From Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Poor sales? Poor exposure? Keep writing.

I find this article to be helpful and informative. The link to it is above; below is an excerpt.

“…The problem comes in trying to talk from one side of the publishing divide to the other.

Since folks steeped in traditional publishing only look at how well a book does in its first  year—really, its first month–on the stands, traditional publishing folk look at almost all indie titles as failures.

Think about it: If you expect a book to sell thousands if not tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of copies in its first year, and you hear that someone is happy with 500 sales scattered over 12 months, you’d see that as a failure too.

The folks who believe in indie publishing only hear that a book goes out of print in less than a year, and is probably done earning after that point (except for a few high-priced e-book sales), and they wonder who would ever sign a deal like that. After all, books can now last forever. Or as long as we read books electronically and in paper form. The virtual bookshelf means that books don’t have to go away to make way for next month’s books. Books will remain easy to find with the click of a mouse.

Traditional publishing doesn’t want to hear that a book might sell 10,000 copies in 10 years. The economics of their business make such a concept laughable. No traditional publishing house could remain in business right now with that kind of sales record. (For more on how traditional publishing economics work, see the blogs I’ve labeled “The Publishing Series.”  They’re a little dated, but still accurate.)

Indie writers try to talk money with traditional writers. The indie writers say they make more than they would with traditional publishing, but so many traditionally published writers aren’t in the business to make money. Traditional publishers have fostered that attitude, making it easier to cut back the amount of money writers get paid. Traditional writers are often in the business to get readers only, and these traditional writers believe that five sales in a month is insulting, to say the least.

Traditional writers don’t look at the long term because in traditional publishing there is no long term.

It’s still hard for me, a woman who has spent thirty+ years in traditional publishing to get out of the traditional publishing mentality. If I don’t have a publisher lined up for a project, I feel a moment of panic. I wonder how I’ll get paid. I’m still surprised when Amazon, and B&N, and CreateSpace dump money into my bank account every month.

For decades, I’ve lived without a regular income. Now that I have one, I forget the checks are coming. My entire existence was based on the next project. If a past project paid royalties, well, that was a nice surprise. But it was a surprise, not an expectation.

Now I should expect the monthly payment, like a salary people get at their day jobs. But I haven’t had a day job in decades. I really have no idea how to behave when it comes to monthly money. It’s causing a paradigm shift in my brain that’s taking years (literally) to occur.

I’m savvy about indie publishing. I know how much it’s benefitting me. I’m getting a novel advance every month, sometimes two or three, from my indie publishing projects—and I’m not even halfway through my backlist, let alone the novels that I wrote but didn’t (or couldn’t) sell. And that doesn’t count the novels I plan to write that I’m not even going to offer to a traditional publisher. (I’ll still offer some. Maybe. If the right deal comes along.)

If it’s this hard for me to understand, a writer who is getting money every month in significant numbers, imagine how hard it is for traditional writers who’ve never ever gotten paid this way. It sounds like fairy tales.

And traditional publishers? They think indie writers are all losers. After all, we don’t sell tens of thousands of copies per title in the month of release. Sometimes indie writers do sell that many copies, and then traditional publishers wonder why most of those indies are turning down traditional publishing deals. After all, traditional publishers can make the book better, right?

Well, we’re not going to get into that dicey can of worms. Except for me to remind you indie folk to copy edit your books and to put a decent cover on them. (Respect your readers. Do it for them.)

What traditional publishers still don’t get is this: People in the publishing industry see traditional publishing as validation; Readers want good books and don’t care who publishes them. Once traditional publishers figure that out—deep in their bones—they’ll start offering successful indie writers better deals.

But don’t hold your breath. The music industry is nearly 20 years ahead of us, and they still don’t get this.

As for indie writers, a lot of them don’t realize that they’re in the hurry-up-and-wait business, not the wait-and-hurry-up business. They work really, really, really hard at goosing the first-month sales, and then getting disappointed when those sales either go down or never happen in the first place.

Publicity doesn’t work for books. It really doesn’t. All it does is get your name in front of a reader who might then glance at your book. Or not. Last night, I chanced upon an infomercial from one of those services that will publish and promote books for anyone who can pay the fees.

I just spent ten minutes trying to Google the infomercial. I couldn’t find it because I can’t remember the name of the company that produced it. I watched it—in growing horror (one of the authors looked like her make-up had been applied by an undertaker. Really) and finally had to change the channel. The books had terrible covers. The poor non-telegenic authors tried to discuss the books themselves with an “appropriate” book-related backdrop behind them, and the infomercial’s narrator wore a rug so fake that it looked like a small animal had died on his head.

Embarrassing. And what’s worse is that I invested about eight minutes of my time fast-forwarding through the thing, saw three authors and their books repeatedly mentioned, and less than 24 hours later, I can’t tell you their names or the names of their books.

I’m not unusual. I buy five or more books per week, usually when I see a review, get a notice from a bookseller that a new one of my favorites is out, or follow a recommendation from a friend about a really good book she’s read. I buy because of word-of-mouth, just like every other reader on the planet.

That’s why traditional publishers only spend advertising dollars on the bestsellers. They’re not informing you of a new writer. They’re letting you know that a favorite writer has a new book. They’re relying on word-of-mouth and habit.

Otherwise, they hope that word of mouth will sell a new writer by having that book on the shelf of a favorite bookstore or by some linked (paid-for) recommendations in the Amazon store or a (paid-for) point-of-purchase slot near a Wal-Mart check-out.

So indie writers who promote their book instead of writing the next book are wasting their time. The more books you’ve written, the more books you’ll sell.

That’s how it works. That’s how it’s always worked….”



About Michael Butchin

I was born, according to the official records, in the Year of the Ram, under the Element of Fire, when Johnson ruled the land with a heavy heart; in the Cradle of Liberty, to a family of bohemians. I studied Chinese language and literature at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. I spent some years in Taiwan teaching kindergarten during the day, and ESOL during the evenings. I currently work as a high school ESOL teacher, and am an unlikely martial artist. I have spent much of my life amongst actors, singers, movie stars, beautiful cultists, Taoist immortals, renegade monks, and at least one martial arts tzaddik. I currently reside in Beijing's Dongcheng district
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