I’m going to start with a question for Mark Sumner. Mind you, I’m not asking for dollar amounts.
But a few years ago, you published a short science fiction novel, first serializing it here, and then through, IIRC, Amazon. (Maybe I’m wrong about that part. I couldn’t find it on Amazon.)
I read it, and enjoyed it.
But, in retrospect, I’m wondering, was it worth it? I mean, was what you got back in royalties and reader feedback worth the effort you put into it?
I’m wondering about the whole self-publishing thing. I have some anecdotal evidence that tells me, no. It’s a scab on the derriere of literature. But that’s a very limited view of the field.
My first anecdote: A woman I used to work with turned a series of humorous, supernatural novels self-published on Amazon, into a lucrative endeavor. She quit her day job and began writing full time. In my entirely not coming from any place of serious literary criticism opinion, they weren’t very good.
My second anecdote: in 2016, I tried my hand at self-publishing a satirical roman a clef on the Trump primary campaign. I figured the time was right (I wrote and released it before Trump became the GOP candidate, in those innocent days when he wasn’t possibly the vehicle for the end of civilization). I promoted it the best I knew how, including some paid advertising. In the end, less than 100 people read my book (including the friends I gave free copies to). I’m not a novice, mind you. I had several novels published commercially in the 1980s. I had an agent and everything. But without a professional marketing effort, it just never got off the ground. (Maybe it just sucked. But really, I don’t think enough people read it to form a consensus about the quality.)
And that’s the experience I have with self publishing. I’ve read everything I could find about how to market your self-published novel and most of the advice strikes me as … well… stupid.
Mailing lists: Supposedly this is how you build an audience. But with the limited reach of my novel, I don’t see how I would get enough people to subscribe to make any difference.
TikTok videos. I’ve never even looked at TikTok, so I have to think it’s not really aimed at people like me. Supposedly, if you can get an influencer to promote your book, you’ve got it made. But really? Maybe I’m an over-the-hill boomer, but I can’t really see myself getting any of the legion of TikTok influencers I’ve never heard of to want to promote anything I’ve written. We live in different universes.
Author web pages: I actually tried this one. I had a pretty nice author web page for a while. It was self-designed and coded. It got next to no traffic. (It no longer exists. I changed hosts and some of the databases got corrupted in the transfer and my page died. I really haven’t thought it worth the effort to reconstruct it.)
There is a whole industry of people out there who would like you to help you get your self-published novel out there. I have not seen anything that makes me think they do much more than take your money.
So, does anyone else out there have experience with self publishing. Is it worth the effort?