Thought for the day: Trade Publishing

Trade publishing can put its books in every bookstore, and get its friends in the media to push them constantly. But that becomes less useful every year.

I doubt we’re ever going to see another Harry Potter, because the mechanisms that made it so popular no longer really exist. While the publishers have every TV talk show talking about the book, we’re watching Netflix and Youtube.

That doesn’t mean Stephen King has anything to worry about, because he has a popular backlist and and established fanbase who’ll buy most or all of his books. But creating another King will be much harder. Another Rowling, probably impossible.

Trade publishing isn’t going away any time soon, but more and more new writers start out in indie publishing and need a very good reason to consider a trade publishing deal.

Thought for the day: Kindle Unlimited

Generally speaking, in order for a subscription model to make sense, someone has to be screwed. The subscriber has to get less value than they would by purchasing, the producer has to get less value than they would from sales, or the subscription service has to get less money than they would from sales.

There’s a small argument that people who subscribe to a service would watch or read things that they wouldn’t have bought, but that’s just redistributing income from high-value producers to low-value. Since I got a Netflix subscription I rarely buy movies any more, so the companies have lost all those $10-20 sales in favour of the few cents Netflix give them.

And it’s ten times worse with an uncurated service like KU, because it literally becomes a license for scammers to print money. KU is now basically the Hunger Games, where writers are thrown into a pit of money to fight to see who comes out alive.

KU eliminates the pricing mechanism that makes economics work, and gives scammers a license to print money. A bot costs $9.99 a month, and earns $0.004 every time it ‘reads’ a page. So it can trivially generate far more income than it costs.

Giving scammers the ability to print money is not something that can be fixed. KU is broken by design, as anyone could have told Amazon before they created it.

You can’t do the same by having bots buy your books, because Amazon takes a 30% cut. It’s only the subscription model that makes scamming profitable.

Of course, Amazon claim to be able to count page reads, but they really can’t, and it’s a fundamentally complex problem to solve. Unless, maybe, they restrict KU books to tamper-proof Kindles and put a face-tracking camera on the front to check you’re actually reading the words.

Hence scammers exploit that to make more $$$$$.

Thought for the day: New Writers

Saying a new writer should spend thousands of dollars on their first book because successful writers do so is like saying a kid who wants to win motor races should buy a Ferrari because the people who win races drive them. The kid wouldn’t have any idea how to control it and would be off in the grass on the first corner with a big repair bill.

Sure, if I was making a million dollars on each book, I’d farm out all the editing and covers and spend a bunch of money on advertising, because doing the work myself would make no sense when I could be writing the next book. But I’m sure glad I didn’t do that when I was starting out, or I’d have quit long ago because I couldn’t afford to keep losing money. After a few years and several books, I’m only just about at the point where I think I’d benefit from doing those things.

Thought for the day: For New Writers

A few things to consider:

1. You can write and publish several books in the time trade publishers would take to reject your first book.
2. A publisher who’s giving a $5,000 advance isn’t going to spend much on publicity.
3. Odds are you won’t sell your first book to a publisher anyway. You’re likely to sell at least a few copies if you self-publish.
4. Most forms of book promotion don’t work as well as writing a good book and getting it into the hands of people who’ll spread the word. The days when you could sell a million copies just by posting ‘buy my awesome $0.99 ebook’ on Twitter every hour are long gone. So many writers do that that readers just blank them out or unfollow them.
5. If you self-publish a bad book, the odds of some irate reader stalking you with a chainsaw are low. The worst that’s likely to happen is that it disappears into the Pit Of Despair (aka the million-plus rankings on Amazon).

Thought for the day: Publishing A Book A Month

I think you just need to make it your day job. A month is about 160 hours of work time. I can write about 1500 words an hour, so I could write a 60,000 word novel in a quarter of that time. That would leave three times as many hours to do everything else once the first draft is complete… farm out some of the editing, the formatting, and the cover design, and there’s plenty of time in a month to write and release a book if you don’t need lots of research or world building (as per Richard’s comment about writing in a series).

Lionel Fanthorpe used to write a (mostly bad) novel every weekend, based on a cover and title the publisher sent him, and did that for a few years. Michael Moorcock wrote some of his most famous books in a week.