Fellow writer Barry Napier asked me this: "I follow you on Twitter and have been marveling at your influence on other writers. Being a bit influenced myself, your strategy and approach to writing has started to open my eyes. I am seriously considering unpublishing my work from Amazon and placing it on my site... it would become the exclusive place to purchase my work on a Name Your Price basis. My fears, of course, are how people will discover my work without the powerful aide of Amazon. And what about reviews? Things like that... I was wondering if you could perhaps provide some info to help erase these fears and how you are able to manage it all. Ultimately, my goal is to become a full-time writer of my own work. Amazon is SLOWLY getting me there and I have no idea if releasing straight from my site would help in this goal or completely derail it."
Let me start off with this. I do give away my ebooks for free on my site (I'd give away paperbacks too, if they didn't cost me money to print), I do provide people an option to pay for my books, now or later, however much they want, via a donation, BUT, I also have my books on Amazon and a gazillion other sites, like iBooks, Barnes&Noble (via Nook Press), Kobo, Wattpad, Goodreads, Scribd, ReadWave, etc. So I don't exclusively give away and sell my books on my site only. However, my books are not enrolled in the Amazon's KDP Select program which prohibits to sell ebooks anywhere else but on Amazon for a period of time (I think, or maybe forever, can't remember exactly). I wouldn't suggest unpublishing books from Amazon, nor would I do it myself, simply because Amazon is an amazing platform so widely spread and ingrained in readers' minds that taking books off it would be a self-publishing suicide. Having said this, I advocate writers to give their books away for free anywhere they can, because in my opinion (and that is an opinion of a very green writer who has only been at it for 2 years, so please exercise caution) the publishing industry is following in the steps of the music industry, and that means:
EBOOKS ARE BECOMING PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL LIKE CD'S DID.
Well, here you can shout at me all you want, I will still stand by this idea. The price of ebooks has been dropping steadily after the first wave of successful sales. It will keep dropping until it is so close to zero, that there won't be any point in charging for it. There are very smart people out there with tons of great data (not me) whom I urge you to check out to form your own opinion on this, like Hugh Howey's Author Earnings, for example. Now, I'm not exactly following some statistically fantastical predictions here, I have not read a ton of literature on the topic, and I didn't crunch some ridiculously complicated numbers. Fuck that. I'm bad at math. No. What I'm doing is, I'm simply following my gut. I've had my own start-up for about 5 years and while a bunch of other start-ups blew up, I kept mine going by doing some pretty risky marketing moves after which people looked at me like I was crazy. But it worked. I had to close it eventually because I funded it via credit cards (yeah, stupid, I know - you can watch a video of me explaining how it happened), but I learned a ton of useful shit that I'm applying right not to self-publishing. Because:
SELF-PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS.
If you choose to self-publish, you're essentially choosing to open up your own small business. If you have a website where you sell your books, that is your store front. If you are on Amazon, that's like an affiliate store front for which you are paying a portion of the profit. Think about your neighboring mom-and-pop shop. Let's say, it's a chiropractor or a yoga studio place. That's it, yoga studio place. If you have one in your neighborhood, chances are they offer free classes to newbies, or some other deal, right? It doesn't really matter what type of a business it is, the same rule applies to all of them. We want to sample the product before we buy it. Hell, sometimes we want the whole product for free, to test the guys who did it, before we decide to part with our hard-earned money. Because what if those guys are full of shit? Incidentally, the old rule that used to apply to business has been broken by the internets (thanks, internets). It looks like this:
INSTEAD OF BETTER, CHEAPER, FASTER PEOPLE WANT PERFECT, FREE, NOW.
If someone wants to listen to music, they can download it for free, or hack it and download it for free, or watch a YouTube video with it for free, BEFORE they decide they love this particular band. Then they will still get stuff for free, for as much as possible, because we all love free stuff, but they will shell out incredible amounts of money for a concert, they will buy a t-shirt at the concert, etc. Same with movies. You can download any movie for free, if you know how, but you will pay to go and watch it in the theater at the premiere. How are books different? They aren't. They are art like any other art and people want to treat all art in the same fashion. If people can get their hands on a book for free, they will. I don't buy into this talk of how lowering the price of your ebook will undermine the opinion of the reader regarding the quality of your product. It won't. (If you want to dive deeper into my marketing philosophy, read everything by Seth Godin.) The goal of giving the books way for free is not to wave a carrot in front of the reader's face to lure them to your site and then slam them with your demand for money. The goal is to make it for the readers to discover you easily on the wide wild internets, to make it easy for them to share your work. Because, trust me, you're running a bigger risk of never being discovered than from someone stealing your work. In fact, I would love it if my work got stolen. Go ahead. Steal it. That would mean to me, it was good enough to steal, and that's a badge of honor.
ALL OF MY BOOKS ARE PUBLISHED UNDER CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE.
I never even copyrighted them. So steal all you want. Why? Because I want people to find out about me as an artist and support me directly as an artist, because the barriers have fallen. I don't need a middle man between me and my readers. If I write shit, too bad, I will have to go look for a job. But if what I write people love to read, they will support me, to keep me writing. My job is to get them away from their daily lives into the world of magic where they can relax and laugh and cry and enjoy themselves at the end of a hard workday. If I can do that, that's all I want from life. In fact, it's already happening. Not on a very big scale yet, but there are about 20 people who have pre-ordered my books from my site. That means, there are a few people who have pre-ordered (think about this!) the book I'm currently writing, IRKADURA, while I was still writing the 1st draft and didn't even clearly knew where exactly that book was going! That is direct support right there.
I'M RUNNING OUT OF MONEY IN 3 MONTHS (well, 4 months, counting the tax return).
You can watch me like some kind of a live experiment. I have been living off of my savings and unemployment and even savings off of unemployment (yeah, I reduced my lifestyle that much to write) for the last almost 2 years, and finally my money is coming to an end soon. Last year since self-publishing my first trilogy, I made about $3,500 total, of which more than 50% were donations (!!!). This year I have only made about $200 so far, of which again about 50% are donations, but I'm about to self-publish my 2nd novel, ROSEHEAD (my editor is sending me the final copy today, so should be done in several weeks), so we will see what happens. How do I plan to survive, you might ask?
I PLAN TO DO A KICKSTARTER TO RAISE MONEY FOR "PAGE TURNER"
IRKADURA should be wrapped up by the time I'm out of money, and the next novel after that will be a total PG (like a movie rating thingy, no swearwords and stuff) novel for all ages about 4 kids, 3 boys and 1 girl, skipping school one day, riding bikes around town and discovering that the world has corners that have page numbers on them and they can be turned like pages of a book. In every chapter (about 30 total) they will land in one of the most famous and beloved children's books of all time, like Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and more. I want to make a trip myself to all those books I read and marveled at as a little girl and I want to write a book that will incite people to pick up 30 more and re-read them, kids, adults, everyone, because they are wonderful stories. Now, I have only done a sort of a personal Kickstarter thing on my blog when I had to go see my mom, and I was blown away by the response, having raised $3,000. I plan on asking for $5,000 for PAGE TURNER. I'm scared shitless because I don't know what will happen, if people will fund me or not, but I have faith and I will move forward until I get there, and I will blog throughout the entire process for you so you can see what worked, what didn't, and learn from my experience.
I BECAME A FULL TIME WRITER BY DRASTICALLY CHANGING MY LIFESTYLE.
And to round this up, to explain to you how I was able to survive until now, and how you can do it too, if you are serious about being a writer, get ready to give up a lot of things and prepare for a long haul. Although, I can tell you that despite the fact that I sold my car, that I can't afford to go to restaurants or go skiing with friends or go on vacations or buy new clothes or afford any other fancy shit I used to spend my money on, I am the happiest I've ever been in my life. Yes, I sit all day at home, hell, I can't even afford a fucking gym membership, so I try to bike everywhere, but I write and read all day, and I wanted this all my life. I even changed my diet to spend less money on food and I lost weight and I'm as thin as when I was 18! Of course, here comes the question of kids. I know, I know. I happened to be a young mom and my daughter is already in college and on her own (she makes all my book covers), and my son is 10 and doesn't need to be held by the hand as much as when he was 5, but I do know how hard it is to let go of money when you have little children. You simply can't. I also divorced and let my ex to have the house, so I got money this way too. Basically, the only things of value I have right now are my laptop, phone, bike, biking gear, and books. Well, and my boyfriend bought me a motorcycle. So decide for yourself. This is not an easy decision. But once you do it, your life will change forever, and I urge you to do it, because who knows how much time you have left to live? Do it now, be happy now, the universe will align to your needs. It always does.
WE ARE THE MEDIA, as Amanda Palmer says, and I'm with her.