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Posts Tagged ‘independent authors’

One of the great rallying points of self-published authors and those who champion them is that now the Big 5 publishers* no longer control what you and I can read. With the self-publishing revolution, everyone can be an author, an editor, a publisher. As the printing press allowed for underground pamphleteers to get out their message, the desktop publishing industry made books available to the masses no matter what the New York Literary Establishment might decree!

Yeah, about that… Turns out the NYLE, like any cog in an ecosystem, had (and still has) its uses. The NYLE is, among other things, a gatekeeper. The complaint was that it “suppressed” books by deciding which were worthy of publication, using criteria that were both arbitrary and secret. Now that publishing is a home industry, the NYLE’s role is diminished. But all of those “suppressed” books that are now popping up everywhere? Many of them were suppressed for a reason: They weren’t very good.**

We need gatekeepers. There are too many authors and too many books to keep track of, even in a small niche like SF or mysteries. Somebody has to say, “This is good,” or nobody’s ever going to buy it, not only because they can’t find it, but because (honestly) most people don’t want to spend money on an unknown quantity. (I sure don’t.) But who are the gatekeepers of this Wild West of words?

You are. Everyone who reads a book can go on to Amazon or Goodreads and leave a review. It doesn’t take more than checking a box. A couple of clicks and you’re done. You have contributed to the mass gatekeeping operation which is the only way to deal with the mass publishing operation going on in every neighborhood in America (and much of the rest of the world). And you need to do this.

Independent authors have no marketing budgets (although the Big 5 do). Independent authors have no sales force (although the Big 5 do). Independent authors have no connections with all the bookstores in town (although the Big 5 do). The only thing indies have is the power of their readership to rank and review. Your words, your ranking can be seen by everyone in the world–just like the Big 5’s ads can. But if you don’t review, then the stories you want–the books you shouted about and blogged for–go away. This gig doesn’t pay a lot, and it doesn’t take but a couple of disappointing books to make an author go back to selling insurance.

You think you can do better than the gatekeepers? Fine. Now’s your chance to prove it.

*The number changes all the time.

**This is not to say that the traditional publishers only ever published what was worth reading, either.

#SFWApro

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A friend pointed me to an article the other day regarding the latest generation of teenagers and their addiction to their cell phones and tablets. According to this author’s research, the more time they spend staring at their screens, the unhappier they are. Now I am not a teenager, and I don’t have any teen-aged children, so normally this would be of little import to me. But it got me thinking about something else I’d seen lately, not about kids, but about the time spent starting at a screen–in this case, as an indie author.

As I’ve said, I’ve spent more than a little time researching the subject of self-publishing and making it as an independent author. I’ve read a lot of postings and articles by people who make a very good living (six figures annually) doing that. Naturally, the “how” is important to me.

One author I read recently opined that the absolute minimum for success is to put out four novels per year. I’m assuming these aren’t 200,000-word door-stoppers, but that’s still a lot output, a minimum of a quarter-million words. (Right now, I’m aiming for 180,000 words; we’ll see how it goes.) And that means a lot of time spent writing. (These are people who make their living writing; you’d think they have no day job, but apparently some do. Wow.)

I have seen postings saying that to achieve this milestone, you have to work all the time. You are writing or you are promoting or you are researching your audience and how to reach more of them. You do not watch TV, go to the movies, and although some have children, I don’t know when they found the opportunity.

I’m sorry, there are things I’m not willing to give up. Granted, I watch a lot less TV than I used to (something has to go), but I have a wife, and friends, and hobbies, and I will not surrender them. I won’t spend my life staring at a screen.

When I was in high school, I took a class that was supposed to provide life lessons for after you graduated. (Yeah, it was pretty laid back, and no, grading was not tough.) One of our exercises one day was to write an essay naming people we thought were “successful.” I came up with a few obvious folks, wrote about them, and turned it in. Nothing ground-breaking, except that I can still remember thinking that “success” is personal. It’s not making the most money, or fame, it’s being able to do what you want to do. (Maybe I learned more in that class than I thought.) He who dies with the most books doesn’t necessarily win.

Well, what I want to do is not sit in my freezing garret every day for the rest of my life, spinning stories, if it means sacrificing what I find makes life worth living. If I can find a way to write four novels a year and not lose it all, then great. (I may; writing three a year would have been unthinkable as far back as 2016, but I’ve already written one this summer and just started my second.)

I’d love to make six figures with my writing. I’d love to shower my wife with vacations to make up for all the time she’s allowed me to leave her for the company of my fictional friends. But if I spend my whole life writing, then she’s going to spending those vacations alone…

…and I don’t think that’s the point.

#SFWApro

 

 

 

 

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I get a lot of pitches for ways to get your self-published book noticed. Paid reviewers, unpaid reviewers, virtual libraries, PR companies, Amazon, Smashwords…everybody is out to help the poor writer get readers. What I can’t figure out is, with so many writers out there now, why do we need help? If all the indie writers simply read all the other indie writers, everybody would get rich (or at least sell respectably).

I do not claim not to be part of the problem: I don’t read my fellow indies, either. The problem is, I have little time to read anyone, and the few authors I like pretty much fill it. Now this, of course, is my problem. And it is most certainly a problem, since writers need to “feed their heads” more than most. I write better when I’ve been reading; I suspect most of us do. I should do a lot more of it.  (Of both, actually.)

So if writers aren’t reading, who is? And is that why indie writers can’t get readers, because nowadays so many people are busy self-publishing that no one has time to read?

We had dinner at a fish restaurant tonight. I am not terribly fond of fish, but I’ll eat some, and there’s always something else available. (After a detailed examination of the menu, and consultation with my wife and the very patient waitress, I chose the shrimp pasta. The waitress was very enthusiastic about the cheeseburger. I am nothing if not transparent.) But in talking of the choices afterward, my wife said, “You have to take some chances.” (To me, shrimp pasta with a spicy red sauce is taking a chance.)

It is not my intention to encourage reading more independent writers; I can hardly do that if I don’t know what I’m recommending. (I could recommend myself, but that would hardly be helpful, let alone objective.) But I would encourage people (myself included) to read more broadly, to branch out, take a chance.

If we can take chances with what we put into our mouths, why not with what we take in with our eyes? After all, a paperback (let alone an e-book) is a lot cheaper than a good fish dinner, and if you quit when you’re half-way finished, no one can see the leftovers on your plate and blame you for wasting food. (“There are illiterate children in China who would love to read that book!”)

A lot of people would choose the cheeseburger book. Others would go for the hazelnut-encrusted halibut novel. It doesn’t matter; they both go well with a glass of wine, and we all have to eat.

#SFWApro

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