Friday, May 4, 2018
War of the Worlds
This particular course came down to writing erotica, hiring ghost-writers, buying reviews, and a bunch of other things that really have nothing to do with writing. And because my primary reason for becoming a writer was...I love to write and wanted to do that for a living...it wasn't especially useful.
The fact that it wasn't useful to me doesn't mean the formula wouldn't work--there seems to be plenty of evidence that these tactics do work for some people.
Which is interesting because in all honesty it goes against everything I've believed for the last thirty years of my publishing life. Live and learn. See! I can admit I'm wrong.
Once upon a time most of us became writers because we had a story to tell. You can argue whether all the stories were worth telling or whether we have a right to tell certain stories, but mostly people used to become writers because they wanted to, well, write.
I mean, not always. And not entirely. A lot--maybe the majority?--of writers always hoped (and still do?) to maybe one day earn a living at telling stories. But the view of writing as a surefire get-rich-quick scheme is comparatively new.
By the way, I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm just saying it's hard for a lot of writers coming from backgrounds similar to mine to wrap their minds around.
Until I was watching that vid, my question was always: why would anyone want to tackle a job like writing if you didn't really love to write?
Because good writing is difficult. As difficult as any other art.
But I see now that it's the wrong question. People who got rich selling Amway or Herbalife weren't necessarily in love with the products. They were in love with getting rich off the products. And while I balk at books being regarded as any other commodity, is that really logical? I don't see anything wrong with the desire to be rich or in trying to find new and inventive (legal) ways to make money.
Right after I clicked out of that vid I stumbled upon the whole #cockygate thing. (In other words, yes, I was wasting time surfing the net.)
Like everyone else I was outraged, sure, but also bewildered at what the hell this unknown author could be thinking. I mean, I get the obvious thing she was thinking--Destroy Competition, Will Robinson!!!--but there's no way in hell that trademark is going to stand, and she has to know it, so why start this particular war? What could have convinced her it was a great idea to burn every bridge in the entire world of publishing?
That's when the light came on. Hopkins is not living in the same publishing world as me. She's not operating in the same publishing world as most of the writers I know. She's operating in an alternate publishing world--kind of like Universal's Dark Universe--where writing is a get-rich-quick scheme and keywords are way more valuable than the actual story.
Of course she was willing to go to war to protect her most effective keyword! Her whole writing career is based on it. Burning bridges? She's not looking to forge relationships with fellow authors--other than those enrolled in the same Twenty Books to 50K club. Hopkins is not in love with the creative process. She doesn't *need* to write in the way that so many authors say they *need* to write to stay sane. She wasn't looking to hone her craft. She's not planning to stick around for longer than it will take to make whatever she considers bank.
Which, by the way, is okay. Whether I like it or not.
Granted, it's not quite that simple because clearly there are other issues in the Hopkins case, but for me the takeaway lesson was...we are not alone. The Dark Universe is out there and it's not going anywhere. Hopkins thought of trademarking her keyword first, but she won't be the last--in fact, a friend on Goodreads mentioned that there have already been attempts to trademark "rebellion" and "litRPG." WTH??? The keywords, the stuffed subtitles, the paid reviews and click farm launches and ghost writers...it's all part of a new set of strategies for a new breed of writer. Or maybe "writer" isn't exactly the word. I see "authorpreneur" bandied about, and it does seem kind of appropriate.
So long as publishing is viewed as a viable get rich scheme (and there's nothing wrong with the math in the twenty books to 50K line of reasoning) and Amazon doesn't change the rules of the game in any significant way, we're going to continue along this Two Worlds path for the foreseeable future of publishing.
But is that actually as worrying as some of my writer friends seem to think? Okay, it's not exactly inspirational, but when I see someone getting rich off selling real estate or inventing a new household gadget, I don't get angry and start doubting the value of my own work or the wisdom of my chosen profession.
I wanted to be a writer not the manager of an apartment building, so why would I care what apartment managers do all day? Their world is not my world.
It's pretty much the same thing here.
If you want to be a writer--if you love writing itself--you can still make a living at it. Is it more challenging than it used to be? Well, that depends on your "used to be." If you started a decade ago, yes, it's more challenging now. If you started twenty years ago, no, it's a lot easier now, even with KU and all those enterprising apartment managers hiring ghost writers and putting out a book every three weeks or less. Everything is relative.
Nobody likes to talk money in publishing. Which is to say the people who are doing brilliantly don't mind boasting, and a lot of people who hope to eventually do brilliantly don't mind fudging, but for the rest of us resisting the lure of Kindle Unlimited and keyword stuffing it's hard to get concrete (reassuring) numbers. So here's the bottom line. I've been grossing that magical 6-Figure income for the past five years. Even last year, which was a HORRENDOUS year for me productivity-wise was (which I did not realize until we did our taxes) a 6-Figure year. Again.
Comfortably 6-Figures. Without KU. Without a hell of a lot of promotion. Without giving a thought to keywords or bothering with almost any advertising.
Now that's what I grossed. I didn't take that home because I put it all back into my business. In fact, I lost money last year. Ouch. Second year in a row. Double ouch. But the point is even someone who has been around as long as me and isn't doing a hell of a lot more than the writing itself does not have to resort to the bullshit--which means if you are starting to panic over things like whether you have to commit to KU and everything that goes with it--I'm here to reassure you that no. You don't. You really don't.
Writing still matters. Storytelling still matters. Human interaction still matters. Despite the fact that all we ever seem to hear about is what's happening in the world of KU...there's a whole other publishing universe out there.
Maybe it's your world.