Scary New World: The ever-changing face of publishing.

positivityNook is discontinuing sales in the UK.

Greeeaat. One more way for “the ‘Zon” to dominate indie- and self-publishing.

Samhain Publishing announced last week they’re shutting down.

Fuck.

Take a deep breath. (And a Xanax, if you have ’em.)

The good news: It’s easier than ever for a writer to get published.

The bad news: It’s easier than ever for a writer to get published.

Now, more than ever, there are writers aplenty out there competing for the same pieces of pie you are. And, unfortunately, some of them are not above dirty tricks like undercutting other writers on price, plagiarism, urging their street teams to give bad reviews to other writers, and other kinds of bullshit.

Here’s the scoop: If you are in publishing only to make money? GET OUT. Because this is NOT the industry for you, seriously. You’ll have an easier time of it selling knife sets or kitchen cookware on the county fair circuit.

Princess S. O. Obriot and Talon P. S. Obriot posted a good commentary that’s an excellent summation of just one aspect of the problems.

There was a “bubble” around 2009-2014 in indie- and self-publishing. Once Kindle opened up KDP to self-publishers, and you no longer needed to be a “publishing house” (meaning an incorporated business, even if only one author) to access their architecture, it opened the floodgates. People were making a lot of money, a lot of good money.

Then came Kindle Unlimited (KU) in July of 2014 and the spigot effectively shut off across the board. It didn’t take long for some people (and scammers) to figure out how to “game” the payment structure. That’s when you started getting a LOT of serials/chapbooks that really created the opposite effect in many ways–it PISSED readers off. Okay. Then Kindle revamped the KU payment structure in 2015. Instead of a percentage read triggering the payment, it was based on number of pages read, and that favored longer reads. Great!

However…

The damage has been done. Amazon has full control of how much an author makes in the KU program per-page. They can adjust that at their whim (just like they adjusted the first-gen payment structure).

Note, for those of you who don’t know, writers whose books are not in KU are paid per-purchase, and this payment system is a set percentage based on sales price and is outside the KU payment architecture.

So now there are a lot of writers desperately trying to churn out a lot more stories as fast as possible to earn more via KU.

This is not sustainable.

It’s just not. And get it out of your head that you think you have to do “free” or constant .99 promotions because it sells. I’ve HEARD readers SAY that they will BUY BOOKS THEY WANT. What they don’t want is to be charged $9.99 for a 20k word novella. They are willing to pay a fair price for a good book. (The key words there being “GOOD” and “BOOK.” Not “hot mess” or “Dumpster fire.”)

The writers who are going to survive long-term are the one who DON’T take the short-cuts. Yes, absolutely some writers can “game” certain aspects, run promos on book e-mail lists, whatever, to artificially inflate their sales here and there. Great! But how do you sustain that?

You can’t.

It STILL boils down to the basics, and that is you HAVE to have a loyal reader base. You can’t just sling your monkey poo at people and scream BUY MY NEW BOOK and expect people to keep buying from you.

No, it’s not “quick” money.

No, it’s not a lightning-strike. But guess what? You want one of those sweet 6- or 7-figure publishing deals? Go buy a Powerball ticket, because your chances are about the same.

Let me reframe this argument: You know how you drive along and at a stoplight or stop sign you see a HANDWRITTEN sign stuck in the grass that says something like, “MAKE FAST MONEY IN REAL ESTATE, NO INVESTMENT NEEDED! CALL 555-SUCKER!”

Do you call them? (Gawd, I fucking hope you don’t.) Why don’t you call them?

BECAUSE IT’S A FUCKING SCAM.

Another reframed argument: I would never go get a medical procedure done at a doctor or eye clinic or whatever where I see nothing but billboards and advertisements and 2/1 eye surgeries or whatever from them. That skeezes me the fuck out that a doctor isn’t good enough to have a huge-ass practice. My doctors I have have WAITING LISTS to get in to see them. WHY? Because they’re good doctors. Do they have a Yellow Pages ad? (Do we still HAVE Yellow Pages?) Maybe, but I don’t ever see them with massive ad campaigns.

Or…here we go, totally relevant: POLITICAL ADS. What do you want to do by the time the election rolls around? You want to burn every last fucking yard sign you see, and you scream at the TV when ads are still running the day after the election because your eye was already twitching every time they came on TV BEFORE the election. You’re ready to stick a goddamned ice pick in your ear to make the fucking noise stop.

Why do you think you’re special as a writer when you fling your monkey poo and basically do the same damn thing?

I write full-time for a living. Hubby takes care of everything else around here. This IS my full-time job. I am a speed touch typist, so I actually have a decent writing speed when I’m in writing mode and not editing mode. I didn’t come by that overnight. I’m also really good at editing on the fly, so that when we get to the editing stage we have less work to do.

How did I learn that?

Try over TWENTY-FIVE YEARS EXPERIENCE in both writing non-fiction and editing. Add to that now 8+ years publishing fiction, and 90+ titles to my credit there.

Mull that over for a moment. Does that sound like overnight success? No. Because it’s not.

If you shit a book out your ass and post it on KU the next day without editing because it’s soooo expennnnnssssiiiiveeeee and then you whine because you get dinged in the reviews for editing issues? Um, sorry, bucky, you deserve those review dings.

The writers who are sustaining their writing careers are the ones who are BICFOK every freaking DAY, working our ASSES off, who are producing quality content, who are giving a shit and making sure it’s the best it can be. Are we perfect? No, because no one is. But if you don’t know your two/to/too or there/their/they’re  or your/you’re or its/it’s, then don’t whine when you get dinged.

And even we are having more trouble all the time because of the sheer volume of CRAP we have to compete against.

That’s why I say this is NOT a get-rich-quick profession. It’s not. For a while there, yeah, there was a bubble people were surfing and taking advantage of, but like in every industry, there’s been a disruption.

Again.

Now what are you going to do?

Are you going to keep flinging your shit against the wall and hoping to pick up $5 in sales, or do you want to take a step back, look at the body of your work, and start over from the basics?

1. EDITING. You cannot skip this step. Don’t whine at me that it’s expensive. Uh, yeah, it is. But it MATTERS. And that goes for your front matter content, too. There have been plenty of times I’ve read a blurb with an interesting premise, but I didn’t even bother clicking on the preview because of basic editing/grammar errors in the blurb.

2. COVER. You can’t just throw up something in Paint and expect to stand out. Even if you go purchase a decent stock photo for $30 and carefully select a couple of free fonts, put a little effort into it. Better, save up and pay a cover artist to make you a professional cover. It’s not just about the content of the cover, it’s about the size requirements (I’m getting REALLY sick of my OCD being triggered by cover sizes that I’m seeing that are NOT the right size proportions).

3. FORMATTING. The stuff that I self-publish, I’ve started formatting with Scrivener, which I do my initial drafts in. It has features that allow me to easily create great e-book formats. If you have NO clue how to do this, you either need to learn how to do it, or be prepared to shell out money to do it.

4. PRICING. Don’t be a dick and price all your books for .99 thinking it’ll help your sales. It won’t. All it does is make people think you’ll price all your books like that. If it’s a short story/novella, maybe. Or if it’s the first in a series, and you lower the price to help generate sales for the other books in the series. But don’t sell yourself or your work short. Also, don’t go trying to sell a 30k novella for $6.99. That’s just as stupid in the other direction.

5. VENUES. Don’t get yourself locked into the KU architecture. You’re losing sales that way. There are lots of other places out there to sell your books.

  • Kindle
  • Kobo
  • Nook (well, in the US)
  • All Romance E-books/OmniLit
  • Smashwords
  • Your own website.
  • iTunes (if you have a Mac-flavored computer, you can sign up to be a publisher directly, or both Smashwords and ARe have third-party programs)
  • There’s also Draft2Digital if you don’t mind them taking a cut.
  • Lulu (print)
  • Createspace (print)

(Edit: Yes, there is also Google Books, but until they clean up their act with piracy and plagiarism issues, I’m personally not using them. Plus, they are a MASSIVE pita to use, and you have to use a complicated formula to price your books higher there so that their mandatory discount doesn’t trigger a forced discount price-match on other sites like Kindle.)

Direct-sell to the different venues. For example, I don’t let Smashwords direct-distribute for me to Kindle, Kobo, or Nook because I have my own accounts and do it myself. And I’m sure there are more e-book sales venues out there you can direct-publish through.

Here’s a hint: INCLUDE ALL THE PURCHASE LINKS ON YOUR WEBSITE FOR EACH BOOK. I’ve stopped counting how many times I’ll see someone blast a BUY MY BOOK message on Facebook, and they include ZERO buy links. No, I’m NOT going to go hunt down their buy link. Duh.

6. READERSHIP. Now, you might not like hearing this, but you’re going to have to stop flinging your monkey shit at people, and actually engage them as PEOPLE. Create a Facebook group (do NOT force-add people to it!) and post the links to it on your website. Engage people in talk. Allow it to become a never-ending fun party. Get to KNOW them. Because if readers like YOU as a person, they’ll be far more willing to help promote your books if they like them. It means you HAVE to have a website that you update. It means you HAVE to pick at least one social media account and SOCIALIZE on it. Facebook’s pretty easy. So is Twitter. And don’t post nothing but BUY MY MONKEY POO posts. Post funnies. Post about yourself. Post pics of your pet. Ask your readers questions. Talk to them, Treat them as PEOPLE.

jacksparrowYou want people to get to know you and have a reputation that’s positive, not that you’re some fucking batshit crazy asshole who flings their monkey poo everywhere they go. The old adage of “any press is good press” does NOT apply in the world of being an author. You want readers to associate your name with good books and good conversation. You don’t want to be THAT writer where Facebook group admins are constantly deleting your posts and banning you from their groups because you can’t read a simple set of rules in a pinned post, or the writer that people are subtweeting about because you’re so batshit crazy that you think you’re the only normal one and everyone else is out to get you.

7. CRAFT. This means always improve what you do, learn about the industry, learn how to work on building a sustainable writing career, not just trying to get rich quick. Read blogs, read books, subscribe to industry newsletters. If you’re just a one-trick monkey-poo-flinging pony, people aren’t going to keep buying your books.

8. PLAN. I don’t mean scheme–I mean PLAN. Work up a slow and steady sustainable plan and build your writing career the SMART way, and not like you’re running around whoring your words because you don’t think they’re worth more than a few pennies a fuck blowjob handjob read. Because here’s the thing–there will be MORE disruptions. It’s not a matter of if, but when. If you know the business, it will help you be flexible and revise your plan accordingly.

Publishing was able to skate by for so long because there wasn’t a better buggy whip. E-readers, the Kindle store, computers, cheap smart phones and tablets–all of that conspired to a perfect storm that’s now allowing people to bypass the middle men and reach readers directly. So what you have to do is create a PRODUCT (aka a GOOD BOOK) that people WANT to buy. One that will sustain all the algorithm changes that the ‘Zon throws at us, one that will sustain and shine even after all the other “bestsellers” have come and gone, one that stands the test of time.

Not just some throwaway, toilet paper of a novella that doesn’t even stand out in the readers’ minds.

If you’re looking for me to piss on your leg and tell you it’s raining, then sorry, I’m not that gal. I’m the one who’s going to tell you to put on your big-writer panties, knuckle under, and realize that you HAVE to work at this if you want it to work. There ARE no shortcuts. None that will build you a sustainable career. And yeah, it’s a LOT of hard fucking work. I probably average 12-hour work days, sometimes longer if I’m on deadline with my publisher.

SEVEN. DAYS. A. WEEK.

Now, can I structure that time? Sure. Do I take time off here and there? Probably not as much as I should, but I can’t take as much time off as I’d like because I can’t afford it.

9. DON’T BE A DICK. Fortunately, this is a small minority of writers, but stop rallying your street teams to go after other writers in reviews. Readers see that kind of bullshit and they remember it and they blacklist you. That leaves you with a very small contingent of loyalist who could just as easily turn on you. Don’t have your readers report other writers’ books on Facebook or other social media platforms. Don’t do douchey crap. Just WRITE YOUR FUCKING BOOKS AND BE A DECENT PERSON.

Don’t get pissy if other writers don’t pimp your monkey poo. Don’t expect quid pro quos from people who have no fucking clue who you are and your first contact with them is, “Hey, I pimped you, so you pimp me.” Stop with auto-pimping at people when they friend you on social media. (That’s the equivalent of going to a barbecue and slapping a business card in everyone’s hand whether or not they asked you to. So just stop it.) And damn sure, STOP FUCKING POSTING YOUR PIMPAGE SHIT ON OTHER PEOPLE’S WALLS WITHOUT ASKING FIRST! That’s the equivalent of sticking a yard sign in someone’s yard without asking them first for permission. IT’S NOT YOUR REAL ESTATE, so FUCKING stop it.

If you are a WRITER, then WRITE. Keep your eye on the long-term goals. Quit trying to figure out how to scam your way to bestseller lists, because you won’t build a sustainable career that way. Work on improving.

There is GOOD NEWS, however.

Long-term, you can take the slow and steady course and you can build yourself a career. But there isn’t any magical short-cut. There just isn’t. So what you have to do is not count on your writing income as your primary income right now if you have another job. There’s this saying about burning your ships, which is some stupid shit the explorers used to do because, I don’t know, scurvy? Batcrap crazy? It’s supposed to mean they had to go forward because they couldn’t go back.

Well, used to be yes, you could do that in this industry. But unless you’re already established and willing to keep working your ass off at it, you can’t afford to do that. So you need to devote yourself to building your writing career steadily on the side until you CAN burn those motherfucking ships and you CAN wave bye-bye to the old world and start hacking your way through those jungles.

But if you try to do that shit without knowing what the hell you’re doing, then you’re setting yourself to get eaten up alive in the process.

So, calm the fuck down and chill the fuck out. This is a marathon. A long-ass, fucking marathon that you cannot short-cut. I know it’s a scary world for all the writers out there who’d just started seeing a measure of earnings success just to have it yanked out from under you. Hey, I’m not wiping my ass with Ben Franklins, trust me.

Just get it out of your head right now that there’s an “easy” way to do this shit, because there isn’t. You either have to pay for services (editing, covers, formatting) or you have to learn how to do it yourself/have the ability to do it. You cannot buy your way onto Twitter follower lists–you’ll have to actually PEOPLE like an adult and be a decent human being.

Buckle up, buttercup. You can make it through this, but you have to be flexible, adaptable, and never forget the foundation: If you want to make a living as a writer, you have to be a WRITER. You have to study and learn and improve your CRAFT. Because you can do everything else right, but if you put out shitty books, you’re still going to fail, no matter what. That means if you decided out of the clear blue sky one day to become a writer, vomited a book onto KDP, and then can’t understand why it doesn’t sell, honey, back the fuck up and start over. I’m not saying you can’t do it. But bless your peapicking heart, you need to have a solid foundation.

And you can do it. You really can. As long as you understand there is no magic formula.


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2 thoughts on “Scary New World: The ever-changing face of publishing.

  1. Oh HELL yes. I’ve been slinging words professionally since 1995 and this is most definitely not a get rich quick job (would that it were). I’m finally starting to make some real money with my writing, but that comes after decades of effort to become a damned good writer, not to mention busily engaging readers on social media (good thing I’m chatty) and paying for quality editing and covers on my self-pubbed titles. It *is* possible to make it in this business. But as RuPaul says, kitty girl, you better WORK.

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