This isn’t the right header for episode 10. They need to chat with their web editor. With a brick.
When it comes to correcting the delusions of others, I try to leave it to the experts. When it comes to publishing, self-publishing and making money at writing, for example, I point to Dean Wesley Smith, a best-selling writer with a list of books a mile long. He specializes in killing the sacred cows of publishing. He’s written the equivalent a book about it. He’s also taken on the secret myth of traditional publishing, and debunks the common belief that writing slow equals writing well.
But if I know something, or at least point to people who know something, I like to do my bit. I do it at the Peschel Report, and I’ll do it now.
Because last night, as I was sorting through the mountains of junk on my basement shelves, I was listening to podcast #10 from LitReactor, a New York-based site that blogs about literature and sells classes.
At least we know what the “Broken Piano” cover designer keeps in his desk.
Episode 10, “The Reality of Having a Bestseller,” was an interview with Patrick Wensink, author of “Broken Piano for President,” and the author of a notorious Salon article discussing how much he earned from receiving a cease-and-desist order from Jack Daniels over the cover design of his book.
Briefly, publicity over the letter pushed the book onto the best-seller list for a week. Wensink made $12,000 from it, but Salon’s title, “My Amazon bestseller made me nothing,” led to sniffy remarks from the twats on Twitter who hadn’t read the article.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
During the program, Victoria Wade brought up an 2009 article by author Lynn Viehl, whose “Paperback Writer” website I regularly visit (we’ve also exchanged emails, in case that matters).
Yeah, Twilight fans probably bought the book. Viehl must be pretty torn up about it.
When her sixth Darkyn novel, “Twilight Fall,” made the best-seller list, she fulfilled a promise she made to a friend to write about it and empty the bag on what she earned.
“The Reality of a Times Bestseller” lays out the figures: a $50,000 advance, net earnings $27,000. (Which the LitReactor host used as the figure for Viehl’s earnings. Viehl actually earned $40,484. The publisher, per common practice, holds back some royalties in case unsold books are returned. She had $27K knocked off her advance, but eventually she would have been credited for $40K. Since she was given a $50K advance, she damn near paid it off the first month.).
This sparked a discussion about self-publishing. Generally, Wensink and the rest of the LitReactor crew are suspicious of it, especially the notion of anyone writing for money.
I won’t transcribe what they said. The relevant snip from the podcast is below.
Here’s a few telling phrases:
Wensink: “I have lot of self-publishing nutjobs writing me saying, ‘Dude, you could earn so much more money.’” (laughter)
“The self-publishing jihad is just weird.”
“It’s increasingly frequented by crazies, the self-publishing world.
“Like Victoria Wade, who writes the ‘Come For Bigfoot’ series.” (Note, I cannot find this series in any permutation on Amazon or Google. Not that I doubt its existence. If there’s a book such as “The Dragon Who Loves Me” sold as paranormal erotica, there’s should be a “Loving Bigfoot” series. There’s already a theme song for it.)
(CORRECTION: I owe the host an apology. It’s Virginia Wade, not Victoria Wade. After my fruitless searches for “Victoria Wade” and “Come for Bigfoot” failed and I wrote the above, after I finished this post, I impulsively typed in “bigfoot love” in the Kindle Store search box. No, I’m NOT GOING TO LINK TO IT. And especially not to the book “Ten Fingers Up.” I have enough nightmares, thanks.)
Then, during a discussion of how much money self-published authors make, one of the hosts says, “It’s so hard to tell. . . . It’s not in your best interest to be honest about how much you make, even if it isn’t very much, because then you’re basically saying your book is shit, so then you’re going to say ‘Yeah! Yeah! My book’s amazing and I’m making loads of money.’ ”
Wensink: “If you’re just doing it to make money, then you’re not going to make money, whether you’re self-publishing or not. . . .”
The ‘Writers Don’t Discuss Sales’ Myth
Here is where the LitReactor hosts and Patrick Wensink climbed the pinnacle of Mount Ignorance and planted their flags. Because more often than the president has said, “Let me make this clear” — and you know, that works no matter who’s in office — if there’s anything self-published / indy / artisanal authors will do, it’s talk about money.
* There’s J.A. Konrath, who’s written frequently about his earnings, including making $100,000 in three weeks.
* Awhile back, Lee Goldberg did the same, on Konrath’s site (and he did it again in regards to another book).
* E-Book Formatting Fairies asked authors to give up their figures. These were generally romance writers and a mix of pro-published and unknowns. Note that the figures were all over the place. Somehow, I can’t imagine Zoe Dawson believing that claiming she sold 742 copies in ’13 constitutes “loads of money.”
* In fact, it’s not that difficult to find more authors who blog about their ebook sales. Dahlia Valentine did so regularly (at least up to 2011).
* Authors are invited to post their monthly figures on the Kindle Boards. Again, seeing someone admit to 26 book sales in March leads me to trust another’s claim of 11,300 sales. Those who want to know if they’re making a living solely from their writing can check out this thread. Again, why would writers lie here?
So that’s one myth to bust. Self-publishers are making money. In fact, I’d go so far as to say there is a higher percentage of self-publishers making money than New-York-published authors. When you’re earning more per book self-publishing a $2.99 book on the Kindle than an $8.99 paperback, you’re that much closer to making a living.
The ‘Writers Don’t Write to Make Money’ Myth
Then there’s this quote from Wensink: “If you’re just doing it to make money, then you’re not going to make money, whether you’re self-publishing or not. . . .”
Again, let me call in an expert: John Scalzi.
Every once in a while someone in the comments here says, usually as an aside to something else, that no one becomes a writer to get rich. So as a point of clarification, and to give everyone else who is slightly exasperated by this sort of comment something to point at:
Hey, I became a writer to get rich. I’ve always been in the writing business not just to write, and not just to make money, but also to make a lot of money — basically, to get rich at it. Why? Because speaking from experience, being poor sucks, and in the world we live in, things are a whole lot easier if you have a lot of money.
How rich? How about, in 2008, $164,000.
If you can’t guess what this book is about, you may have been living under a rock for four decades.
Then there’s “Redshirts,” his 2012 Star Trek parody novel (published from Tor) for which he gave the per unit sales from the hardback, ebook and audiobook sales. Now, he didn’t give us the dollars and cents, but he didn’t have to. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, based on commonly accepted royalty rates found online, and I came to the conclusion he made nearly $150,000.
From that one book.
Before it even went into a trade paperback edition.
Now, he worked hard for the money. I knew him when he was reviewing movies for the Fresno Bee back in the late ‘90s, and even then, he infused his reviews with tons of personality and humor. I reviewed his first book, “Old Man’s War,” and anyone could see that he was a boy who could Go Places. He earned his riches, damn him.
The point, however, is that it is possible to make money from writing. It’s not easy. It’s not guaranteed. It takes practice, drive, some ability to market and dumb luck. But it can be done.
Just ignore to the sneers.