Docking Author’s Tails

None of what I’m going to say here is arcane, or even particularly disputed.  It’s only the way that assembled in my head that forms an ugly picture. But most of it is stuff any veteran of midlist traditional publishing knows and will tell you.

For instance, while I can’t prove that traditional publishers cook the books (note where I don’t have the money for a forensic accountant. This might change — not due to any endeavor of mine — in the near future. But for now, I lack the resources) I can tell you that all of them report books of a certain age as selling exactly the same number of copies to the single digit.

Regardless of the genre, subgenre, or what treatment the book got. And if you think that’s likely, I’d like you to consider some completely not swamp land in Florida, which is only a little humid.

Now people older in the field than I claim that this is due to a “formula” used to calculate sales, or perhaps to the peculiarities of bookscan (which AT BEST reports 1/2 the books sold.  At best. If your publisher sells heavily in comic stores and such it’s closer to 1/3.)  And that’s as it may be, but it still doesn’t elevate royalty statements above fiction.

BTW while on that, one of my more recent traditionally published books, one which I can’t dispute for reasons of contract which are peculiar, was reported as selling NO ebooks for a six month period.  This is like a rain of frogs, or perhaps a UFO landing, because you know, I have several books out indie, and some of them are old, have lousy covers, and I haven’t run sales or even mentioned them in forever, but I can’t recall going six months without their selling at least a half dozen copies.

Again, at this point all traditionally published midlist authors aren’t even raising eyebrows.  Likely, they’re nodding along.  And it might all be incompetence, not malice.  But again, it’s largely fiction.

Now, read what I said above again.

Books, even old, not particularly well promoted books sell at least a few copies per six months.

This is known in the field as “the long tail.”

There are some things we’ve learned about indie publishing, in the years since it was thrown open to us unwashed.

One is that if you only have one book out, and it sells really well, you should buy a lottery ticket, because your luck is of that order.  It happened relatively often in the early days of indie, if you put your book at 99c and were mildly lucky.  Now, you’d need to be very, very lucky.

HOWEVER, if you have a certain number of books out, you’ll make a minimum amount.  I can’t remember how many books I have out?  11? 15? (It’s late at night. I’m NOT going to count.)  However many, even without sales or anything new (something new increases sales for all of them) I make around $200 a month as a BOTTOM income.  (I do know I need to write more, and publish more.  I’m getting there.  2020 has been very difficult.) Normally my income is closer to $500, but I sometimes do some half-assed promo to get there.

And some of the books, like the Shakespeare trilogy, or the Musketeer mysteries, sell two/three copies a month each, usually.

I was thinking about that, and about some things I learned recently, from listening to older/more experienced writers (oh, things like trade paper back is assigned to books publishers want to kill as it always sells way less than either mmpb or hard cover.  Oh, yeah, and series publishers want to kill won’t have the sequel bought right away. (You’ll be told they have to “see numbers” which is nonsense as they know numbers in three months) and left to languish.  Of course, if after all that your books still sell, they might postpone a book three times, and perhaps release the ebook as a stealth release months before the paperbook and without telling anyone. Probably planning to send in tyro reviewers to give it bad reviews.  (It’s a shame my fans have watches on my name, innit?) Not that it matters. Like the polls before elections, they prepare a convincing case when they announce the book sold less than any of your– not in bookstores, not publicized at all — indie releases.)

One of the guiding factors of my understanding of the world is “whom does this benefit.”  And finding an industry that sets its product to fail is rather baffling.  I mean, I knew they did, kind of at a gut level, but I assumed it was stupidity. Not a business model. Then I overheard that conversation and went “oh.”  Older pros can tell a book is being set to fail by any number of signs some of which even I didn’t realize.

And then it occurred to me the model that makes all this work.  And also “why traditional houses are still making money.”  Even as authors make less and less, the houses go on. And that also gave me kind of a peek at the future. A future in which more and more writers sell a book or two for a pittance and then no more….  And the quality of the books matters not at all, btw.

You see, if you take an author’s one or two or three or five or six books, and report them with really low sales, tell the author you won’t publish anymore, ignore the author’s (registered) letter requesting rights reversal and intimate the author will be allowed to buy a fantastical number of paper copies, which the house would have to be stupid to keep in stock in paper if the book isn’t selling (in my case, at half price, it would cost me 50k to be allowed the rights to Darkship and Shifters.  I don’t have 50k. (I honestly also wasn’t told it would be half price. And in the unlikely event all those paper copies actually exist, what the heck would I do with them? I don’t go to cons, and I don’t have storage space.) And if I did have the money it would go to forensic accountants and lawyers, because I don’t need books moldering in my garage, and also I’m NOT a nice person.  I try to be good, but nice is not on the program.  But I’m not the only one offered this kind of deal, nor is the publisher unique.) … well, what is the author going to do?  They’ve been told no one buys their books. They don’t have the money to sue for their IP. And even if they did, unless they’re spiteful bastages like me, why would they spend that money?  After all, older books sell less. The long tail is mostly a bunch of really tiny sales.  Even if I continued the series (I actually intend to but in a way that denies the back list sales.  Again, did I point out I’m NOT a nice person? I’m just rather amazed people who worked with me for years don’t know that. Maybe there is a certain degree of self-delusion) the back sales would be negligible and it would probably take decades — about what’s left in my life — to make back those 50k.

But why would publishers want properties that aren’t selling that well? Why not just give the IP back, after they set the book up to fail? Why set the book up to fail at all?

Ah.  Because of the long tail.  In the era of ebooks, which you don’t need to store in warehouses, and which you can have out in unlimited numbers with no additional cost, the more books you have in your catalogue, no matter how little each of them sells, the more money you make.

Say you have 50k books in your catalogue, some of them so old you’re interpreting ebook rights from penumbras and emanations, and each sells two copies a month, and makes you $4 apiece….  You’re getting a very healthy income.

Heck, it’s better than having a mega bestseller.  Because a mega bestseller might get uppity and sue. But if each of those books is making under $5 a month, chances are you don’t even need to send out a statement.

Honestly, ponzi scheme architects go in awe of traditional publishers in the era of ebooks.

And, you know, when I realized that, everything fell into place: why careers keep getting shorter and shorter. Why, even with indie competition, writers are treated worse and worse.  Why some publishers are buying the things they are (well, you know, if you don’t mean each book to make a lot of money, you might as well promote your comrades. Besides, they need publishing credits, so they can get teaching jobs.)

Is my insight necessarily true?  I don’t know. It fits my experience and that of other midlisters. And — if the older authors I heard are right — it explains why bother setting books up to fail.

Again, as I said above, I have no proof. Maybe it’s all a mare’s nest, right?

And besides, you’ll say, whom does it hurt? I mean, they’re making some money, right? And I am not losing that much.

Sure. Except that is my long tail, and however little it would add to the monthly income, it would add some.  And writers aren’t some kind of dog, who should have their tail clipped.

So, yeah, sure. Feel free to think I dreamed all this up, and it’s a symptom of an overactive writer’s imagination. I’ve been accused of that in the past.

And maybe it doesn’t hurt anyone, really, and it’s just my cross-grained disposition that makes me really mad at the entire thing.  Maybe, even, there is some publicity attending to being traditionally published. Or some validation. (Not that I’ve found, but hey, you might be luckier. Or a better writer. Or more commercial. Or something.)

But I wouldn’t sign any contracts without a hard and fast time limit.  Because, you know, the tail that gets docked might be your own.


89 thoughts on “Docking Author’s Tails

  1. “Even if I continued the series (I actually intend to but in a way that denies the back list sales.”

    Actually, Sarah, you do realize that attempting to continue the series may result in the publisher suing YOU. Because they can, and unlike you, they can afford IP lawyers. And have massive incentives to make “the process IS the punishment” a reality.

    About the only upside for you to them doing that is that discovery is a stone biotch, and she goes both ways. With a strap-on. Make sure the IP lawyers you will have to hire understand this. And that when you’re establishing “patterns of behavior” some of your fellow authors might be interested in seeing behind the curtain.

    1. No. They gave me “permission” to continue the series. I.e. they want me to do it, so they get more residual sales.
      But yeah, my next step is to show everyone the contract which takes the work for the life of copyright, no buts ifs and ands if they publish a hard cover OR trade paper back edition.
      Yes, I signed that. a) I had no other option at the time. b) I thought I could trust THAT house.
      Yes, I do know that makes me an idiot.

      1. I hope that you have that permission in writing. Preferably as an amended contract.

        An no, it doesn’t make you an idiot. Most people aren’t raised in an environment that makes them expect to be screwed by everybody on some level.

        1. Also, Steve, though that’s NOT normal now, I came in LONG ago, so I never signed away rights to my characters, my world, or my name.
          ANYONE doing that should seriously consider a talk with a psychiatrist. I don’t care how much you want that publication credit DO NOT DO IT.
          All they had was right of first refusal, and I’ve been VERY thoroughly refused, so–

  2. Disappointing but not surprising. And yes, if an ebook from a known author doesn’t sell one copy in six month they are lying their butts off.

    Not saying indie publishing is a guaranteed success (it isn’t) but being able to release books as soon as they are ready offers a huge advantage to authors. Even better, you won’t have your own publisher conspiring to destroy your work or minimizing your income.

    1. This, indeed. I am less and less inclined to ever sign with an established publishing house. God grant that if any of mine sold in the thousands and hundred thousands of copies, I’d carry on as an indy.
      Well, I would hire someone straight out to edit, and generate original art and a creative layout … and maybe someone to assist with marketing. But the bottom line would be that they worked for ME, their professional loyalties (such as they are) would be to ME, and not some opaque establishment publisher wit a vested interest in screwing me over to the benefit of the establishment publisher.

  3. It seems to me that one way you could establish proof that you’ve had sales on ebooks where you can’t see an Amazon dashboard yourself is to take a weekly screenshot of the book’s rank. If it changes over time (and you know it will), you’ve shown sales. Those screenshots would make a nice attachment to a demand letter. Or something to show your IP lawyer.

    1. It’s fuzzy. The ranking changes in response to all sorts of things.
      Besides I wrote that book in peculiar circumstances,a nd don’t have the right to dispute.

  4. I must say, I am deeply disappointed that it seems Baen is pulling this crap. I mean, I’m sure they always have, to some extent, but…NOT. COOL.

    1. Baen is the one house still publishing interesting books by authors I like, so I want to believe that they’re ethical in their business practices as well. I’m not going to go without my fix of Monster Hunter, so a boycott is out of the question, but I don’t want it to be true that buying from them should leave a bad taste in my mouth.

      1. Hell, I’m not boycotting them.
        But since November 2018 I’ve known what they are.
        The depression from that was why I didn’t write/publish anything for a year, and why it’s still hard.
        When family stabs you in the back, it’s not a flesh wound.

  5. Oh, and I could be wrong about it not being worth the payoff. The Daring Finds books have made me more since reversion than I got as advances.
    These were the books Prime Crime reported as selling maybe 100 a year.
    You know, it’s amazing what my putting them up online with absolutely no publicity does.
    I must be magic.

    1. Daring Finds is Elise Hyatt, just in case anyone wants to look for them. Oh, looks like Sarah put Sarah Hoyt on them as well so that’s covered.

      Very fun books.

  6. Sounds much like the credit card scammers. Just a small amount no one will really notice or kvetch about, but get several thousand of them pulling in a dollar or two a month and you’re bringing in more money than than doing honest work and there’s little risk.

    1. My folks’ bank had someone pulling that– there was a guy who did all of their “figure out what that stupid charge is” work who’d put in random “service charges” for like 12 cents…across every one of the thousands of accounts, shift it over to another account and had some other covers to hide it.

      Folks notice and call up, it gets shifted to his desk, and he fixes.

      … what got him caught was Little Old Ladies.
      The Little Old Ladies (well, mom was Of A Certain Age, she’s still not a LOL, but you get the idea) didn’t call the number. The LOLs had a working relationship with their bank, even if it HAD been bought by [bigger bank], and asked the tellers.
      Who knew how to look this stuff up, because their systems weren’t fully integrated yet.
      It got handled very quietly, but zowsa.

      1. I think the bank venue for this kind of thing is passe. Utility bills are the way to go, in my opinion.

        Last time I looked, there were more than three dozen penny-ante charges (not identified as “taxes”) added to my various utility bills. No single one more than $2.00, most of them pennies.

        Being contrary, I dug down into some of the larger ones, that were technically maybe worth my time to dispute, given a decade to amortize it. All of those were “legitimate,” i.e., forced upon me by Federal or State statute, Corporation Commission mandates, county and/or city ordinance. How many of the very small ones are simply fraud being masked by the multiplicity of “legitimate” charges? Who knows.

        1. In 2006, most phone companies finally stopped collecting the excise tax that was passed in 1898 to fund the Spanish-American War. When I explained this to friends, adding that we could now celebrate the end of the SA War, the looks on their faces were priceless.

  7. The problem is that there are still a lot of writers for whom the trad publisher contract is the golden ticket, and they will sell their souls (or their rights) to get it. That leaves the Big 5 (and even the smaller guys) with a more of less infinite parade of midlisters to exploit. For my part, if Baen were to offer me a contract, my brain says, “Let me get an IP lawyer and we’ll talk, see if they can offer me a deal that does more for me than I can get on my own.” My heart, however, even after reading this, says, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Show me the dotted line, and I’ll sign so fast that my pen will leave dust clouds in its wake.” If it ever happened, I hope the brain would win out over the heart, but its hard to be sure. Probably best the temptation will never arise.

    1. I submitted “Unfair Advantage” to Baen -with- a letter of recommendation from one of their published authors. Never. Heard. A. Peep. Likewise letters of introduction hit all the other publishers and bounced off.

      No problem. Bezos is paying me, and the sales do trickle in.

  8. A very good source for figuring out what publishers do, how they do it, and whether or not an author should go traditional or indie is Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Start with her blog ( and continue into the various books she has written on the subject. The most important thing to know is that if one is considering signing a publishing contract, get an IP lawyer to examine it and explain it thoroughly. It’s the only way to protect one’s rights in the IP.

  9. That is kind of brilliant, really.

    If you’ve got the editors etc already on salary, you aren’t going to be spending any more to have them do however many books you can fit– and if having one-book-wonders is in your interest, it’s a perfect pipeline for producing them. There are butt-loads of people who would maim themselves to be published.

  10. Sarah, thanks for posting this. I’m feeling much better about the sales of my one and only book on Amazon. ACTUAL NUMBERS instead of vague assertions makes a big difference, you know?

    And I think you’re right. A long tail of ebooks or even print-on-demand makes a lot of sense. Zero cost, 100% profit, huge inventory of titles than that’s a viable business model. A grotesque one, but viable. Previous to “Thor Power Tool” the Bigs could do a single print run and supply the long tail in perpetuity at very low cost.

    This is the only follow-the-money analysis I’ve seen that could even work in real life.

  11. Och.
    That’s depressing as buggerall.
    Dangitalltoheck. I liked the thought of there being at least one good publishing house.

      1. The market changed? They thought it was the way to survive. Look, DST came out in 2011, and it came out TPB and despite the fact it was on shelves for 2 years (and you know the turnover on those) my statements don’t indicate that it sold a copy every two weeks (the minimum to stay on shelves) across the US. And it took them a year of “looking at numbers” to even BUY the second book.
        So? Did anything happen? When writers had no alternative, we put up with more than you can imagine. From all of the industry.

        1. I was going to say that Jim Baen died in 2006 and it took a few years for the bean-counters and virtue-sniffers to corrupt the company.

          I haven’t bought a Baen book in five years except for Larry Correia, (and MH Guardian by that lady, whatsername, starts with an H) despite it being the publisher of half my library. Not because I didn’t want to, but more because every-fricking-month I’d look at the new titles and roll my eyes. Meh.

          Part of this is me writing instead of reading, but most of it is me reading the blurb, detecting Virtue Signaling, and swiping left.

          I’ll be getting on with my covers, now that the numbers game is plain to see. ~:D

            1. Here’s a notion: serialization.

              If what’s moving the algo is number of releases, increasing the number of releases by serializing the books might be smart. Mine run pretty big, >100,000 words, (current WIP is 141,000+ and no end in sight) maybe making 6 into 12 or 18 releases would be a way to go.

              More fricking covers to make though. 😡

      2. Let me tell you I want to believe that stuff was incompetence not malice.
        I almost need to. Because I believed I was among friends.
        Maybe I’m an idiot.
        BUT the truth is the market has changed. Maybe they think they need to do this stuff to survive.

        1. The thing is, I’m sure it’s not the people at the company you normally interact with, but Baen is part of Simon & Shuster, and it’s part of the publishing industry machine and this is the way they do things.

          1. The other thing is that it’s possible that the publishing industry doesn’t _overtly_ understand this. They just get worse and worse, and yet the business magically survives through ebooks, and ebooks are black magic that they don’t want to think about… so it must be virtue making them survive! Yay! Who wants to understand the industry when it might break the magic?

            But it does explain why nobody wants to look closely at publishing’s more recent “truisms,” like “Most writers make all their sales in the first book, so there’s no need to work hard on getting them to do other books.”

        2. Oh, yeah. You want so much to believe your publisher likes you, your editor loves your book and cares about you as the person creating more like that.

          Ain’t true. You’re nothing but numbers on a spreadsheet, to be used and then disposed. Jim Baen was the real deal, but with his death, Baen because just another ‘cycle-and-dispose’ mill.

              1. Sounds good. Downloading to my kindle now.

                I haven’t bothered subbing novels in a long time, but I do have a novelette (in the same universe) out for an anthology. I’ll be reading the contract very carefully, and am prepared to say ‘no deal’. I know I can sell it on Amazon.

            1. Thank you. I’d like to be able to do more of them. At the moment, I’m putting together five books in a non-related genre under a pseudonym to see if I can make a living at JUST fiction while being someone else.

              1. I know you probably need more things to do like you need a hole in your head, but you might try grouping your works by genre and making open pen-names for those. I have no idea how many physical books you wrote that we have, because they’re in multiple areas.

                So are Sarah’s, just hers are more obviously different– the Elise Hyatt name she uses for the crafty mysteries, and the lady mentioned below that did Digger, is what brought it to mind.

                Obviously only works for stuff you’ve got the rights on, of course.

          1. Have I just not noticed your name, all these years here? I have some of your paperbacks, and I haven’t bought a physical book in probably a decade. Minerva Wakes is the one I can see from here. Time for an Amazon search!

  12. I can vouch for the “series is ended but book still sell.” The Cat Among Dragons series ended two years ago give or take, but copies still go out the electronic door. That’s without any PR, old covers, and no sales. Granted, I have a lot of other books out, but people still buy those. And bought them, without any PR, even though they are a strange genre mash-up that went in seriously odd directions.

    Only one book thus far, but it sells, yes? And you see it sell. That’s a lot better than getting two author copies and a pat on the head (my non-fiction). To my vast surprise, I did get a royalty check, eventually. Not much, but it paid part of a bill. The book sold out, and to my knowledge there’s no plans to reprint it. *shrug* So goes academic trad-pub.

  13. That is really depressing. I was hoping that trad publishing would go the way of the dinosaur but if that’s the trick they are pulling …

  14. I’m so sorry you had this happen to your IP. Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of something like this from many other authors … in whispers and asides, but never out in the open. So much of traditional publishing seems to be just a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

      1. Everyone I know who whispered it, are still singing the praises of the publisher that shived them in the most vulnerable spot of an author. Unfortunately, I know by *not* speaking out, keeps the smoke and mirrors in place. I just wanted you to know I greatly appreciate the honesty.

  15. Find a couple of friends with money. Persuade them to buy the zero sales book. By mail. Wait six months. If you see royalties, then perhaps your sales really were zero. If you do not see royalties, consult an attorney, but, remember, criminal charges cost less to file and so do postal inspectors.

  16. I’ve been told that publishers will often let a writer out of a contract in response to a single letter from a lawyer. You can probably do that for just a couple of hundred dollars.

    1. Let me guess, publishers or those who work for you told you that. As Sarah said, once upon a time, they might hve done so. Now, nope. Even if they are willing to let a writer walk, they will do their best to take their pound of flesh along the way. The do it by demanding th author buy any books not yet sold. What happens is they offer it at an often inflated rate–both the numbers they allegedly have in storage and in price–knowing the author wont be able to pay. They bank on the author not doing the basic math and seeing that the publisher now claims to have more books in stock than they should have under the terms of the royalty reports the author has received. Oh, there could have been a second printing but guess what. There was no accounting for a second printing which will often boost the royalties earned by the author.

      I won’t even address the fact you seem to think Sarah isn’t smart enough to have tried asking for her rights back. Or that other authors haven’t done so as well.

      1. If Greg is here again, then I expect that someone in publishing has enough concern about their business model to be wanting to discredit this statement of Sarah’s in the eyes of some audience. I defy anyone, who isn’t trusting to the point of believing that Putin is innocent of murder, to read Greg’s previous comments here, and conclude that he doesn’t often have an objective here inconsistent with his claimed objectives.

        1. I think that final point may be an aspect of modern rhetorical technique– apparently it’s some extremely mild version of deconstruction, you persuade folks by in part insisting that you don’t really disagree. Which is, in and of itself, not a bad thing– unless one is saying white and the other is saying black. Then it’s bad. Someone saying teal and the other saying blue-green, then there’s something to work with.

          So if our objectives are X, and his is W, he’ll say Y– because it’s a mid point, a place with overlap, a route that is closer.

          … this technique drives me up a wall on philosophical grounds, but it seems to be pushed strongly in higher education.

          1. “So if our objectives are X, and his is W, he’ll say Y– because it’s a mid point, a place with overlap, a route that is closer.”

            And then claim that W is as far as reasonable people go, so everyone he didn’t convince to give up X is an extremist.

            Yeah, gun controllers adopted that one 50 years ago.

            1. *gives squint-eye look* Did you go back and read what he wrote to refresh your memory? ‘cus that’s eerily accurate, other than instead of “extremist” it’s “unreasonable refusal” to agree when it’s his assertion vs objective evidence.


              1. I’ve been interested in the gun issue for even longer than other politics; it’s a gun-grabber classic.

          2. I’ve noticed that Mr. Hullender’s comments vary -widely- in viewpoint depending on where he’s commenting.

            For this particular comment, let me merely observe that Greg’s point is reasonable, as far as it goes, but he doesn’t take -malice- into account as a possible motivation. This at a time when people are literally shooting each other in the street and burning down businesses over politics.

            1. Greg lost ALLLLLL credibility with me when instead of asking us if it would be okay for him to show up at Liberty con with his same-sex different race partner, he went asking the LEFT. Who’d never been there, but assured him they’d be lynched.
              ALL credibility.
              I could have told him that when I renewed my vows at LC 4 years ago, one of our wedding party was a gay friend. I don’t remember if he brought his different race partner but only because my memory is crap for that time (I was ill.) I’m sure if he did, though, they met with nothing but friendliness.
              As Greg would have.
              Hell, when he asked there were no tickets left, but I’m sure we’d have pulled strings to get him in and on panels, since that’s an exception.
              BUT no, after years of commenting here, he went to ask his homies on the left just how racist and homophobic we were. Which is not at all, Greg, you big virtue-signaling piece of idiocy.
              Nothing but love….

              1. *pinches nose*

                Good grief.

                I’m significantly more religiously orthodox/SoCon than most of the LibertyCon folks, and husband and I put a guy in tears by being “warmer” and “friendlier” than the folks who insist his lifestyle is good. I doubt y’all would be any less polite/kind.
                Only risk I can think of is folks giving back grief they’re offered it, which is likely to top out at telling them where they can go, take the horse.

                1. It also BTW shows that for all he hangs out here, Greg has never bothered to read the COMMENTS on my books.
                  Where he would find I have more than a few HEROIC gay characters. (Rolls eyes.)

                1. I think I vaguely remember being amused because at some point or other he mentioned his “partner” and one of the drive-bys had to explain he meant sex, not working.

                  Because sex is so totally what mattered for the discussion that was going on, not “person with whom Greg is in a high-trust relationship.” /eyeroll

  17. Sarah, it breaks my heart to see you write this. It makes me glad that I was passed over by said publisher, with comments and everything, which was awesome, but phew…

    It also breaks my heart because you’re a good writer, and deserve better than this from your publisher.

      1. Non ilegitemi carborundum!

        I got stabbed in the back -hard- in about 2000, resulted in my retiring from my physical therapy career. I didn’t trust my co-workers or even the patients anymore. So, I moved on. No sense beating a dead horse. It’s not getting up, y’know?

        It took a while. You don’t walk off a stab wound like that. But eventually, I managed. Moving on is the best revenge.

        When other people do bad things to you, it is not your fault. It’s -their- fault. You’re not a fool for not seeing the hidden dagger. It’s HIDDEN, right?

        So, those guys are assholes after all, eh? Okay. Good to know. By tomorrow you’ll have moved on, and they will still be -assholes-.

        1. Wing: ”Have you ever heard the phrase, Living well is the best revenge?”

          Miles: “Where I come from, someone’s head in a bag is generally considered the best revenge.”

          One can dream…

      2. You’re doing this now.

        You’re in a position to not make the ginormous mistakes those of us who stomped off the reservation more than a decade ago then went on to make. Like:

        – Never publish both fiction and nonfiction under your own name (or the same pseudonym)
        – Never let your writer audience know your fiction name (because — sadly — while trying to help you by buying your books, they will destroy your Amazon also-reads and your fiction income)

        David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital ( has been both agonizing and eye-opening. I’m now doing five books under a pseudonym in a different genre to write something I might have a chance of earning an audience for. I’ll be sixty next month, and it’s now my job to start over from the beginning.

        This isn’t where you want to be.

        1. ARGH! The book I meant to recommend was Amazon Decoded on the same page. It’s all about WHY having a readership of readers and writers kills your career … and how to fix that.

        2. That part I’d figured. Which is why my non fic is coming out under other names, and my one-off how to write, is going to have its author changed.
          Honestly, though, Holly, yes, you’re known as a great teacher (hey, I’ve bought your courses) but I think you’re better known as an SF/F writer.
          And also honestly, why not change the name on the non-fic. It doesn’t have to be NOT your name. It can be that the non fic is Holly Lisle and the fic is H. Lisle. Or H. Middle Name Lisle. OR the other way around. That way you can still be found by us old fans. And frankly if you tell your course recipients and about the change, you’ll be found there too.
          I’ll be honest, I’m considering doing a few in-person (in-zoom) workshops this winter for a shortfall we weren’t anticipating, but I want to do it “limited time only” BECAUSE this is the trap I see all no longer trad pub authors falling into. They end up doing more teaching than writing.

          1. I’m looking at doing that, too, along with getting stuff re-covered, doing some re-blurbing based on best practices… But at the moment, I’m on book two of the five book series that will be coming out in a genre I only touched on with Minerva Wakes. Totally unrelated — different universe, different premise, different everything — except basic genre.

            I want to see if I can start over and grow an audience. And now is the time to do that. Tinkering with the old stuff can wait, because it’ll still be there, whether this succeeds or fails.

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