I came across this piece today on author and Scientology creator L. Ron Hubbard. I had read Dianetics back in the eighties as my first and only foray into his writing. Whatever your feelings of Scientology or Science Fiction for that matter the name Hubbard is one inextricably linked to both which makes this an interesting read. https://longreads.com/2017/02/01/xenus-paradox-the-fiction-of-l-ron-hubbard/
First I’d like to thank a long time friend of mine, Dan, for sharing this post. http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2015/06/01/up-the-amazon/
I consider this a must read for all writers. We live in a time of mass consumption and mass waste. The hype machine churns fast and furious. Who can remember when the movie Ghostbusters ran in theaters for over a year? You would never see that today. The same for books. Publishers are no longer interested in books that can sell x copies every year. They would rather have a book that sells that same amount of books in 4 months and then crap out the next one.
Someone like me pointing this out just sounds like sour grapes but when someone the caliber of Ursula K. Le Guin calls it out, it needs to be listened to. I especially like her comparison to fast food. We are so lead to belive what we are consuming is good we gladly take part in the hype and consume away oblivious to the lack of enrichment we get.
So is Amazon the opportunist or perpetrator of this system? Either way will buying books or not from Amazon really change anything?
I caught this story on Forbes.com about author Mark Dawson, Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer.
I like reading about success stories. They offer encouragement and some insight to what is working. At the same time, I have to remind myself that what works for one author is not necessarily going to work for me. First off, unless I’m writing in the same genre it is like talking about apples to oranges. Some genres sell more than others and have a eager fan base. My second thought is, well really I don’t have one. I’ve read enough of these articles and looked at enough sales data to know that genre is the key for many of these Amazon “Platinum” club writers. In addition to having a number of titles for sale, but that is a topic for another post.
One thing that is hard to grasp is this idea of success. Sure making a boatload of cash tops many of our, “signs of success,” lists, but there is more to being a successful writer. The act of completing a novel is a success, in my opinion. Everything else will fall into place after that, even sales. The only problem with success is you have to repeat it. So rest in your glory for a little while because the following morning you’ll be back at the keyboard working on the next one. Then one day soon you’ll see your name in a Forbes article.
I am proud to announce that the Inkslingers 2014 Anthology: Global Voices is available in the Amazon Kindle store. I have two stories among the far better works included in the anthology. If you like short stories and poetry by all means add this to your Kindle read list. It’s a steal for only $2.99.
One of my favorite magazines from my days as a young Heavy Metal fan was Circus Magazine. A series of articles I always looked forward to was by Twisted Sister guitarist Jay J. French that chronicled the trials and tribulations of taking a band from the garage to the arena. Thinking back on that helped me with this post.
So, you’ve finished writing your book and have joined an elite group of writers who can say they have written a book. Time to break out the checkbook. I cannot stress the importance of paying to have your work edited. You do not have to mortgage your home but be prepared to spend around 200 to 300 dollars depending on what you feel comfortable having done. A good cover is worth more than a hundred good reviews so you will want to hire a graphic artist to do your cover. 100 to 500 dollars will cover that and give you a cover to take to the bank. Once it is edited, you will need to format your book for printing. This too, unless you are a word processing guru, would be better left to the professionals. Prices can vary and services can cover much. Don’t forget about the eBook version as well.
By this point you have a finished product. You also have a slightly or majorly smaller checkbook balance. Now comes the part where you have to try and recoup some and hopefully all of these expenses. It’s now time to put on your snappy suit and barker’s hat and sell your work. You are going to need business cards, bookmarks and other materials. This is also time to stake out a place in cyberspace. That entails purchasing a domain and leasing space to host your site. Hiring someone to create your site used to be a luxury that has since come down to earth enough to make it an alternative if you are not technologically inclined. Of course if you are selling your books, the government is going to want their cut. Make sure to apply for a transaction privilege license, (sales tax), in your state, county, and municipality. You will pay a fee to start and then a renewal on the anniversary date. Some states consolidate the license across all three so check first with your state’s department of revenue first.
Now that you have your book, your materials and are square with the government you need a place to sell your tomes. Of course your book is up on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or Lulu, or any other online marketplace. You may even be lucky to be in good with a local book seller and have a place on their shelves. Personal appearances have been the most lucrative for me, even outstripping my online sales. The hardest part, aside from scheduling, is the cost involved. Different events will charge different fees for a table. Generally, and predictably, the more attended the event the higher the cost for a table. An event like Comicon here in Phoenix can cost upwards of $500. Smaller events will be in the range of $100 to $200. To get a better sense of what these costs mean let’s look at the math. For Undead Heart, if I sell a copy at $10 I make $5.79 a book. In addition I have chosen not to charge customers for the sales tax so that comes off my bottom line taking my $5.79 down to $5 a book. To even break even at an event where I’ve paid $100 for the space I’d have to sell 20 books. Most of these event last a day, so assuming a standard work day of 8 hours I would have to sell 2 1/2 books an hour. Doing that I still have not made anything for myself, and are still in the hole for the business cards and bookmarks. I essentially spent the day working for free. There is some value in these events, I get to sit at a table with my business cards and receive the ego stroking of seeing my name listed as author on the place card. to be fair these events serve a larger purpose, so they can be rewarding even if no sales are made. Your name is out there, your books are out there, plus you can network with other authors opening up other opportunities.
Can you ever make money doing this. Sure just be ready for a long haul. I don’t mean to discourage you, but at some point reality will come around and you need to look at what you’re doing as a business. You will only last so long reaching into your own pocket for these costs. I’m not hear to burst your bubble or rain on your parade, just think of this as that little dose of reality peeking around the corner as you reach for your dream.
Here is a transcript of Ursula L. Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards. Her words touch a number of topics that I have worried over, primarily turning the book into a commodity by publishers and sellers alike. Funny in the middle ages owning books was seen as a indicator of wealth. We now have books written as a gateway to wealth no so much for the writers but for a whole crop of middle men and women. We all want to make money, who doesn’t, but at some times it takes a brave person to step up and ask what the costs are. Enough of me read the speech by clicking on this link. http://parkerhiggins.net/2014/11/will-need-writers-can-remember-freedom-ursula-k-le-guin-national-book-awards/
Or rather why writers are talking about it more. I came across this article Why Writers Are Opening Up About Money (or the Lack Thereof) from a post in my Facebook feed. I’ve approached this topic before in several posts. The best reason is for anyone to make good decisions they have to know the facts. I suspect we will be seeing more articles like this.
The July report from AuthorEarnings.Com points out a couple of interesting trends in the market place. If you are unfamiliar, AuthorEarnings.Com is a project that reports on the Amazon eBook sales numbers of authors who have agreed to share thier sales data.
The first l interesting trend in the report concerns the earnings of independents and Big 5 published authors. The Big 5 authors lead the pact in sales across Amazon’s bestsellers list. However, when you look at gross sales independent authors show growth above the Big 5. In fact the report shows that, “Self-published authors are now earning nearly 40% of all eBook royalties on the Kindle store.” To paraphrase, the days of self publishing being a last resort are over.
The other tend that really surprised me but at the same time matches what I have seen in other digital market places, concerns DRM. Nearly all works from Big 5 authors come with some form of Digital Rights Management. You buy the book and you can only read it on your devices. Conversely books lacking DRM can be loaned to friends for reading on thier devices. The report shows that, “Indie titles without DRM sell twice as many copies each, on average, as those with DRM.” Can it be? The lack of DRM has become an in demand feature? I will be looking closely at succeeding reports to see if this continues or changes on way or the other. I suspect this gap in sales will only widen as readers buy more digital works and more importantly look to share those titles with friends who own thier own devices, as they have done with printed books.
All in all an interesting report. I urge any writers or readers interested in the publishing business visit htyp://authorearnings.com , sign up for an email of new reports or add to the numbers by taking thier author survey.
We live in an age where technology has brought many exiting possibilities. Thanks to technology I am writing this in bed on my smartphone while the movie Clue streams on the TV. Got to love that internet. This same technology has opened the door to publishing for many writers and in the process has created two paths to publication. This has me thinking on the differences between Traditional publishing and Independent publishing. To say nothing about Self publishing. Which I would argue is different from Independent publishing because the Independent writer is not paying for copies of books printed but that may be a post for some other time.
First I think a definition of professional is in order. Many times we equate anything professional as being of higher quality or superior. That isn’t always the case. All the term, “professional,” implies or should imply is that person is paid for what they do. The assumption here is that if it is good enough to be paid for it must be pretty good. There are many examples where that doesn’t anyways ring true.
When it comes to publishing, the term, “professional,” applies to both traditional and independent publishing. In both cases books are for sale and writers get paid. Quality really doesn’t factor in with one exception. A traditionally published book will have been vetted and gone through many edits and focus groups to ensure the book succeeds on the market. The independent or self published author can achieve the same result depending how much money they have to put into the project.
At one point I was following the traditional path and making some progress talking to agents. Then the market changed and either agents became super choosy or what I was writing simply had no market. The decision to go with a traditional publisher or going on your own as an independent comes down to what you hope to gain. Traditional publishing is the surest route to wealth, in so much as one can hope for in the arts. Wealth isn’t guaranteed by any stretch but it is the path followed by many of our more famous authors and had a long tradition as the only means to earn a living as an author.
Those of us who are independents do so hoping for wealth but mostly we do it for ourselves. We are proud of our works and wish to share them with an audience. An audience that technology has opened for us. That is not to say should the right opportunity or project presents itself I would not go with a traditional publisher. I like the freedom of working at my own pace and only on works I would read myself. Not to mention the creative control of all the tangible like cover design, layout and marketing. Sure it is all extra work that takes time from writing but if you make it all part of the same process you will not feel so torn. I can’t tell you which path is right for you all I can offer is you have a lot of work ahead.