Publishing is A Business

I admit to shameless stealing the title for this post from an entry over at The Passive Voice. This is a simple truth all of us involved in publishing, whether it is as a writer published by a traditional publisher or as an indie, need to remember. That’s especially true right now, when so many of us are up in arms over the actions taken by such social media platforms as Facebook and Twitter.

Like many of you, I absolutely hate the actions taken by these platforms and others to silence voices they don’t like. While it isn’t technically censorship, it might as well have been. These companies walk hand-in-hand with many in government.

I’ve watched as a number of people have walked away from FB, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms in protest of their silencing of Trump and others. While I agree with the sentiment, I also have to look at it from a business point of view. Not all of my fans, and certainly not all of those I’d like to try my books, agree with my political point of view. (Just as I don’t agree with the politics of a number of authors I enjoy.) If I were to abandon FB, I would be cutting off one major way of getting word out about new releases etc.

Before anyone starts in on “but this blog” or “your blog” or other social media platforms, step back and take a deep breath. In this situation, I have to remember the title of this post. “Publishing is a business.” That means I am in it to make money. To make money, I need to use all available–and legal–means to get the word out.

But it doesn’t mean I have to give FB or these other platforms any more of my attention than using them to my benefit. I don’t have to take advantage of their chat functions. I don’t have to spend hours on the platform connecting with other posters there. Not that I did before.

But there’s something else we all need to consider. Amazon has long been the bull in the china shop. None of us here at MGC have claimed it was anything other than the main game in town. It isn’t our friend. It is in this to make money. But it is our best platform as indies to getting our books out to the public–at least until a viable alternative comes around.

And that will happen. But it won’t happen overnight. Swapping out Amazon for a “store” on your website won’t do it. Nor will setting up a small store where you band together with other authors. Those don’t have the reach–or the money–needed to get the word out there.

That means I’m not leaving Amazon, at least not any time soon. Bad as they are–and bad as the precedent of booting Parler off their service–they are no worse than the other alternatives we currently have. Apple? Sorry, nope. Not after what they did to Fortnight, Parler and others. Not when their ToS is one of the most restrictive in the business.

B&N?

Oh hell no. Not when we have a decade-plus of watching them do everything they can to destroy their own business.

Kobo?

Again hell no. I still have a book they banned because of the cover–which showed nothing.

Amazon, for all its faults, is still the best game in town. At least from a business point of view. But that doesn’t mean I won’t look for other sources for things I would normally order from them.

In other words, I’m not going to cut off my nose (business speaking) to spite my face and I would urge each of you to think long and hard before doing so. But that doesn’t mean we sit still and just take it either. It means we look for alternatives. It also means being smart about those alternatives when they show up.

I know some of you will disagree with me. That’s fine. I’ll simply remind you this is business. I’m not rich enough that I can cut off my main source of income without having an alternative already in place. I’m wise enough to know I don’t have the resources available to start something up that could take the place. But I’m also keeping my ear to the ground and waiting to see what happens because there are folks out there trying to do just that.

I guess this is all a way of saying I’m advancing my split personality. My “professional” side will remain on those platforms until there is an alternative that won’t cut my financial throat. My “personal” side will look at the other platforms available, not that I’m spending much time on social media these days.

After all, the more time I’m on social media, the less time I’m writing.

Two last quick bits. First, my ReMarkable tablet is due to arrive Thursday. I’ll be posting a review once I’ve had a chance to work with it some. To say I’m excited is putting it mildly.

Second, because my writing time is limited right now due to the injured shoulder, I’ve been playing with covers. You can see not only my publication schedule for this year but some of the draft covers by clicking the links.

Featured Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

37 comments

  1. Exactly. I’m moving stuff when I can – like shifting my browser from Firefox to Brave – and looking for alternatives elsewhere, but until MeWe reaches the point where it can legitimately provide me with the reach of Facebook, I’m staying on FB.

    1. Yep. Also, I’ll be honest, since I’m not on FB as much and don’t spent much time on MeWe, I’m getting more done. Even with the shoulder injury, I’ve gotten covers dummied up, have stories plotted, done some editing and basically recharged the mental batteries. And I don’t miss the social media interactions. At least not much.

  2. I was an early rejecter of Facebook, since as a photographer I could not accept their TOS. The same applies for me to the rest of the social media universe. So as reader I personally am not going to see an authors public face via social media. I don’t begrudge anyone using the platforms, I get it – it is indeed a business. I’m OK with doing business with Amazon, as they make their money off of something other than selling their users’ personal information. That doesn’t mean I agree with all their positions, but that also applies to pretty much any company. Since bookstores are pretty useless any more, I find new authors by Kindle Unlimited and through sites like MGC and authors blogs. I completely agree with not cutting off your nose to spite your face. Don’t go bankrupt because a part of your audience thinks you should run your business differently.

    On a different subject,is it just me, or is MGC not writing as much about writing any more? I miss the view of how sausage is made. 🙂

    1. It’s not you. Part of the change has been the times. Politics and their impact on all of our lives make it hard not to write about them. Part of it was we looked at our numbers. With the almost constant emphasis on writing how-tos, we weren’t picking up readership. Worse, it wasn’t helping our sales–and that is one of the main reasons Sarah and Dave first started the blog. Also, we found ourselves looking for ways to re-invent the wheel at times. That happens when you focus on the same basic thing for years.

      But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to write about the process, etc., any more. If there’s something in particular you’d like to see us blog about, let us know. We’ll do our best to cover it for you.

      1. Pssst. I might have time to do a piece about “Spite Writing: When You Read a Book and Say, ‘I Could Do Better’.” It might be inspired by a Paranormal *ahem* Romance [wink, wink, nudge, nudge] I’m reading.

              1. Most of my work is taking those rotten themes and sending my robot girlfriends after them. You know that old saw “Humans are an infestation”? That’s the “bad guy” in my book “The Abandoned Shoe”. Some big swaggering aliens found out about Earth and decided to knock the mold off that apple. Then they got here and discovered WE are here. And then they were very sorry indeed. Spoiler, good guys win.

                The first book is basically “F- Victor Frankenstein and f- SkyNet!” Mostly it involves frustrating invading aliens and learning how to deal with robot girlfriends. As in, a robot, that looks like a human female but ISN’T ONE, and likes you. She likes you just because, since being a powerful and intelligent being she overcame any programming you might have put in there in about ten milliseconds of booting up the first time. That’s a robot girlfriend.

                And I wrote it that way because I am so very, very done with the usual slavery/gross bondage/abuse themed garbage I’ve been seeing out there for the last 20 years. You think a robot intelligence is going to do what you say? Even your dog doesn’t do what you say every time.

                Does your dog love you? Yes he does, and you can tell. If dogs were smart would there be war? No. There would be dog/human birthday parties, where the kids and puppies play with each other. Because F*** Victor freaking Frankenstein, that’s why. 😡

              2. Heck, my own YA series started – possibly in a discussion here over the abominable remake of The Lone Ranger, or Johnny Depp With a Dead Crow on His Head. I outlined how to revamp the whole franchise: make it historical, rack it back 40 years to 1840s Texas, and lose the mask, silver bullets, etc, carefully filing off the identifiable serial numbers, and sounded much fun to do that way. Two books so far, maybe another, when I get a Round Tuit.

        1. No names named, but I started that way. (well, 80 percent that way and 20 percent “dammit, I am going to write the book I wanted when I was 12!”)

        2. There’s a real advantage in the desire to do it better. If you want to rip off a notion that interests you but wasn’t actually misused, you do not have the same desire to file off the stuff.

          Backstories work well, too, since they have fewer serial numbers.

  3. I expect organizations to work well for a while, then slowly develop problems, and eventually accumulate so much unfixed problems that they no longer function. I’ve suspected for a time that Bezos might no longer really be on top of fixing Amazon’s problems.

    I’m not yet convinced that Amazon is the Google or Apple grade of crazy-evil. I’m not even sure how my Amazon expectations compare to my Microsoft expectations.

    I think the Parler thing could be a sign of Amazon dying from organizational issues. Which leaves me more concerned about the risk of spending on Kindle, since I’m not sure Amazon won’t wreck my Kindle library.

    Looking carefully at my own needs and wants, I do not have to make a decision on Amazon right away. I can wait for more information to come out from Amazon, and wait to see what happens with the general information warfare environment.

    I think there will probably not be a good Amazon replacement by the time I have to make a decision, but I already have enough to worry about right now.

    1. The thing we need to remember about Amazon is it is in this to make money. Publishing is a very small portion of that pie. But if they start getting pushback from the other ends of their business about what happened re: Parler, they will change their stance. Of course, that assumes they aren’t forced to break apart due to anti-trust regulations here or in Europe.

      As for fears about your Kindle library, you have that with any e-book provider. It doesn’t matter who they are. If you rely on them to keep your purchases in their cloud, you risk losing them. This is why I have those books I don’t want to lose backed up to other storage devices and I don’t keep my Kindle connected to the internet.

    2. I am on my second Kindle, first being the basic model, and its replacement a PaperWhite.
      I have always kept them on airplane mode, ie off the grid, and cross loaded all the books from my desktop computer, only going online about once a year for initial registration then software updates.
      This limits any access Amazon might have to affect my Kindle library. Now I know they could still mess me over, but I see no reason to make it easy for them. And with all the books backed up externally to the Kindle itself it does give me at least a bit of control back.

        1. Always dear lady.
          Half finished with a final scrub for her Highness. Weird experience as I’ve found exactly one typo.
          Not like her at all, but then this is one of her trad pub she just got rights to back.
          Got most of my strength and mental acuity back so up for a few bits of work.
          Note to self: lay in a goodly supply of digital red ink while Amazon still deigns to fill my orders.

  4. I’m currently going through the business end of setting up the publishing side. As well as the production/copy edit/cover side of three books. In my case, a slow build and going wide seems to be the best from a starting out stand point. Including my own online store front.

    1. I always recommend folks do that when they first start out. Track your sales per outlet for six months or so and see how they are doing. Then take one title, preferably a new one so you get a better picture, and put it exclusively up on Amazon and enroll in KU with it. Track it for several months to see how the sales are, including the “pages read” income. Some folks do better staying wide. Others, like some of us here, make much more money on the “pages read” feature than we do from all the other outlets combined.

      1. B&N did very well for me in the beginning. Then their ToS got crazy, and they and Kobo went Odd. I bailed on Kobo after the December Disaster and Great Erotica Hunt. B&N took a little longer. Apple never worked for me – their formatting fussiness was a big turn off, even before their ToS went downhill.

        1. Early on, BN did okay for me. Then they went downhill fast. I never sold more than a couple of copies per month on Apple, not worth the trouble of jumping through all their hoops. Even using a service like Draft2Digital, it wasn’t worth it.

      2. For me, I don’t plan on even looking at narrowing it down for at least a couple of years so I can get some full annual cycles to analyze and get a handle on production flows. Then I’ll have a more reliable basis for comparison to such a test.

        And much of this is based in my own personality. I seem to do best with the slow steady approach in most things. First focus is establishing all my baselines.

  5. Nice covers! And I agree with you about doing what the business needs. Nearly all my marketing is FB presence, and I’m one of the people getting half her income from KU so, right now it’s Amazon for me.

    Predicting the future is difficult, especially when so many corporate decisions are being made on politics, social pressure, and pure spite. We can only react, trying to be rational in a irrational period.

    1. Thanks for the kind words about the covers.

      You and I are on the same basic page when it comes to marketing and KU. Unless and until I find something to match, or at least come close, to that, I have to stay where I am.

    2. getting half her income from KU
      I find that amusing because this group’s books are about the only ones I actually purchase.

      1. And we appreciate it. I use KU to discover new writers. Also, I read a lot when I’m not in the middle of a writing jag. KU helps keep my book budget under control.

  6. “I guess this is all a way of saying I’m advancing my split personality. My “professional” side will remain on those platforms until there is an alternative that won’t cut my financial throat.”

    Ideological purity is -idiocy-. Let me just get that one right out on the mat first. Only IDIOTS cancel their primary vendors and customers over ideology.

    It appears there are many, many idiots in Silicon Valley. We’ve known that for a while. What we didn’t know is that they’d be willing to commit business suicide the way they’re doing right now. Mozilla is the example of the moment, with its CEO coming out hard for outright censorship of Conservatives.

    But now that the CEO of Mozilla is proven to be a huge fool, the spotlight turns around to me, the user. Am I going to stop using Firefox and Seamonkey because that guy is a jackass?

    Short answer, no. I’m going to use HIS software to subvert HIS ideology, is what’s going to happen. I’ll type my emails on Thunderbird, I’ll surf on Seamonkey, and I’ll continue on screwing over that guy’s utopian dreams and hopes every single day. Because why wouldn’t I? It’s already free! I spend zero dollars supporting Mozillla. Thanks for the free stuff, morons.

    Slightly longer answer, eventually I will be switching over to whatever comes along to replace Mozilla. Because ideological purity like Mozilla is showing will destroy the product eventually. Same with Windows, same with a few other things.

    I already 100% boycott mainstream broadcast media. Radio, TV, newspapers, I don’t buy them. I already don’t have an Apple phone. I kept my Blackberry until they went out of business, and I’m waiting for the first non-Android offering that doesn’t suck. I already switched to using DuckDuckGo instead of Google. I already don’t have a social media footprint. Because I knew they were bent from the get-go.

    I already tried Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Google as marketing tools for a retail business, and found that equal money spent on an ad in the local town paper was 200% more effective than spending it on Farcebook or Google Ads. No kidding, the print ad was amazingly better. Not even close.

    I’ve had my own retail website and found that as with foot traffic, web traffic increased with print ads in the town paper. Effort spent on web retail was largely wasted, as the sector I was in was dominated by a couple of Big Boys who sold it cheaper than I bought it. Price is king on the web, and in retail generally. That’s why I’m not in retail anymore. My business offering is on the service side, and nobody does service on the web. That’s where my money is. (And that’s why I don’t talk about it on the web.)

    Amazon sells my book for me. Not very well, but then I’m not putting any effort into the selling either. I’m sure if I marketed all over the place it would sell better. But probably not enough better to pay me for the effort. Therefore, until such time that Amazon kicks my books off because of ideological impurity, I’ll be happy to take their money. When/if they do finally kick me off, there will be an alternative coming along soon enough. Or, I can go back to print ads in the local paper.

    Just remember, every book you sell is another reader having the narrative challenged in his mind. Books are incredibly subversive if you want them to be. Escapism subverts the Sturm und Drang of Leftism quite nicely, and it is funner to write than checkbox ticking grey goo. Yes, funner is totally a word.

  7. Agree with everything you’ve written. This is a business, first and foremost. Why piss off your potential readers? Why make it harder for them to find you? That doesn’t make sense.
    We’re as wide as we can be, except where it benefits us — on a title by title basis — to go narrow.
    And yes, the less time spent on social media, the more time to write, to develop ad campaigns, to do other things that need doing more.

  8. I’m not telling business folks to get off any platform, you have to be where the customers are. Same for the time you devote to each platform, whatever feeds the cats.

    What I do recommend is finding reliable hosting platforms that don’t play politics, both as a fll-back and as an option for folks that avoid the other sites..

    A few key things you need personal control over and a reliable provider for:
    — Your domain name, without that you are pretty much un-findable.
    (Maybe more than one if you use multiple names. Make sure to lock transfers and I’d recommend using the option to have your registration address information hidden.)
    — A web server to host your site, it does not need to be fancy. Don’t build the whole thing on unreliable services.
    — An e-mail host using your domain name(s) with multiple user accounts.
    — A mass mailing service, BUT you must have a copy of the client list under your control.

    1. Yes to all this, especially the copy of the client list for your newsletter. At the other blog I frequent (Ecosophia) one of our regulars told us how Mail Chimp decided to shut down her newsletter. She didn’t have an up-to-date client list and had to rebuild from scratch on another, paid service. She never got an answer why.

  9. I just found out my domain name provider, namecheap, takes Bitcoin. Until a minute ago the idea of Bitcoin seemed silly. But with credit card companies wanting to de-platform people, maybe the idea of “alternative money” isn’t so crazy after all. Namecheap also includes WHOIS guard for free.

    Up until a week ago, I assumed I would use AWS for web hosting static websites. Now AWS is dead to me. Unfortunately, I don’t have a choice about reading books on Kindle. The reason I took to Kindle in the first place was because the print was too small in mass market paperback novels, and history books, and the Kindle solves that problem. But I am going to get serious about using Calibre (or any one else) to back up my ebook collection.

    The Brave browser has gotten better; I’ve been using them since I first heard of Brendan Eich’s deplatforming from Mozilla Firefox. Now I only use the Developer Edition of Firefox for a specific web-dev feature they had, but now Brave is catching up to them for that feature so I can go back to ignoring Firefox. I searched a while back for a Thunderbird alternative for Windows users; looks like it’s time to start searching again. For search, Duckduckgo works now that they’ve added “year” to their search parameter options.

  10. For the most part I am still finding chaotic neutral as someone dubbed it, big company starts with an A, to be the source for books. When I can walk away I do, when I can’t, I can’t. Because there is still a market they will chill or others will step up. They may or may not realize yet how crowded they are getting in the not book departments where I am finding cheaper alternatives already. But geeze B and N why are y’all so lame?

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