Smashwords Industry Predictions for 2020

Mark Coker has published his annual report of predictions for the book industry in his blog post: 2020 Publishing Predictions: House of Indie on Fire. This is one of the articles I go out of my way to look up every single year so I’ll know what I’m getting into.

This year, I won’t lie, the outlook appears pretty bleak. It’s no secret that Mr. Coker isn’t a fan of Amazon’s business practices, so you’ll see a lot of that in the post, but he makes good, solid points on everything he shares. Maybe with a bit too much drama, but still…

Here are the facts:

When you entrust the bulk of your publication to a single entity, that entity owns you.

When you allow another entity to set the price for your product, that entity owns your income.

When you have to pay an entity that offers free distribution to make your product visible, it’s no longer free distribution.

But here is another fact:

None of this was forced on Indies. Indies chose it on their own, over and over again. It was a choice that might have provided a slight edge early on, but has now become a shackle. And, for many, the cost of removing it is too great.

My thoughts on the whole thing:

You can’t control the breadth and depth of a global, digital industry that’s open to everyone and has very few rules of proper conduct. You might as well try to drain the ocean with a tea cup.

What you can control is yourself. Your actions. Your books. Your publishing strategy. What you can do is fight like hell to keep that control from being taken away from you. Because isn’t that control the reason you chose to self-publish in the first place?

I became an Indie author because I wanted to present my books to the world my way. That hasn’t, and will never change. So my personal focus for 2020 will be on what I do and how I do it. Because, at the end of the day, I’m an author, and my books are all that matter.

Sometimes you just have to get back to the basics, ya know? 🙂

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A Hard Stance and a Line in the Sand: Editing

As a member of a couple of groups for authors and writers, I see things like this pop up all the time:

  • Does anyone know of a good app for editing?
  • Do I need to use an editor for my book?
  • How much does an editor cost?

Please kindly note that one of these questions is not like the other. I will answer them in order, and you will notice I am very much taking a hard stance on this. There are a lot of things you can DIY when it comes to writing and publishing. Editing is not one of them. This is the line in the sand that separates professional writers from hobbyists who just want to see their name on a book no matter what.

Editing Apps

I will temper this by saying up front that there are legitimate reasons for using an automated app to check your work. I hear good things about Grammarly. Haven’t used it myself, but it’s supposedly pretty good at finding grammatical and spelling errors. As a tool to help you hone your craft, it’s handy. But it has shortcomings that make it unreliable for any level of professional, multi-layered feedback. You should never rely on an app for final edits.

Working With an Editor

Let me be very clear on this one point. When it comes to getting your book ready for publishing, NO APP IN THE WORLD CAN DO WHAT A PROFESSIONAL HUMAN EDITOR CAN DO. No, you cannot rely on an app to polish your work into shape for publishing. There is so much more to editing than just grammar and spelling. An app will never be able to tell you if your characters are flat, if you have a plot hole in chapter seven, if you suddenly switched your character’s name from Adam to Alex halfway through, or changed the spelling from Erik to Eric within the same chapter. An app will not be able to gauge the tone of your book, or track the pacing, or any of the million little things that go into making a book the best book it can be.

When it comes to publishing your work, YOU NEED TO WORK WITH A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR.

Period.

Hard stop.

This is the absolute bare minimum you need to do before you put your book out there. It’s not just a matter of good business practice, but also respect for your readers’ time and money. They are investing both in the faith that you have provided them with a professionally put-together book. That’s what they’re paying for. If you can’t provide that, you should not be publishing.

Read that again:

If you can’t provide a professionally put-together book, you should not be publishing.

Period.

Hard stop.

Editing Costs

The follow-up I always get to this is, “But not everyone can afford an editor…” and I’m going to put a stop to this right here and now. I–do–not–care. Your readers do not care. It’s not my, or their job to commiserate with you on any financial hardships you might have. They’re paying for your book, not your sob story. A proper book is what you owe them.

If you are traditionally published, your publishing house is already taking care of this, so this entire blog post does not apply to you. But all you self-published authors out there, listen up.

  • You are your own boss.
  • You are a business owner.
  • You set your own timelines.

No one is holding a torch to your feet to publish a book before it’s ready. You’re calling the shots, so any decisions you make to cut corners and skimp on necessities are ultimately your fault. Readers will notice. They will blame you, and rightly so. You cheated them and deserve to be called out for it.

But I have no money for an editor!

Then you need to hold off on publishing until you have saved up for one.

There aren’t a lot of up-front costs for publishing a book. This is most definitely one of them. And there is no excuse in the world that would ever justify not paying it–it all comes down to ego and selfishness. By not having your book properly edited, you’re telling your readers, “Fuck you, I don’t care. I just want your money.”

Editing does not have to be expensive.

There are plenty of affordable options. Many editors will even do a sample edit on your book first to see if you’re a good match. Most will charge a per-word fee (something like $0.005/word would be standard for a professional, so a 100k book would come out to about $500). Some might be willing to barter their services in exchange for something else (like cover design, or swag design, something they can use in return). If all else fails, ask your friends and family to help you cover the cost. There’s always GoFundMe–as long as you’re reasonable in your request and don’t take advantage of people’s charity, of course.

The point is, you have options. Use them.

End rant.

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August #AuthorTip: Do Your Homework

After my angry rant a couple days ago, I’ve calmed down considerably and I’m ready to resume regular helpful and encouraging content again. 🙂

Over the last few years, I have occasionally posted author tips on my Facebook page just to keep things fun and interesting. For the month of August, I’ve decided to bring those tips over here for safe keeping. My goal is to do one every day. They’ll be fairly short and quick, so no long wordy essays, but I’m hoping you’ll find them relevant. 🙂 I’m starting this series off with my most favorite tip ever:


Do your homework.

You’ll see iterations of this all throughout my website and blog, and I stand by this wholeheartedly. It doesn’t matter whether you’re self-published or traditionally published. You’re still a small business owner. You are expected to know how the business works and to handle yourself accordingly.

It’s your responsibility to know (or learn) what you’re getting into whenever you implement something new (book format, distribution channel, etc.). No one else will think this through for you and, if they offer, be wary. Leaving something so important in someone else’s hands is an invitation to ruin.

You need to know your business partners, and read every word of every contract and Terms of Use agreement, because it’s all ultimately up to you. You are the owner of your content. You are the one who will have to deal with the consequences if something goes wrong. You also need to know the industry and keep up with how it’s changing and how it impacts you.

Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of chance; do the legwork. Put the same amount of effort into learning your trade as you did into writing your book.

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