Something Cool, but Not Cool

self-publishing-word-cloudSomething cool happened this week, but it got me thinking about something that’s not so cool.

A lot of my readers already know about the Baby Shoes flash fiction anthology that I Kickstarted, and how it beat our funding goals by almost a thousand dollars. I’m hugely happy and immensely grateful for how people have embraced the project, but that’s not the cool thing that happened this week.

joe lansdaleThe specific cool thing I’m talking about is how my literary hero Joe R. Lansdale has agreed to put a story in the collection. I cannot adequately express how thrilled I am about this. One specific cool thing about it is that the other I wrote him his check and put it in the mail.

Here’s where things get weird.

I’ve bought a lot of books by mojo writing master Lansdale over the years. I’ve seen all of the movies based on his work. I’ve even picked up a couple of those crazy expensive volumes they print for him over at Subterranean Press.

And you know what? Because of the way royalties work, all of those purchases and all of that support probably comes to less than half of the money I gave him with that check. Hell, I know of three people who love his work specifically because of me…and together we probably haven’t been responsible for enough royalties to equal this one (not very big) payment.

I have another writer friend, Linda Needham, who was a best-selling romance writer in the 1990s. Romance writers make a ridiculous pile of money, but if you want to hear somebody really go off on how much screwing is involved in a standard – or even celebrity – writer’s royalty deal, you give her one glass of mead and say “self-publishing.”

That’s not to say I have no use for traditional publishing. I’m in talks with two agents and a publisher about three projects right now, in addition to my self-published projects. But it is to say that self-publishing means you get a metric asston (approximately 1.2 imperial buttloads) more money from each sale than you would from the traditional route.

Like almost every important business decision, this one boils down to math. If you’re writing for a 10% royalty (a huge amount for most writing contracts), then the publisher had better be able to sell ten times as many books as you would have while self-publishing.

Which is pretty unlikely, considering how much publicity support a first-time writer is likely to get.

Right now, we’re seeing a lot of what I call “Reverse Hybrid” writers. Folks who had success as traditionally published authors who use their existing platform to make even more money on the self-published market. Linda’s doing that, and I think Mr. Lansdale is doing it too with the short stories he has up on Amazon for a buck or two a pop. I’m happy for them, but that’s not great advice for folks who haven’t yet made a name for themselves.

The rest of us have to build that platform from scratch. That means knowing how to build a platform. Over the years, I’ve found a few great resources to help you do that. Here are a few of my favorites for your reading pleasure.

  • Self Publishing Podcast — smart people actively experimenting with what works and what doesn’t, then telling us about it.
  • John Ellis on Tactical Social Engagement — one of the smartest guys working with social media today.
  • Everything Derek Wyatt Ever Wrote –including graffiti at rest stops.
  • The Creative Penn Blog — a great resource for handling your self publishing like a business.
  • Bookbub — a hard to get into, but extremely effective site for promoting your books.
  • Podiobooks — the method for getting an audiobook version of your work out into the world

Building platform takes a long damn time, and requires a lot of focus and work…so you should learn how as quickly and painlessly as possible. The geniuses behind the resources above will help you do just that.

So…what did I miss? Who are the writers, bloggers, podcasters, movers, shakers and monsters you recommend for awesome building of platform? Tell us about them in the comments and tell me what’s up.

One thought on “Something Cool, but Not Cool

  1. Thanks for the suggestions. I just finished listening to a webinar hosted by Joan Stewart ( the Publicity ) and Joel Friedlander ( the Book ), called called “7 Fast Easy Ways to Pull Readers to Your Author Blog “, which had some great ideas for fiction writers especially. Both have excellent blogs on publicity and book design for self published writers.
    Derek Murphy at has useful info on book civer design as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *