Miss Jackson if you’re nasty

My subtitle says, “Religion. Money. Politics. Sex.” Okay, I think I’ve covered them all, but my tag cloud says I’m getting heavy on the religion side, so let’s hit the money for a while.

Over on Teleread, while looking for a post on ePub format (I know I read it the other day and I’ll address that in a future post), I found this gem: Top Ten Self-Publishing Myths. It’s all relevant to me, but I’m not going to post it all here. Copyright, you know. Go read, then come back!

There are only two issues in self-publishing for me: Control and money.

On control:

It used to be perfectly respectable to sell between 10K–20K copies, but these days sales on that scale are deemed a failure by big publishers.


For mainstream authors with major publishers, career longevity is entirely under the publisher’s control.

On money:

The only authors who get significant promotion budgets and support from their publishers these days are best-selling and prestige clients. Everyone else is on the hook to do their own promotion, regardless of who published them.


If your book doesn’t earn back its advance, or sells only modestly beyond the advance threshold, your publisher won’t want to publish your next book. You’ll be viewed as damaged goods by every other imprint of that publisher, as well as by every imprint of the five other major publishing houses in the U.S.

If that weren’t enough, I present to you two published authors’ most excellent takes on the money:

Jeaniene Frost

Jenna Peterson

I’ve had my own business for going on 5 years now. I’ve had another one of them for 3. I work at home, I do whatever needs to be done, I make a little money, and I don’t have to drive anywhere or put up with office politics bullshit. The only control exerted over me is whatever my customer wants and I am more than happy to provide that.

I was head over heels in love with capitalism long before I had my own business, but I was scared to venture out on my own because that seemed to be something Other People did, people who had a courageous streak a mile wide. Not me. I wasn’t courageous. They (you know, the Nefarious They) controlled things, ran things, and I was not worthy of being included (because nobody asked me to, you see).

Then I thought about it. Stepped away from the issue of They. Started asking questions like, “So, who is They? And why are They saying I can’t do X? And what would They do if I did do X?” Which led to, “Oh, hey, I can do whatever the hell I want!” The illusion turned to dust like a vampire Buffy just slew.

There is risk involved, which is the downside of taking your life in your hands like that. Money goes out before it comes back in. I know we writers have all heard the phrase (with regard to subsidy publishing), “Money flows toward the author.” If you’re looking at it from a business standpoint (as opposed to a “getting accepted by New York” standpoint), the money only starts flowing toward the author after the author’s spent a great deal of money to begin with.

I have a series of 5 other books based on The Proviso. One is an historical. One is post-apocalyptic. One is the story of the villain from The Proviso and is recent-historical (as in, occurs in the ’60s and ’70s). A good portion of most of them is written. Their covers are mostly finished. I intend to put out one a year.

Do I consider this my author career path? No. I consider it a 6-year business plan. In other words, I’m willing to put the money and time into this for 6 years to get it to pay off. I heard once that the best promotion in the world is to establish a backlist and that is what I intend to do. I can keep my books on the shelves as long as I want to. I can do anything I want and it might take a long time, but I have the luxury of that time.


Because I’m in control.

5 thoughts on “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty

  • July 31, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    The publishing industry sounds a lot like the music industry and I think it is and will continue to experience a lot of the same kinds of pains due to emerging technologies, wider acceptance of digital media, distribution through organic and nontraditional means, coupled with the demand by readers to read more than what is hand-picked for them and the innovation by authors seeking to deliver their stories to the masses.

    Otherwise, I’m reading all this and thinking the myths about self publishing being the kiss of death for an author were most likely propogated and maintained by the publishing houses themselves in order to knock down the competition. The “traditional” model simply doesn’t sound like a great way to make money. (Then again, a friend’s daughter is working at Nordstrom and the whole scheme sounds somewhat similar – and she’s apparently making money, in spite of charge-backs and a liberal return policy.)

  • July 31, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    the myths about self publishing being the kiss of death for an author were most likely propogated and maintained by the publishing houses themselves in order to knock down the competition

    Before technology advanced to print-on-demand and ebooks, I think the expense involved in DIY lent a great deal of credibility to it. After all, if it’s that expensive, it must be the last-gasp option for a bad writer, right?

    Now, the “myth” is the only defense traditional publishing houses have and would-be published authors are its infantry, always doing their best (and a lot of it’s pretty damn brilliant), getting shot down in their prime, and being replaced by the ones who come behind. Cannon fodder.

    All in search of The Call. Because doing it any other way is “the kiss of death.” Totally circular. Or circle jerk.

    Too, I see published authors on forums say:

    If you can’t sell your manuscript, it’s crap.

    I find that disingenuous and egregiously self-serving (uhm…wait, no, I mean masturbatory), considering the odds: the sheer numbers of people writing and submitting, the markets, the length of time it takes to get a book through the pipeline. I mean, c’mon.

    The “traditional” model simply doesn’t sound like a great way to make money.

    Oh! And then you get to that ridiculous returns policy otherwise known in the real world as consignment. Who thought this up? (Rhetorical. I already know the whys and wherefores.)

    I see independent booksellers protest, “But wait! Without that, I can’t try new authors.” Please. You don’t anyway—at least not in my genre.

    I’ve just realized that’s another post for another day.

  • November 11, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I think it’s the “they” that inadvertently caused me to go indie. Almost anyone who goes indie and succeeds turns right around and says: “but I don’t recommend it.”

    Then everybody else who you mention the example to says, “oh, but they were special.”

    Yeah, well, we’re all special.

    And I believe life is about finding out what you’re capable of doing. You can’t find that out if you don’t go out and do. If *I* don’t even yet know what I’m capable of, the peanut gallery surely doesn’t.

    Great post!

  • November 11, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Almost anyone who goes indie and succeeds turns right around and says: “but I don’t recommend it.”

    I’ve seen that.

    I’m not on the “anybody can do it” bandwagon. No, not at all, because I don’t believe anybody CAN.

    What I do believe is that given a level playing field (although that offends my Randian sensibilities), those who want to venture that direction would find out where the bar is set as to quality, and then would choose for themselves.

    Here’s the thing. I look at Howard Roark, who labored in obscurity for years to be true to his art and to himself. He’s fictional–

    –but I’m not fictional. (Okay, my pen name is, but still.) You’re not fictional. And I refuse to labor in obscurity because The Mysterious They control what’s acceptable and what’s not.

    And right now, The Mysterious They aren’t doing such a hot job, either.

  • November 11, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Very true, MoJo.

    I don’t think that “anybody” can do it. But I don’t think “anybody” can do anything. But what I do know is: It’s not my business or my right to start telling other people what that can or cannot do.

    That’s an act of discovery. And each person has to take that journey for themselves. You can’t get a sneak peak at what you’re going to become. You have to go find out.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *