When Todd Colberg set out to publish his first book, a
collection of true stories from his days touring with Cha-
pel Hill, N.C.–based garage-punk band the Spinns, he
didn’t even consider shopping it around to agents or pub-
lishers. After all, the band had always recorded without
the middlemen and extra oversight of a major label, so
going indie with his book seemed the obvious choice.
Released in December of last year, Self Booked: Empty Bot-
tles, Germs Burns and Bootneck Dreams: True Tales of The
Spinns follows the exploits of Colberg and his two band
mates through a series of comical and often-embarrassing
tour stories. It covers the Spinns’s formation in 1998 to its
disbanding eight years later. Todd Colberg
As with the Spinns’s albums, the book’s creation was an indepen- dent affair. Over the four years he wrote and edited the book, Col- berg rarely sought outside assistance and kept his focus on writing something that
would entertain his friends and fans.
“You don’t have to write for certain demograph-
ics the way you would if you were doing something
with a major publisher or major label,” says Col-
berg. “That’s what self-published authors and independent musi-
cians look for: you hope for more artistic control.”
But while Colberg sees parallels between his approaches to
music and to publishing, he also found that there were important
differences between going it alone in the two industries. From the
opportunities to connect with fans to the changing revenue model
for artists, independent music offers some useful insights into the
challenges of and opportunities in self-publishing.
Connecting with Fans
When Colberg decided early last year that he was ready to turn
his stories and anecdotes into a full-blown book, he realized there
were two main sticking points: finding the time to do the final
writing and editing, and letting people know that the book
exists. After all, the Spinns had stopped actively touring years
before, and while they still had a loyal following, nobody besides
Colberg and a few friends even knew he was working on a book.
In April of last year, Colberg publicized his Kickstarter effort through Facebook and the band’s e-mail
list and in You Tube promos featuring Colberg playing his guitar around New York City, as well as footage of live Chapel Hill performances by the Spinns
and other bands that appear in Self Booked.
Word spread to longtime fans of the band as well
as those of the new bands Spinns members had
formed (including Colberg bands the Gondoliers
and the Siberians). Eventually the project attracted
35 backers and raising more than it $3,000 goal.
But beyond helping raise money for the project, the Kickstarter campaign helped Colberg raise awareness.
“Now everybody already knew about it,” says Colberg.
Colberg the author was able to tap into the excitement he
generated as Colberg the musician.
“You need to connect with people on an emotional level, and
get them to invest in you as an artist,” says Scott Collins, a
professional musician who has published two books about the
indie music business, as well as numerous guitar instruction
books under his own GuitArchitecture series. “They will drag
friends to shows, they call radio stations to get your songs played
— those people are worth 10,000 friends on MySpace. That’s a
Colberg was able to reaffirm this connection with fans and give
the book something of a launch party in December of last year,
when the Spinns reunited for the first time in three years to play