Nomenclatura, sales and non-fiction e-books

Paul Jessup really doesn’t like the term “indie publishing”.

I’m not overly happy with the term “indie publishing” myself, but that seems to be the term that has become established. Nor do I really understand the strong objections to the term, but then I’ve never had a strong attachment to the so-called “indie-ethos”. Besides, automatically equaling “indie” with “edgy” and “experimental” is a something of a fallacy. Like I said before, Uwe Boll is an indie filmmaker, even if his work is anything but edgy and experimental.

What is more, I think it’s a mistake to look just at the handful of indie writer superstars (or rather supersellers) and think that it’s all just derivative and ultra-commercial work. Because I also view indie publishing as a chance for those unusual voices and works that wouldn’t normally find a home. Besides, even the various venues for experimental fiction are usually open only to a specific kind of weird and experimental fiction. If your work falls outside that narrow definition of experimental and weird, then good luck.

However, I don’t like the term “legacy publishing” at all. For that matter, I hate the term “legacy system” as well, because it is so damned condescending. Besides, “legacy” used to be considered something good, until the tech heads who cannot imagine not upgrading a software or gadget that still works fine decided to redefine it. Like I told a translation client today, you cannot just change the definition of words because you feel like it. And for that matter, why is it always the technophiles, whether engineers or computer geeks, who think they can redefine words words according to their whims? This even applies to the digital self-publishing movement appropriating the term “indie” which has different connotations and a strong emotional connection for many people.

Yeah, it was an ugly argument. But then I’m very sick of people who think that just because they have an engineering degree they can tell me how to do my job. Never mind that the same sort of person often looks down on my degree and qualifications.

On to other matters, one of the things I really like about indie publishing or whatever you want to call it is how many writers are open about their sales figures, even if they don’t sell at the level of the big indie superstars.

Here, Annie Bellet looks back on one year of indie publishing. Her sales figures pretty much confirm what I’ve heard from other people regarding indie publishing. You have to be patient and put up more work and wait for sales to grow over time.

In fact, Kristine Kathryn Rusch says pretty much the same thing in the latest installment of her Business Rusch series.

Meanwhile, at the Atlantic, a journalist and non-fiction writer named Edward J. Epstein wonders whether e-books can pay off for a writer. The answer is yes, by the way.

Edward J. Epstein seems to have the right attitude. Be patient, get more work up, wait for sales to gradually grow.
What bothered me, however, is that Mr Epstein seems to have some very inflated ideas of what does and does not constitute success.

Take a look at this:

The numbers are not great — last weekend I sold only 165 e-books — but they grow, like compound interest, with each new title.

and this:

The result is I am now earning just under $400 a week.

Now 165 e-books sold in a single weekend (though he has fifteen books up altogether) and 400 US-dollars earned per week are great numbers. A lot of indie writers would be thrilled to sell that much in a month. Besides, Mr Epstein’s books are non-fiction, which generally does not sell as well as fiction, particular fiction in popular genres.

Talking of non-fiction e-books, according to the New York Times, Amazon is cracking down on scammers who put up dozens of e-books with duplicate, often low quality content. This is a very good thing IMO, because these private label rights people are making serious e-publishers look bad, particularly those writing about consumer and financial advice topics. This is basically the e-book equivalent of content farms and just as annoying.

If you look at the XinXii bestseller list, the top spots are usually occupied by templates for all sorts of contracts, business plans and the like. And those templates don’t sell for 2.99 Euros either, the prices are often closer to 9.99 or even 14.99. I don’t know how good those templates are by the way, because I haven’t looked at them.

The first time I looked at that list, I thought, “Shit, I can do that.” I translated dozens of contracts, agreements and letters of intent. I could slap together a template from those contracts (which are mostly based on templates anyway), clean up the language a little (since it’s usually awful and often error riddled) and make some money. Of course, the contracts I translate usually deal with buying boats or trucks or environmental protection equipment, not houses or cars, which are subjects more likely to interest people. Still, I could probably assemble a general template and sell it.

But I won’t do it, because a) I’m not a legal expert and b)I want to offer actual quality, whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction. This is probably also why I never ended up writing for content farms – because I kept looking at the popular topics (health, personal finance, dieting, fitness advice, parenting, pet training) and thought, “But I can’t write about that. I’m not an expert.” Of course, many of the people who wrote those articles weren’t experts either – or content farms wouldn’t be so notorious for their low quality articles. But that’s just not the way I operate.

If I ever branch out into non-fiction e-books, I might do a writing advice book (yeah, because the world needs another one of those) or a collection of the articles I wrote for Thriller UK, which are now out of print and inaccessible. I might even do something with my teaching materials and worksheets, though that won’t work as a regular e-book, because they need to be printable. As for my academic works – I’d have to figure out how to format footnotes for e-books first.

Send to Kindle
This entry was posted in General, Links, Publishing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Nomenclatura, sales and non-fiction e-books

  1. Pingback: Linkdump for a Wet Weekend | Cora Buhlert

  2. Pingback: Kindle woes, more nomenclatura, the resurrection of the gothic and the usual gloom and doom | Pegasus Pulp

Leave a Reply

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