Tag Archives: authors

Professional Self-Publisher vs Professional Author, the Bottom Line

I just read an article about professional self-publishing authors versus hobbyists. I thought it was reasonably presented, well-written, succinct, and to the point. There were a couple of things, though, that niggled at me, mostly because my brain is always adding in the qualifiers, quantifiers, and outliers — the means and the extremes. First, though, a short synopsis:

The author, Peter Mulraney, first defines professional versus hobbyist quite nicely. There can be no argument from the tax authority, which is where the distinction is most critical, much as many a self-published author will dodge that comprehension until after they’ve gotten themselves stuck in some auditing mire.

From there, we get a quick summary of product-based business basics:

  1. the business plan
  2. the product and its marketing
  3. diversification
  4. record-keeping
  5. self-discipline

And, of course, this is where my brain releases devils within details, the first and foremost being that, in order to do #1 on the list, you have to have previously mastered #5, no small feat for many. Heck, for the majority, it’s tough to even muster enough self-discipline to get up in the morning in time to shower, dress, and head out for the day job with enough time to spare that some unforeseen delay like a train at a railroad crossing doesn’t send them into a frothing frenzy because they’re going to wind up fifteen minutes late for the job …again. Hence, you see that frenetic driver, their body leaned forward in urgency as they weave in and out of traffic to then cross three lanes in a dive for their exit, tires smoking as they round the last corner to scream into the employee parking lot.

Luckily, Peter lays out a nice road map, though, defining a business plan as “setting measurable goals.” He then gives a tidy example:

  • writing and publishing a book every year – that means scheduling time to write
  • building a body of work within a defined timeframe, for example, ten books in five years – that means committing to the long term view
  • setting sales targets, for example, selling 10,000 or 100,000 copies – that means scheduling time for marketing

Let’s take a look at those, shall we? Write and publish a book a year, and — very important this — scheduling the time to write that book. Okay. Do-able. …For some.

But, wait. Check out bullet point number two: Build a body of work within a defined timeframe — ten books in five years.

[Sputter.] That’s two books a year, something even big-name, trad pubbed authors often sweat to accomplish …and they (supposedly) have editors and agents to help them along in meeting that goal.

But there’s help once you’ve got number one out the door. It’s NaNoWriMo!

Voilà! That should get you book number two for the year.

Okay. Onto the second part of bullet point number two: committing to the long-term view.  Now, I ask: How many folks can you name, including yourself, who can make a monthly plan and stick to it?

How about just a weekly plan?

A day plan?

Okay. Let’s lower the bar: How about just making and fulfilling a monthly shopping list of everything needed in your household for the month, vowing to never venture out to the store again until thirty days hence? …How about just a week’s worth?

I’m sorry, but most everyone I know these days, save myself and Bill next door, can’t even manage a full day! And you think a five-year plan is going to be a functional reality? Do you remember that research paper you had to turn in by the end of the month in high school? How did that work out? That book you were assigned to read and give a book report on? That chapter of reading for History class?

If the honest answer is, “Great! No problem. Always got my goals and assignments done” or, even, “Usually got my goals and assignments done,” then, yes, do give long-term goal-setting the go. If not, practice completing short-term goals, increasing the length of time for each practice goal by twice every time you succeed. Once you have managed to succeed at setting and accomplishing a yearly goal, then, okay, give longer-term planning a try.

And now we come to bullet-point number three: “setting sales targets.”

In a word, don’t. Not even if you’re a best-selling, trad pubbed author with an awesome advance release team and publicist, plus an in on Oprah …unless,of course, you’re the mob boss in some mafia, syndicate, or cabal with enough influence that will guarantee the numbers you set yourself, by hook or by crook.

As to some of the details Peter mentions, I’m only going to address this one, because it’s to-the-point and on-target:

“Being in business means being flexible with what you write and publish. There is no point in persisting with a product line that does not sell.”

Bingo!

And here’s the translation: If the books you’re passionate about writing don’t sell, are you willing and able to write what does? Because that’s the difference between being a professional self-publisher and being a writer. The bottom line drives the former; passion, the latter. I count as the latter, which, because I do make a profit, because it’s work, not a hobby, makes me, not a professional self-publisher, but a professional author who now just happens to choose to self-publish rather than go back with the trads.

Author Community All Aflutter and Cluck. OMG!

So, a bunch of “legitimate, hard-working ‘authors'” are in an outrage. Feathers are kerfuffled, bent, even broken. Tsks, clucks, cries, and screams of outrage (text-style) flood the cyberlanes. SJW-style calls-to-action abound. Hands grab virtual pitchforks, clubs, hoes, and hatchets.

It might not make your local news, but, in the online author circles, the ripples are palpable, the temblors quaking their virtual landscapes. The headline reads: “Scammers Break The Kindle Store”. (If you’re interested, DuckDuckGo it, because, no, I won’t link to it or any of its reblogs.) What that headline should read is: “System-Gaming ‘Authors’ Beaten at Their Own Game,” because that’s what’s happened.

Authors ‘serious’ about getting their ‘eBooks’ noticed in the hopes of making both money and a name for themselves as ‘successful indie authors’ collect and then mine their followers, email list subscribers, author pals and cooperatives, friends, relatives, and anybody else they can to try to get their books highly ranked on Amazon and other online book selling venues. Calls-to-action abound with

  • Urges to read a provided eARC (eBook version of an Advanced Review Copy) then post reviews of the book on its release date or very soon thereafter. (Of course, four and five star reviews are expected.)
  • Coordination of blog posts among genre-similar associate authors promoting the book are pre-scheduled, as are blog tours.
  • Subscribers and followers are urged to buy within x days of release or an older release’s new promotion, with specific dates sometimes assigned.
  • Social media pals are sent copy to post pre-release, on release day, and the few days following that release.
  • Seeking permafree status on Amazon of an author’s first book or, better, of the first of a series, is something pursued with vengeance and artful manipulation.
  • BookBub campaigns, Book Gorilla campaigns, eliciting votes for best cover contests and best book contests….
  • et al. ad infinitum.

Here’s the reality: Legitimately good books written by legitimately good authors don’t usually make it to the top of any rankings, because most legitimately good authors don’t have the crowd charisma and marketing gumption (and, yes, I said ‘gumption’, defined as ‘boldness of enterprise; aggressiveness’, because that’s what it is) necessary to hold sway.  Success in eBooks, especially on Amazon, regardless of actually how good the book is (and most of them are, in fact, schlock) is based on how well the author of that top-ranked book has gamed the system, which is dependent upon ‘likeability’, luck, skill at manipulating the various ranking algorithms and, more so, skill at convincing others to raise you and your book’s popularity and sales/download/pages-read numbers.

So, indie authors are in an uproar …because outsourced clickfarms have stolen their tactics of inner circle clickfarming and are ruining their game-plan. Truth is, all the outsourced clickfarms are doing is exactly what the authors were doing, only much more effectively, it seems.

Me? I don’t find the outsourced clickfarming any less ethical than author-run efforts. In fact, I think I find them less offensive. Of course, my opinion is that of a tiny minority, and, I guess, it’s extremely offensive to people like Stuart Whitmore over on G+ who decided to resort to insults and trolling me over it. That’s okay. I expect that. I’m not and never have been willing to just go along to get along, embracing the most popular opinion just because it’s socially advantageous.

Not Yours, Only Mine.

eyestrip

A couple of days back, there happened amid the staid and stolid pages of a writer’s community a small foofaraw ←(a very suitable word for this, used thanks to one S. Bradley Stoner, author, who reminded me of its existence). It was a kerfuffle over the audacity of authors using social media to promote themselves and their books, specifically by sharing their latest customer satisfaction reviews. Someone was very bent about it. And, yes, personally I’m not in favor of the practice, except for the most occasional share of a nice five-star review that’s got meat and flavor. But the sharing isn’t the problem I’m going to address.  The problem that steps up is the attitude and actions of the complainant, namely, “Not yours; only mine.”  First some background, though.  (If bored with any background, skip to paragraph 4)

There are millions of authors on social media all trying to bring attention to their literary endeavors (books, anthologies, shorts stories, poems….). Most of them have swallowed the old ideas that if you just proliferate enough noise about the existence of your book and how good it is, people will buy and you can retire to scribbling more, rather than working for the man.  Oh, and corral as many people as possible into signing up for your newsletter, then remind them of your existence and your wonderful books at least twice a month, if not once a week. Whatever you do, keep posting updates about anything and everything happening in your writing and publishing and book sales life. That’s the ticket, by cybergads, and don’t you forget it. Do especially post about your loss leaders–freebies and 99 centers–because everybody wants what they can get on the cheap, and, especially for free. (This is all said now quite tongue-in-cheek, of course. None of these things really work, anymore, and haven’t for quite some time. Not really. And I mean pretty much NOT AT ALL.)

What worked for folks who got in early–“early adopters”–might have worked way back when…for about six months to, maybe, two years at longest when self-publishing and the various ‘hot’ social media platforms were all relative infants in the cyber world, but then social mediaville–the people who live there along with the platform owners–caught on. People on social media began to ignore all these self-promotion efforts, even (gasp) to the point of blocking those proliferating the feeds with what resident denizens considered ‘spam’…and it was and is spam. (Nobody likes spam, not even the meated variety still occasionally, nostalgically smiled upon by those still ‘lost in the 1950s’.) Platform owners? They chuckled and began to utilize the desires of people to gain exposure for themselves and their product to their advantage. I won’t bore you with the details, but, yes, it worked out quite well for the platform owners, if not so much for everyone else.

Meanwhile, back to the denizens. Social media denizens want quality ‘stuff’ in their feeds. They vehemently object to what THEY consider ‘noise’. A lot of them (and me) just ignore the noise, scrolling right on past, thanks. But some take extreme affront and, foaming at the mouth, will unfriend, unfollow, even block or mute someone whose content they consider ‘noise’ or ‘spammy’. In fact, they’ll unfriend, unfollow, block, or mute someone just for posting more than they consider “appropriate”, even when the shared stuff is of interest to them. It’s the fact that the person doing the posting is sharing stuff that does nothing whatsoever to promote the affronted’s own agenda–say, his/her books or product, his/her brand, and his/her online enterprise(s). And that’s the root of what’s at issue here–this ‘only mine, not yours’ attitude. Because, you see, these same individuals are the ones who post about their own stuff almost exclusively, and I mean exclusively. Check out their feeds on FB or G+ or anywhere else–it’s all about them. They don’t up-vote anything that isn’t about them. Almost never, IF ever. They won’t follow folks who aren’t in it for them.

Selfish, self-centered, self-interested, and disinterested in anything that doesn’t feed them and theirs, they go out of their way to castigate others for doing exactly what they themselves do–promoting their own projects and products. They grumble, they dis(respect), they dismiss and despoil, and, when, having been discovered and labeled as Machiavellian, they find themselves left out, they start rattling the bars, editorializing their blame of others for doing exactly what they do, never mind that at least most of those others they berate do, unlike the affronted, up-vote other people’s promotional efforts and interests.

So there you have it. In a nutshell, from me to you, if you’re one of those who is affronted by somebody doing something that you yourself do, then I think you’d best either swallow it or get TF off of social media completely. If you’re one of those who promotes and expects to be promoted by others, you have to reciprocate. If you don’t, then you’ll get left out in the cold once discovered that you’re only in it for yourself.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid all this fuss and blather is just don’t promote yourself and your books, enterprises, or products on social media, except in the most conservative manner while promoting others works at a moderated pace. It’s the only way for others…other than the “only mine, not yours” folks not to get affronted.

eye_web

On Dolts Offering Writing Advice

DigMarkQUOTETH: “50-75% of blog posts with ‘Tips’ for writing are really marketing posts. They have nothing to do with writing at all.”

I have a friend, who shall remain anonymous, who shared this with me. It’s totally right on. And, yet, this friend refuses to say this publicly…because of all the flack that comes back to bombard him/her/it.

Yet, it’s completely true, and one of the HUGE irritants that I find with authors, indie and trad pubbed, alike.

Most of these posers–yes, I said posers–ain’t gotta clue what makes good writing and good novels, and have absolutely NO business trying to share their under-educated, all but illiterate advisements with anyone. And the only reason they do is to try to game up their own books and ‘brand’.

There. I said it right out loud, because it’s true.

Want to know what’s sad? The real experts who DO have valid and valuable insights on writing now mostly stay mum. That’s because what they have to say isn’t going to be swallowed well by the striving ‘wanna-be’s–that writing well means years of learning how to do it right by reading, by doing, by being harshly critiqued by in-the-know, usually caustic-as-hell editors.