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September 30, 2011 / izanobu

Do More

This post is brought to you by not enough sleep, 4am, and the letter R (for rant).

I don’t know if it is the boards I frequent, the blogs I read, or what, but lately I see a lot of  writers who put up an ebook or two and then bitch and moan when they don’t sell much or aren’t instantly successful and rich.  I don’t get it.

I mean, I get the frustration.  You take a book or some short stories that have been vetted, either by industry professionals (in the case of previously published work) or by trusted peers or professional editors you hired or what have you.  You put it up. No one buys it beyond those three guys that live in your basement and drink your beer (or is that just MY three guys? I dunno).  So then you throw up your hands and declare that no one can make any good money by self-publishing ebooks.

What I really, really don’t understand? Often times these are writers with publication history.  They have spent years if not decades in the trenches getting rejected over and over as they struggled to get to a point where their work sold reliably.  They know what perseverance is.  They know what hard work is.  These are writers who wouldn’t dream of only ever writing one story, sending it out to a single market, and then throwing up their hands and saying “oh well, I guess this doesn’t work” and quitting writing.  Because the writers who make that decision are the ones you will never hear about.  They don’t get published because this isn’t a business for quitters.

And yet, that is what I see, over and over, among professionals who decide to test the ebook waters.  They take a single work, put it online (often with a terrible cover and boring blurb), and then throw their hands up and cry all over the net how only selling to big publishers works because no one but the very very lucky can make any money at this ebook thing.

W. T. F.  I’m serious.  I don’t get it. Why would people who should KNOW better do this?  Writing as a business isn’t easy.  It is, however, very simple.  Heinlein’s Rules haven’t changed and they still work.  Write. Finish. Get it out there. Keep it out there. Rinse. Repeat.

Ebooks are no different.  Make them as damn good as you can.  This means studying the covers, blurbs, prices, etc of the books that are like the ones you are selling.  Put up a good product. Do it again. And again.  Keep writing. Keep writing books that people want to read.  If you aren’t selling, write better books, write better blurbs, get better covers.  You know… work at it.  The same way we all do going through the traditional publishing trenches.  We slog through the rejections, the crits, the workshops, the endless query-go-round.  And when we sell a book, we rejoice.  But we don’t expect a single sale to solve all our problems forever and that we can instantly be rich and famous and awesome.  Instead, the next day, we start another damn book.

So if you have put up a single work (or even two or three) and are sitting there whining about how you don’t have the time and energy to properly market, that you don’t have the budget to do what a big publisher can do for you, that no one will buy your book, that this ebook thing is failsauce… well… look at yourself. What are you doing? Are you pinning your hopes on a single work? Would you pin your hopes on a single book bought by a trad publisher? Or would you go out and write the next book? And the next. And the one after that. Would you take a single no for an answer? Or would you examine why a story/book/whatever got rejected and figure out how to do it better?

This is the same game as it was before.  Why let one failure stop you?  You wouldn’t let a single rejection stop you.  Come on, guys. Be smarter than this.  Fail better.

(This said, I need to go write some more books. Because winter is coming and I bet there will be millions of new e-reader owners all looking for awesome, well-packaged books to read.)

4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Debs / Sep 30 2011 4:23 am

    Good one, Annie. Just don’t ask me about my e-adventures– *runs off, scared*. hee hee.

  2. Sam / Sep 30 2011 5:14 pm

    OMG I *so* +1 that. (sorry for the ‘net jargon, but seriously.)

    (and ditto!)

    Thanks for posting your results, too. It’s helpful for us tycos to see how others are doing so we can up our efforts and try to reach a critical mass. :)

  3. A.R. Williams / Oct 1 2011 11:12 am

    Good post.

    I think with trad pubbed authors, they at first spent so much time not believing self-publishing was a good thing. Then they listened to the success stories and disbelieved them on some level. When they finally decided to jump in, if they don’t sell quickly enough, they go…” I was right to begin with”…and decide to quit.

  4. Cora / Oct 1 2011 5:42 pm

    I don’t really understand it either, particularly coming from established writers who should know better. I suspect it’s a mix of the desire to prove all those e-publishing advocates wrong and the hope that they will be the outlier who hits the New York Times bestseller list right out of the gate with only one e-book out. When the second doesn’t come true, the first is confirmed and the writer decides that a big traditional publisher is the only way for them.

    What makes this so sad is that a few minutes of googling and/or checking the relevant blogs could have told them that the key to e-publishing success is patience and getting more work out there. Which coincidentally are also the keys to traditional publishing success.

    Meanwhile, I have been steadily putting up my backlist short fiction and writing new material and my sales are slowly rising.

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