On Unrealistic Expectations In Self-Publishing

Books, Books, Books

On his blog, author Tobias Buckell has posted an interesting counterpoint to some of the HUZZAH! of self-publishing out there:

I love this quote from the recent marketing guide that Smashwords published:

“we cannot promise you your book will sell well, even if you follow all the tips in this guide. In fact, most books, both traditionally published and self-published, don’t sell well. Whether your book is intended to inspire, inform or entertain, millions of other books and media forms are competing against you for your prospective reader’s ever-shrinking pie of attention.”

(From Smashwords — Smashwords Book Marketing Guide – A book by Mark Coker – page 7.)

This just does not get emphasized nearly enough. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about a great deal since I published The Apocalypse Ocean. One, because so many rah rah eBook advocates have been indicating to me that if I’d only just publish digitally first I’d keep 70% of the profits and *obviously* make more than I would with ‘traditional publishing.’

Since 2001, I’d been involved in selling eBooks…I lay down my bonafides, because usually the first thing I get is a lot of ‘booksplainin,’ by which I mean people lecturing me about what to do as if it’s self evident, obvious, and usually based entirely on their own anecdotal experience.

In fact, the self assured expertise of anecdotes drives me nuts…

I recommend reading the piece. Buckell makes some solid points, and his larger point — that big success in self publishing is rare, and we tend to hear only about the outliers who win big — is true. Of course, that’s also the case with traditional publishing. Even for those who score a publishing deal with a big New York corporation, most make relatively little when compared to “real” jobs that grown ups have. And the average result for them is skewed just as much by the big successes in traditional publishing.

His figures, provided by Smashwords, are interesting, but are themselves only anecdotal evidence because the numbers all come only from Smashwords, not from the far more successful ebook venues like Amazon, B&N, iTunes, and Kobo (all of whom are stingy with such data). And every self-published author I’ve talked to, or who I’ve seen write on the matter, has said that the number of books they sell on Smashwords, as compared to the other venues, is so small as to be nearly insignificant. Some of them say it’s barely worth publishing to Smashwords (I’ve only just begun this journey, so I have no opinion on that; I want my books up everywhere they can be).

Also, when looking at publishing figures like this, and comparing results between traditional and indie publishing, the comparison is meaningless unless the figures you run for traditional include all the authors who are attempting to publish traditionally and failing to do so. There are many traditionally focused authors who are making ZERO dollars, but they will never be counted. Their counterparts in self-publishing, however, *are* getting published, because they’re doing it themselves, so they get counted, and the vast majority of people who don’t actually make anything off their self-published book, for quality or whatever reasons, skew these figures just as much as the highly successful folk at the other end of the charts.  The extreme low-performers in traditional publishing don’t get counted in statistics like this, whereas the extreme low-performers in self-publishing do.

And if you have a thousand authors on the traditional path who make zilch, and a thousand authors on the indie path who publish their own book and make just a dollar, you know what? The indies are doing better. Something is better than nothing.

My Dumbness With The Blogging

Dumb Owls

I learned something yesterday.

For those who subscribe to both this blog and the Doc Wilde blog, who may not want to get the same stuff in their inbox twice, I’ve been trying to keep from replicating content on the two blogs. This also helps with what’s known as “SEO,” Search Engine Optimization, which is “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s ‘natural’ or un-paid (‘organic’) search results.” Posting identical content in multiple places puts you in competition with yourself with internet search engines and can make your pages appear farther down in search results, thus diluting your signal.

My approach, of late, has been to post most of my stuff here, but to focus the Wilde stuff mainly to that blog. Then I’d post a short note here linking to the post in question, but not repeating the information.

But, and this is probably common knowledge to those who care to spend time on such matters, apparently doing things that way doesn’t work all that well. Yesterday, I posted a blog post at the Wilde site which gave a lot of specific info about what’s happening with our current attempts to publish Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom to various venues. I put a note here that said, essentially, “There’s news, go to this link for all the juicy details.”  Exactly 25% of folks who read the note here clicked over to actually read the post.

75% didn’t bother.

I assume that most or all the people who read the note here did so because they were interested in what was going on, but they missed the information. The note here said “Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is DONE, the epic battle raging across the world in both digital and print form. Read the news in the latest post of the official Doc Wilde blog,” and perhaps I erred not just in requiring an extra click, but also in not being clear with the message here. Maybe people read the short version and thought it meant the book is actually out, when in fact we’re working our way through the obstacle course thrown up by the various vendors, from the persnickety formatting of the Kindle files for Amazon to the recalcitrant uploading process for Nook.

People who read the post over on the Wilde site know the particulars, but maybe folks who read the post here all thought “Great! The book’s available!” Which is annoying to me and probably to them, because if they go to buy it, they won’t be able to just yet.

Whatever the case, this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that click-through on links tends to be low. It’s even the case when a post says something like “You really should go read THIS, it’s funny and fascinating and incredible.” Few people actually bother to go have the experience or get the information or whatever.

So I should probably replicate info between these two blogs, at least when it’s the essential info, so folks who read only one or the other will actually get the information. And with posts in general, I should get as much of the info into the post itself, even if I’m pointing to an interesting article elsewhere, because most people just won’t bother jumping to the article under discussion.

Lesson learned.

CRY “HAVOC!” AND LET SLIP THE FROGS OF DOOM!!! [UPDATED]

Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is DONE, the epic battle raging across the world in both digital and print form. Read the news in the latest post of the official Doc Wilde blog:

CRY “HAVOC!” AND LET SLIP THE FROGS OF DOOM!!! 

UPDATE: Just to be clear, the book is not quite out yet, as we’re still jumping through the hoops to place it on sale through the various major venues. The actual details on this, and other stuff, is in the post at the link.

“Batman: Arkham Origins” Looks Badass

Batman

Ladies and gentlemen, I am STOKED.

This series is not only some of the best Batman ever, it’s some of the greatest gaming ever. My love for it is already a matter of record.

And yet again a CGI game trailer shows that they really shouldn’t need to be waiting for Hollywood to get its head out of its ass to give us good flicks of Halo, God of War, or other great games, not to mention the possibilities for animated comic book fare.

Crazy Restaurateurs And The Writing Life

Batshit Crazy

You’ve probably heard about, or seen, the batshit crazy Arizona couple who went on Gordon Ramsay’s show Kitchen Nightmares and were so relentlessly, hopelessly, stupidly terrible, both as restaurateurs and as human beings, that Ramsay, for the first time, wound up simply throwing in the towel and walking away. This was followed by an epic psychotic meltdown by the couple on Facebook.

000

I’ve never seen this show, as I usually ignore reality shows of any sort, but curiosity got the better of me today and I watched the segment on YouTube. And folks, this is some juicy viewing, I tell ya. Being around people like this in real life would be horrendous; I wouldn’t be surprised if you got ulcers inside of fifteen minutes. I can’t believe Ramsay put up with them as long as he did. But watching them on this show, knowing that they are completely ruining their own business once and for all and reaping what they sow, is schadenfreude of the most delicious sort.

So what does this have to do with the writing life? Two things.

First, if you want to be a writer (or artist of any sort, really), you need to be able to take criticism. It can be tough to put aside your ego and listen to someone saying nit-picky or even awful things about the wonderful work you struggled so hard to birth into the world out of your very essence…but if you can’t do that, you can’t grow, and likely you’ll start shitty and stay shitty. Even if you disagree with the person offering criticism, you should honor their opinion and take it with grace. And unless their points are completely, patently stupid, you owe it to yourself to actually consider them before disregarding them. Nobody is perfect, and armoring yourself in ego or defensiveness will stunt your growth as an artist and a human being, just as we see in the video above.

Second, this video is a perfect example of just one of the many reasons why it’s a bad idea for authors to agree to read unpublished material by folks they don’t know. I’ve written about this before, rather colorfully and more comprehensively, and these folks are just some bloody kitchen knives short of the worst case scenario for this sort of thing. People you don’t know may be good writers or bad writers (odds tilt dramatically toward the latter), but they may also be neurotic, obsessive, crazy, or even violent. You just don’t know. And, as I wrote in the blog post linked above, when a lot of folks ask for you to critique them, what they’re really doing is asking for your praise. They don’t want actual critique. And they may react badly if you give it to them.

That was exactly what happened with Gordon Ramsay and these assholes. They had already damaged their reputation and business, and they invited him not to let him help them fix their restaurant  but to come in and use his show to give them praise so that they could be vindicated by an authority on TV. Then, blindly evil fucks that they are, they reacted horribly to his critique and dug themselves even deeper.

Good for them. Nobody deserves such a fate more than they do, except perhaps current GOP leadership.

For more on this, please do read “Why I Will NOT Read Your Stuff“. I’m pretty pleased with that post, but I’m open to criticism on it.