Log in

No account? Create an account

The Past | The Previous

More on Self Publishing

I wish I could claim credit for today's links, but my friend, C, who yesterday had a problem with Tim Pratt's donation system, has found herself a new hobby, and is currently researching electronic self publishing and how to support yourself as an artist.

First, she notes the 1, 000 True Fans theory:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.


Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day's wages per year in support of what you do. That "one-day-wage" is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let's peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.

It's an interesting statement, actually, and as the article goes on to say, it's a very feasible number to achieve. In truth, a thousand is not such a huge number, though of course anyone who has dealt with the small press will also know the audience numbers of two fifty to three hundred. I think--off the top of my head--between two fifty and five hundred is what was moved of 26Lies and Black Sheep, respectively. I think the latter might be less, and sitting more in the three hundred range, but I could be wrong. Either way, while a thousand isn't such a great number, it still requires some work, and perhaps a different way of working it. Promoting books usually means reviews, word of mouth, and so forth--but could it be that generating fans requires a different tactic?

Who knows.

After that, C linked Lawrence Watt-Evans' pay as you go scheme for his self published book as something that she found more appealing to her taste. Perhaps because it is inspired by the Street Performer Protocol, perhaps not. I must admit, that from my standpoint, I don't see a whole lot of difference in either, but I must admit, I simply find neither appealing or insulting, so perhaps it stems from there.

And lastly, but not least, C also delved into the electronic publishing world, where authors being able to price their own work is raking in the cash, and leaving the electronic work put out by the major publishers in a kind of hole:

What would be the winning formula to stand out from the thousands of other eBooks on Kindle?

I'm not sure you have to stand out. Writers aren't in competition with one another. It isn't a zero sum game. If you have a good book, a good cover, a good product description, and a low price, you can sell well.

Currently, on the Police Procedure Bestseller Kindle list, my ebooks occupy ten of the top hundred spots. I'm outselling James Patterson, JD Robb, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Jonathan Kellerman, and many other heavyweights. Simply because I'm cheaper.

Print publishers have said that a low ebook price "devalues" the book. That's silly. The value of a book isn't its cover price. The value of a book is how much money it earns. On several of my ebooks, I've earned more than the average advance NY gives to a debut novelist. And I'm earning more money on a $1.99 ebook than I earn on a $7.99 paperback.


I'm not a huge fan of advertising. I've never bought a book based on an ad, so I don't use ads to sell my stuff. I once mailed letters to 7000 libraries, which was an expensive and time-consuming undertaking that didn't really seem to pay off.

But, honestly, I really haven't done much promotion for my ebooks. I blog about them, and I occasionally post on a few forums like Kindleboards.com. I've been fortunate to get some good reviews, and decent word-of-mouth. People surfing Amazon happen to find my books, either on the bestseller lists or as an Amazon recommendation (Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought), and for $1.99 decide to give them a try. Once they do, some readers order all of my books; something I know happens because I get daily emails from new fans.

My bestselling ebook is called The List--a thriller with a sense of humor.

The List isn't just outselling all Kindle police procedure ebooks, it's also outselling all print police procedure novels. I've never even come close to doing that with my print books.

Sort of makes you think about where the future of publishing is headed, doesn't it?

What's this all mean?

Who knows!

But it makes for interesting reading, no matter what you think.


( 19 Soaking Up Bandwidth — Soak Up Bandwidth )
Aug. 26th, 2010 03:16 am (UTC)
If you're looking up self-publishing and truefans, then research a bit into The Long Tail, too.
Aug. 27th, 2010 11:08 pm (UTC)
yeah, there was a bit on it there, which i read as well.
Aug. 26th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
Perhaps I'm a sucker, but unless it's by an author I know and like, or unless it's out of copyright, I don't even look at free and $2 ebooks. I'm sure many are good value, but I'm more time-limited than money-limited when it comes to recreational reading, so I'd rather take a chance on something in which a major publisher has chosen to invest.
Aug. 27th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
why is that, you think? do you reckon major press just has better standards?

(i can tell you from my own experiences, the major publishers are horribly conservative.)
Aug. 28th, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
do you reckon major press just has better standards?

Better standards than the average individual author self-publishing an e-book? Yup.

Better standards than small press? Not necessarily, but small press is very variable. Some focus on a very tight niche (publishing the work of poets living in a particular town, perhaps), which limits the material they have to work with. Some are essentially vanity projects for their editors, with limited effort. And some do very good work, branching out from the mainstream and working closely with the best writers they can find. But you need to know something about the press in question, or about the writers they are publishing. But anyway, quality small press tend to be no cheaper than major publishers: I think most of the free and very cheap ebooks available are the work of self-publishing authors.
Aug. 28th, 2010 01:44 am (UTC)
Oops, forgot to log in.
Aug. 27th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
Huh. Did C say why the model turned her off?

I'm not hugely invested in that particular approach, admittedly. I'm still experimenting. I did a tip jar model for an earlier online serial, with no prizes, and it got a decent response. Then I decided I'd try the National Public Radio donate-and-get-goodies model. Both have advantages and disadvantages. (The latter's a lot more work for me, but it also brought in a lot more donations.)

I considered and rejected the "hostageware" model, where I'd only release a new chapter after receiving X amount in donations for the previous chapter, because that seemed unfair to me, as it would potentially prevent the people who *were* donating from reading the whole book, which seemed like the opposite of gratitude.

Basically, though... I'm putting the whole thing out there for free. Nobody has to give me anything if they don't want to. That fact tends to make me cock my head in bewilderment at any criticism of my model. You can get everything, for nothing, so what's there to complain about, precisely?
Aug. 27th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
i'll try and get c to come along and answer herself, but in general, she said that the reward system felt a bit like begging. personally, i thought it was stronger than the watt-evan's one, simply because there was less of a hostage fee, as you say--and i thought the rewards were a nice incentive for readers, but you can't win everyone, i guess.

which i guess is what it boils down too. no matter how you release something, you're going to have your pros and cons, people wise. a lot of readers believe that what comes out of a major pess is pretty much a sign of quality, which is also how a lot of authors work, too--though that need not be the case, as the mainstream publishers often publish badly written books and conservative ones next to good and groundbreaking. in addition, as you'll be able to testify, good books can not be published if a sales track record is bad. but once you leave that major label, i think you're bound to find people who like one way as opposed to another, and it's just the way in which people have standards of consumerism.
Aug. 28th, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
Oh, absolutely. And there are plenty of people who've taken my self publishing as a cry to cut out the middleman or turn my back on traditional publishing, which... it's not. For perfectly sound business reasons, my big publisher dropped my series, but I still wanted to write it, and enough people still wanted to read it, that I tried to figure out a way to make it work. And I did. So yay!

Sorry if I've been grouchy in this thread. My wife's out of town and I've been taking care of our 2.5 year old solo for a few days. As a result I'm tired and cranky, not unlike my child at naptime. That's not an excuse, I know, but an explanation.
Aug. 28th, 2010 12:38 am (UTC)
Begging isn't the correct word. My impression of this model was that it put prizes in the forefront and made the writing feel like an afterthought, as if it couldn't stand on it own. So for me, it was a turnoff to contributing.

Aug. 28th, 2010 02:49 am (UTC)
I intended it as a way to give something back to the people who made it possible for me to continue publishing a series that -- by all rights -- should have been dead.

I don't know if you're a novelist, but if you're capable of writing 85,000 words of readable prose as an afterthought, you are far more talented and accomplished than I. It takes me fore, middle, AND afterthoughts, and a few months of plain hard work, to do that. :)
Aug. 28th, 2010 03:02 am (UTC)
I don't know if you're a novelist, but if you're capable of writing 85,000 words of readable prose as an afterthought, you are far more talented and accomplished than I. It takes me fore, middle, AND afterthoughts, and a few months of plain hard work, to do that. :)

i know you don't mean that to sound as barbed as it came across, man, but remember nice :P my friends aren't novelists, they're just people with an opinion here and there, and they're not making any comment on the work itself. just the model and the impression.
Aug. 28th, 2010 04:20 am (UTC)
Sorry if it came across as mean -- but I was stung by the suggestion that I'd write a novel as an afterthought. I may have taken what she said the wrong way. I wanted to point out that writing a novel's a bit of an undertaking, that's all.
Aug. 28th, 2010 04:25 am (UTC)
it's cool, man. as her response below says, she knows the work and time and shit that goes into it. she's known me long enough to see the work and downside of it ;)

anyhow, i'm just showing one those rare moments where i make sure things don't get taken the wrong way and get out of hand. no big.
Aug. 28th, 2010 03:49 am (UTC)
Well, this will teach me not to post on blogs. :)

No. I am not a novelist, but I have a great deal of respect for the talent and dedication required. As stated, my comments were only directed to my impression of the model, in no way were they directed to the writing itself. The model was quite successful for you, so my opinion isn’t anything to get fussed over. :)
Aug. 28th, 2010 04:25 am (UTC)
I'm sorry I got bitchy, sincerely. It's been a long week, and I shouldn't have taken my tired and prickly mood to the internet.
Aug. 28th, 2010 04:28 am (UTC)
Sorry I got bitchy. Sincerely. It's been a long week, and I shouldn't have brought my tired, prickly mood to the internet.
Aug. 27th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
(Re-reading my comment, I think I should clarify that I don't mean to criticize Lawrence Watt-Evans's method, which clearly works well for him. I have great respect for Lawrence, think he's a pioneer, and like his writing a great deal. I just wasn't comfortable doing something similar, because I wasn't sure what kind of response I'd get. I had visions of posting the first few chapters, getting a handful of initial donations and no others, and then just sitting there, unable to post additional chapters if I followed my own rules -- thus annoying the people who did give me money. I might try Lawrence's approach in the future though.)
Aug. 27th, 2010 11:17 pm (UTC)
it's all cool, man. i don't think anyone would assume you were being critical. just pros and cons for all systems.
( 19 Soaking Up Bandwidth — Soak Up Bandwidth )