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  • [Reality Check] Publishing for Profit -- It’s Gonna Get Harder
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[Reality Check] Publishing for Profit -- It’s Gonna Get Harder
Written by
Zetta Brown
June 2013
Written by
Zetta Brown
June 2013

If someone puts their mind to it, anyone can sit down and write a book. Physical limitations are no barrier if the author can make adaptations to write or hire a ghost writer.

Anyone can get published. Don’t fool yourself in thinking you can’t. Self-publishing has always been an option, in fact, self-publishing started as the only option.

But just because anyone can write a book, it doesn’t mean that it should be published. Vanity presses are a testament to this.

Just like Sisyphus, the mountain of published books keeps getting larger and larger and you have to keep pushing your work higher and higher in an attempt to reach the top. The free ebook and $.99 ebook marketing craze has allowed customers to stockpile hundreds or even thousands of ebooks that they will never get around to reading, let alone recommending to anyone. Out of those hundreds of free/cheap reads, how many of them are even worth that much?

With the popularity of self publishing and the relative ease in getting published these days, it only makes sense that there is going to be even more competition in the market. Building a fan base, let alone a loyal fan base, is harder now than it was a decade ago, in my opinion.

Fads fade. People forget. Just because you cashed in on a trend, it doesn’t guarantee that you will be remembered throughout the ages or genuinely accepted for your writing talents.

Take Fifty Shades of Grey for example. When I lived in the UK and commuted to work, I would pick up the free newspaper Metro. It’s similar to USA Today. I still subscribe to the Metro online version. In their May 14, 2013 online edition, an article under the title “Fifty Shades...It’s Pulp Fiction” says “the hype has now subsided” and “waves of donations [of the book] hit charity shops and book recycling companies.” Cancer Research UK, a charity that runs second-hand shops across the country, laments that “as soon as it sells one copy, two take its place.” E. L. James may be laughing all the way to the bank, but don’t envy being in her position when it comes to her next book. It can be argued that Fifty Shades... became so popular not because of the content, but because of the controversy surrounding it.

There are writing organizations that have certain requirements that must be met to keep the riff raff out. You know the ones. They usually have “of America” as part of their name and own all the major literary awards. They require you to have so many published titles, get paid royalties in advance, earn X-amount of dollars, and not be so tacky as to use POD technology, publish in ebook format only, or—heaven forbid—self publish.

But what if online vendors started taking a similar view as more and more books of questionable quality flood the marketplace in the months and years to come?

What if Amazon’s publishing arm(s) decide that in order to sustain, maintain, and/or achieve credibility in the quality of their product suddenly requires that you must have published X-many titles, sold Y-many copies, and earned Z-amount of dollars in order to use CreateSpace or upload to Kindle? What if they saw their profits drop in conjunction to customer satisfaction with the products they put their name to?

How many authors would suddenly find themselves isolated because all their eggs were in a single basket? I’m not saying this would ever happen, but what if the rules changed, and if you still want to play, you had to fit within the new guidelines.

Amazon is huge, and the bigger they are the harder they fall. Don’t forget, Amazon is a business, and like any other business, it’s there to make money. But it is also a brand, and people will associate brands and names with the level of quality it constantly produces. Plus, it can’t be cheap storing billions or trillions of files representing all those books when many of them are simply taking up space.

If your name brand is associated with cheap dreck, after a while, people are going to think twice before spending money on your product. If someone presented you with a diamond ring from Tiffany & Co. and a diamond ring from Uncle Bucky’s Bargain Bling Barn...which would you choose to become a family heirloom?

I know I’m playing the “What If” game, but if you want to make it in this industry, you need to think about your place in it over the long term.

Have you given thought to your career as a published author? No? Well, be sure you tune in next time when my guest, author Mary Caelsto, will give tips about planning your writing career.


Got a [REALITY CHECK] about the publishing life to share? If you would like to be a guest on my blog, please friend me with a message! :)


©2013. Zetta Brown is editor-in-chief of LL-Publications and Logical-Lust Publication. She is the author of several published short stories and the novel Messalina: Devourer of Men. If you like this post, then stop by Zetta’s Desk or Zetta’s House of Random Thoughts.

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  • Zetta Brown

    Thanks, Dera! I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but it's important to go in with your eyes open. :)

  • Great article Zetta

  • Helen O\'Reilly

    Always good to hear a new take on the subject. I'd love to be a guest on your blog, BTW. I'll be going now, over to friend you on fb. Thanks! Helen

  • Zetta Brown

    It's possible, Karyne, and considering how the digital age has sped up the way things progress, it may be sooner rather than later.

    Thanks for commenting, Daphne. :)

  • Daphne Q

    Zetta... some true words in here... thanks for posting

  • Karyne Corum

    Zetta, actually, I think you're playing more the eventuality game more than what if.