1/01/2020

New Year's Resolutions and thoughts on publishing

New Year's Resolutions:
1: Blog more in 2020.
2: Write, at minimum, a complete first draft of a full-length hard sf novel. Think Interstellar, Expanse...and Event Horizon.
3: Write, at minimum, a complete first draft of a novella or short novel of between 30,000 and 50,000 words.
4: Write, complete and submit a television or film script.
5. Write, complete and submit a minimum of one short story no longer than 2,000 words.

This is going to be an interesting year for me, because it's the year I get to really test whether or not self-publishing provides me with a viable financial platform that can support me as I continue to write more.

To be clear, this doesn't mean I'm writing solely for money, but in order to write as much and as often as I would like to I need to be able to generate income from it so that it becomes self-perpetuating. If it's putting food on the table and paying my rent, I can afford to write more, knowing that will generate further income, and so on.

So far I've self-published two books. It bears repeating that neither of these are strictly the best ways of testing self-publishing in this respect. The first book I released was a short story collection. Such books sell a relatively small fraction of the number of copies an author can expect to sell of a full-length novel. That story collection by that well-known author you really like? It sold about a tenth as many copies as one of their full-length novels.

Nonetheless, my short story collection did well - much more so, in fact, than I could possibly have expected, and it continues to sell each and every month. My hope is that if I can sell this many copies of a short story collection, then if and when I publish a stand-alone book, it would, by an inverse arithmetical relationship, sell that many copie.

Or that's the hope I'm clinging to, anyway.

Doomsday Game was not,  I think, an adequate test of this relationship. Somehow it didn't occur to me when I wrote it that it might prove to be difficult marketing a book that's a sequel to two others that were traditionally published.

However, I had good reasons for writing and publishing it: if I'd written an original novel unrelated to any others, I'd have been stuck with the dilemma of whether or not to publish it myself or have my agent submit it to actual publishers. It would have seemed wisest to market it to traditional publishing markets. Further, the whole book was planned out and ready to write--although Tor UK turned it down for what don't really strike me as adequate reasons, given how well I'm given to understand Extinction Game did.

But if I'd written an entirely original and separate novel and sent it around publishers, I wouldn't be immediately generating cash from self-publishing and, to be frank with you, I kind of needed the money. Things were a little tight in the first year after Tor UK dropped me, and putting Doomsday Game out has, together with the sf collection, helped me catch up with myself, financially speaking. Together, they've made a decent amount of money. Not remotely enough to live off of, but enough to make further pursuing self-publishing seem worthwhile.

(I'm lucky in that what had until then been at best a part-time gig as a book doctor turned into an essentially full-time gig)

As I said, Doomsday Game was hard to market because the only people who would want to buy it were the people who'd already bought the previous two books. The first book did really well - in fact, as far as I can tell Extinction Game might well have been my most successful book since Stealing Light, and that's saying something. But Tor UK dropped me right before Survival Game was released.

Want to know what happens when a book is released by a publisher just months after they drop its author? It's abandoned and orphaned. It gets zero support and is effectively written off before it's even printed as an expected loss. It had a great cover, went through multiple edits working with a really great editor, had an intricate and carefully-worked out plot...and good luck, I suspect, finding it in many bookshops.

So if (say) ten thousand people bought Extinction Game, then maybe three or four thousand of those might have been lucky enough to find Survival Game...and since the audience for each successive book in a series always shrinks, that further reduces the potential audience for a third in the series, for which the only advertising I was able to afford were some Amazon ads and...that's it, really.

Nonetheless, it has sold, and well enough to make it worth it, even if it hasn't shifted quite as many as I'd been hoping.

So you can see by my reasoning that a book unconnected to any prior volumes, if self-published, has a better chance out of the gate. Hence my forthcoming book, Devil's Road.

It's short, but tight. I've come to an agreement with a narrator to produce an audiobook of Devil's Road through Audible's production arm, ACX. This time, the paperback edition is going to be available through Ingram Sparks distributor, meaning you could walk into almost any bookshop anywhere and order a copy (for reasons way too complicated to get into here, it won't be stocked in bookshops, but ordering it is certainly possible).

There'll also be a paperback edition simultaneously published through Amazon. The ebook, however, will be Amazon only: no Kobo, or Apple iBooks or anything like that.

Why? Because I made both Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds 'wide', ie available on digital stores other than Amazon, and it simply wasn't worth it. For every hundred ebooks I'd sell of either title on Amazon, I'd sell maybe two or three on all other stores combined.

This means my audience, such as I have, buys ebooks almost exclusively from Amazon.

I've seen other, well-known and otherwise traditionally-published authors taking their own steps into self-publishing come to the same conclusion and go Amazon-exclusive with their ebooks.

Yes, Amazon is evil. I agree. But Amazon is merely the sporing body of an underlying economic structure that increasingly rewards behaviour that works against, rather than for, the greater social good. I don't like that I have to rely on them so much, but to do otherwise is equivalent to giving up writing entirely.

Slave if I do, starve if I don't. Not much of a choice, really.

Ahem. Rant over.

It's also why this time I'm enrolling Devil's Road from the start in Kindle Unlimited.

For a monthly fee, it allows people to read a book 'for free' if it's enrolled in KU. This is in some ways a tragic and evil affair, in that it appears to be an attempt to turn reading into something closer to a Spotifiy experience, which would Not Be A Good Thing.

But in other ways it could also be a good thing, in that it allows those who have a KU account to sample books at zero risk by authors they've never heard of--most of whom are both self-published and have never been traditionally published.

I only occasionally had Scienceville...in KU, but when I did, it generated a small but substantial income. I went wide, because that's what I read I should do, but as I showed above this is not viable. I'd have been better off keeping the book in KU throughout its lifetime (at the moment, it's not in KU so I can offer it free to people who sign up to my mailing list).

Doomsday Game isn't in KU simply because the previous two books, being traditionally published, are by their nature 'wide' and not exclusive to Amazon.

Therefore the real test is to put Devil's Road into KU right from the start and see how that affects sales. And it can positively affect sales, directly and immediately.

So I have a lot riding on how well Devil's Road does. It'll tell me if it's worth my self-publishing at least one of the full-length novels I've written since being dropped by Tor UK, either later. in 2020 or in early 2021.

Okay. There's more I could say, but I'm going to save that for later blog posts. More coming up. 

2 comments:

Unknown said...

I purchased the Kindle format of Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds because initially it wasn't available as epub. I don't have a Kindle so I read it on my PC but I do have a Sony Ereader and would have preferred to have had it as an epub. As a collection of short stories I was happy to put up with reading it on my PC but as a rule I purchased ebooks as epubs so I can take it with me to read on the train to work. Perhaps I'm not your typically ebook purchaser though as everything else of yours I've read has been printed on paper. Good luck with the self publishing.

Gary Gibson, science fiction writer said...

There’s a free program called Calibre that’ll turn a Kindle file without regional restrictions into an ePub.