Friday, December 1, 2017

Going For The Bucks: A Coda

     This morning, Sarah Hoyt stomped an entitled snob into the magma layer:

     Years ago, when I was a raw beginner, I lived in a small mountain town where most of the inhabitants were artists or potters or the like.

     At the time, I was struggling to sell a few short stories a year, and I remember repining against fate, and getting very upset, because all these beginning potters and artists could sell their learning product directly to the public at street fairs and arts and crafts shows. Meanwhile, my net was zero or worse, as I sent stuff out and it came back rejected.

     Well, old me is jealous of new me. Nowadays a lot of the young writers I advise are getting paid for learning. Sure, most don’t make a lot, but most didn’t make a lot under traditional publishing. And a lot of them make more than I ever did, not just as a beginner.

     So imagine my surprise at coming across this article. In which someone calling himself an author laments the inability to make a living from writing.

     By all means read the rest, but...not just yet. First, contemplate these minor observations and their implications:

  • There are perhaps 500,000,000 persons alive at this time for whom English is their first language – i.e., the one they speak routinely both at work and at home.
  • There are perhaps 1,000,000,000 persons alive at this time who are fluent in English as a second language. Indeed, most of the civilized world requires its high schoolers to demonstrate acceptable knowledge of English before allowing them to graduate.
  • Of that pool of 1,500,000,000 persons adequately skilled in English to speak and read it, perhaps 10% read an English-language novel or two each year. That amounts to a marketplace of 150,000,000 persons for fiction written in English.
  • If you could sell one copy of your novel to a mere 0.1% of that marketplace, you would sell 150,000 copies. At a profit of even $1.00 per copy, that’s $150,000.
  • Clearly, your mission, as a novelist, is:
    • To locate the 0.01% of world English speakers who would find your novel worth their reading time and money;
    • To make them aware of your novels;
    • To persuade them that $2.99 for an eBook is a very modest speculation!

     As always, if you or any of your IM Force are caught or killed, the Secretary will...oops, sorry, wrong screenplay. But I’m sure you get the idea.

     At this time, computer access is near to universal in the First World. Even people who don’t own Kindles or NOOKs are usually able to download Kindle or NOOK eBooks and read them with the appropriate free program from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. So that pool of 1,500,000,000 potential readers is real and accessible. Anyone serious about making his living from writing novels should make the exploration of the reading preferences of those folks his first priority. If he can determine that as many as 150,000 persons really would enjoy the sort of fiction he’d like to produce, he has a fair shot at making a living – a nice living – as a novelist.

     It just might be that, given the Internet, social media, and whatnot, a time has come when a would-be career novelist really could sniff out the readers he needs to reach, and contrive to offer his books directly to them, with enough research. Indeed, a really worthwhile organization for fiction writers would be one that specializes in exactly that sort of market research, analysis, and promotion. I’d be willing to pay a modest annual fee for the services of an organization that could produce reliable data of that sort. But it would have no resemblance to the sort of querulous, politically oriented quasi-union the “Authors’ Guild” appears to be.

     Perhaps Douglas Preston, the author of the article Sarah’s broadside addresses, should be told of the opportunity to do something really useful.


Pascal said...

That fisking by Sarah Hoyt was so long-winded that PJM refreshed the page 3 times before I was halfway through.

I decided scanning the rest of it was good enough. I hit all eleven "LOAD MORE"s and raced to the end before the dredded PJM page refresh forced me to start all over again.

Writers gotta write, eh?

C'mon Sarah -- don't fiskers need editors too? LOL Don't Stomp him into the magma layer when the dust should suffice.

I almost never run into the "load more"/ page refreshing problem when reading Wretchard. Verbum sat sapienti.

Linda Fox said...

I actually know a few Indians, and would be happy to email them about this.

Anyone have any Chinese, Hong Kong, Russian, etc. connections? This sounds like a task that might be crowd-sourced.