By Liz Crowe
There is a lot of dissention in the indie author ranks these days, directly connected to the State of the Industry. Which is, arguably, a bit messy. It’s not that surprising. When Amazon opened its virtual doors, followed closely by Barnes & Noble and ITunes and the others, it created an outlet for plenty of eager writers seeking fame and fortune who’d either been bypassed by traditional publishing or were not willing to “go there” with the synopses, the queries, the rejections, et al.
The titans of the self-publishing world were created in these early, heady days. They were the crafty, savvy, early adopters. They made it look easy, which (again, arguably) it was. It’s an issue of “volume” and “market saturation” in ebooks. Neither existed then, and these folks were able to carve out serious niches for themselves on their own. When you are first to colonize, you get the pick of the land, so to speak.
Since then, many more of us, myself included have jumped onto this train. In 2013 there were, approximately, a million (that’s 1,000,000,000) books published every year. It is estimated that over half of these were of the self-published variety. That means somewhere around 500,000 other folks flailing around alongside you to find readers outside their immediate family. If you pay any attention at all to the industry these days, you’re probably with me in guessing that the number is significantly higher as the “quick bucks in self publishing” myth has abounded in the past couple of years.
Entire industries are built on it. A quick check of my twitter feed proves that. “Hire me to tweet for you!” “We promise you a million sales!” “Our promo services have a money-back guarantee!” “Join our community (for a fee)!” And of course the infamous “Want instant best seller status? Just pay us for hundreds of reviews!” scam.
It’s a real rat race. Not terribly far removed from other types of creative industries, but ramped up, thanks to the easy access we all have to calling ourselves authors. Even blogging is oversubscribed and potentially obsolete thanks to platforms like Facebook, twitter, reddit and others. It seems as though there is no new way to be heard above the cacophony of “buy my best selling vampire zombie dinosaur erotica and I’ll send you a swag bag of goodies” with your simple message of “Hey, I wrote a book, had it professionally edited and covered and would appreciate it if you’d, you know, buy it and review it. By the way did I mention it’s only three bucks?”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against this in principal. Flattening out the playing field was overdue. Letting a few lofty folks in Manhattan skyscrapers determine the books we got to read was a system begging for adjustment.
But I can tell you without hesitation that it is an uphill battle. The one or two out of a million success stories are exactly that: one or two out of a million. I get it. I understand it. And I am slowly coming to accept it.
First of all, it’s an expensive endeavor. Self publishing is a business. Writing the book is the easiest bit. Once that’s done you owe it to your craft and reputation to pay for edits. You also shell out for a great cover. My one self published series, The Love Brothers went one step beyond that—a custom photo shoot using my choice of model so that I got exactly the shots I wanted, which I then turned over to a top-notch graphic/cover artist. All of this cost a fair bit of pesos, no lie.
Okay so assume you can cover that by eating ramen a few nights a month. You’ll just push that publish button (after you’ve paid to have the book properly formatted of course) and the money shall pour forth from Amazon’s coffers into your dwindling bank account. Uh, no. Because remember if you divide that million (number of books published a year) by “365” you get 273,972. That would be the number of books about to compete directly with your soul’s outpouring, your baby, your creation just on the day you release it—the next day there’ll be another 273,972 of ‘em ready for readers and their disposable income.
You have your third job ahead of you, the most daunting, and potentially the most expensive one of all: the marketing and promotion of your book.
If I had a buck for every email, Facebook message and tweet I get every single day telling me I WILL BE A BEST SELLER if I would only send the sender some money, I’d be rich enough not to be having this conversation with you, kind and gentle fellow scribbler. I’ll confess: I have paid for ads on various platforms including the expensive/selective ones. I have bought “virtual book tours.” I have purchased placements on something like a zillion daily “book bargain” emails. I have contracted with publishers who’ve promised me promotions as part of the bargain. I have paid for a publicist. I’ve hosted my own Facebook parties and filled in on other authors’ events just for the shot at a fresh reader or two. I have made a few trips out of town, out of pocket on table fees, gas, hotels, and food plus swag just for the opportunity to get face time with new readers. I am in seven (7) multi author anthologies and I promoted the living hell out of all of them alongside the other authors participating.
I don’t believe that there is a single gimmick or previously super successful for someone else effort that I haven’t tried. But that was all right because sales of The Love Brothers were gang busters right out of the gate. All I had to do? Finish the series with the longest, most heartfelt book of them all (Family Love) and then I could be the CEO/Marketing VP of my own Liz Self Publishes And Rocks It Multi National Corporation. And that ultimate crown: The New York Times Best Selling Author set of letters I am dying to plaster across the fronts of my books were obviously well within my grasp.
I’m an industry junkie. I make it a point in all my many lives (real estate, books, craft beer) to remain abreast of trends and happenings, successes and failures. And if you kept up with things this summer you know that “summer of 2015” in “publishing” was akin to “virtual Armageddon.”
If you missed it or were lucky enough not to be affected, allow me to summarize: sales slipped, slumped, and slid for (almost) everyone, even those best selling authors making “surprise releases.” It was, in short a crappy set of months for everyone, yours truly included.
And I have this “thing” about reality: I need my existing self published books to support the next set. If I don’t make enough off of The Love Brothers I cannot dip into “household funds” such as they are to support a new book or series of books. Income needs to exceed Outgo when at all possible.
I got super mad. I bitched and moaned (but in private, of course because you know I do not condone online bitching about crappy sales). I ragged and railed and sulked and cried some too. “I have never,” I would say, a lot, usually to myself. “Never, ever worked so bleeping hard and failed so utterly at something. Ever.” And I have “tried” a lot of things and succeeded at them. I am no stranger or averse to hard word. Somewhere in the middle of all this pity-partying, I lost the joy.
That’s right. Because writing, like singing or sculpting or painting or playing the piano, is a JOY first and foremost. I caught myself scowling at a half finished manuscript (I have lots of these now) and saying “screw it. No one’s gonna read it. What’s the point? Who cares?”
Well, I’m here to tell you that I know for a stone cold fact that I will likely never be able to use that NYTBSA set of letters after my name. And I honestly do not think, after a long hard study of the industry and my place in it, that the LSPARIMNCorp will ever come to fruition. But I will be damned if that keeps me from writing. Because I, for one, CARE about what I’m doing.
In September, I wrote what most people would consider a near full length novel at 46,000 words. I had such fun writing it, it poured out of me in something like two weeks. I paid for proofreading and a cover… and I have decided that it, and its follow up that is currently percolating along as my first ever NaNoWriMo project will be 100% Free. To everyone. And not via any retailing platform either. So you know I’m dead serious about not trying to game my way onto a best seller list.
APPRAISED is now available only to subscribers of my monthly, spam-free newsletter. It releases to those lucky folks this fine evening (11/17) but I’ll make the link available again in December’s issue, on my “29+20 birthday edition” 12/17/15 when I unveil something even cooler that will show my dedication to taking my hat out of the unwinnable Amazon rat race. The follow up (NaNo) novel CONTINGENT will release free on January 1, 2016. Sign up for the newsletter if you like but do me a favor, and never lose the joy.
Happy Freebie New Year. Because, why not?
Sawyer Callahan is a former cop turned accounting instructor, part time real estate appraiser and handy man, and single dad to a teenaged girl. He keeps his once-chaotic life now firmly under his strict, somewhat OCD control. Until he decides to sell the house that reminds him too much of his late wife.
Miranda Landon is hot-shot real estate agent with a relationship-sized chip on her shoulder that she exorcises, frequently, with the help of as many men as possible.
These two meet, of course. But what happens may surprise you.
APPRAISED is the first in a series of 100% FREE Liz Crowe novels told in a unique back-and-forth point of view style. Real Estate Romance with humor and spice available to subscribers to Liz’s once-a-month newsletter.
How to get a copy:
Sign up! On December 17 you will receive a link to download this book in your preferred format, plus the sequel CONTINGENT in early January.
Goodreads Link to leave your thoughts and recommendations:
Meet Liz Crowe:
Author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.