On the book world and writing, again, and again

I must admit my heart and mind are not really focused on this post but on the hostage siege in Sydney. Here’s hoping that it ends well for the hostages, as badly as possible of the terrorist, and worse for his ’cause’, beliefs and supporters. I suggest remembering Kipling in this situation on appeasement, and giving them what they want. “And that is called paying the Dane-geld; But we’ve proved it again and again, That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld You never get rid of the Dane.”

And by not doing what I usually do, I’d let the shark-shite win.

So: to return to the book-world. A few ‘interesting’ posts this week about the industry in general I see poor struggling Douglas Preston is trying to enlist the government in keeping the Gatekeepers in place and himself and his likewise favored darlings pampered and rich. I see he thinks we lesser types dare not speak against Amazon. I wonder if he’d ever dare speak up against Hachette for us? The big publishers have done us far more harm than Amazon (and that’s without having any trust of Amazon), and authors really do NOT dare speak truth to those powers. Plenty have been openly abusive about Amazon. Given the leanings of those powers, and their history, I can only hope that their political favorites lose any power, or we’ll be straight back into publishing feudalism. Which is nice if you’re one of the nobility like Preston – who I notice didn’t mention Amazon’s various offers to ameliorate the damage to Hachette authors (all turned down), but not much fun for peasants like me eating mud and apple peelings.

Secondly I see Hachette entered into a deal with Gumroad to sell books apparently via twitter. I’m going to look into Gumroad in my ample free time – unless someone else on MGC is kind enough to do the hard yards. I see they charge a mere 5% (Amazon is 30%) for their services. So: anyone like to give me odds that 1)none of the extra money will end up with the Author. 2)None of the potential saving will go to the readers. 3)The prices will continue to suck.

Thirdly I thought I’d bring this ‘trends’ article up for discussion. I notice sf isn’t even there. I wonder if it was too small or they consider it a subset of fantasy? I do wonder what shrill squeals we’d be listening to if e-book sales to women were 35%. It should worry anyone who has a daughter who they hope will one day marry a man who reads, but then perhaps they are not worried about that. I would be. I hope by the time I have grand-daughters old enough to look for a male partner firstly they can find one, and secondly, he’ll be a decent bloke, the chances of which increase markedly if he reads.

Now, on the subject of writing. A short comment but one I think worth making. There is always someone who will like your writing. In a perfectly connected world, matching tastes with providers, there will be readers who would the enjoy Eye of Argon, Clamps, ET (go home) and Frau Blucher’s non-binary PC efforts. Maybe even enough for them to make a living on. It’s a big world, but at the moment we’re not that well connected. There is a lot of luck (not all of it) involved. There are many good writers who could be popular but never hit the right time and place. I guarantee there are another slew of books every bit as good as Harry Potter, or 50 Shades of Taupe that just hit wrong, so not having got it doesn’t necessarily make your writing inferior. Remember, writing instructors, and even other authors are neither arbiters nor judges. The truth be told, if they have to do that to earn a living… they’re probably not very good at being popular writers themselves, even if they win boatloads of awards. There really is only one measure of popular success and that’s money, and not even the good necessarily get that. Publishers can help with publicity. So can various social media.

There are may things you can do wrong of course, and we’ll talk about those too.

But without trying, again and again, you have no chance at all.


  1. I’ve considered selling through my website using Gumroad. The problem (for me at least, YMMV) is that I have to register with state and local tax agencies in case someone in Texas buys something and I have to collect sales tax (and pay state, county, and town their chunk). I’ve read that in some locations (not mine, thank heavens), you can run into zoning problems if you “sell books” from an address that is zoned residential. After the New Year I may get serious about forming a corporation and all that, because I’m just about to trigger the US federal quarterly tax payment requirements (yeah me! 😦 taxes) At that moment, Gumroad might be a more viable option.

  2. Gumroad. I doubt it is a serious competitor for Amazon. No, seriously. I speak as a consumer of books. Amazon just has more. I go to Amazon to order, oh, embroidery floss, say, and then see an add for a book, and…

  3. I’m currently using Gumroad as my personal sales portal. I used to host my own store, but the hassle of dealing with customer problems (file didn’t get downloaded, customer didn’t know how to sideload, etc.) was taking too much time. It was worth the commission for Gumroad to handle that. I haven’t experienced any problems with them so far.

    It is definitely a very minor income stream at present, but I think there are a handful of my readers that are quite grateful for it–those trapped in European VAT gulags, for example.

    I’m incorporated in Washington State, which means I pray nobody in state buys from Gumroad 😉 I have to pay sales tax depending on where the CUSTOMER is, and the tax table varies by city. I have to pay quarterly taxes on profits regardless, so that part isn’t any additional hassle.

      1. Even the gubmint knows it is a joke. They basically tell you “do the best you can” because it is such a cluster. Really. I will not go into the pointless contortions otherwise known as the state business tax because it makes the veins in my face bulge. They could give master classes to the IRS.

  4. I’ve used Gumroad for a couple of years. I don’t have a high volume of those sales (alas), but it has been completely painless and, as a plus, you get the email of the person doing the buying, so you can consider adding them to your email list. Here’s a link to one of my books, so you can see what it’s like for the buyer. https://gumroad.com/l/Zcmo

    They also do coupons.

      1. Risk there is running afoul of Canadian speech laws.

        I belong to an organization that has regular meetings at different venues on different topics. They have been emailing us, maybe a hundred or two in the area, to tell us about meetings. That Canadian law about mass email has changed changed procedure. The organization has put together a social networking site, and we are now supposed to have accounts there, it will replace email. Well, we’ve got around twenty accounts, out of a whole lot more.

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