Feeding the Troll (or, the Winters of Our Discontent)
In today’s column, I’m going to break a long-standing rule of mine and feed a troll. Just this once.
I’m a self-publishing failure (capitalized, or not, exactly as shown). In a nutshell, a journalist who writes for Salon self-publishes a novel, doesn’t do too well with it, and thus gets to write off the entire phenomenon as “the literary world’s version of masturbation.” The condescending tone comes through loud and clear, even when he pretends to be self-deprecating.
Now I’ll be the first to admit: even with five books available, one of which has been fairly successful, I’m still trying to figure out a lot of this—especially the promotion stuff. Still, the methodology that Winters describes in his column just plain reeks of UR DOIN IT RONG. As a journalist and (according to his bio) someone who teaches writing classes at a local college, I’m guessing he knows better. In fact, I’m guessing he deliberately sandbagged the whole process, playing at being the newbiest of newbies, so he could write about the outcome he’d planned all along.
First off, he tells us “Turning my [book] to a title on Amazon took relatively no time at all.” No comment about formatting or editing it, nothing about getting cover art, no agonizing over the synopsis (although, to be fair, he could have done the latter when he was querying). Are we to believe that a journalist/columnist/writing instructor is ignorant of the importance of production values? I’d bet a box of donuts that Winters has editors and artists in his personal address book. It’s not beyond the pale that he could have had both done for sweetheart prices. And (he doesn’t mention this part in the article) he sets a retail price of $9.99. Um… yeah. No wonder he’s not getting any sales. Spending 10 minutes cruising the best-seller list would have shown a lot of titles at $2.99 or less. (Although it’s free as I write this, and doing well enough in the rankings. Maybe his Salon article touched off some interest.)
Next off, Winters goes on to talk about the variety of advertising he did. According to his article, he spent $100 on Google ads, and (reading between the lines) $50 on Facebook to promote a giveaway. Nothing spent at Goodreads, Indie Author News, or any other bookish site, where he might have had at least some return. (I’ll be doing a little advertising later this year, but even now I know that Google and Facebook aren’t the places to advertise books.)
What strains belief most of all (and this article is dated April 1): someone who has the kind of exposure you get writing for Salon, doesn’t think to use it. Well, maybe he did—if Winters has sold 20 copies of a $10 eBook, that’s not bad. But he doesn’t know any book reviewers who would let him jump in line? A positive review on a major site can really kick your sales, after all. Coupled with a reasonable price, there’s no reason that a good book written by an author with connections can’t do quite well.
Winters speaks of two groups of indie writers: the half who make less than $500, and the blockbusters. But what about the (almost) half of us in-between, the hundreds of authors making a decent living, or the thousands with a nice supplementary income? Not a peep. Why not talk about those people if you’re not writing with a pre-determined conclusion in mind?
OK, I’m done feeding the troll. In other news, I received an email from Amazon about a “Kindle Quality Notice” for Accidental Sorcerers. The email calls out a typo and something they call “forced alignment,” which I assume refers to the block-quoted sections. So whoever you are, thanks for the typo catch, and for caring enough to report it. I’ve emailed back to ask for clarification on the “forced alignment” issue, and I’ll update as soon as I know what to fix there.
Oddities, you’re missing out. Reviews have been pretty positive so far. If you want something to read on your commute, or during a coffee break, you’ll be treated to what Eric Townsend called “one entertaining story after another.”
And you’ll spend a lot more than 99 cents on that cup of coffee! If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow it, too.