Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, February 08, 2016

More of What Doesn't Work

Warning: Another in a multitude of posts about self-publishing, so you're likely to be bored if you're not an "under-published" writer like I am. But I included pictures of cats.

"Doing more of what doesn't work
 won't make it work any better."

I heard a professor say this in a class I took in the mid-80s for teacher recertification. I can't remember his name, only that he taught at UVA.

No matter how many times George tries, he's not going to fit in that box.

Recently, I was reminded of what doesn't work for self-pubbed writers when I read a HuffPost article, "Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year." From the article:

Beyond the fact that the marketplace is glutted with an overwhelming number of books already (many of dubious quality), writing good books simply takes time, lots of it. There's no getting around that time. It involves learned skills, unhurried imagination, fastidious drafting, diligent editing, even the time to step away, then step back, to go over it all again. And, unless you're a hack (and we know there are plenty of those out there), isn't the whole point of this exercise to write good books?
I'd recently become aware of some of these articles about cranking out books to keep your name out there. But if you're a self-pubbed author, your name isn't "out there." It's hidden.

I'm also aware that some authors can crank out several books a year, and that some of the books are worth reading. Author John Scalzi, who refuted the above article in "How Many Books You Should Write in a Year"  apparently can do that. His post is worth a read. So is Larry Correia's "Fisking the HuffPo, because writers need to GET PAID." But Scalzi and Correia are pros who earn money writing and their goals are to write books that readers enjoy and will pay for. The more they write and the faster they write them, the more they will earn. They're not self-pubbed writers who have no fan base (outside of family and friends) and who are unknown by most potential readers.

Apparently, lots of self-pubbers are cranking out books. A 2014 Publisher's Weekly article reports that there were over 450,000 books self-pubbed in 2013—and that doesn't include Kindle books. How many were multiple books from the same author is anybody's guess.

The Big Three in 2013 were Amazon’s CreateSpace which registered 186,926 ISBNs last year, followed by Smashwords which registered 85,500 ISBNs and Lulu which had 74,787 ISBNs. The different Author Solutions divisions had 44,574 ISBNs.
Author Solutions is, as many already know, a vanity-publishing conglomerate, not a real self-publisher. Its imprints want big money for their publishing "services." But I'm digressing.

The fact remains that self-pubbed authors face a lot of competition from a glut of books. And most won't be successful. This article, "Only 40 Self-Published Authors are a Success, says Amazon," pertains to Kindle but can probably also be applied to self-pubbed print books. A Publishers Weekly's story from last fall, "New Guild Survey Reveals Majority of Authors Earn Below Poverty Line" doesn't bode well either.

If some authors are cranking out four books a year, how do they have time to promote them? From my own (albeit limited) experience, I know the main way I sell my books is directly to the reader at book-signings or presentations. A lot of the buyers are friends. I couldn't ask my friends to buy four books a year from me. While some could afford it, a lot can't.

I confess that I'm a slow writer. Them That Go—which I began in 2007, finished in January, and is on track to be self-pubbed via CreateSpace at the end of this month—is likely to be my last book. I can't see myself doing more of —well, you know.

If self-pubbing isn't working especially well for most of the 450,000, why are so many doing so much more of what doesn't work?

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