Now this is taken from that notorious and doubtless arcane source of much that is evil, and also cat memes, the Book of Faces AKA Facebook, from a Tor Editor’s page that someone pointed out to me, doubtless thinking I had weeks of idle time on my hands:
Moshe Feder: “Noteworthy are the presence of nominees from eight small publishers and five that were self-published.
Are Dragon voters really _that_ much better plugged-into the small press world and more aware of self-published work than Hugo voters or is something else going on here? Theories anyone?”
Ah. Methinks ‘tis Master Wormtongue sowing the seeds to discredit. Note the careful use of words ‘self-published and small press.’ I think most authors concerned refer to themselves “Independent” or Indies, and these are not the ‘traditional small press’ – as in ‘too literary to find much of an audience, never make money’ but rather are ‘not big 5’. Still: let’s pretend to take him seriously, and provide a serious answer. And seeing as he seemed undesirous of any ‘theory’ from me on Facebook, so I’ll let the graphs speak for me here. They speak not with forked tongue, but have great pickup lines in bars. This is the Nielsen data graph of the share of fiction sales.
Which is taken from this excellent article, that I can recommend reading
Be aware that this is ONLY sales that have ISBN numbers. Many – probably the overwhelming majority — of e-books brought out by small publishers and independents DON’T BOTHER WITH ISBNs.
Which is something Author Earnings shows here
I can recommend reading the whole article.
Which rather shows Moshe Feder’s attempt to cast doubt onto the validity of the Dragon Awards in a somewhat different light, doesn’t it? If the Indies and small to medium publishers weren’t there – awkward questions should be being asked. Let’s be kind and generous, and rephrase it slightly more accurately and honestly for him: ‘Are Hugo voters really _that_ much worse plugged-into the small to medium publisher world and less aware of independently published work than Dragon voters or is something else going on here? Theories anyone?’
The question that needs answering is not why those getting somewhere between 2/3 and ¾ of sales ARE represented in the Dragon Shortlist, as to why those getting between 2/3 and ¾ of sales are absent from the Hugos? You might add in ‘why are all the Hugo winners from one extreme of politics, while the Dragon Award winners more representative of the demographics?’ as a question too. I suspect it rather relates to the first question.
Somehow, I don’t think we’re going to get ‘oops. I hadn’t thought of it that way.’ Let’s face it, they seek to disqualify, because they wish discredit that which they cannot control, that’s all. So: let’s leave them to their delusions, declining market share and desperate popping smoke, and talk about what this statement of Feder’s really raises, and how that affects writers.
You see, de facto, the Small Presses and Indies (often the same thing) ARE much more invested in their readers, and, as a result, their readers are much more invested in (or ‘plugged in’) to them. It’s a logical, obvious product of necessity, not some mysterious and magical force of nature or that Elvis is alive and working on the check-out on Aisle 3 in the supermarket in Roswell type conspiracy by wicked nasty Racists/Sexists/Homophobes etc.
The only barrier to entry for an Indy… is finishing a book. Now that’s non-trivial (trust me, I speak from experience.) but there are still maybe 100 times the number of writers finally getting that book available on Amazon to readers for every one sold to Traditional Publishing, and appearing in bookstores. If you start looking at authors with 5 books out – it evens out a lot, because few people continue unless it works out, and they’re selling.
So: let’s look at why those Indies sell.
Traditionally published authors get what promotion their publisher offers (that can range from nothing much besides being in some bookstores, to advertising, bookbub, book-tours, blog tours organized by their publisher, professional reviews (Kirkus etc.), sweetheart reviews (Locus, and various ‘insider’ reviewers who get free copies), pressure on distributors to get more into stores, and pressure on booksellers to take more, the publisher paying for end-caps, a checkout book-dump and/or a window display, to selected buying by the publisher themselves, to get the book onto the NYT bestseller list), as well as whatever they put in themselves on social media.
Indies get what they do themselves – which is never in a brick and mortar book-shop, may rarely go to advertising and bookbub, and a tour of blogs-of-friends, but mostly amounts to social media… and one thing the Traditionally published authors don’t have – control of price and frequency of publication.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that the Indy-authors who succeed have to put in a huge amount of work at what they do have. Which means, yes, the ones who succeed have 1) put a lot into building those relationships, and have readers they are in frequent contact with. Some are successful bloggers, some have managed to leverage Facebook, some tweet to huge numbers. 2) Have probably leveraged frequency and price to make themselves very accessible and regular reads to readers who will experiment for $3, but won’t for $9. There are a LOT more readers in this bracket than in the ‘will plunk down $9 just to try’ bracket.
Translating this back into Dragon/Hugo terms: Voting in the Hugos costs a minimum of $50. Voting in the Dragons costs nothing. If you’re favoring books because you get three Indy reads for the Trad. Pub’s one… you’re probably not wanting to spend $50 just on voting – especially when the organization you’re paying money-for-nothing treats you like a bad smell. It doesn’t mean you don’t read, don’t love an author, and don’t have a close relationship with the author and their work. So very different audiences come into play, and the $3 an e-book one is probably (looking at the Author Earnings figures again) at least two to three times as big as the $9 one.
So once again, the question really comes down to the validity of the Hugos as a measure of popularity. I think we can safely say they’re not as accurate as the Dragon Awards for the ordinary reading public to whom most sales go.
To the writer, of course, popularity is ‘how much of a living can I make?’ Which comes around full circle to having that invested audience, who want to buy your book, who know, care and follow your writing. Now, Facebook has been a boon to many of us. BUT… they are monetizing it. Facebook throttles back access – A LOT. Twitter, realistically speaking is worth next to nothing, unless your following is in the hundreds of thousands – A sale per 1000. Which leaves blogs (Such as this one, According to Hoyt, Bayou Renaissance Man, Nocturnal Lives, Cedar Writes, Monster Hunter Nation, Torgersen Blue Collar Spec Fic etc.) which are effective, in which readers are very engaged — but they need readers to come to them.
There is one other possibility – and it’s the one I am at now – with my usual skill of going where angels fear to tread without noticing I was even doing something daft – blundering into: and that’s the mailing list. The advantage – for the author, is that Facebook can’t throttle it, and as it is a voluntary sign-up it’s likely you have a high level of actual engagement – people want to read it. It offers opportunities to safeguard the author not only from Twitter censorship, Facebook censorship but also Amazon becoming too predatory (because once they’ve eaten the big five, they’ll start on authors.) as writers can then sell directly. It gives authors a chance to run give-aways and promotions, and the signed readers a chance to benefit from something they want.
So here is my sign up. My writing noose-letter will be very occasional, and I will try to keep it mostly to things you want to know about my books, rather than my piggies or how to not quite drown.