I have been at, and will finish up my work today, at the ConDor science fiction convention in San Diego. I was required to drive back up to Mission Viejo early this a.m. to give my Saturday class their midterm exam.
Yesterday at 5:00 p.m. I gave the first presentation of my life that I consider wholly-original, but more importantly, not on behalf of someone else or for educational purposes. Of these, I have done many. This was on behalf of me. Representing my ideas, my writing, and my company: Chameleon.
I feel this went well, from the simple perspective that I did what I set out to do and clearly communicated to the audience of approximately 40-50 people.
I realized during the presentation that much of what I was saying was new information to the audience. Simple facts; such as the average per-title sales for most trade fiction from legacy publishers would be 10,000 to at most, 15,000 copies. This is easily exceeded by the sales of a number of self-published authors, including J.L. Doty, who was kind enough to attend the presentation.
I explained that self-publishing success heretofore had arisen from niche audiences - i.e. pre-existing or established market segments with established channels. While it's certainly possible that such success could be achieved by authors not working in pre-existing market segments -- for example, contemporary mimetic fiction -- it's not likely.
I think I also was able to make the point that marketing as it is known in many other industries (heck, virtually every industry outside the creative spheres) does not exist in the legacy publishing world, and that self-publishing successes are as a result of organic or natural marketing -- i.e. the work is a great fit for the target market. It's neither luck nor rocket science. For the SF/F writers out there, it's interesting that such great certainty arises from individuals such as Hugh Howey and Cory Doctorow. Lacking business, management and marketing experience, both believe their individual experiences may easily be translated to a broader sphere of endeavor. Apparently Hugh Howey believes that his use of freemiums can be adopted by any writer writing any type of book, yet this tactic sends a very different message to the general reader than it does to the niche, geek/hacker audience. When the general audience attempts to read Howey's work, their suspicions are confirmed. Because Cory Doctorow has supported himself through Web 2.0 blogging and speaking his mind, he believes this is the path for all writers.
Kris Rusch has referred often to the WIBBOW test ("Would I Be Better Off Writing?") time-management tool identified by Scott William Carter. The fact that such a test would have to exist is in and of itself, cause for concern and questioning. Kris has simply been making the point regarding what works for writers in the self-publishing environment and hybrid publishing environment as of right now. Few writers will ever be able to afford real marketing. This is of little matter to those working in established niches such as Howey or E.L. James. There will continue to be individuals coming up through that type of channel; it's highly unlikely they'll ever come up like top author brand Lee Child. Few authors even understand what marketing is.
Considering the TNG bestseller display I saw in my supermarket last week -- there's another layer of this problem -- legacy publishers do not seem to be working very closely with distributors. Heaven knows how the process works beyond the standard "name brand" marketing (that does NOT work - even Patterson's brand was languishing and I definitely smiled to see the stacks of Allegiants and Divergents). God forbid they should take metrics back from TNG, listen to them, and work in response to that feedback. Not pitch writers and find all-new ones - heaven forbid they should discuss what people are buying and how they buy in the impulse space (supermarkets/drugstores). With writers.
You know, the ones without which, there's nothing to sell? Nothing to put on TNG's fleet of 2,500 trucks, nothing to put into their 9,000 locations. One book sold per each location is ... add it up. Comes rather close to the average per-title sales for trade fiction across all legacy publishers and imprints.
I hope from this that it can be seen that just a few steps forward can make an improvement. It can make things better for writers. And ... for readers. Without whom books would have little point and the work would not exist.