Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This business of writing

Don't know that I have my thoughts organized on this, but I've been thinking about it for quite some time. I follow several writers' listservs. A theme on many is that you have to treat your writing as a business. Yet, I'm amazed at some writers, particularly those who manage their on backlist as ebooks and those who publish independently. Amazed, awed, but stymied. They track sales daily, they compare their sales to comparable books, they experiment with different digital prices--free, ninety-nine cents, when to raise, when to lower. Many of them are constantly at war with diffrent e-platforms, though most often Amazon, and they agonize over writing letters of complaint, getting action in lowering, raising prices, whatever they want. Writing is indeed a business, and they micromanage it--but when do they have time to write?
A big controversy wages these days over the Kindle Select program, whereby an author can agree to post a new book digitally only on Kindle for 90 days; in return you get five days in which you can give the book away free. Some give close to 20,000--sorry but it hurts my Scottish soul to give all that away. On the other hand, give-aways boost your ranking on Amazon (something I don't pay attention to, unfortunately), and many authors report a boost in sales of all their books after the free promotion. There's also something about certain high-level Kindle patrons can "borrow" books and the author gets a small payment. I don't understand this, and from what I read it doesn't end up profiting the author. Some authors praise the KDP Select program to the high heavens, but lately more are bitterly complaining.
My new novel, No Neighborhood for Old Women, comes out as an e-book April 8, and I had at first thought to rush headlong into the Select program but now I'm undecided. My publisher, wisely, leaves the decision up to me. If whatever decision goes amuck, I have no one to blame but myself.
I appreciated a post today where the author said she isn't really very good at marketing, and she wants to stay home and write. That's one big reason I sought out a small press--and let me tell you again how happy I am with Turquoise Morning--and another reason that I am having ePub scan, prepare and post two of my older titles--Libbie and Sundance, Butch, and Me. For a small percent of royalties they will handle the business details. I can move ahead with my writing.
I do have one free short story, a short story collection, and an award-winning novel up on various platforms as e-publications that I manage. But I'm lazy or lackadaisacal about it. I don't check in on them very often. Today when I did, I was surprised to find that one platform told me I had only two items; logged in again, changed whatever, and found all three. But another time when I logged in, I found only one--Skeleton in a Dead Space. Eventually I discovered that I have two sites on Smashwords (an umbrella posting service that posts books to a variety of platforms except Kindle)--one for me, one for Turquoise Morning. That seems self-defeating--I want readers to be able to find all my books with one click. The TMP publisher is going to see about merging them, and then I'll have to deal with getting the ePub books merged into the site also.
What happened to the good old days when you wrote a book, sent it to an agent or a publisher, and went on to the next book? I recognize that in many ways a bright new world is dawning for writers with the rising acceptance of self-publishing and the growth of e-books, but the business end baffles me. I also recognize that as a retiree who appreciates the extra income but is not dependent on it, I'm in a fortunate position. But I retired because I managed a publishing business and was tired, tired, tired of spread sheets, unit costs, profit margins, and all that. I retired so I could write--and so far, it's working well. One book in 2011, two in 2012, and two scheduled for 2013. Give me publishers any day.

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