By Indie Authors for Indie Authors.

Tag: indie authors

Embrace Your Ignorance

Indie Author Ignorance

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The title of this week’s This American Life is “In Defense of Ignorance.” For those of you not familiar, This American Life is a one-hour weekly radio show and podcast in which the content always varies widely, but the format is an exploration of an idea or a theory or an event in multiple acts with multiple stories.

This week’s program got me thinking again about a concept in which I have always had an interested– being an outsider. There is something uniquely empowering to people that are outsiders. Of course, there are plenty of challenges not being “in the know,” but there is also a great advantage to it as well.

In the tech world, outsiders are the ones that disrupt the market with new innovations. Disruptive innovations create a new market that disrupts the existing market and status quo by displacing the established market players. (As an aside, if you enjoy Mike Judge–creator of Office Space and Beavis and Butthead–and you haven’t seen his most recent HBO show Silicon Valley, I highly recommend it. They have created a fantastic parody of the tech world that constantly pokes fun at the self-aggrandizing way the tech industry likes to throw around terms like disruption and pivot.)

Ignorance sometimes frees us from the norms and expectations that can stifle creativity. In Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine, he explores, mainly through anecdote, how creativity most often comes from outsiders that don’t feel restrained by the unwritten rules of the trade. Often times this is because they don’t even know those rules yet. Lehrer’s book was well-regarded for a short time, until it was revealed that he self-plagiarized and fabricated portions of his book. However, the idea he presents, in part, the idea that outsiders often times bring creativity to the table, still remains bouncing around in this brain of mine.

 

Ignorance can free us from the norms and expectations that stifle creativity.Click To Tweet

 

We’re indie authors, you and I. Many of us are self-published. Yes this puts us at a distinct disadvantage from the books published by the Big 5, particularly in the arenas of marketing and available capital. But this also puts us at a unique advantage to bring creative solutions to the table. We don’t have to follow the unwritten rules that traditional publishers have created because, if you’re like me, we don’t even know them.

Be creative. Come up with zany ideas for writing, or marketing, or selling your book. See what works.

I tried a giveaway that I called the Pay It Forward GiveawayThe idea was that I would give my book away to ten winners, who then had to bash the book publicly if they hated it, but had to buy the book for another friend if they liked it. The friend would then have to read the book under the same agreement. The giveaway failed spectacularly. I still like the idea, but it was decidedly unsuccessful.

That doesn’t matter, though. I’ll try a different avenue and different ideas. You should too. Forget what has traditionally been done. Think outside the box. Write a visual video book. What’s a visual video book? I have no f-ing clue! It hasn’t been invented yet. Write a choose your own adventure popup blog. Market your book by training your cat to go door-to-door with free book excerpts. Try something different.

We’re indie authors. We’re outsiders. Be an outsider. Embrace your ignorance.

 

We’re indie authors. We’re outsiders. Be an outsider. Embrace your ignorance.Click To Tweet

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

Only 40 Self-Published Authors Make Money

indie author

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I’m sure you’ve seen this news already. We’re not breaking a story here. The goal at Nothing Any Good is not to break news. Not in the least. The goal is to support indie authors. So since we’re not breaking news, let’s instead break down what does this news actually means. What does it mean when Amazon says that only 40 self-published authors are making money.

Well first, let’s go over what was revealed last week. In a New York Times article about Meredith Wild and the 1.4 million ebook copies she has sold of her self-published erotic novels, the article revealed that only 40 authors have managed to sell more than one million ebook copies in the last five years on Amazon.

So the first thing that we should note is that Amazon never actually said “only 40 self-published authors make money.” If they did say that, now that would be news. Amazon earns $5.25 billion (with a B) a year in book sales. At any given point, roughly 30% of that can be allocated to to ebooks. Why in the world would Amazon want to dissuade more and more authors from self-publishing on their platform? They wouldn’t.

Still, for some reason this news of 40 authors has sent some minor shock waves through the world of indie publishing, and I’m not entirely sure why.

It should be no secret to anyone that self-publishing is hard. As revealed by a study by New Guild from the end of last year, the majority of authors earn below the poverty line. For years authors have been struggling to make ends meet, even well before ebooks became a thing. Starving artist doesn’t just apply to painters and photographers.

So then the question in my mind becomes is self-publishing worth it knowing full well that it is difficult and that only 40 self-published authors sold over one million ebook copies in the last five years.

Let’s unpack that some more. The first thing to notice is that this number is strictly limited to ebook sales. This data doesn’t include print numbers at all. Despite projections a few years back that ebook sales would surpass print by 2015, ebook sales still only make up about 20% of the book market.

The second thing to notice is that this number of over “a million” copies is limited to those sold on Amazon. Yes, Amazon is a behemoth in the book market, but a not-so-miniscule number of sales are attained through a lot of other sales channels.

support indie authorsProbably most importantly, however, is that a million copies is A LOT OF COPIES. Yes, it would be wonderful if you sold a million copies of your book, but I’m not sure about your current financial status in life, but for most people that’s get rich money. Let’s say that I sell a million ebook copies of my book Pieces Like Pottery. (From my lips to God’s ears, right?) That would generate $4.99M in earnings. After Amazon takes its cut, I’m sitting with an estimated $3.49M in revenue from ebook sales.

Like I said, I’m not sure what you make each year, but that’s get rich money.

So the fact that only 40 authors have sold over a million ebook copies on Amazon in the last 5 years is not as significant as some have made it sound. Even if your goal is to be an author to make a good living, there is a lot of room to do that with less than a million copies sold.

But this brings us back full circle. Making a good living as an author is rare. The majority of authors earn less that $10,000 a year from their books. I’m not going to lie, making a lot of money from my writing would be great, but it’s not why I do it. I always have to remember why I write in the first place. And you should too. Don’t lose sight of why you wrote that book. Always remember why you started working on that series. If it was purely to make money, I wish you the best of luck, but the statistics are not in your favor.

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

Self-Published Authors Are Taking Over

self publish

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Living in Portland, I was thrilled when I saw this recent article from Portland Monthly by Zach Dundas: While New York Sleeps, Self-Published Authors Are Taking Over Literature.

As the articles sub-title declares, “A new breed of Portland writers goes solo.”

Being a Portland writer gone solo myself, this article strikes right to the heart of not only my experiences self-publishing, but the experiences of many self-published authors I know throughout the world. The article illuminates the freedom and the community that surrounds indies.

Jason Gurley, a 37-year-old Portland graphic designer, started working on a fantasy-tinged novel titled Eleanor in 2001. And kept working on it. “In 2012, my wife suggested it would be good to take a break,” he says. In short order, he belted out four sci-fi novels, designed covers, and self-published. “It was like a dam burst,” Gurley says. He rewrote Eleanor, self-published the novel in 2014, and soon found himself with an Amazon best seller and calls from Hollywood. Crown, a division of Random House, republished the book in January. Gurley says his indie beginnings led to his mainstream success.

While self-publishing has its difficulties, and any article about self-publishing that ignores these difficulties is being disingenuous about the entire picture, the Portland Monthly article gets to the heart of what indie authors are falling in love with: creative freedom. This is not only the case for the actual books that indie authors are writing, but also in the means they find to market their works.

Portland-area indie authors are discovering new ways to find readers and creating work that traditional publishing could never concoct. William Hertling, a tech entrepreneur, markets his sci-fi novels to tech-scene and business audiences, and sells tens of thousands of copies. “They might pick up one or two fiction books a year,” he says. “Self-publishing allows you to be more creative about marketing.” Erik Wecks, unemployed in 2011, wrote a book titled How to Manage Your Money When You Don’t Have Any—a target demographic no professional marketer would choose—and sold 70,000 copies, attracting interest from around the world.

Keep writing! We’re at an inflection point with publishing. Self-published authors are taking over!

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

Are Used Bookstores a Threat to Indie Authors?

Indie authors

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I came upon a blog rant the other day that was curious to me. It was a blog from Kristen Lamb. She has excellent content and is a great resource for indie writers. In one of her recent posts, she took exception with a recent Washington Post article that highlighted an unlikely comeback for used bookstores.

The crux of Ms. Lamb’s distaste for the Post article seemed to be that used bookstores don’t support indie authors, since authors don’t receive a penny of royalties when used books are sold. From her blog:

Writers are NOT PAID for the purchase of used copies. So while I LOVE used bookstores I want to make a point here. Writers MAKE NO MONEY. As a professional, I treat my fellow writers-at-arms the way I want to be treated. I do not buy used books as a first choice. If I DO happen to buy a used book, I make sure to purchase at least a digital copy so that writer is PAID for his or her hard work.

She points out that she doesn’t have an issue with used bookstores, but more specifically has an issue with the cultural phenomenon of praising used bookstores as good and shunning Amazon and other digital book distributors as bad. A culture that I’m sure is propagated by the Big Six publishers. Again, from her blog:

To be clear, I do not mind used bookstores. What I mind is the attitude that somehow digital is bad and Amazon is bad whereas “paper” and used bookstores are “cultural” and therefore GOOD and preferable for writers.

Ms. Lamb makes clear many times in her post that she does NOT hate used bookstores. Not one bit.

What she loves more than used bookstores, however, are authors. She wants to see authors succeed. Amazon and other digital outlets offer indie authors and self-published titles a way to reach an audience. The Washington Post article essentially juxtaposed Amazon and used bookstores as Bad v.s. Good the same way that terrible 90s movie You’ve Got Mail did, (except the large bookstore was called Fox Books and was a brick and mortar store since it was the 90s). This infuriates Ms. Lamb it seems, and offends her sense of justice for authors and creative-types.

I commend Kristen Lamb for her vigor. Trying to make it as an indie author is extremely difficult. Truthfully, it’s damned near impossible. I recently heard a successful author advise a roomful of people not to become a writer, not if you want to make money anyway. How true that sentiment is. Ms. Lamb’s advocacy for authors is commendable. Her directive for us all to buy books and support indies is admirable. As an indie author myself, I hope people heed her words. (I would love more book sales. Hell, who wouldn’t?)

I found the vitriol in the article curious, though. I understand that Ms. Lamb caveats her words a number of times by saying she loves used bookstores, but I’m not so sure in this context. She thinks used bookstores hurt indie authors and doesn’t like it. I know the heart of what she is writing is to oppose the idea that Amazon hurts the little guy and used bookstores help the little guy, when in fact the reality of the situation is exactly the opposite, at least when looked at from the perspective of the author.

However, it seems unlikely to me that a used bookstore is going to carry a significant number of indie titles, thereby hurting the sales numbers for that author. The article also makes me wonder what Ms. Lamb would think about libraries and author book share programs, such as Amazon’s Lending Library. These platforms would probably do as much harm to the author’s ability to earn a living as used bookstores.

For my part, I’m behind any platform that encourages reading and exploring new authors. Yes, I would love to make money from my writing. I would love for everyone that visits my site to buy my book. Hell, I would even love for those reviewers that received a free copy of my book and loved it to decide after the fact to go back and buy the book since they loved it so much. It’s only $4.99.

But that’s not why I wrote it, or why I write this blog for that matter. I suspect I would have a very unfulfilling future as a writer if my sole goal is to make money.

Maybe that is exactly Kristen Lamb’s point, though. Writer’s don’t demand to be compensated for their work enough. Part of what she writes in that blog post is a call to action. She is asking writer’s not to sell themselves short, to remember that you, as a writer, worked hard and deserve to be paid for you hard work. Maybe I should be expecting more from my writing. Maybe I should be expecting to be justly compensated for my hard work. She is seeing the world as she thinks it should be while I’m settling for what is. I’m just not sure it will be a fulfilling exercise for me to expect it.

I enjoyed Kristen Lamb’s blog, though, and I am grateful for her vigorous support of indie authors. So I’ll let her have the last word:

You matter. Your dreams matter. Your work matters.

 

 

 

Keep writing away, friends! Keep at it and you’ll reach your goals!

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Dan Buri’s #1 Bestseller Pieces Like Pottery is available. Get your copy of the book with over 100 5-star and 4-star ratings from readers on Amazon.

 

 

 

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