A post everyone should read.

Sometimes I reread this post by Courtney Milan because I think it says so many smart things, they get lost under their own radiance. But in particular, this one is something I’m thinking a lot about right now:

Some people call it “self” publishing. Some people call it “independent” publishing. I don’t think either of those terms describe what is happening. The other day, I described self-publishers as more like bacteria: most will never register above a blip, but because we’re capable of swapping ideas with each other and evolving at a high rate, the ones that do well can do really well.

It’s why the point that Mike Shatzkin expresses in the commentson this post here—that “it is hugely counterintuitive to me that a single actor whose main capability MUST BE writing could be a more effective marketer than a publisher who would have good reason to develop capabilities at scale across a list”—is both completely right and totally wrong. He’s totally right in that one individual, standing on his or her own, is always going to lose versus publishers. I suspect that is true, on average, by a margin larger than the 4x royalty difference.

But he’s not taking into account the intelligence of the self-publishing collective. The fact that writers have been so poorly paid for years is actually a huge bonus. Most authors by necessity have more skills than just writing. Do the math: There are more self-publishers with marketing backgrounds than there are marketers working in New York publishing. There are more self-publishers with backgrounds in statistics and data collection than New York has on their payroll. There are more computer experts, more graphics designers, more photographers. There are just so darned many of us, and so darned few (relatively speaking) of New York.

As an added bonus, we don’t have to pass ideas by a committee before we try them, so collectively, we have more information on crazy-ass shit that some person tried just because, hell, why not see what happens?

None of that would matter one damned bit—one person who has data expertise still might not understand what makes a good cover–except we talk to each other all the time. Participating in that conversation to some degree, staying nimble, seeing results, listening, learning as a constant matter—is where 70% of the value-added of being a self-publisher lies. The royalty rate is good, but it’s not the winner. The best self-publishers are doing things much, much better than the best publishers do. That may be hard to imagine, but it’s because taken as a whole, we have more data (most publishers don’t get the regular fine-grained data that self-publishers do, and don’t pore over it as we do) and more expertise than publishers do.

You really should read the entire post. Even if you’ve read it before. Courtney Milan is one of the smartest people I have ever met, and I am deeply grateful that she is endlessly generous with all of her wisdom.

Smart People Say Smart Things

Why Would I Write Posts About Self-Publishing When Other People Are Being Smart All The Time: A Curated List of Brilliance.

So, there is so much information out there about self-publishing, and I’m often asked for advice and my thoughts on things. I wrote one post about the math of quiet success, but there are so many other people writing smart things, sometimes I wish I’d thought to make a list of them so I could just say, Here. Here is your Brilliant People Primer. They are Smarter Than I Am.


This is that list. It is very much a work in progress.

Traditional versus self publishing: official death match 2014

Author: Courtney Milan
General Advice, Skills Required, Personal Experience
Target Audience:
Traditionally Published Authors

I love a lot of things about this post. This line in particular: I’ll talk about the skills that you need to have later, but the most important skill that every successful self-publisher needs is this: good judgment. That, I think, sums up so much of what is necessary to succeed in self-publishing. You can hire out almost anything else, but if you don’t know who to hire, and why, and what they should do for you…

While Courtney makes it clear that she’s talking to traditionally published authors because that’s the place of experience she came from, I think it’s worth reading no matter where your path has taken you. Because it’s smart, just like she is.

How To Make A Living As An Indie Author

Author: Robert J. Crane
Topics: General Advice, Marketing Strategies, Personal Experience
Target Audience: General

No, I’m not just including this because I want to be famous for my quote about pirate treasure. (Though I do.) This post is very long, very thorough, and very frank about how to take a smart, dedicated approach to the long game. Robert isn’t telling you how to use tricks to break into the top 100 on amazon every time. He’s telling you how to plan for the worst case scenario and build a backlist that might enable you to make a living without becoming The Next Big Thing.

In fact, he just today tweeted a bit of wisdom that I think sums up his post:

Backmatter: Are You Making the Most of Your Digital Shelf Space?

Author: Courtney Milan (Again, Already!)
Topic: Ebook Production, Marketing
Target Audience: General

This information is so important, I considered moving it to the top. From the post:

The moment after someone finishes your book is the point when they are most favorably inclined to you as an author. Okay, some people will have hated your book—and that’s okay—but this isn’t about them. This is about the people who read the last word of your book and sigh and hug their ereader close and think, “What a lovely book! I’m so glad I read this.”

It’s the perfect moment in a symbiotic author-reader relationship: She wants to read more of my books, and I want her to do the same thing.

Changing the backmatter in our books has increased our sales of related books, increased website traffic and exploded our newsletter, and all with so little effort. All it takes is really thinking about how to give the reader exactly what they want, as painlessly as possible.

So many more posts coming soon…