Adventures in Self-Publishing #3: The System

FHO_Cover_Digital.jpgLast time I broke down the numbers on the cost to revenue chain. It was scary, right? How do you make any money being creative outside of the system? The cure for thin margins is volume. Quantity levels the playing field. The more units, the better in any scenario, and that’s how the system is structured. On the retail and production side, you buy what you know with almost 100% certainty will sell. Minimize your riskier purchases and completely ignore books written by unknown authors that didn’t hire editors. (Note this doesn’t apply to comic books because an indie comic can be your business card to an editor, so you better make sure it is polished). That’s a sad reality that handicaps most self-published novelists – the market doesn’t have time to go through your slush pile so, yeah, as I said in a previous post, editors are important.

This is why, along with possession of property rights, remakes, franchises, and reboots are so prevalent in mainstream American entertainment. The people writing the checks, the people distributing and selling the product want to avoid risk at all costs. Risk equates to less revenue. Unpredictability scares the shit out of the people financing a project, so we get very predictable offerings with predictable characters and stories that are far more comforting than challenging.

The angry artist/writer/creator rails against that system and rightfully so, but for the wrong reasons. It isn’t personal. I realize you are the work and the work is you, but prepare to be judged at the onset by people that don’t have any investment in you. Sometimes that judgment will be harsh. Sometimes you have a bad or underdeveloped idea. After you have created your book/comic/lamp/invention you have to ask yourself a critical question – how much equity are you willing to give up? Profit sharing is inevitable in one form or another if you want to be successful.

After creation, it is about money. Falling in love with the product only makes it that much sweeter and easier to sell because the seller gets two positives. If the publisher or retailer embraces your book, they will work harder to help it succeed. If they don’t particularly like it but it, sells like crazy, they’re going to keep selling it. If they love it, but it doesn’t sell, then there’s only so much they can do – they’re in business, and they want to stay that way.

Next, I’m going to talk about Creativity and Risk.

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