through this thought process. And given the difficulty of getting articles in such vaunted journals, you can’t blame them.

Similarly, must we continue to put up with book publishers’ manuscript rejections -- the Penguins, Harper Collins, McGraw-Hills and other imprints that have guarded the gates to the bookstore? Especially when self-publishing is just a couple of mouse clicks away at and other online book publishers?

In fact, I think we are "stuck" with publishing in preeminent management and working with leading book publishers (for reasons I'll explain in a moment). And I think that's for the good, for everyone but most of all for the people we want to impress: clients.

I have 45 minutes this Friday to convince a group of consulting firm marketers of this. I’ll be kicking off a one-day seminar on the topic of “Getting Published in the Right Places,” run by the Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF).  

My premise is that as the volume of self-publishing on so many business topics keeps growing gigabyte by gigabyte, readers will be lost in a Web of mediocrity. Amidst the Babel, more than ever we’ll want highly skilled people to select, shape, and edit the very best ideas out there on managing a business.

Research that we and AMCF have conducted over the last four years on the consulting marketing mix shows that marketers believe publishing in third-party journals generates more leads and market awareness than does self-publishing.

I believe this view is reality. I also believe that working with top-tier publishers is, and will be, even more critical to spreading one’s influence. 

No professional services firm can ever hope to corner the market on ideas about running a business. That’s why we need the Harvard Business Reviews and Penguin book publishers of the world: to choose, improve and convey the best business ideas.

But that’s my premise. I know others who believe that self-publishing – especially in the faster-cycle, easier-to-gauge-the-impact world of online – is the future. What’s your premise? 

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