Thursday, March 3, 2011

Some Things That Need to Be Said

Oh, the internet is saying so many things about me. I don't understand why the internet suddenly picked up on me this past week, but it definitely did. My inbox has been flooded and I jumped up over 1,000 followers on twitter. Which was just in time for all my Charlie Sheen retweets.

The past few days have mostly been spent with me answering emails (and not writing - which makes me sad).

Meanwhile, I've been reading things written about me here and there, and hearing what everybody thinks this all means. I've been thinking about what I wanted to say about everything. Well, I've come up with it, and I have a feeling it will be a very long post.

I am not going to rehash things I've already talked about. Like how this happened. If you actually read back in my old blog posts, I was blogging as everything happened. I've publicly written down exactly what I've done. So if you're really curious about all that, check out my FAQs and scroll through some older blogs. I've got it all laid out.


What I'm about to say next is something I've been debating how to say. I think it needs to be said, but I know that I need to word it carefully. I want you all to know that I don't think I'm super awesome special or anything like that.

Everybody seems really excited about what I'm doing and how I've been so successful, and from what I've been able to understand, it's because a lot of people think that they can replicate my success and what I've done. And while I do think I will not be the only one to do this - others will be as successful as I've been, some even more so - I don't think it will happen that often.

Traditional publishing and indie publishing aren't all that different, and I don't think people realize that. Some books and authors are best sellers, but most aren't. It may be easier to self-publish than it is to traditionally publish, but in all honesty, it's harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house.

I don't think people really grasp how much work I do. I think there is this very big misconception that I was like, "Hey, paranormal is pretty hot right now," and then I spent a weekend smashing out some words, threw it up online, and woke up the next day with a million dollars in my bank account.

This is literally years of work you're seeing. And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn't writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me.

I also have this tremendous sense of urgency, like if I don't get everything out now and do everything now, while the iron is hot, everything I've worked for will just fall away. For the first time, I truly understand why workaholics are workaholics. You can't stop working, because if you do, it unravels all the work you've already done. You have to keep going, or you'll die.

Or at least that's how it feels.

There is so much stress in doing it all yourself. The editing is never good enough. And finding an editor isn't as easy everyone thinks. People thinking an editor is just having someone read through it a few times, checking for basic grammar and spelling, and while that is part of it, it's also much larger than that. It's helping tighten up sentences, watching repeated phrases, helping with flow, etc.

And it is really, really hard (or at least, it has been for me) to find an editor that can do all that. My books have all been edited - several times, by dozens of people with varying backgrounds - and people still find errors.

Here's another thing I don't understand: The way people keep throwing my name around and saying publishers are "terrified" of me and that I really showed them.

First of all, no publisher is afraid of me. That's just silly. I'm one girl who wrote a couple books that are selling well. That doesn't scare them - they just want to be a part of it, the same way they want to be a part of any best seller.

And just so we're clear - ebooks make up at best 20% of the market. Print books make up the other 80%. Traditional publishers still control the largest part of the market, and they will - for a long time, maybe forever. Ebooks will continue to gain ground, but I would say that we have at least 5-10 years before ebooks make up the majority.

Saying traditional publishing is dead right now is like declaring yourself the winner in the sixth inning of a baseball game when you have 2 runs and the other team has 8 just because you scored all your runs this inning, and they haven't scored any since the first. 

And all ebooks aren't self-published. Even if ebooks end up being 80% of the market, at least half of those sales will probably come from traditionally published ebooks. So publishers will still control the majority of the market.

I just don't understand writers animosity against publishers. So much of what I've been reading lately has made me out to be Dorothy taking down the Wicked Witch.

Publishers have done really great things for a really long time. They aren't some big bad evil entity trying to kill literature or writers. They are companies, trying to make money in a bad economy with a lot of top-heavy business practices.

Almost all of my favorite books were traditionally published. All my favorite authors - Kurt Vonnegut, J. D. Salinger, Jane Austen, Richelle Mead, Chuck Palahnuik, Bret Easton Ellis, Jeph Loeb - were all traditionally published with the exception of one - J. L. Bryan.

Which brings me to another point.  As much as my name has been thrown about, I haven't seen J. L. Bryan's name mentioned. He's the author of a fantastic young adult paranormal romance called Jenny Pox. Like my books, his is priced at $.99 EDIT: It's $2.99 now. But it was $.99 earlier. Like me, he has several other titles out. Also, like me, he has paperback versions of his book available and he reaches out to book bloggers. In fact, he just did an intensive blog tour for the release of his latest book The Haunted E-book. I even included an excerpt of Jenny Pox at the end of my book Ascend, because I like his writing so much, and I want other people to read it.

With all of that said, Bryan sells less books than I do. I don't know how many exactly, because I haven't asked, but I can tell from his rankings that it's not as many.

What's my point in all of this? By all accounts, he has done the same things I did, even writing in the same genre and pricing the books low. And he's even a better writer than I am. So why am I selling more books than he is?  I don't know.

That's the truth of it. Nobody knows what makes one book a bestseller. Publishers and agents like to pretend they do, but if they did, they would only publish best sellers, and they don't.

I guess what I'm saying is that just because I sell a million books self-publishing, it doesn't mean everybody will. In fact, more people will sell less than 100 copies of their books self-publishing than will sell 10,000 books. I don't mean that to be mean, and just because a book doesn't sell well doesn't mean it's a bad book. It's just the nature of the business.

Self-publishing and traditional publishing really aren't that different. One is easier to get into but harder to maintain. But neither come with guarantees. Some books will sell, some won't.

Don't get me wrong - I am excited about the world now. I am proud of what I've accomplished, and humbled that so many people have embraced my books. I think it's a really great time to be a writer. We have more control of our destiny before - or at least, it feels that way.

I love what I am doing now. I hope to continue self-publishing for a long time to come. I am immensely grateful to all my readers, book bloggers, and to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Apple for all the work they've done publishing my books and getting the word out there.

But I just think everyone should be realistic about this. When J. K. Rowling became the world's first billionaire author, I didn't go, "Ha! I will publish now, now that I see an author can make that much money doing it." (Admittedly, I was trying to get published when that happened, as I had been for the past seven or eight years).

That's all I'm saying. Self-publishing is great, but it's not easy. Most people who do it will not get rich, just like most authors signed up at Scholastic books aren't billionaires.  Traditional publishers are not evil any more than Amazon or Barnes & Noble are evil. Things are changing, hopefully for the better, but it is still hard work being a writer.