Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Foolproof Plan for Independent Publishing.

The secret to throwing a ball is simple: the harder you throw it, the further it goes.

By the Evil Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff

Louis' little company, Shalako Publishing, can’t fail. It might get more complicated, and it has become rather more work than less over time. It’s still fun, and it’s not like I have anything better to do.

At this point he can still quit, or run it into the ground by neglect, or do something stupid and get sucked down by major liabilities. Even if he got sued for libel, or the computer blew up, if he had a heart attack, or simply couldn’t pay for the internet, the books are still out there and the various platforms do sell small numbers of books.

(Louis can't see me, and please never reveal this post to him, 'cause I want him to learn it on his own and maybe finally get a little self-confidence, but we'll let him tell it in his own words.)

Even then, the books I already have published would continue to sell occasionally, and continue to make money for whoever owns those intellectual properties, for example my estate or my heirs.

As long as I’m willing to continue writing, publishing, editing, all the stuff that’s needed to keep the costs down, all the marketing and promoting, the entity will continue to grow. Over time, revenues will increase and in fact I can even predict when they will come in for example, but only insofar as it’s at the ‘current rate of sales.’ Right?

(A note for accountants: the internet cost is set down as ‘entertainment’ of a personal nature. Even then, my ‘hobby’ pays me actual cash from time to time.)

The numbers will continue to grow.

In 2010, in four months of operation, I sold four books. I gave away about twenty. Yet even this small number showed that it is indeed possible for an unknown and not particularly skilled author (and even less skilled publishing-wise) to make money by writing and selling their own books online.

At some point I realized that the more titles you have published, the less and less importance that any one has in terms of sales. But each contributes to the overall sales—and now this is the important number.

In a game, there might be two players, and let’s say the house owns the table. For every completed game, they get a small percentage of the pot. Between the two guys, there is a winner and a loser. (No doubt about that. But we’re not playing that kind of game. That’s the important thing to remember. What we are doing is not gambling.)

That’s the house advantage—they never have to play a card and they still win on every game!

So what’s their real secret? Play as many games as possible in the shortest time possible.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, if you want to beat a system, and in my opinion, any system can be defeated by using its own rules against it, then the first thing to do is to understand how it works, and how the game is played. You want to know what cards you get, and what they are worth, and all the rules and stuff.

People keep saying and wondering about Amazon ‘changing their algorithms.’ They don’t have to change those algorithms, because the algorithms change themselves, organically almost, because the number of titles keep changing, the number of readers using the store changes moment by moment. Every day, the number of people with ereaders and Kindles goes up.

Yet the total number of ereaders in the world is still a variable in an algorithm. And that’s what we’re talking about, when we say ‘Amazon changed the algorithm.’ Someone is essentially saying they went in and skewed a couple of variables in a very long and complex equation. Ladies and gentlemen, I would submit that we changed the algorithm—and if we did it once we can do it again.

What we do now is to write faster—to write more often, and to publish more often, with better skills and better books and with better covers and better marketing. Because the numbers of authors, readers, books, dollars, ereaders, and other factors just keeps increasing every day.

That’s not to say that Amazon or any other online retailer doesn’t twiddle the buttons once in a while, maybe even just to keep it fair. It’s their house after all, their table and their game, and the choice is yours whether you want to sit in or not.

Or we can get up and walk away.

But here’s a funny thing. Now we have our own ‘house advantage.’ That’s because when we play a game now, it ain’t over when it’s over. The game stays on the table—or perhaps I should say that your new title stays in the store to maybe sell a book on another day.

Another thing we can do to change our own personal algorithm: we need to try and live as long as possible. 

Keep your cool and stay out of trouble. Right?

That’s how you game an algorithm—you just keep trying to push up the values on all of your own personal little variables.

We all have our own algorithm now. And the truth shall set you free.


Notes: Joe Konrath, A Newbies Guide to Publishing, says ‘it’s not a zero-sum game.’

This is real short, it’s from Wiki and it’s on the ‘zero-sum mentality.’ Cool, eh?

Here’s Wiki on Algorithms. The bit on formalization is particularly apropos.

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