From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:
Imagine my surprise when I realized that indie writers have ancient myths as well. Because the changes in publishing have happened so quickly—and probably because we live in a world where a smart phone gets outdated within 18 months—things we know to be true about independent publishing aren’t true any more.
Things have changed already and will probably continue to change for the next five years or so. Why five years? Because that’s how long, it seems, for something to get into our consciousness as “normal.”
Those of us who started self-publishing in 2008 or 2009 were at the beginning of a change. We could do things then that we can’t do now. Opportunities existed then that don’t exist now. That doesn’t mean things are worse now; it just means things are different.
. . . .
Fast forward to December of 2012. Dean still does a lot of the work himself. But we have also started four new companies to handle various things to do with just our indie publishing business, we have employees again (sigh), and we still don’t have our entire backlist up. Why? Because (1), the backlist is too damn big to swallow in one big chunk; (2) we had to redo all of our early efforts due to the changes in electronic delivery systems; (3) we added in print books; (4) we added audio books; and most importantly, (5) we moved most of our frontlist—our new books, anyway (I still sell short stories traditionally)—into indie publishing.
Suddenly—or not so suddenly—we have schedules and marketing plans and more work than Dean, I, and four employees can handle. We just hired someone new, and told her what we had said to our very first employee: You’re doing the work of five people, not because we’ve laid off four other people, but because we haven’t hired them yet.
. . . .
I just had lunch with a well-published friend, a New York Times bestseller, who was on an indie publishing panel at a science fiction convention recently, and was disappointed by his experience. He said he got attacked by the other people on the panel, and I said, “Let me guess, they told you your experience doesn’t count because you have a fan base….” and I went on from there, listing a series of criticisms that made him nod, then laugh in recognition.
Already, we can predict what the criticisms will be. That’s because there are “accepted” ways of doing things, and things that “everyone knows are true,” and all kinds of other nasties out there.
In my “Writing Like It’s 1999” post, I listed the myths, and then I added this sentence: “And you know what? Ten years ago, that was all true.”
Well, in 2009, most of this was true:
•You could put up an e-book with a crappy cover, a low price, and no proofing, and you’d get a lot of eager readers to buy the book.
•You could promote that amateurish-looking book on various web forums, particularly the Kindle Boards, and get enough traction to hit Amazon’s bestseller lists.
•Giving a book away for free, especially on Kindle, would give that book a halo effect when it returned to full price. The sales figures would rise, and the book would, again, hit a bestseller list, if only for a short period of time.
•You didn’t have to market your books to other e-book outlets (what other e-book outlets?) because Amazon was the only important outlet (read: the only outlet people were buying from).
•You couldn’t get your books into print without going to a traditional publisher.
•You needed an agent to handle the foreign/Hollywood rights, because that thicket was impossible to enter without an agent.
•You had to produce everything yourself because there was no one else to help you.
•Indie publishing was relatively scam-free.
•Hardcore readers read e-books; everyone else read traditionally published books.
Everything I wrote above is mostly not true any more.
. . . .
Probably the most wrong-headed piece of advice I’ve seen this week. It boils down to this: Know nothing about business? Hire someone to take care of that messy stuff for you rather than learn it yourself. All that needs to be added is the shoulder-pat combined with: “And don’t worry your pretty little head about that horrible business stuff, dear. You can learn it later.” After you’ve signed legal documents you don’t understand, of course.
. . . .
From 2008-2010, e-publishing on the early e-readers was a gold rush. And if you look at the history of any gold rush, you’ll see a familiar pattern.
A few people hit it big in an unexpected way. They make a small fortune. They broadcast the news of that fortune, and then hundreds, if not thousands, of people follow. They hook their horses to their wagons, drop everything, and head to the land of riches, expecting to become millionaires with very little work.
And what happens? Millionaires. Hundreds of them. Only those millionaires don’t get rich panning for gold. They open the supply shops, they serve food to the miners, they supply blue jeans and work boots and equipment, hay for the horses and rooms to rest in at night.
It’s not a coincidence that S&S has opened up an expensive do-it-yourself shop in indie-publishing land. It makes perfect sense. Think of S&S as the chain hotel who heard that there was a fortune to be made by offering rooms to miners who are too tired to pitch their own tents.
Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch