I’m ultra passionate about this business. I’ve spent almost 11 years of my life working my butt off, trying to make it as a writer and publisher. Truth is, I’m really on edge these days and since I have a hard time keeping my trap shut about important issues, I ended up spouting off a rant over on J.A. Konrath’s blog about the new trend amongst writers in terms of measuring success: numbers.
Read below to see what I mean.
At the end, the artist needs to decide what’s more important to them: reader/download numbers or actual dollars earned. You can’t have both, not when you’re the publisher. The math forbids it.
In a traditional setting, the buck-a-book royalty system is more or less accurate. Sell 5000 copies, you’ve made around $5000.
Midlist writers used to rag on me for self-publishing all the time for years–gee, funny how things have changed since their market dried up; can I be one of the cool kids now? Wait, is your shoe on the other foot? Self-publishing because no one will publish you? Awwww. Yes, partly sour grapes to be sure because no midlister has admitted to this profound truth–and my aim had always been to write fulltime. When you make $7+ per sale, I only needed to sell anywhere between 500-1000 copies to match their “bigtime advances” from a mass market publisher. (i.e. Dorchester, even Tor) But they had to sell 5000+ copies, depending who they went with, to earn that advance back.
All comes down to goals, and Scott Nicholson was 100% right when he recently said the “new currency” amongst writers in terms of “success” is number of books sold versus actual dollars earned.
Can’t we just grow up and all get along? What’s with all this competing? Hey, I’m all for having a healthy competitive nature. It’s what keeps you sharp, especially if you’re a businessman (which a true self-publisher is, anyway). But, seriously, new cliques are forming now because of this whole numbers thing.
I love this business and I love my job, but some days I honestly feel like I’m in high school again.
If an author is after numbers, just put your stuff out there for free. Seriously. You’ll get rid of hundreds of thousands of books in a relatively short time (David Moody, for example, before his legacy deal).
If you want to make a living, then price your work in a way to actually manage that.
As said, because self-publishing earns you quite a bit more than the buck-a-book royalty, your numbers don’t need to be high to match the income of those under legacy contracts or those pricing their books dirt cheap.
Personally, the most devasting thing I’m seeing happen to writers’ careers right now–and I’m not alone in this as I’ve read other writers’ blogs saying the same thing–is this whole indie bandwagon, screw the traditional publisher mentality. Goes to show that no matter what business your in, people can’t march to their own drummer. They need to be part of the parade for fear of looking like the odd man out even if they’re actually making smart sense by doing what works for them and not what works for so-and-so.
End of sermon. I have publishing work to do, the business side of this job.