Paginations

self publish

The Taleist survey is out: “Half of self-pub authors earn less than $500″. I ask, so what?

I read a very interesting article this morning (OK, most of an interesting article) in regards to the recent Taleist survey of self-published authors. I was one of the 1,007 respondents and received my comp copy of the survey results yesterday, but haven’t had a chance to read through it yet. However, the Guardian has, and posted this article, with the somewhat-negative headline of:

Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500

The article starts off as a bit of a wet blanket, though not the sky-is-falling doomsaying one might expect from that headline, so I’m here in defense of the poor, downtrodden self-published heathen.

Disclaimer: I have been very fortunate over the past year and am on the other side of that half, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Three things I take out of this article – one is an assumption, one is my thought on the self-pub/traditional income subject, and closing with a stat Taleist came up with.

Those who want to do best at self-publishing, they found, would be well advised to focus on romantic fiction. Romance authors earned 170% more than their peers, while authors in other genres fared much worse: science-fiction writers earned 38% of the $10,000 average, fantasy writers 32%, and literary fiction authors just 20% of the $10,000 average.

I don’t like this one bit. Whether it’s The Guardian or the Taleist survey conclusions, this paragraph screams at me in a shrill tone. Apparently this is saying if you want to be successful, write into a successful genre.

Phooey. Write what YOU want, write what YOU enjoy reading, and above all, DON’T write for what is successful NOW. Ten years ago it was boy wizards. Two years ago, it was sparkly vampires. Ten years from now? It may be literary fiction featuring trolls and light sabers. Who cares. Write because you want to, don’t try to fit into a preconceived box that will make you ‘more successful’. That may work when choosing between jobs, but not when it comes to pouring one’s heart out onto paper.

Half the respondents failed to reach $500 in royalties in 2011, and a quarter of the books are unlikely to cover the direct costs of production. “Sobering” news, wrote Cornford and Lewis. “Who’d come back for more?”

So 503.5 respondents earned less than $500 last year. If every one of those had submitted their work to an agent, then on to the publisher, then on to… (you get the point), how much would they have earned? About as much as I earned for writing this post. Squadoosh. Those authors took a leap of faith and sent their work out into the world, and a handful (or several handfuls) bought it and read it. In that same time, going traditional, their book most likely wouldn’t even have been in pre-production by the end of 2011. And that’s assuming they would be accepted through the slushpile. What’s the percentage who get published traditional? Very low – let’s call it 5%. So of those 503.5 authors, 25.175 (okay, I’ll round off – 25) get the “deal.” The other 478 continue to lick stamps, send emails, and so on, without a dime to show for it. And those 25? If the stars align correctly, they may see a portion of their small debut-author advance before the year is over. This is always a frustration of mine when I see traditionally published bring up the ‘low income by self-publishing’ subject.

Which brings me to a much better 5% subject:

But money isn’t always the primary goal for self-published writers, they discovered, with only 5% considering themselves “unsuccessful”. The respondents were also still keen to continue self-publishing: nearly half plan to release more titles this year than they did last, and 24% have a whopping five or more works due for publication this year.

Of 1,007 respondents, over 950 consider themselves successful – by extrapolation, 478 of the authors who didn’t “cover the direct costs of production” finished 2011 with a smile on their face, toasted loved ones with champagne on January 1st, and considered themselves successful. And they’re still writing and publishing.

I consider anyone who takes that leap of faith incredibly successful, covering costs or not. Let’s keep this amazing ball rolling, friends.

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E-books officially pass print books, no looking back now…

From time to time, in both my personal life and business ownership, I make decisions that don’t work out. Whether it’s to lay a tile floor (weeks of backache afterwards said that was a mistake), try to install my own fence (complete disaster), try a trade show outside of our business focus (waste of several people’s time and my money), or hiring the wrong person (yep…not so smart in that one case), I’ve put myself out there and given it a shot. Like Wayne Gretzky once said, he missed 100% of the shots he didn’t take. However, in the past few months I’ve realized that one big decision I made was the proper one:

I decided to self-publish my novel as an ebook.

If you’ll notice the blog title, e-books are a wave rolling over the publishing industry. The reason I wrote this post is some incredible news that was just released this morning via press release. Amazon announced that books for Kindle are now outselling all paperback and hardcover books combined. Read the full press release here.

Think about that for a minute. Done? Yep, all paperback and hardcover combined just got passed by instant-download, lower-priced (well, not in all cases yet), mass-storable, read-anywhere e-books.

So my conclusion? I firmly believe I made the right decision (for once) in going e-book. I decided not to try for the traditional route (and I realize e-books don’t necessarily equal self-published, or vice versa, but for the sake of this post, I’m using the lower barriers to e-book publishing as being at odds with traditional publishing). I didn’t want to query, and query, and query; hope to find an agent; hope a publisher said yes to a full read; wait 12-18 months before my book hit the shelves; and finally see the book pulled after two months, relegated to bargain bookstores.

I’m certainly not arguing against traditional publishing, or even print books in general. I’m just satisfied in my decision to go the e-book, self-published route. And like the e-book wave, there’s no looking back for me now.

Oh, and if you were curious, my self-published e-book is available somewhere in that massive wave…

What are your thoughts on e-books?

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I’m an author unwilling to talk about himself…

This just in: I’m uncomfortable talking about myself. The problem? It may be the only way to succeed as an independent author…

Hi, I’m Steve, and I’m an author.

[audience: Hi Steve…]

That’s about all I’m usually prepared to say. I mean, who cares who I am, what I do, where I’ve been? My wife, kids, family, friends, they know the answers (and most of the time don’t really care anyway) but now that I’ve jumped in to writing with both feet, I find it’s a necessity to promote my book as a product, me as a brand.

Yes, that’s how I view it. The book I wrote, Gabriel’s Redemption, is a product that needs to be promoted. I’m totally fine with that; I’ve been in some form of sales or another most of my adult life, and most of those years as a business owner. I could easily step up to a podium in front of a hundred industry professionals (my company’s industry, not writing!) and wax philosophically about the benefits of swim-up bars, beach waiters, and mojitos (bet you’re now curious what I do, aren’t you?) without batting an eyelash. However, if I had to stand up there and speak about me, who I am, there would be a plethora of “uhhhs” and “ummms” being uttered. It’s just not me. I don’t feel I’m important (or famous) enough for anyone to care.

However, I can’t keep hiding behind that veil of anonymity. For a self-published author to succeed, he or she must promote not only the product, but the brand itself – the author. And yes, the author is a brand. Say Stephen King, or Tom Clancy, or Stephenie Meyer, or Dan Brown (ugh), and a brand comes to mind. Not really a person (although in King’s case he’s done well for himself as a ‘face’ brand), but a name, a product line. And they’ve done that on purpose. Building a brand means promoting oneself as a name, and that name needs background. A story.

The reason I wrote this post is that I’m currently in the middle of completing an author interview sent to me by one of my great online friends. I just completed one two weeks ago, another two days ago, and I have two more in the near future I will be working on. Each and every one of them not only asks about the product, but also the brand. Me. And I’m forced to talk about myself. I have to tip my cap to Emlyn Chand, as her “twitterview” of me in February, after having been published for a matter of days, was the first time anyone had thought enough of me to want to interview, and it got me off the sidelines.

I’m not one to walk into a room and take over the conversation. I don’t normally think of myself as having an outsized personality, or dominant presence. But in these interviews, I need to! Building a brand means forcefully and truthfully relating who I am to the readers in order to let them know who I really am. How I came up with the motivations for the story. Showing them the face/person behind the name on the front cover of the book. And it’s damned difficult. No, I’m certainly not complaining – I am truly flattered that anyone would even consider the possibility of interviewing me (again my mindset is, who the hell am I?) but it’s trying to put words on paper describing myself that’s causing some angst…

I think I need a bigger ego…

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Do excerpts work in helping promote your novel?

Starting today, I’m going to be posting short excerpts & snippets from my current novel, Gabriel’s Redemption, on my Facebook author fan page. One per day through the end of March, just a couple of lines or a paragraph, to maybe show interested readers scenes that may encourage them to take the next step and pick up the entire novel.

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Like me...please like me...

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I had some conflicting thoughts on it. Does the posting of excerpts help publicize a novel, and will it generate interest? Or can it backfire and turn off a potential buyer if that particular excerpt doesn’t suit them?

The reason I thought of this is that I’ve enjoyed quite a few books that had some scenes it them that if I had read them ahead of time, the excerpt alone, there’s no chance I would have bought the book. One that comes to mind, and what sort of got me thinking about this, is from my good friend R.A. Evans; his horror-thriller Asylum Lake was a very enjoyable book from start to finish, great characters, good twists and turns, scary action, and the like. However there’s one scene in the book (and I told R.A. about this afterwards, I’m not ambushing him unexpectedly) that, as a non-horror reader, was a bit too intense for me. If I had read that excerpt ahead of time, I probably would have thought twice about reading the entire book (and I would have missed out on a good read).

On the other hand, I’ve read some downright terrible books (if you haven’t heard me rant on Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, let me know – that might be a fun blog post next week) that had decent scenes in them. I felt cheated when reading the entire book compared to back-of-book blurb or snippets I looked at.

I’d love to hear your opinions on it – do you think the possibility of helping generate interest outweighs the possibility of turning someone off?

Oh…and please do stop by my Facebook fan page and “Like” if you…ah, like. You can follow along with my excerpts…I promise they won’t suck…

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