Business Musings: Not Really The Year In Review (1/2 Process Blog, 1/2 Plea For Assistance)
You read the parenthetical phrase right. Process and plea for assistance.
This is the very first blog post of December, and usually right about now, I start the year in review. I have a list of topics I want to cover, and some of them I want to luxuriate in, spend a lot of time discussing them, and sending you all over the internet to read links and other people’s thoughts and even more.
I had planned to write a brilliant overview this weekend. I was going to research during Thanksgiving week, make a few notes, and then launch in.
Instead…well, half of it is my fault.
Half A Process Blog
If you want to skip the process blog part, scroll down to the plea for assistance part. You’ll see where I’m going.
But let me first describe how I got here.
I have a standing deadline with an editor friend of mine for short fiction. She can accept or reject at will—I am not guaranteed a sale—but I am guaranteed a short story out of this deal.
The problem is that recently, she wanted longer pieces. So, I got behind, grabbed a half-finished novella from one of my universes, and launched in.
I figured 20K max to finish that thing, but more likely 10K. No. Oops. No. I’m 23K into the new section with another 10K to go most likely. My damn brain. It does what it wants because I trained it that way. The creative voice really is a two-year-old, and if I don’t finish this thing, my brain will throw a tantrum.
In the middle of the last three weeks of the semester. Both of my profs threw more reading, an extra quiz (a week befor the final!), a stupid presentation that requires PowerPoint, which I don’t know how to use, and a few more other things I’ve forgotten already.
Add to that the Fey, which I need to throw into some kind of order before I can continue. I was also going to do that this weekend before all hell broke loose.
Much of the hell is personal stuff belonging to others, so I can’t share, but suffice to say there was not one, not two, but at least three emergencies over Thanksgiving. Most were not too terribly time-consuming and two turned out to be not much at all except a lot of stress, but whoa, the third is still ongoing, and might take more time. (I’m fine; Dean’s fine; cats are fine. Someone we care about is not.)
Rather than me going into the long saga of our Thanksgiving Day, which, for me, started when I bumped an open box of baking soda and it fell on my head.
Yes, I’m the dumbass who left the open box in the cupboard. In my defense, I was making pie.
The pie, by the way, is very, very, very, very good.
If you want to know part of the saga of our Thanksgiving, check out Dean’s blog post that day, and my Facebook post (complete with pictures) from the next day.
In addition, I had to do some long-delayed promotion. You’ll note that this website is a bit more up to date than it had been before. And, we launched a holiday sale that will run through December 2. Half off all workshops, if you type the code HolidaySale into the coupon section on Teachable as you check out. I have to spend some time getting the employees of Promotion Central to do their jobs. (The cats. I’m talking about the cats. Yes, that means I’m herding cats.)
Long story short, the one thing I don’t have is time to research this weekend. It’s Saturday, and I have the extra reading, the quiz, an oral presentation (which requires research…!), and all the writing on the big project to finish.
I am less buried than I was when I wrote the post titled “Buried,” but I am running out of time. Fortunately, on the school stuff, I’m ticking off the last of the homeworks. When one project is done, another does not rear its ugly head. So, I will have time to organize my thoughts in the next week or so.
Just not today. Dammit.
The Plea For Assistance
I have four posts vaguely outlined, although I think one of them won’t be a year-in-review. It’ll be the start of a new series in 2022. (2022!)
I have a lot of material on traditional publishing and contracts, because I had to give some articles and such to my law prof during the semester. I also have quite a bit on brick-and-mortar bookstores, although I can always use some international help here.
What I really need are important changes in the indie publishing landscape. What those are, exactly, I’m not sure. I have one post half formed about the way our paths are diverging—indie in one direction, trad in another—but I really want to know what you all think are the most important trends in indie from 2021.
You can post in the comments or contact me on Facebook, through my contact form, or through my email if you have it.
A lot of you have sent me links throughout the year, and I value that. I have all of those posts saved in my Pocket Reader, and I will be using most of them, if not in this short series, than in the next one, upcoming.
What this means is that the year in review will spill a little into 2022. (2022!) Then we’ll move into something inspired by the entertainment law class. I’ll be taking part 2 in the spring, so who knows what else I’ll come up with.
Thank you all for your help on this. And thanks for all you have done throughout the year (and through 2020). You kept me sane and focused on the important things in my life—relationships and writing. I greatly appreciate it.
“Business Musings: Not Really The Year in Review,” copyright © 2021 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image of Angel being pissy about school at the top of the blog copyright © 2021 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
I wonder if Substack (ie the paid newsletter exclusive) will emerge as a new opportunity for authors. When Salman Rushdie decides to publish via paid newsletter, vs trad book deal because of the money, you can’t help but take notice.
One of the trends I found barreling down at me towards the end of 2021 (which was so hectic for me I’m not certain if I just missed the beginning of the trend or if it did happen to start later on) is the rather troubling sight of NFTs popping up as some kind of publishing opportunity. It worries me as a writer and a reader, because its proponents in the book world tend to hype it as a new way to reach consumers with limited edition runs (that is not what NFTs do, but okay. https://www.janefriedman.com/nfts-for-authors-is-this-a-rush-for-fools-gold/), or indeed profit from their readers’ own works (for instance the recent articles about the 5 YA authors attempting to harness their readership. https://www.kotaku.com.au/2021/10/big-nft-project-cancelled-after-just-five-hours/) without any consideration for a) what NFTs actually are, b) what they can and can not do, and c) their absolutely disastrous environmental impact. Is this our century’s latest cashgrab ala vanity publishing?
Arguably, using NFTs is the ONLY way of doing a “special limited edition” digitally. Watermarking doesn’t work, and DRM is useless, so NFTs are the sole way of creating scarcity for a digital product right now.
The environmental impact IS a concern. However, most NFTs are done via networks which have extremely low environmental impact. The high-impact networks have one NFT release as about equal to the CO2 cost of spending an hour on an airplane (per passenger). Most NFTs are more like a minute on an airplane, and the environmental impact is diminishing rapidly month by month.
It won’t be zero impact until we stop using fossil fuels for electricity, which is still at least a decade out, but anyone who has, say, two cars in the household, and complains about NFTs either doesn’t understand what they’re complaining about or is a wee bit hypocritical. (Not suggesting the poster above is one of those people; just talking in general.)
In short, I don’t see this as a problem.
I’m not sure I see it as an opportunity, either; I think NFTs for artwork are overhyped. It’s equivalent to buying an original painting instead of buying a print. Yes, there are some people willing to pay thousands for an original vs a print for $50. But they’re only willing to do that for specific artists whose work is already rated at a premium value. The same will be true for authors.
Stephen King could probably launch an NFT of one of his classic works and make bank. But the average author almost certainly cannot. There is no demand for NFTs. There’s a demand for NFTs of *specific* works which already have high visibility and a large number of admirers.
I agree that NFTs are not an opportunity. At best they assign you a receipt on someone else’s server in a space you do not own, which is unregulated and can be removed at any time for a digital product which you can get regardless of owning a token. The environmental impact of blockchain, which is run with cryptocurrencies like Ethereum can run the energy usage of a small country. When they change that, as the Ethereum Foundation claimed they will, then I’ll be very happy for them. Currently, however, these are aspects of concern, especially considering that an author would get the same monetary benefit running a two week sale of an ebook with a selected ‘special’ cover or other benefits through their website, ending that sale, and then reselling that ebook with a different cover. Actually, they’d probably make more money selling both versions continuously at the same time.
“And in her spare time, she works with the deaf”–Gilda Radner sketch, SNL (avoid the “I take speed” solution–Robert Silverberg ran on it for decades, but now he’s still alive and as far as I know, totally burned out).
For my take, some of the big indie publishing news of the year:
–Spotify’s purchase of Findawayvoices. I expect this is going to be a big deal in the future, but it’s laying the groundwork for future growth opportunities for authors.
–The launch of Atticus book formatting software: I love Vellum but it’s Mac only and I’ve had to jump through hoops (using Mac-in-Cloud) to use Vellum. With Atticus, the price is decent and gives competition in the book formatting software niche. For indie authors, this is great news as it’s now more affordable to easily produce high-quality ebook and print books without much cost (or experience).
–NFTs: Might be a flash in the pan, but I agree with Joanna Penn that massive change is coming with the type of products that readers can buy, but I think this will also be tied to massive shifts in the economy on using the blockchain (e.g., Cryptocurrency). Five to ten years now, I expect the landscape in digital products to be much different than what we have today (whatever the metaverse becomes, creators of that platform are going to need stories…)
–Ads are key. Without promotion or marketing, organic discovery of books on publishing platforms has flatlined. AMS ads, newsletter promotions, and BookBub ads are key parts of an indie author’s marketing strategy. The challenge: Ads costs are going up and authors are needing to up their prices as well.
I absolutely hate to agree with the last point. Without the business arm of the indie operation fully engaged, and that includes some kind of promo activity, the writing arm can work pretty darn hard, but the body will just keep afloat, swimming in circles. That can be a fun experience, if you like to play in water, but you won’t cover much distance. I did that, and have to reengage and resurface and all that. I have a friend who kept her pre-programmed social media posts up, does a regular (pre-programmed) newsletter, and the occasional ad. She is doing okay, mostly because she didn’t blow off reader engagement the way I did. Five years ago it would’ve been much less of a big deal.
A trend I’ve noticed are indies going the WMG route and forming actual publishing companies and business people in general starting indie publishing companies. Wolfpack and Michael Anderle’s LM(something) publishing come to mind. As is common in free markets, I foresee more conglomerates rising and perhaps becoming Traditional Publishing 2.0 in the sense of becoming gatekeepers and dominating sales while dictating trends to readers.
Re: indie side – and this isn’t exactly new but nevertheless concerning – indie publishers defaulting to Amazon and other established “major” platforms for their digital product offerings, whether ebook or audiobook. Granted, the big fish have market dominance, but if indie publishers and authors don’t provide other options then they just become part of the problem, which, judging by the frequency of occurrence, seems to be worsening.
Does the Apple email changes count? Not being able to use the Opens metric changes what email marketing tactics you can use. And it probably indicates future changes about the big companies (Facebook, Google, Apple) no longer cooperating with sharing information, which probably will make future marketing efforts difficult, or at least different.