Publishing Update

So this article is making quite a splash in the indie-publishing circles:

Publishers pay terribly and infrequently. They are shockingly dumb when it comes to pricing, and if I see one more friend’s NY-pubbed ebook priced at $12.99, I’m going to scream. They do minimal marketing and leave the vast majority of work up to the author. Unless, of course, you are already a big name author. Then they fly you around the country for signings and treat you like the precious moneymaking gem that you are. The rest of us get next to nothing in terms of promotion. If your book takes off, they get the credit. If it tanks, you get the blame.

No, thank you. I’m all set with that.

You know who I do like, though? Amazon. Well, all online ebook sites that let me self-publish, but Amazon is the true powerhouse right now. Say what you want about this company, but it’s because of them that I can continue writing.

Because of Amazon and other sites, I’m making enough money that I can continue writing. I’m averaging sales of 3,500 books a month, not including the month that Amazon featured Flat-Out Love in a list of books for $3.99 and under. That month I sold 45,000 Kindle copies, and sold over 10,000 the next month. Those numbers are insane to me. Absolutely insane. The fact that I continue to sell well a year after the book’s release is humbling.

There are more and more stories like this one, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that anyone who stands between author and reader—specifically the agent, and the publisher, who between them have traditionally taken the vast majority of any book’s profits—are now irrelevant. If you can write a book that people want to read—and if you can do that with some frequency—you can make a living as a writer. For a long time, this wasn’t the case. The ability for writers to connect with readers in an unmediated fashion is one of the great gifts the Internet has given us.

Although I still rank the Internet slightly under epidurals, as far as the achievements of civilization go.

Anyway, I’m still working on my second novel. My first should be coming out on Amazon soon (I’m waiting on the cover art, which is coming along great and is going to be amazing). Meanwhile, I’ve contracted with another wonderful artist to do illustrations for The Big Booger Bubble: I just got the first sketches today, and, oh man, I laughed and laughed.

Look, here’s the sketch for the “nose fruit”:

nose fruit

Ha ha ha ha ha!

4 Responses to “Publishing Update”

  • ...iph... Says:

    I’m so glad you like the sketches! That is going to be the MOST FUN PROJECT ever. 🙂

    Wow–whenever I see self-publishing numbers, they usually surprise and impress me. My tenacity for agent-hunting has waned ridiculously, and the self-publishing model looks better and better. On the other hand, I tend to write obscure geeky literature fiction tales and I’ve always been lousy at promoting my work, so there may simply be no hope for me.

    …Other than the Apocalypse, and my poetry and novels somehow being the sole written records to survive and be unearthed eventually by some far future generation of transhumans, who will hold them up as the great literature treasures of a lost civilization. A fantasy I indulge in too often, I’m sure.

    • shannon Says:

      Geeky lit-fic sounds like it would fit great into the self-publishing model! Books with niche audiences are almost made for e-publishing and print-on-demand.

  • Todd Says:

    I’ve actually begun working on my novel this summer, and hope to have it done in two years (that’s optimistic, given my day job). The big thing that worries me about self-publishing on Amazon, though, is just what the article says: no marketing. How do I get the word out about my book (if it’s something I feel like I’m okay with other people reading)? I’m also nervous because I’m a horrible self-editor, so I worry that there will be big structural problems that I won’t be able to see and correct without an editor. And that’s before we get into copyediting.

    So self-publication has a lot of upsides for me, and given that this is a hobby for me (because I have to pay my bills) until/unless I can actually make it lucrative in some way, probably it’s the only way for me to go with my writing; but it has a lot of worries.

    I think I may have mentioned to you that I’m also looking into ways to move peer-review out of the hands of for-profit academic publishers (who are so exploitive it makes my eyes pop out of my skull) so that I can self-pubish the social theory book I’m starting this summer. That’s another challenge, but I think it’s doable. I have to find a way to get experts to read it and post their assessment on a web page, I think, and/or create a web page with discussion for experts to engage with it. In some ways, although I don’t know how it will work, I think that’s not only the future of academic publishing, I think it’s more robust, because the arguments and criticisms are public and available so that people can see the discussions and disagreements and evidence up front. Some people who are working on this right now worry about the anonymity of reviews, but I think anonymity is overrated. I’ve done peer review for the number one sociology journal in the country, and was shocked at the tone and rancor of my fellow reviewers on the same article. I’m fine eliminating anonymity.

    Actually, as I talk about this, I realize that I have already concocted a plan in my head for how the online peer-review system would work. Maybe I need to figure out how to parlay this into an actual working venture somehow…

  • shannon Says:

    “The big thing that worries me about self-publishing on Amazon, though, is just what the article says: no marketing.”

    Here’s the thing, though: for the vast majority of their titles, traditional publishers provide no marketing, either. They pour their entire marketing budget into just a few blockbuster titles. So self-publishers are not really any worse off in that respect.

    The main way that self-published authors begin to earn a decent living is by being prolific. It’s not usually the first two novels that rake in the big bucks. It’s the fact that, when readers discover a book they like, they go on to read other books by the same author–that, combined with the fact that ebooks or print-on-demand titles don’t go out of print. So an author who builds a strong backlist and can sell reasonable, moderate numbers of each title will eventually accumulate a good monthly income.

    This is a radically different model from the bookstore/publisher one, which depends on a small number of blockbuster titles to make up for all the other ones, which actually lose money. So an author who shows no immediate signs of turning into a blockbuster will be dropped, even if their books are selling at a steady and moderate rate. And of course, their books only get a limited stay on the bookstore shelves; after that first window of sales, the title goes out of print.

    Self-published authors rely heavily on word-of-mouth and good reviews, both on Amazon and on the (rapidly proliferating) book-review blogs. They do have to the take the initiative in contacting those bloggers and offering review copies. But on the other hand, they have a much longer period of time in which to attract an audience: their book isn’t going to be sent back to the publisher and pulped in six months.

    I really love the idea of taking academic publishing out of the hands of the gatekeepers, too. I’ve heard way too many stories of important research getting blackballed because of politics and personal feuds.

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