Self-Publishing in not for money making dreamers
Take a quick glance at a list of Twitter profiles, and within a few minutes, you can find the self-published writers who thought the streets were paved with gold. Simply write a book and send out a few Tweets and I’ll be a bestseller and millionaire.
Oh dear, did they just dream for a few days? It’s also clear to see how they started with such enthusiasm and then when it became obvious that it wasn’t going to be a cake walk, they just packed their little Twitter bags and gave up. The dead writer accounts.
With the advent of self-publishing, we have seen a literary gold rush of sorts. All chasing Kindle fame and fortune. Unfortunately, for these gold digging prospectors, life in the literary lane has not changed all that much. There is still only a little room at the top, a slightly bigger space in the mid-list, and then comes the slush pile that was always there, but is now a lot more populated.
This rush to get on the ‘bandwagon’ has blinded many to what a book is all about. A book is for the long term. If it doesn’t sell like hotcakes this week that doesn’t mean it won’t sell well next year. And even if it doesn’t sell next year, well, that’s writing. Go write a better one.
When I started publishing, I had one clear goal in mind. To be read by my grandchildren. When I find myself thinking about my book sales, good or bad, I remind myself of this. I wrote to be read. Dollars and cents, while nice to have in your pocket, are nowhere near as rich as knowing that one day when you are long gone, someone will pick up your book and your words will still be alive.
Now, this is not to say that I don’t work hard at promoting my books and making sure they are well presented and advertised. It would be a lie to say that I wouldn’t like one or two of them to sell like crazy and afford me a palace on my own island. But the reality is that I have to work hard to sell books each and every day. Fortunately, the stories are ageless, so lucky me. I can keep working and promoting my books until the day I die.
Writing a book is not about today and selling a million tomorrow. It has never been. So self-publishing has not changed much at all. The real writers and authors know they are in for the long haul. The ‘fly by nighters’ will do exactly that. Fly away as soon as they discover that writing and then selling a book is indeed, a lot of very hard work.
29 thoughts on “Self Publishing – Not For The Dreamers”
Wow, Derek, you’re really good and I mean that! I’m not just sucking up. Great post as usual!
Thank you for the compliment TC!! I think I’ll sit back and have a cold beer now! Thanks again!
They’re fools, Derek! Fools I tell ya! I’m certainly no fool. I’m working on a couple of poetry chapbooks. Everyone knows that’s where the REAL money’s at in self-publishing! Yeah, e-chapbooks. It’s the wave of the future.
Well said mate. In case you missed the link I put on your FB page, here is the link to Aussie author Graham Storrs latest blog post on E-book giveaways, impatience and the current cult of Buy My Book Or Else being conducted on Twitter at the moment. Enjoy – I did. :D
A very good article Jack. I like the phrase, ‘A book is never free, it will cost you hours to read it.’ Too true.
Here’s the link again if anyone missed reading:
I probably lean much too far in the other direction. I refuse to have anything to do with Facebook, and barely make any use of Twitter at all. Aside from my blogs, my social networking is limited primarily to book sites–where the readers are.
This post really resonates with me!
“To be read by my grandchildren. When I find myself thinking about my book sales, good or bad, I remind myself of this. I wrote to be read. Dollars and cents, while nice to have in your pocket, are nowhere near as rich as knowing that one day when you are long gone, someone will pick up your book and your words will still be alive.”
The reason I began to blog was to leave something of me behind for my family, namely my grandchildren. It is still the reason I write, but along the way a few people decided to give me a read, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit it is gratifying. I can’t say I’ll ever write to be published, but if I do, it will be for the long run. For my satisfaction.
Thanks for your words of wisdom Derek!
“Fortunately, the stories are ageless, so lucky me.”
This is one attribute of the digital age that truly sets it apart from legacy publishing. Trailblazers like Konrath beat this drum often and rightfully they should.
Basically once you make a digital offering of yours available, it can stay available for an eternity, even if you aren’t there anymore actually promoting it. It never really goes “out of print” no matter if you desperately wanted it to or not.
Successful writers always keep the long view and fully use eternity to their best advantage.
Your comment prompted a thought Todd. If I (unfortunately) dropped dead tomorrow, would I just keep bothering people on the Internet? Probably, as I don’t think my wife knows any of my passwords and only knows a few of my sites. Terrible thought to be an Internet ghost.
But even worse, who would get my royalties?
Eternity huh? that’s an awfully long time!
A long time indeed, Derek.
Dropping dead, getting hit by a bus or choosing an unfortunate day to attend an airshow would be tragic, but none of those events is powerful enough to instantly unpublish you. That part of you gets to be immortal and continue raking in the coin for your beneficiaries or at least your estate.
In my case if the day ever comes my estate is slurping up a royalty stream, it’ll probably blow it all on cheap tequila, exotic sports cars and Ponzi schemes.
Which reminds me… I should probably update my will.
Hmmm. I had to think about this a little bit. I think there is definitely an idea that ebooks on Amazon can make you rich. But isn’t this the same dream that those who get an agent or a legacy publisher have the moment they get that phone call? The only thing that Kindle Publishing changed was making publication a reality for those that have not, would not or could not get published by a legacy publisher. Or for some that just didn’t choose to go that route.
Dreaming big is nothing new for writers. And cheap books by the “non-traditional” authors are not new either. The pulps were undercutting prices of tradtional published authors long ago. Mickey Spillane said Hemingway was mad at him because his books sold 200 million copies. “Of course,” he said, “mine sold for 25 cents.” At the time, the cheaper reproductions, scandalous covers, errors and easy of publication for newbie authors who haven’t put in their time were causing the same hubbub that ebook authors are causing now. If you’ve ever seen a first edition pulp, errors in formatting, spelling and grammar are abundant. Sound familiar?
I think all authors have their own reasons for publication. For some, getting an agent and editor is justification. I have arrived! I am recognized by these professionals! For others, like you, it’s a legacy to leave behind. Or, some people just want readers. If you’re a certain type of person, there is almost a desperation for someone who isn’t related to you to read your work just to get feedback, just to know someone else experienced your story. Then there’s the authors who want to get rich. I have no problem with them. Money is validation just as much as praise, reviews, seeing your name in print, etc. In the business world, it is a major mark of success. Authors that see writing as a business (Spillane was one of them) use money as their yardstick.
So I’m not sure that Amazon, Smashwords or Barnes and Noble have changed anything innate about writers. For me, all it did was make a lot more stories available to me as a reader. Much like when you grow up and can go pick out the food you want, rather than it being delivered to your mouth on a spoon.
I do agree that self-publishing is not the shortcut that many expect, but I don’t think that’s exclusive to self-publishing. I think you had the right term in the heading.
And that’s what all great artists are…and that makes them seem a little crazy sometimes, but that’s okay, because without them the world would be a very boring place indeed.
Your astute comments are very welcome jfieldsnr. Yes, it is about artists as crazy as they (we) are. Little has changed, and that is really a good thing. We can all happily dream on.
It’s interesting watching all these developments; even five years ago, none of this could have happened.
I think that in some ways, writing a good book and publishing it(whatever way) is akin to buying the lottery ticket. You’ve entered the race, you have a chance of making it big, but only if you buy that ticket to start with. If your work is good, then it’s a mixture of luck and other factors that mean it suddenly takes off. A tweet in the right place, whatever.
I don’t think most people self-publish in order to hit the lottery. A few may, but I think most want to be read. If they make a few dollars extra a month, that’s fine, too. I have a number of friends doing that. It’s no different than an artist selling their work on the beach or at an art show. If they’re any good at all, they’ll make money. If they’re not good, but stick to Jesus, velvet Elvis and Thomas Kinkade redux, they’ll make money, too. It’s the same thing in self publishing. Good writers and genre writers bring in a few hundred dollars to a thousand or so a month, once they get some titles behind them. That’s about what they can expect with some hard work.
However, I think that’s what most writers expect. Few of us got into this in order to make money.
Well, I self-published a handful of old Regency romances this summer because I’d learnt how to do the formatting and they were just lying around unread. I expected to sell maybe a few a month and have the pleasure of being read by other Regency romance enthusiasts. So I chose a pen-name, polished up the books, cobbled together some amateurish-looking covers, and just tweeted cheerfully about the books to other Regency fans.
Blow me down, I’ve sold coming up to 10,000 copies so far across 3 titles. And it’s not even 3 months yet since I launched the first one.
Lol. What can I say?
I’m very lucky in that I’m also published traditionally in a variety of genres, but all the same, yes, most people don’t sell well – I have a couple of non-selling titles under other names, so I know this! – but occasionally someone magically gets the formula right. I can’t explain the success of these books, they are pretty ordinary to my mind, and even flawed in places, but I do think it would be wrong to squash people’s dreams and say it NEVER happens to the self-published. Because it’s happened to me, and for no really obvious reason.
I will never make money from my writing love to write what i know and what i believe in . Interesting to see what others write and their writing styles, how they are so different and express themselves . What ive never had i will never miss have never had money to spend wildly and i am happy with my fill in life . I have been a mother since the age of 17 and am proud to say ive seen my son to college thats what makes me smile and no money can make this happen and now have 2 beautiful daughters too who i will get to college aswell .Surely writing is about the person and who they are its like an expression of themselves .
Excellent points! If you’re going to go to the trouble of writing a book, you might as well sign on for the long haul. :)
Thanks for the wonderful post, Derek. Definitely right on the mark. My grandmother died at age 45, when I was 8 years old, and what I have left of her is her poetry. Unpublished even, but her words, and real. My mom died at age 50… not a writer, but 2 1/2 years later, I still dig through her desk looking for notebooks filled with her accounting homework.
I’m 34, and I have a daughter. SHE is why I’ve decided to do something with the gift of writing I’ve always loved. Would I love for my writing to also support the two of us? Of course, but the big thing is this tangible piece she’ll always have to hold.
Just want to add my tuppence worth to the comments above and say thanks again for hitting the nail squarely on the head.
All the best and keep up the good work,
Derek, an interesting and timely post. I turned down a publisher this weekend (my blog post explains why). Now I start the road of self publication.
It has never been about the money, like you I just want to be read by my grandchildren (first one due tomorrow!). A few cents in the pot would be nice but I am not looking for gold paving. :)
I read your post Glynis and can empathise. I’ve retweeted your post as it really is a worthy read for any writer.
Thank you so much, Derek!
Please keep ’em coming, Derek! I love your words of wisdom. I’m new to self-publishing, having been pubbed by traditionial pubs and ebook publishers in the past. Sincerely, I’m with you–my books are up there for the long haul, too. If this one doesn’t sell, then the next one will do better. If it was about fame and fortune, most of us would have been long gone by now. Anyway, your words are an encouragement and they inspire me to move forward. Thank you & happy writing!
No problems Connie, I can rant and rave until the cows come home :)
And welcome to self publishing. It’s tough, there’s not way to pretty it up, but the one absolute blessing of it is that you can let your imagination run and write what you want to write. Not what you’re told to write or locked into a one genre.
So I wish you good luck and happy writing.
As someone finally plunging full-force into my writing after years of scribbling here and there, I’m not sure what to think now that I’ve learned how much e-books and self-publishing have changed things. There’s no doubt there is new opportunity out there, but I can see how easy it can be to get lost among all the trash flooding the market. Still — and maybe I’m being naive — I have to believe if you write a great novel and you can get people to read it, word will spread.
Great article. Thank you for the reminder.
I get so wrapped up in the numbers sometimes. I’ve been able to sell a few short stories but I am absolutely terrible at marketing.
I wrote my first book for my children and I continue to write both because I love to write and because I love the feedback from happy readers. After all, that’s really what writing all about.
Thanks again. Sober advice. Vindicating for someone likde myself whose in it for the life-long love affair with words and story-telling, but is not adverse to heartily wallowing in well-deserved fame, fortune and payola, should the opportunity arise. Right on!
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