Business Musings: Sales People, Hype Machines, Big Fish, And The Music Man

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Sometimes I think the best preparation I had for the business of writing was marrying (and then divorcing) a man who could talk anyone into anything. He liked sales and he was always the best salesperson in the room…in the beginning. But his sales dwindled over time, because his early sales were based on hype, and his customers would eventually realize it. They wouldn’t come back, so he was always dealing with new customers, until he ran out of leads.

He would explain the hype methods to me. They fascinated me in a sociological way, and upset me in another way, mostly because human beings can be, and often are, very gullible. Many of the gullible suffer at the hands of people like my ex-husband.

Please note that I haven’t talked to the man in over thirty years, and I have no idea if he’s still like this. It might have been a youthful phase. After all, we did marry at 19.

The experience did leave me with an admiration for great sales people. It also inoculated me against most kinds of hype. I can see beneath the blather, and know how to look for the accurate numbers…if I care.

Mostly, I don’t care. Someone starts working me, or hyping me, or trying to impress in that I have juice kinda way, and I ignore them. Or mentally dismiss them.

I did so not very long ago when Dean and I went to lunch with some writers here in Vegas. One of them kept trying to impress with his contacts (all of whom I knew better than he did) and his sales (which I will get to below), and so I mentally dismissed him and talked to the other person at the table, who was much more interesting, and not trying to impress me at all.

Dean got annoyed. I mean, really annoyed. That kind of hype machine sets his teeth on edge. He too has a big bullshit meter, but he loathes it when someone tries to manipulate his opinion with nothing more than hot air. Needless to say that lunch will remain a one-off.

The various hype machines in the world of indie publishing are one of the many reasons Dean and I both blog.

But hype machines didn’t start with indie. They started in traditional publishing, before computers put real numbers underneath the industry. My first agent was a hype machine. He could negotiate a deal by pitting one party against another, all the while lying through his teeth.

Publishers hated him, but the market was limited in those days, and they had to deal with him. He got me good book deals. He had to, because he also embezzled from me and all of his other clients. You can’t embezzle if there’s no money.

He could lie with impunity back then because there was no way that publishers could find out the truth. Publishing houses didn’t share sales information. Books were shipped at large numbers, but no one would talk about the returns. Often, traditional publishers had no idea how well their own books were doing for a year or more.

So a lot of careers were built on hype and hype alone.

The writers weren’t doing the hype back then. The agents and the publishers were. The publishers would hype the books they paid too much for to their sales forces at sales conferences. The sales force would then hype those books to the numerous bookstores around the country.

But the hype ended there, because the bookstores didn’t have to be responsible for their ordering. So they would order the big hyped books as well as some by favorite authors, and if the big hyped books didn’t sell, they’d be returned when the store needed the shelf space.

I helped a bookstore owner ship back books (full copy returns) two years after the books arrived in the store. This was about 1990, and I remember being shocked. The bookstore owner said, “I tried to sell this stuff.” And he was right. He did. For two years.

He ended up getting a refund plus shipping costs. Sucha deal. The writer and the publisher were the ones who took the bath.

That’s what happens with hype.

Hype goes on in indie all the time. But the hype is not from publisher to reader or even writer to reader. The hype is writer to writer.

Sometimes the hype designed to get newbie writers to buy the not-quite-newbie writer’s system for promoting books. There are a lot of indie writing gurus out there with two years’ experience, five books under their belts, and lots of sales on one platform (usually Amazon). Those gurus then stop writing fiction (for the most part) and make their money on webinars and selling their system for getting rich off writing.

It’s a tried-and-true hype method that has existed at least since the turn of the previous century—people who promise one thing (that won’t work) while making their actual money off the poor folk who are buying the system. If you want to see a devastating commentary on it, look no farther than The Music Man, and watch what happens to little Winthrop Paroo (Ron Howard—or as he was known then, Little Ronnie Howard) when he realizes that the band that Harold Hill, the titular Music Man, promises is a lie.

The reason that musical works is because Harold Hill finally sees the destruction he’s causing. The reason the musical doesn’t work (if you think about it) is that Harold Hill is a charming asshole who has left carnage behind him—dozens, maybe hundreds, of Winthrop Paroos. Even if Harold Hill remains an upstanding citizen of River City, Iowa, he will never atone for all of those broken Winthrop Paroos.

I guess that’s why I mentally dismiss these hype guys, and often speak out against the gurus. I know that all of us have a bit of little Winthrop Paroo inside of us, especially when it comes to our dreams, and gurus like the ones I mention above are all about getting rich by (ultimately) shattering dreams.

But there’s another reason for writer-to-writer hype. It’s simple human nature. Writers are insecure creatures, and one writer just wants to impress other writers.

It’s the Big Man On Campus Syndrome. Or the Big Fish In A Small Pond Syndrome. Or the Emperor Has No Clothes Syndrome.

Whatever you call this syndrome, it’s designed to make the Big Fish feel better about himself and the smaller fish understand that he’s important. It’s a devastating syndrome for all involved.

Because here’s something my ex taught me: the Big Fish can’t convince others that he’s a Big Fish if he doesn’t believe it himself. In other words, the Big Fish believes his own hype.

Big Fish types can’t handle being around people who believe in evidence and logic. Big Fish types hate real world questions—prove this, show me that, or my favorite reporter question: Why does that matter to anyone else?

(Often, in one-on-one conversations, I ask it more rudely: Why are you telling me this? And sometimes add: Why should I care? Yeah, I told you. Rude.)

Big Fish types aren’t entirely blind. They often recognize that others are more successful than they are. Either they try to co-opt that success by rubbing shoulders with the Bigger Fish (and using those Bigger Fish to impress smaller fish) or they avoid the Bigger Fish altogether. Some Big Fish will use their contact with the Bigger Fish to their advantage, learning what they can, and then discarding the relationship when they can no longer get mileage out of it.

Usually, though, Big Fish run from Bigger Fish. The Big Fish knows they can’t compete, so they flee to a different pond. I’ve even known Big Fish who have pretended that the encounters with the Bigger Fish never happened. The Big Fish’s (teeny tiny) ego can’t handle the memory of the encounter, so they bury it deep.

While those encounters are difficult for Big Fish, they’re not the worst thing that can happen around a Big Fish. The true problem is if the Big Fish finds a pond filled with smaller fish and/or shy Bigger Fish.

The Big Fish dominates the pond, making sure everyone understands how successful he is. In the case of indie, the Big Fish usually say they write more. They may not publish as much as some of the smaller fish, maybe because (the Big Fish says) they’re waiting for the go-ahead from one of their Bigger Fish Friends. Or some movie project prevents them from publishing right now. Or they have a major game project on the line.

None of that is true. Because at some point, the Big Fish is more interested in being a Big Fish than in sitting alone in a room and making stuff up.

The Big Fish often has had a good start—much like my ex used to. The Big Fish might have had a month of sales on Amazon, say, that resulted in $15,000 that month. The Big Fish might have stumbled onto a system that resulted in a lot of money (by small fish standards) very fast.

Eventually, though, the Big Fish won’t be able to sustain those numbers. But to admit that the numbers fluctuate would mean the Big Fish would lose prestige (in his mind, anyway). So he lies. And lies. And lies some more.

If he can’t sustain the lie, he will vanish from the pond. That’s why so many gurus have a shelf-life of about five years. It takes that long for it to become clear to the smaller fish that the Big Fish ain’t performing up to snuff any more.

But you know what’s mostly missing from indie? The truth-tellers. The reporters who go behind the scenes of some of these gurus with their systems and debunk those systems. That’s probably because most of the Big Fish vanish before their system gets the attention of someone who wants to spend the time debunking it.

Writers don’t want to debunk a money-making system. They want that system to work for them, and when it doesn’t, they blame themselves.

And therein lies one of the problems of Big Fish Syndrome.

Because if you buy what the Big Fish is selling—even if you don’t spend actual cash on it—you’re buying into a lie.

Recently, we had a side conversation in one of our webinars about sales numbers. Writers believe that their worth is based on their sales figures. This is not particular to indies. You’ll hear it from traditionally published writers as well, writers who worry that they’re not on bestseller lists or that they don’t sell as well as some well-known bestseller.

The thing is, trad pubbed writers never discuss their sales figures—if, indeed, they actually know those figures. Indie writers will discuss those figures, but often in misleading terms.

For example, a Big Fish writer might say that his books have sold 100,000 copies, and the implication is that the books have sold 100,000 copies each. But the truth is that the books have sold 100,000 copies altogether.

Smaller fish never ask the clarifying questions. Did you mean each of your books sell 100,000 copies? Over what period of time? Weeks, months, years? Were those books sold or were those downloads or were they incorporated in page reads (from Amazon). Were those books freebies? Or did the customer actually pay for them? Were they part of a bundle or were they standalone?

And on, and on, and on.

You can’t tell what another writer did from one piece of data alone. Especially if that data is incomplete.

100,000 paid sales of an ebook is impressive in December of 2018. 100,000 paid sales of an ebook was impressive in December of 2010, but different. Because there was less competition in the ebook space in 2010. Back then, most traditional publishers had overpriced their books (terribly) and the indie movement was just catching on. So writers went from zero sales to 100,000 within months, simply because supply had not yet caught up with demand.

So if Big Fish writer is claiming he sold 100,000 copies of his book relatively quickly, then it would be good to know when those sales happened.

Sometimes you can look. The Big Fish guru types don’t refresh their fiction product that often, so you might see the 2010 publication date. Or reviews that date from 2010. If you dig a little, you can find out a few things—but never enough to know the truth.

Dean and I make a lot of money on our writing, but you can’t tell it just from Amazon alone. We have hundreds of products, some under pen names. Some of those books are truly languishing, with no sales at all in 2018. Others got more promotion in 2018 than ever before (Dean’s Cold Poker Gang series got promotion for the first time ever, and as I write this, the first book, Kill Game, is still on one of Amazon’s tiny bestseller lists (#19 on private investigators), four months after the promotion ended), and we’re reaping the halo of those promotions.

But even the most determined person can’t figure out what kind of money we’re earning on our writing—not even if they looked at all of the other ebook distributors, somehow got information on the print sales, examined the audio sales, discovered the book bundle downloads (which then led to other purchases) and so on and so forth. Because we run multiple cash streams on each thing we write, there’s no way for an outsider to eyeball our numbers and see how well we’re doing.

That’s different for the folks who are in Kindle Unlimited. They’re exclusive, and so glancing at the Amazon rankings and the length of time on bestseller lists might—might—give outsiders a sense of how that author’s books are selling. If Amazon hasn’t messed with the algorithms. If the outsider can figure out what other books were released around the same time. If, if, if.

The truth is, you can’t know how well another writer is doing. Ever. A traditionally published writer I know, whose work has been on the bestseller lists in the U.S. for decades, makes $5,000 per book with no royalties, because she signed such a bad contract that she has to write fast just to pay her rent. (She had her publisher put the money “in escrow” and it will release years after the books were in print. Yes, that is a real contract clause. Yes, she fell for it.)

Another mid-list writer I know is so good with money that he invests his $5,000 advances in things like real estate and stocks, and manages to make more money off his investments than he does off the writing. But the writing provides the seed.

One thing I’ve noticed about a lot of the Big Fish writers is that they often have a different (less obvious) source of income outside of the writing. They have an inheritance, for example, or they retired from the day job on a good pension, or their spouse has a great high-paying job. The Big Fish almost never talk about these outside sources of income, because they don’t fit into the narrative of Super Success With Writing!

Maybe it’s my journalist’s instincts. I always look to see what’s behind a hype machine. A few of them aren’t hype machines at all, but folks who are really and truly doing well. But most hype machines will move to another pond within ten years.

I can’t even remember the names of the hype machines from 2010. Except for two of them. One went back to traditional publishing a few years ago. Quietly. After shutting down his blog. The second moved laterally into gaming, where he already had a bit of a name. Quietly. After shutting down his blog.

And so on and so forth.

The point of all of this?

Learn how to tune out the hype. The gurus, the hype machines, the Big Fish, they will all disappear five years from now—if they have nothing solid behind them. Some will fail spectacularly, and it’ll be news in the indie world. But most of them will sneak away to a new pond, and you won’t even notice they’re missing until someone says, “Whatever happened to X?” and then everyone will realize that X vanished months/years ago.

Happens all the time. That’s what a long-term perspective in this business gives you. Not only can you see past the hype, but you know if you’re patient, that hype machine who is making you doubt yourself won’t even be around in 2023.

Write what you love. Set up a solid business model of the kind that you want to build. Focus on a slow build, and concentrate on providing books to anyone who wants to read your work.

If you do those things, and stay true to yourself, you will still have a career five years from now. Will you be rich? Maybe. If you figure out what works for you. Will you be successful? Depends on your definition of success. Will you be happy? Ah, hell, how do I know? I don’t have a crystal ball.

But I do know this: You’ll be happier if you do what you love than you will be if you’re just blowing hot air around a room as you try to impress people you look down on.

So shut out the hype as much as you can. Take what little bits of advice that make sense to you from the gurus out there, and apply those bits to your business. But avoid “systems.” Because they don’t work, often not even for the person who developed it.

Do your thing, and you’ll have a greater chance of being around five years from now than that supposedly super-successful person “everyone” is talking about.

Remember that, and you’ll be just fine.


A lot of you have told me lately that you’re “failures” even though your books are selling. They might only be selling one copy a week or they might be selling dozens of copies per day. It doesn’t matter, because you’ll find someone who you believe is doing better than you are. Without evidence, and without proof.

That’s why I wrote today’s blog. Because I want you to celebrate each sale, each reader. Those sales are important. Someone liked your work enough to spend money on it. Be happy about that.

I’m happy that so many of you come to this website on Thursdays. You support my work in a whole bunch of ways, from commenting to emailing to donations.

I focus on the donations, because they do pay for the blog. (If you want to donate regularly, go to my Patreon page. If you want to make a one-time contribution, use PayPal below.)

I know that the focus on donations makes some of you uncomfortable because you can’t afford to donate. No worries. If it really bothers you, do me a favor. Go to your local library and request one of my books. That way, the books get into the library system and you’ll be supporting me in a different (and valuable) way.

Thank you all for coming here and keeping me on my toes.

I do appreciate it more than I can say.

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“Business Musings: Sales People, Hype Machines, Big Fish, And The Music Man,” copyright © 2018 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / colematt.


20 thoughts on “Business Musings: Sales People, Hype Machines, Big Fish, And The Music Man

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve only self- published one book, but am working on another, but according to many sources, I am a failure. I didn’t sell X amount of copies that gurus say first time authors should sell. I sold only 50 copies, but like you said, they are still valuable. Readers paid to read my work. And I shouldn’t listen to others, and just focus on my own writing, and path. Thanks again. You and Dean keep things honest and I adore you guys for that.

  2. Well done, Kristine! I’m not into the hype either, but maybe having a background in journalism makes it easier for us to ask why. 🙂

  3. I let the readers on my Patreon eyeball my actual sales spreadsheets and they’re always surprised at how low a volume a “successful” writer’s sales can be. I make a good living because I believe strongly in multiple income streams, but the mythical mighty algorithm love has never touched me, and the long tail is very thin indeed.

    This is not a business for the easily discouraged. It is, however, a glorious hobby for people who don’t care. 🙂

  4. Great blog, Kris! Thank you for reminding us that our worth isn’t measured in sales figures. I brought a lot from the Masters Business Workshop, and was overwhelmed at my own inadequacy for a while. So much to do! So little time! But then, when I listened to the people chiming in, I came to realize how many of them have jobs outside of writing. Not publishing jobs, either. That got me feeling a lot less guilty for “selling out” and getting a job. The declining sales figure and the whole advertising conundrum are real. I used to be able to fuel my audio book production by my writing royalties AND cover my current publishing expenses. No more – now I meet my previously-signed contracts to narrators by having a common, ordinary job. But one good part came of this rude wake-up call – the pressure is off. I don’t feel like my head’s going to explode when it’s time to release a book. My readers, those who are already following the series, will like it. Others won’t find it for a while… and that’s okay. Time will come when my Tetris blocks will line up, but for now it’s about writing the next book.

  5. Great topic! My Facebook feed has been bombarded lately by gurus promoting money-making systems for writers. There definitely seems to be a wave of “experts” flooding in right now. I continue to follow you and Dean because you’ve been writing and publishing for years, well before eBooks were born, and you have the integrity to keep it real without hype and false promises. I also enjoy when you and Dean appear as guests on podcasts, so please keep us posted when you do. Thanks for everything.

  6. As always, a magnificent blog post with a good warning. One of the things you didn’t mention, and I always ask when someone is talking about their earnings, is how much did they spend to earn those dollars. OR are those net earnings or gross earnings. I often hear certain writer talking about their $10K months. But I also know they are spending $5K in advertising. So, it is a really a $5K month. Of course, I would be ecstatic to have regular $5K months, but I’m not convinced it’s worth it by spending $5K to do it. Because things change so quickly on FB, in Amazon, in other advertising venues that when you have a month where things change and all your ads aren’t working it can be devastating if you are counting on that income to live.

    For me, whenever I look at the “gurus” and consider paying money for their course, it’s because I am unhappy with my sales. I’m not looking to become a six figure author (though I wouldn’t turn it down). I’m just looking to make enough money to pay the bills and have some left over to visit grandchildren on the east coast, take a vacation, with my husband, and have good savings for those times big bills happen (my goal is $50K a year consistently). When I started in 2011 I thought I would make that money by 2016. When I didn’t, I figured it was because of the increasing competition and so set a new goal of 2019. Not sure I’m going to make that. Some good things and investments of time and money have set it up. I hope. But one never knows until it happens.

    I am fortunate in that, by scrimping and downsizing, we can live off our retirement alone. However, that was never the plan. The plan was to be able to do more than just live with the addition of my writing income. I do love writing and will continue to do it. The question I struggle with each month is how to make the writing pay enough. In the pay-to-play world of today, I haven’t come up with that answer yet.

    All that said, there are a couple of “gurus” I have taken courses from that are honest and don’t hype an easy plan. They give lots of great information. What happens is most people don’t follow it because of the work involved. I believe you and Dean are truth tellers and your workshops offer the truth about being Indie. Your master’s class is always filled with lots of great people and information. But committing to following everything is a lot of hard work. Another person I’ve paid for and followed is Mark Dawson. He is a truth teller too. He gives a lot of information away for free (like you do) but also offers courses that are regularly updated at no additional cost. Again, I see people buying the course, getting through less than a third of it and implementing maybe one thing and then giving up. Because it’s not easy. Because they don’t see instant success.

    There are other people I have paid for too, but not been pleased with the offering. I lot of hype without a lot of content to back it up. I won’t list all of them here, but I can say I’ve given up on finding the one answer that will get me to where I need to go. Right now, that answer is me. I have to keep working the plan in the best way I can with the resources–both financial and physical (butt-in-chair)–I have available. When I do make that goal I will be shouting from the rooftops and happy to share how long it took and why I finally made it. Right now I’m at 8 years, 20 books, and only half way to my goal (and that’s not consistent). I’m hoping it doesn’t take another 8 years to get there.

  7. Well said as usual, Kris. Thanks.

    I study from as many people as possible, and look at as many different systems as I can, all while experimenting. I also know that anything I try needs to be a short term strategy as one small part of a (hopefully) long-term, cohesive plan. Sure, I can get caught up in “shoulds” and comparisons, but I attempt to return to the long-term thinking regularly.

    The thing I try to never do, however, is swallow anything whole. For one thing, my business is my own and isn’t going to look like anyone else’s. My production rate is going to vary, my content marketing has to come from my interests, etc etc. But mostly? No one has all the answers and there is no miracle formula, much as I wish there was.

    And this is true of every single human endeavor: business, creativity, relationships, spiritual practice…

    Back in March I wrote an essay about not blindly trusting teachers. I said “…the minute we drink the Kool-Aid?—?and stop questioning, experimenting, or trying things out on our own?—?is the minute we give our power away.”

    It’s up to us to not give our power away. Thanks for the constant reminders.


    (If anyone is interested in the rest of my short essay, it’s here: )

  8. I haven’t seen an indie blog about sales numbers in years; unlike during the gold rush. I assume they’re head down writing furiously and don’t have time to blog. When I teach I always start by saying everyone has to take both the creative and the business information and factor it through their unique situation and thus everyone is actually hearing something different.

    At conferences I tell people that numbers are down for almost all indies, especially from the high water market. By a significant factor for many. In fact, a number of authors have simply disappeared; people who were making a living with their books. I saw the same thing in traditional publishing– that first book deal is just that. The beginning. 90% won’t be around in five years. I don’t recommend indie publishing for a new writer and haven’t for years– try to find an agent and write more books. Become a better writer. Unless, of course, they are the world’s greatest marketing person. But the best marketing is a good book. Second best? Another good one.

    I remember listening to a keynoter at a conference some years ago, looking them up and finding out that while they were speaking about writing they hadn’t yet published anything, but they had a great hype machine working where they had built an excellent illusion that they were successful. People like that will always be around. I tell people always check the bio when attending workshops–or buying something.

    Bottom line? No one else is in my unique situation. Or anyone else’s. So we have to do our own thing. I see all these programs promoted on Facebook that will increase sales, yada yada and perhaps they work. I’ve studied them and asked those who’ve used them about the effectiveness. But there’s always a part of me wondering why, if it was so successful, the person running it isn’t raking in the money from their books and more books? Not that there’s anything wrong with offering services.

    Also, sometimes people report great sales but they don’t reveal their costs. AMS clicks are getting outrageous to the point where people are paying more for a click (which isn’t even a sale yet) than they would make in royalty if they got a sale. It’s all about ROI. And the most important investment is TIME.

    I’ve also watched all the gimmicks that briefly flourished, especially gaming Kindle Unlimited. Then its over. I can also tell when Amazon changes algorithms because I have so many titles that when ALL of them change sales, it’s something more than having a bad hair day. But I don’t run Amazon or anything else other than my own business and writing.

    The point about diversifying income is something all serious writers have to take into account. I blogged about being a ‘hybrid’ author in 2010, before everything and everyone became hybrid. I’m still diversifying my professional platform.

    A lot to digest, but one thing that continues to make me wonder is why we still talk in terms of units sold? My profit and loss statement isn’t based on # of books. It’s based on cost and revenue.It would be curious to have a “bestseller” list based on revenue.

    Thanks for the honest words.

  9. One side thing you mention here finally makes me feel I’m not alone: writers not discussing sales figures.

    Every now and then, I wonder how many books I’ve sold. I’ve published twenty-some nonfiction titles since 1999, so I should be able to go through all my royalty statements and indie statements and come up with an answer, right?

    A few years ago I spent a day trying to calculate exactly that, and: nope. Somewhere between 100,000 and ten million, maybe? I’m not even sure how many titles I’ve published. Five novels, yes, but somewhere around twenty nonfiction books the exact count just kind of… faded away.

    The joy is in the writing, not in keeping score.

  10. “That’s why so many gurus have a shelf-life of about five years. It takes that long for it to become clear to the smaller fish that the Big Fish ain’t performing up to snuff any more.”

    And that also perfectly encapsulates most of the corporate management fads that have come and gone in my corporate career (as well as most of the managers I’ve outlasted). They come in with big ideas and a new management book (MyersBriggs or what color are you or throwing fish or process-centering or filling buckets or whatever), but it’s all hot air, or specific to a different industry and not appropriate to OUR job. And then the fad goes away and you see a couple dozen copies on clearance racks, at yard sales, and anywhere else someone is trying to sell their used copy. And the manager is gone to another company with another fad book. Meanwhile, the work keeps getting done by the people who just keep doing it, except for the few who buy into the fad and get promoted and leave the company for new management jobs where they buy into new fads.

    Were I evil or delusional instead of indifferent, I could write my own management fad book, but I’m neither evil nor delusional.

  11. Oh wow, so much good stuff in this blog to unpack. Your line about “Writers believe that their worth is based on their sales figures” is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve seen multiple authors “stop writing” this past year because they were only selling a few copies a week. (And I was going, “But that’s really good for a single book!”)

    And yay, I’m so glad you wrote about the BS alert going off when a guru shows up. I recently entered and then left a Facebook group that surrounded a guru who promised to help people, but in reality was trying to hustle everyone into buying their courses. Very basic courses aimed at raw newbies. For 1500 bucks each. I escaped quickly.

  12. Dear Kristine

    I thoroughly enjoy your business musings blog posts. The fun thing is they are equal parts motivation, inspiration and down-right levelling and humbling. I usually spend more time thinking about them than reading them, and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I should be doing.

    So, I wanted to say thank you – again – for making me think – again. 🙂

    I regularly absorb your blog and Dean’s, and, as I come to the end of my first year as a full-time writer (yes, savings were involved – see, learned something), I’m anticipating an exciting and enjoyble 2019 as a writer.

    There’s so much to learn, and mistakes will be made, but I’m enjoying the ride.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and take on things.


  13. I have to admit, as someone who has been indie publishing since 2011, but has seen sales diminish rather than grow, I have been seriously eyeballing one particular guru’s marketing course. The course has a pretty good track record, but it’s also a huge investment. It’s probably an illusion, but it so often feels like everybody else knows something I don’t. 🙂 I’m way better at the writing part than I am all the other stuff in the publishing biz.

    Anyway, this definitely gives me pause.

    1. I’ve been indie publishing since December 2011, and I’ve also seen my sales diminish, although not in a straight line. In my first year (2012), I was selling essentially nothing (a few copies to friends). But some readers found my work in 2013 and my sales were climbing, albeit v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, but still! Going up between 2013 and 2015.

      Then they started declining, also slowly, through 2016 and 2017. And now, in 2018, the only time I sell anything is when I advertise. Since I haven’t been able to get positive ROI on the advertising, I don’t do much of it. I figure I’m still learning the advertising ropes, so I regard the money spent as part of my learning curve. BUT I also must put a limit on the money I spend in this way, since I’m very cash-poor at the moment.

      TL;DR I’ve also been eyeing a marketing course that has a good reputation. I don’t have the money for it, so I’ve only been eyeing it. But I wonder if a) I’m selling myself short by not signing up for it, and b) whether it really would help me or whether I’d discover that it was all just hot air, despite the good rep.

      Anyway…interesting to learn that I’m not the only one in this boat.

    2. Rob, join the club. I’ve been writing full time for 40 years and every writer thinks every other writer has “the secret”. When you say you’re way better at writing than the other stuff, you already “have” the secret. It took me over 20 books before I had the nerve to tell other people about writing, even then (and still) with the proviso that there’s no one way to write, only what works for you. I invite others to try a few processes that I find useful. If they don’t suit you, try something else. Writing is a creative, maddening, sublime way to live, and as Flaubert said, “It’s a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.”

  14. “But avoid “systems.” Because they don’t work, often not even for the person who developed it.”

    I can’t get over how many writers follow these writer gurus have only their sales books published under their name. Their claims of success can’t be proven, nor even whether they’ve ever written anything apart from non-fiction on how to sell books. And the gurus do get their name out there, because writing bloggers need new content all the time and it takes a load off to have guest bloggers who are ‘experts in the field’.

  15. Hyping is prevalent in the business world as well. There was a notorious lawsuit in the 90s against a well-known hip-hop mogul, and it came out in the newspapers that whenever he discussed his revenues, he added a zero to the end.

    Then there was the case of the famous thriller writer who, while suing a movie studio over the production of one of his novels, would inflate his worldwide sales figures.

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