I’ve been a pretty terrible independent publisher of late. Despite my firm belief when I started in self-publishing that I shouldn’t do anything marketing-wise until I had ten books available (a goal that I thought I would reach much, much earlier than I actually will), 2014 and 2015 felt like years where I really tried hard on the “business” of publishing.
For A Lonely Magic, I spent months editing and rewriting, hired a professional editor, joined a NetGalley co-op, gave up away a multitude of pre-release copies in hopes of early reviews, worked to set-up pre-release marketing, had an ad budget and an intern developing a list of sites to advertise on, even did some video stuff with her. Oh, and spent six weeks or so working on an audio version. It was all discouragingly pointless.
In 2015, I tried the anthology experience. A lot of that was quite fun, because the people I was working with were great, but it meant time spent on Facebook parties and dollars spent on giveaways and more. We did ad campaigns and blog tours, twitter blasts and keyword loading, the whole thing. It was the full complement of the modern publisher’s toolkit of sales and marketing tools. It wasn’t pointless, but the real goal was to reach the bestseller lists in order to have that label in our bios, and we didn’t succeed in that goal. The second anthology I participated in was even more work for me, but in the end, I opted out before we went to press. (Long story, I’ll spare you the details.)
I also dabbled with conferences, attending two in the fall, one of those as a speaker. They were great. I had a really good time at both, learned a lot, had fun. I don’t think they did anything at all for my book sales, but I didn’t go into them with that in mind. Still, the conference route — including buying booth space and sitting at a table selling books — is one that some people seem to succeed with. I could still give it a try, and it might possibly work out better with my future life than it does with my current life. (My current restriction, is, of course, the two dogs that I live with. Going away from them regularly is not really an option.)
But I entered 2016 seriously considering what my future was as an indie publisher. I’ve not done the things I intended to do. I haven’t even updated my business site — my blog post was stuck on lessons learned from 2014 throughout the entire year of 2015, before I finally hid the blog. Now it’s just blank. How’s that for a professional business? I don’t even have all my books listed there! Bad me.
On the other hand, maybe that’s sort of the point of independent publishing? I certainly knew it was back when I started. I didn’t intend to take it seriously. I didn’t intend to be all gung-ho and professional about it. I loved the idea that I could write my stories, post them on Amazon, maybe make some coffee money from them and maybe make some friends. Maybe the point at which I decided to take it seriously was the point at which it stopped being fun? And, more importantly, the point where I stopped liking my writing?
I’m not sure what this means for my future. Obviously, it doesn’t mean anything about Grace. I’m going to finish (I’ve got an ending! Woo-hoo!) and I’m going to post it on Amazon and probably even send an email out to my mailing list. And I’m absolutely going to write A Precarious Balance. I can’t wait to get started — Fen is so much fun and the things I already know about her story give me a great glow inside. And then there’s the Heather story that I mapped out a few months ago, with Noah’s brother… that’s pretty fun, too. So, hmm, maybe I’m going to continue to write because I like writing, but maybe I’m also going to stop beating myself up about being a terrible indie publisher.
The reason this all came up was because I was posting new versions of the books to Amazon — long story, but I lost my mobi files, needed to download them again, realized I had new files — and saw this button, View Service, under KDP Pricing Support. Turns out, Amazon thought I should increase the prices on my stories and on A Gift of Thought, so I did. I have no idea what that’s going to do for sales or dollars, but the seeming immediate short-term result was that sales of the box set jumped (from 1 to 3, we are not talking meaningful numbers.) So I went back to the View Service button and looked at what Amazon thought I should do to that price. It turns out that Amazon thinks I should sell the books for $4.99 and the short stories for $2.99 but it thinks I should sell the box set for $3.99.
Um… no? At first I was sort of dismayed, really — frustrated by how much the whole business seems like a magical, illogical, black box — and then it made me laugh. Publishing *is* a magical, illogical black box and probably the best way to enjoy it is to treat it like that. Some hand-waving, some mumbo-jumbo, but in the end, the books will do what they do. And I’m going to continue writing them and maybe muddle around with my business site a little bit in the near future — really, it wouldn’t hurt to post all of my books there! — but continue with 2016’s plan of not paying much attention to the business of publishing and just write. I don’t know that it’s working in terms of financial success and glory, but when it comes to quality of life, it’s pretty damn great.