The Game is Rigged

For the last two months, I’ve been pushing my Kindle book The Beach Diaries 2012 relentlessly. The month of release actually did pretty well. It sold better than expected, resulting in my biggest sales month ever. Great, I thought, feeling for the first time in ages that I might actually be able to make a go of this, if I could keep up that momentum. I know it’s not the done thing to talk about specific sales figures, unless you’re throwing out huge, imaginary numbers to big yourself up, but this post about the reality of ‘Indie’ publishing doesn’t work by vaguely tiptoeing around the facts, so, in its second month, April, during the midst of this big promotional blitz, The Beach Diaries 2012 sold a whopping 2 copies. Today, we’re almost ten days into May, and so far this month, it’s yet to shift a single one.

Deader than Lindsay Lohan. Hm? Oh, give it a year.

Deader than Lindsay Lohan. Hm? Oh, give it a year.

There are stacks of opinion pieces about why ‘Indie’ publishing is a dead end — which it is — but from some poor fucker languishing on the inside, here are the reasons why.

The Stink of Self-Pub

Overwhelmingly, this is the downside of putting yourself out there. While you are afforded complete artistic freedom by going ‘Indie’, as I went into before, you’re also shouldering 100% of the promotion. This is tough, because ads cost the kind of money regular folks — especially broke-arse writer-types — generally don’t have, and big reviews or celebrity endorsements are all but impossible to come by. At the root of all these issues lies a bigger issue, the one cause making everything tougher; the terminal disease behind all of the symptoms — “Oh, this is self-published? I’ll pass.”

I haven’t made it yet, but I’m trying. Fuck me, right?

That whole self-publishing-as-stain thing, where any author who does it is automatically a laughable pariah shouldn’t work any more. These are no longer the days of vanity publishing, when terrible writers in howling wolf t-shirts dropped $20k on “admin costs” for their 1,500 page space epic to an extortion racket dressed as a publisher, so they could have them sit in boxes in their garage until the end of time. Self-pub in 2013 isn’t a sign of failure, it’s merely a new way of making your work available; a new distribution model brought about by changes in technology.

Of course, things can, and often do fail, on various levels, but I’m talking failure in a sense of, “I sent this out to every agent and publisher in town, and everyone passed, so here we are. Not good enough for literary contracts, but good enough for the Kindle!” The game has changed. With the new distribution methods, I, as does anyone capable of cobbling together the Word files for uploading, have the ability to put my stuff out there. That I choose to do that, rather than run the time-heavy gauntlet of agents and publishers immediately chalks me up in the eyes of most as a failure who’s pimping something of such lesser quality, it belongs only in the garage, to serve as mice food over a slow period of decades.

"I think I might have a copy left. Let me check..."

“I think I might have a copy left. Let me check…”

Not forgetting that the Kindle store allows me to do something a little different. Let’s take The Beach Diaries as an example. For a start, it’s an unpitchable concept that wouldn’t have found a home anywhere else, unless I was already established. Agents and publishers are very specific in the types of manuscripts they’ll accept. A 20,000 (2011’s) or 40,000 (2012’s) word non-fiction kinda-journal of people-watching interspersed with flights of fancy has no place on anybody’s list of wants. Following those rules of the legitimate avenues, TBD should sit on my hard-drive, unpublished forever, because it’s not welcome anywhere else. Like a Chinese baby with a vagina, the length, content and subject matter condemn it from birth, left to die squealing in literature’s gutter, regardless of potential artistic worth.

There’s still this overriding notion that self-published work isn’t ‘real’; somehow fake; a pale imitation of real literature, because God knows, there’s nothing but five star classics out on those highstreet shelves. Literature is the last medium with this elitist holdover. Bands who play for studio time, independent comics, self-funded movies; all fine. Nobody’s calling Shane Carruth a prick for making and distributing the best film of the year all by himself. But a self-published book? That’s just a stick to beat the author with. “Oh, you’re self-published…” It’s the same stick that keeps you at arms length like a hobo who’s gotten into a garden party when you’re reaching out for those absolutely crucial reviews or endorsements. And that latter part is the true killer. Reviews and publicity are the oxygen that keeps a book alive, and if you’re ‘Indie’, they’re all casually stepping over you as you lay on the ground with your lips turning blue.

The only way to lift yourself clear of this and legitimise yourself in people’s eyes is to sell a ton of books, at which stage, it’s a moot point anyway. Money is the only validating factor. “Oh, you sold a hundred thousand copies? It must be good!” It’s the same work, yet shifting bulk has a transformative effect; Pinocchio being patted on the back for finally becoming a real boy, despite his being able to defecate for the last six months. It’s the same thing should a self-pubbed author get signed. Suddenly you and your work are validated and you’re worth talking to; worth reviewing or pimping; behind the velvet rope where other artists meet your eye instead of the floor at your shabby-shoed feet.

Published Authors: Left, Right. Indie Author: Centre.

Published Authors: Left, Right. Indie Author: Centre.

This kind of thinking breeds elitism even within the ‘Indie’ world. Any time I stepped out of my usual internet circles into the Kindle author ‘community’ (quote marks indicating heavy sarcasm), it resulted in nothing but the volcanic explosion of my bile ducts. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been snippily told that I shouldn’t expect to sell any books, by passive-aggressive seers of wisdom with large collections of historical and/or paranormal erotic romance for sale, with covers of poorly manipulated stock photos of 21st century Fabios with vampire teeth, because my covers are shit, or because “you should be putting out a book every month!” Yeah, just churn those fuckers out. Which leads me nicely to point number two.

Dilution of the Pool

If the early part of the twentieth century was mostly comprised of people braying that Warhol quote about fifteen minutes of fame while waving an accusatory finger at Reality TV, then the 2010s need another pithy line about how, by 2017, every person on the planet will have at least 3 ebooks for sale. I mentioned how most people equate ‘self-published’ with ‘terrible’, but in a lot of cases, without no gatekeepers, yes, much of what’s being published is objectively unreadable garbage. Obviously, I don’t put myself in the unreadable garbage pile. My stuff is great. Again, fuck me, right?

The problem here is that I simply cannot make myself heard above the cacophony of other people hawking their wares, like cockney men with suitcases full of bootleg Justin Bieber dolls that emit lethal doses of Co2 from their girlish, plastic faces. I naively used to believe that something only had to be good, and it would eventually find its audience. Maybe I’m wildly deluded, and my books are all guff, but it’s clear that I was way, way off. You could produce the most incredible work in recorded history, but if nobody takes that chance to read it in the first place, you might as well have wiped your bum across the pages and scanned it in for all the good it’ll do.

There’s a huge glut of ebooks right now, increasing almost exponentially every day. It’s kind of a dick move to question people’s motives, as though I’m somehow more of a pure artist, but some people just want to be able to call themselves a writer; like sending off the entrance fee for Mensa and flashing your membership card every time you walk into the room. People who’ve always dreamed of being a novelist — well, now they can be. All it takes is the ability to upload a correctly formatted .Doc file to Amazon, and suddenly they get to tell everyone “Hey, I have seventeen novels on Amazon!” As each day passes, introducing another ten thousand newly published writers into the world, people’s interest becomes further diluted, down to a homoeopathic level.

Oh, fuck off.

Oh, fuck off.

I’ve witnessed this in the diminishing returns of my own work. Each new title has been less successful than the one before, despite a bettering of my craft, seemingly new opportunities to reach people, and a wider potential audience with which to connect. When Frantic Planet: Volume I came out, seven years ago, there was no Twitter. We were all stuck on MySpace, pretending to be friends with Paris Hilton. There wasn’t even the Kindle. Back then, in those heady days of Tila Tequila, and Michael Jackson still being alive, someone releasing a paperback was a real novelty; a genuine achievement. In 2013, your nan probably has a 20-book series of erotic minotaur fiction, so with each new release, the novelty, and interest levels, further dissipate into nothing. To this day, Volume I is by far the biggest seller I’ve ever had.

Think of the potential audience as a taxi full of tourists, the windows darkened by the pleading hands of third-world child beggars. The first hollow-faced child they spot has a missing foot, and as his fingers push against the glass, the pinging heart-strings see them reaching towards their wallets. But soon they’ve seen a child without arms, and another covered in horrific burns. By the time the cab’s halfway down the street, there’s a little girl who’s just a head, shaking a bucket she grips within her teeth, and everyone in the cab’s figuring they’ll probably just save their coins for the hotel bar, and showing each other Youtube videos on their smartphones of a Rhino in a zoo doing a big messy shit and laughing.

Of course, there are people who’ve found success from self-pubbing, and plenty who chucked in their jobs because they’re making a living from it, but they’re the exceptions that prove the rule. For every Hugh Howey, there are a million and a half Stuart Millards, some of whom are currently undergoing the horrible acceptance that they could have spent the last seven years more productively.

This could have been me. I've wasted my life.

This could have been me. I’ve wasted my life.

The title of this piece is a quote from The Wire, and the concluding line of dialogue is: “You cannot lose if you do not play.” The first draft of this article, written a couple of weeks ago and then sat on because I didn’t want to post it, originally followed the Wire quote with this:

“But I want to play. I have to.”

Now? Not so much. I still have to, but it doesn’t work, so it doesn’t matter. I’m done here, I think. And I know when people make these “I’m done, I’m done!” posts, it reeks of a tantrum, or bitterness, or fishing for compliments begging them to reconsider, but I’ve been in this for the long haul, having devoted a lot of my life to effectively making zero headway, and barring some miraculous thing that causes my books to suddenly catch fire, it’s not happening. Not this way. At this point, I’m both frustrated because I couldn’t make it work, and legitimately terrified for my future. I don’t know where I go from here, other than, “the fuck away from ‘indie’ publishing as fast as I can,” or deeper into a financial black hole that I’m never, ever climbing out of. I’m sure there’ll be sporadic bouts of “Maybe this time, this thing will make them catch fire…” and me linking to a new poster, or tweeting a quote and a link, but don’t expect a Beach Diaries 2013, or anything else, ever.

On the subject of reviews and that, while I’ve been busy with my miserable, existential crisis, a few sites were kind enough to review The Beach Diaries 2012, so check those out if you like.

Read Between the Lines liked it to the tune of five stars (out of five, not out of a thousand, if you were wondering).

And Kook Blogs also liked it. “”… beautiful honesty and a sharp wit…”

Lastly, Louise West picked it as one of her 5 Incredible Indies.

If those reviews, or this post, inspired you to snap it up for yourself, have at it with these handy links.

The Beach Diaries 2012 on, $3.99

The Beach Diaries 2012 on, £2.99

Amazon’s free Kindle app for PC, Mac, phones & tablets

~ by Stuart on May 9, 2013.

65 Responses to “The Game is Rigged”

  1. Make that one copy sold. (I read it online as you wrote it, and looked forward to every single post – so it was only fair that I coughed up, eventually.)

    • Lovely stuff, cheers. There’s a ton of material in the Kindle edition that never got posted too, so we’re both winners today.


      • Is there? Excellent. You should have said that earlier! (I wasn’t listening if you did)

  2. Not going to lie; pretty bummed to hear this, but totally understood.

  3. I liked this, but by “like” I more meant miserable solidarity. I’m happy that you’re still going to write stuff because it would be a horrible shame were you to stop. I won’t give you another pep talk because I’d just be embarrassing you at this point, but you know I think you’re great, right? ❤

  4. As someone who reads every word you write, and buys every book, and who published a book on Kindle just days ago and is about to retire, disappointed by the people who say IT’S FABULOUS! but don’t even download it at £1.99, I feel uniquely able to confirm all that you say. Not content with that, I will even add to it.

    I went through a bit of a thing over the past few years and so many people were involved in one way or another, putting all the info and pictures into a book seemed quite efficient. So I did. No biggy, it’s what I do for a living for other people.

    Everyone said I should do it. You know – “Ooh, you’re good at writing, you should write a novel about it, or it would make a lovely film… happy ending and everything…”

    What’s the first thing people say? CONGRATULATIONS! I KNOW A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!

    Yes, but in truth, Like the boy Millard, I can upload a .doc file to Kindle with the best of them. Still, if everyone’s congratulating me, I must have done something amazing.

    As stated above, even friends and family don’t buy the thing. They want ‘signed copies’ (why God? Why?) as in, a free copy. Surely I must have a box of the things in my garage? Well no, I uploaded it first to Blurb, who printed off a few copies in hardback (£60 to ME at cost) and softback (£16 to me) let alone trying to flog these things at £70 and £25. Even I wouldn’t pay that for it, and I wrote the fucker.

    Mind you, the printed books are things of great beauty. If I was vanity publishing the thing I’d be happy to pay that to get a few copies and bask in the warmth of other people knowing diddly squat about books and thinking I’m the new JK-fucking Harry Potter. And as I’m nothing like as good as you at planning a reply, and just type it out until I’ve said everything twice in an angry voice, Harry Potter isn’t the best book in the world. It’s not even the best book I’ve READ. It’s pretty good, but the publisher (the one who didn’t actually tell her to fuck off) managed to sell the whole HP-thing and after that, she could publish her shopping lists and she’d be on Arena. Bitter? No, but how much has she made? £150 MILLION? That’s a lot for seven books. Still fair play to her. Anyway, back to the sentence I was on… pausing only to copy where I am up to so far in case the Mac hangs… don’t you hate that feeling when you lose something you’ve written? And isn’t the 20-word replacement you write in fury so much better anyway?

    PDFs and Ebooks, although only two or three quid, seem to be beyond the wallet of anyone I know as well.

    Because some celebrities with large numbers of Twitter followers were involved, I have one shot at getting publicity through them Tweeting a link to Kindle (or Blurb if people want a PDF). After that, I’m just one of hundreds of thousands of people who write a book and stick it on the internet in the hope that it will go viral or summat. The local paper is running a feature on me and the book next week, but assuming they get the link right, I am sure people will have a look online and then ask for it in WH Smith then moan when they don’t have it in stock. I’m not convinced the gen pub is able to deal with computers at that level yet. And as for using Paypal or an Amazon account…

    Holy shit, I just got an email from a relly saying as follows…

    Hi Mike

    Thanks for this – well done for getting it on Amazon!

    Have you thought about trying to sell some in Littlehampton shops? I imagine that you have contacted the local paper which I am sure would be interested. Also the library??

    We are going to Italy on Saturday for a week… (changes subject). Jesus.

    So anyway, the reason I’m replying is to draw your attention to a brill thing I read this morning (serendipitous or what?):

    So if I sell three hundred books a day, I’ll be top of the pile. Nine days in, I have sold two copies. I’ve bought five myself as promotional goodwill giveaways. I’ve made £11 and spent £180.

    That’s all I wanted to say, really. If you’d like to look at my book or – please – buy it in one of its many media, that would be great. Also, write a glowing review and give it five stars. Won’t affect sales but it will make me feel all warm inside.

    If you don’t, you’re in good company.

    My feeling about the whole thing is… I don’t know why I bothered. If you do nothing you don’t usually fail. I just found another way to fuck up.

    Still, well done Mike for getting it on AMAZON! AREN’T YOU CLEVER!!!!

    • I don’t want to look like I’m shitting on the very idea of anyone putting out a book. While I love to write and *have* to write, and would even if I was the last man alive on Earth, I had a very clearly defined goal for the Kindle books, which I never came within a million miles of touching. Other people come into the process with their own goals, less insanely lofty than mine, often just “Tell this one story I want to share with the world.” Although, recently, those goals have been ‘financial survival’.

      I definitely wouldn’t be so quick to write yours off. The indie books that do succeed (success being relative anyway) are often those local/specific interest ones that have a clear audience. I always fell down on my stuff being so general, I was competing against, like, ALL THE NOVELS. The local paper-type angles might well work for you in a way they never would have for me.

      Regardless of how snippy I’ve been about books in this post, it *is* an achievement, so nice one, and all the best with it. I certainly wouldn’t consider if a fuckup, less than 10 days in. (Unless your goal was also to make enough money to move to LA and become the next Tarantino) Pump seven years of your life into it then get back to me 😉

      As you can see by the previous post, there’s zero money floating around right now, but when there is, I’ll snap one up, I SWEAR! (Really, I’m almost eating the wallpaper for nourishment)

  5. Pop in for something to eat and commiserate.

  6. No, the game isn’t rigged, but it admittedly has different rules that change constantly. There are some, however, that never have changed: Stellar cover, excellent blurb, compelling story, solid editing and formatting.

    I highly recommend you pick up two books: Let’s Get Digital and then Let’s Get Visible (both by the highly respected author David Gaughran) . Both will help you a lot with the things you are frustrated about and help give you perspective if indie is the way to go for you; and, if it is, how to go about doing it.

    Good luck 🙂

    • Yeah… exactly why I’m done with it all. The constant shilling of ‘How to write ebooks about how to write an ebook’, or this idea that covers, blurbs and a well-written book are all you need. It’s not enough.

      • I agree those things aren’t enough. But to be blunt, you haven’t tried some of them. You don’t need to buy a book about how to promote your ebooks; you do need better covers and clearer blurbs. Your reviewers are already telling you about the covers, even as they praise your writing itself. If nothing else, several of your covers are almost unreadable at thumbnail resolution.

        Even so, I get a lit fic vibe from your work and that can be extremely difficult to sell in the first place. Your reviewers don’t know what genre Frantic Planet vol. 1 belongs in, for instance, and that’s the kind of thing that will attract a lot fewer readers. It is what it is. If you started writing lit fic, chances are you set the bar too high no matter where you set it, because you picked a genre (or perhaps a lack thereof) with low appeal where the signal to noise ratio is extremely unfavorable.

      • That review that mentions the cover was referring to an old cover, completely different to the one that’s up there now. That’s why I changed it.

        And where you see the need for ‘clearer’ blurbs, I see dumbing down. If things won’t sell because of that, and I’m being an antsy, precious artist, then fine, I’ll take that hit, but I feel like the blurb needs to reflect not just the content, but the tone. If someone doesn’t dig the blurb, they probably won’t like the book either. Again, that may have put off sales, but it is what it is.

        Telling me I “haven’t tried them” is part of that whole weird, passive-aggressive cliquey nonsense that purveys the Indie author ‘community’, and one of the reasons why it’s such a self-defeating place. But, you know, I never listen! etc

      • Fair enough; it wasn’t clear that you had changed the cover already. Maybe it wasn’t enough of a change or in the right direction; who knows. But looking at your covers and blurbs, the only clear message I get is that they’re lit fic. Are they? If so, your expectations were too high from the outset; lit fic is notorious for having trouble reaching readers.

      • Like I said in reply to another comment, I think the lit fic thing is right, and that I was a bad fit, which didn’t help. But even if my expectations had been really low, I’d still have done pretty badly. I hate the idea that anything but mass market fiction should expect to sell nothing.

  7. We can’t keep meeting on the pier…

    • Sounds like the perfect place actually. We should buy ice-creams, then hurl them at the faces of all those non-book-buying local bastards.

  8. The chance of success is slim enough that writing has to be its own reward.

    • It is, to a point. And I’ll always be writing *something*. But eventually, for me, it has to lead to something greater. If I keep spending my time pursuing the Kindle thing, one day I’ll wake up as an eighty-year-old man nobody’s ever heard of, with a catalogue of works that’ll go straight in the trash when I die.

      • That’s what I told myself for 20 years, while I collected hundreds upon hundreds of rejections. But I kept writing and submitting.

      • That’s awesome. And I’ll still be writing, just not for this medium, and not thinking it’s the magic bullet to success. Ever forward, and all that.

  9. I feel you’re too close to your work to see how much it would appeal to a huge audience in something like The Times, Telegraph or Guardian. Summer’s coming. A weekly column would work, so long as you can bear to exclude some of the phrases that so delight us. (A Chinese baby with a vagina? I tend to say ‘As welcome as a ginger step-child).

    • It’s a nice idea, and I definitely wouldn’t say no. But I’m sure most bloggers wouldn’t turn their nose up at a big column either. Maybe if Charlie Brooker comes down with Ebola or something.

  10. Was the move away from Lulu and actual paper books because Kindle was a better return for you, or because you felt it would be easier getting people to pay £2-£3?

    • Bit of both, and many other reasons, mainly Lulu being fucking awful. From the beginning, they screw you on every level. Within 6 weeks of Volume I being out, they jacked up all the British retail prices by 70%, and that was pretty much the end of that. They force you to overcharge to get any kind of return, and to get the same royalty you get from a Kindle book selling for £2.99, you’d need to sell a Lulu one for three times that. Obviously there’s the print/digital difference, but even their ebooks are set up like that.

      They also charge hundreds for ‘services’ like being able to edit your books, even a change in the blurb, whereas Amazon lets you do that via the dash, and it’s live within 24 hours.

      I knew I had to get my stuff on the Kindle, but not via those Lulu jokers.

      (Also, I always felt like £2-4 was a fair price for something that doesn’t physically exist, especially if the author’s getting 70% of that. It’s crazy to me that most ‘proper’ books, from big publishers, charge the same on the Kindle as they do for their hardback editions.)

      • Do you think maybe you’ve given too much away for free? For those that read the first Frantic Planet, and had a craving for a bit more Millard, there’s plenty available without them needing to pay for it.
        The Beach Diaries are still online, and the samples on Amazon’s “Look inside” are more than a little generous compared to others. How many free Dirt Babies were downloaded, for example?

        By having so much available for nothing, and then relying on people buying the Kindle version afterwards, it’s like instead of selling it, you’re giving it away and then hoping you’ll make enough in tips to make up for it.
        Loads of people are happy to make do with the free GenericprogramLite instead of GenericprogramPro as they can make do without the extra features, and the current version of MillardLite is pretty comprehensive.

      • And you’re shareware. Google “franticplanet.wordpress” and see how many other sites people can read your material (particularly that involving Savile, Icke or the dishonest Hogan).

      • That has been suggested before, but I don’t think I ever got enough traction for that to be a problem. My issue has always been in expanding outside my regular audience — getting reviews, publicity, ads etc.

        The Beach Diaries did alright, reader-wise, at the time they were posted, but a couple of months later, they get next to no intentional reads. This blog gets about 1,500-2,000 a week on average right now, and almost none for TBD, as they’re buried quite a ways back. Those regular, summertime readers mostly seemed to buy the Amazon editions, which is why there’s that big first month of sales, but the stats here don’t really bare out them being available here as an issue in hurting sales.

        The problem is that nobody knows the Beach Diaries exist, period, let alone that they’re up on here too. I have been mindful of this though, and if I thought it was turning into a problem, I’d just take them down.

        Also, the glut of material out there these days, free or otherwise, puts *everything* on the same playing field of trying to get noticed. Free or for cashmoney, it’s still a thing, among millions of other things, demanding someone’s precious time, and doing a little dance to prove why *they’re* the one worthy of it.

        Free download runs on the Kindle used to be the magic bullet, and people would routinely shift tens-hundreds of thousands of freebies a day, and then watch the sales roll in when it went back to paid. The bubble burst on that pretty quickly, and now the 3-day free runs are effectively worthless. Those downloads are mostly freebie hoarders who grab anything that’s available and never read any of them.

        There was also a culture of $0.99 pricing that dominated the landscape for about 18 months, then suddenly, general opinion changed to the idea that low pricing represented low quality, and people were only selling by jacking their prices up way higher.

        I guess the point of the waffle of the last few paragraphs is, even if I wiped the blog and put the Beach Diaries on the Kindle for free, I’d still be against the exact same problems I am now.

      • I spent the whole morning working through Nook’s upload process, which was made surprisingly easy by the excellent front end software. Best I’ve used so far. Took the opportunity to make a few edits too.

        Then it said you can’t be a seller if you don’t live in the US. Is this true? I have EIN, IBAN and SWIFT codes necessitated for Apple.

        I may have to go out and kill someone.

      • Oh God, maybe. I’ve never tried to get on the Nook, but the Kindle had been out for a couple of years before non-US authors could get on it. You had to have a US bank account and social security number to sign up (or more importantly, get payment) back then, which may be the case with the Nook unfortunately.

  11. That’s cos days bastards, innit.

  12. The fuck am I still awake?

  13. That’s a real pity, but I completely understand.

    I was joking with a customer of mine (well, Asda’s) the other day that the vast amount of books on the Kindle store for 99p is a terrible thing. For my wallet, at least. It’s all too easy for me to click randomly on a book and think “ooh, that looks interesting. Deliver to my Kindle!”, and then find myself overdrawn at the bank. It’s just a pity more people don’t take a punt on an interesting concept, rather than sticking to 50 Shades of Sodomy, or whatever.

    Also, does this mean I can rob the beach diaries concept? NOW WITH 20% ADDED RAW SEWAGE FLOWING DOWN THE MERSEY

  14. Thought I’d stop by and tell you why I chose not to buy your books. I can’t tell what type of books they are. Do they fit into any genre? If so, I can’t tell. Even reading the free sample didn’t help. Perhaps if you made it clearer who your books might appeal to.

    Second, I fear that you’ve fallen into a common internet trap. People come to your blog, leave complimentary comments, so you start to believe that what you’re written is worth paying for (it’s easy to see why you’d be mislead…your blog readers purchase your books and leave you five star reviews!). But your job is not to sell your books to the regular readers of your blog, but to people who have no idea who you are. Like me! Honestly though, from the free samples, I see absolutely nothing there enticing me to log into my Amazon account. (What would entice me? Some idea of what the book is about. An opening hook that sucks me right into the story. If those are missing, then knowing what genre I’m reading would be helpful. Barring that, writing so clever it sucks me in*.)

    *No matter how well you write, you should probably assume that your writing is not that clever and focus on the first three enticements. Do everything possible to capture readers.

    • “Second, I fear that you’ve fallen into a common internet trap. People come to your blog, leave complimentary comments, so you start to believe that what you’re written is worth paying for (it’s easy to see why you’d be mislead…your blog readers purchase your books and leave you five star reviews!).”

      Thanks for putting me straight, anonymous member of the Indie Author ‘Community’!

    • I’m one of those who left a 5 star review. I left it because the book genuinely made me snort with laughter several times while reading – something only a handful of authors have accomplished.

      Also, until Amazon introduce a category for “a little bit like a modern-day, southern, self-loathing Alan Bennett”, I fear he’ll go uncategorized.

  15. Maybe it’s a pile of shite that no cunt wants to buy, let alone read ? Re Warhol, check out his occult leanings – Campbell soup and all that. Remember your pal Savile, his house in Glencoe, and the massacre.


  16. Honestly, dude, you can right, but I don’t see you in the self-publishing venue. You need to get a traditional deal. Your writing is great, but you’re too literary for self-publishing.

    Successful self-pubbers are talented writers, too, don’t get me wrong, but they are COMMERCIAL. Your writing is definitely literary. Marketing your work takes people who actually specialize in marketing. And a lot of people who would be fans of your work look down on contraptions like the Kindle- they’re shopping in indie bookstores or going to B&N *if they must.*

    Good luck to you- you are a great writing talent. You just have to find the right venue.

    • Thanks, Kaley. I definitely think my lit-style being a bad fit was part of the problem, but I loathe the idea that things that aren’t mass market fiction should just expect to sell nothing. Fucking John Locke. I tried, anyway.

      And I am (attempting) to go the traditional route. While I was putting the Beach Diaries out there, I was working on a big novel, which has been done for a while, and I’m still in the process of sending out to agents, hoping for a bite. Other than that, my focus is 100% on screenwriting from now on.

  17. Oops- “right” should be “write.” Sorry- as you can tell, I’m definitely not a writer!

    • Don’t sweat it. This is still in the top 1% most literate comments I’ve ever had. Just look at the “Andy Warhol’s occult leanings” guy up there ^^^

  18. Well, I feel you. All the stories about runaway bestsellers like Hugh Howey neglect the stories of you and me, who sell almost nothing. It sounds like you’ve been at the game longer than I have, which is impressive. Being able to release a book isn’t the same as being to sell it, and I’m personally sick of shilling for my books instead of doing what I want to do, which is write. I also feel the pain of discovering no one is buying my books, not even friends and family.

    What’s the solution? Well, the usual claims of cover, blurb, editing are all factors, but not a magic trick. The best cover in the world, and best blurbin the world, and a perfectly edited book are all great, but ultimately it’s about the book itself. At a certain point, the painful truth is that your book isn’t one that a lot of people want to buy. It doesn’t mean it’s worthless, because there’s an audience for it, but that audience is few and far between. The solution is simply to write something else. Or quit.

    Frankly, I expect a lot of people will be dropping out of the self-publishing scene this year. I acutally think the opposite of what you describe is happening. There was a novelty to e-publishing that made every self-published book an attraction for some readers. Now that the Kindle market is flooded with books, readers are getting more discerning, and it’s getting harder to stand out. It’s going to take a lot of work. I’m sure a lot of other self-published authors are going to make the same decision in the next few months. There are those who choose to do something else with their time, and I respect that. It sounds like screenwriting is really what you want to do, anyway. Of course, selling a screenplay will have its own challenges, but that’s a different story.

    I plan to keep trying as long as I can, simply because I’m going to write my novels anyway, and I like that at least I have the option of having someone else read them.

    • and I’m personally sick of shilling for my books instead of doing what I want to do, which is write

      This is almost the crux of the issue for me. Self-promotion is such an unbelievable time-sink that unless it’s really paying off with sales, it’s just flat out unproductive. It’s not always easy to find writing time anyway, so it just feels like a waste to spend the majority of it fruitlessly shilling. I don’t see it as ‘quitting’ on one medium, more that I’m shifting focus to be more productive with that writing time.

      Frankly, I expect a lot of people will be dropping out of the self-publishing scene this year.

      Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see what happens there. I think a lot of newer authors are still caught up in the magic of having someone — anyone — pay for their work, and feel validated by that, but aren’t prepared for the realities of the long haul.

      All the best with your work, and good luck out there!

  19. […] seems I was a mite hasty in chucking in this indie publishing lark. I bemoaned the lack of celebrity endorsements, luring in readers with a pithy quote about how […]

  20. Your choice of blog theme and colour scheme means your posts are hard to read, and that cover for Beach Diaries is off-putting for many people.

    • 175,000 hits, and you’re the first to tell me they’ve found it hard to read, which suggests it’s not a problem at all and you’re being a Picky Pete.

      And as for the covers, I just checked out yours. Physician, heal thyself!

      • I found your article from another forum, and there were plenty of people on the thread saying that they found your site hard to read.

        White/grey text on a black background is hard on the eyes. It’s why magazines, books, and most websites have a white background and darker text. The font is quite small too.

        And what do my covers have to do with what I said about yours?

      • I think they’re bad, so it makes me question your judgement on such matters.

        Hey, look at that — things are subjective! Thanks for speaking on behalf of everyone though.

      • Let’s assume that you’re a lonely person and you’ve written a long blog post complaining about how you are unable to find a wife, despite courting hundreds of women on every continent.

        I come along and point out that you’ve got a cleft palate, are blind in eye, and only one nostril, which is why no-one will marry you. The fact that a Google image search of me reveals that I’ve got horrendous facial burns doesn’t detract from my critique of what you look like.

      • That’s a broken metaphor.

        “You’ve got a cleft palate, are blind in eye, and only one nostril” would be a fact-based statement.

        “Your cover is off-putting” is your subjective opinion. And as I think *your* covers are bad, when clearly, you don’t or you wouldn’t have used them, your subjective opinion on this issue is unreliable.

      • No metaphor or analogy is perfect but the overall point remains.

        I’ve already told you that other people on a forum have said the same things about your blog and the cover.

        Open a book or a magazine and the vast majority of them will have dark text on top of a light background. The same goes for most websites. That isn’t a coincidence.

        Of course, you’re free to ignore any and all criticism and no doubt you’ll be posting in six months time about how the fifth columnists are still keeping you down.

      • I can pretty much ignore anything you say anyway, seeing as you’re essentially just showing off for your buddies on a forum. You realise I have referral logs in my stats, right? Ah, that wonderful Kindle Author Community, one big circle-jerk of backslapping.

        “There’s blood in the water — everybody in!”

        Quick, tell them how I refuse to listen to your wisdom! Tell them the hilarious burn you zinged me with! Maybe they’ll click something in your sig and buy it.

      • Yes, I realise you get the referral logs in your stats. I get them in my dashboard as well.

        Just out of interest, who are you actually interested in listening to? Building yourself an echo chamber doesn’t seem to be doing you much good.

  21. […] read a blog post the other day from a guy who was ‘jacking it all in’ because no-one paid for what […]

  22. I get white on black but so far no columns?

    Can we stop this now as it’s beneath at least one of you, and it’s why we can’t have nice things.

    Thank you.

    • You’re right, I should probably stop rolling around in the dirt. I figured if I wasn’t working the e-book angle, why bother being professional?

      There you go, Troll Guy, you get to run back to your forum with the last word, claiming victory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: