At some point over the weekend -- Saturday evening, thereabouts -- I sold my 10,000th ebook for the year on Kindle and Nook (Smashwords and Sony and iBooks brought in a handful more). That doesn't count the over 30,000 free downloads earlier this year for The Silver Ring, either. Is that a big accomplishment?
Well, it's something at least.
The Hint Fiction anthology itself has sold over 13,000 copies since its release last year. Of course, it was through a well-known publisher and got really nice reviews from some major places. My ebooks were released by just me and, while they were reviewed at some much appreciated blogs, the marketing reach was nothing compared to, say, being interviewed on NPR.
In fact, releasing your own ebooks makes it even that much harder to get reviewed. And it's funny, if you think about it, because what's the difference between me releasing the books or a friend of mine? Every day, it seems, someone buys a new domain to start their own publishing company, and people submit their manuscripts without really understanding why except for the simple fact that they want to be published. And for what, exactly? What, ultimately, differentiates a book released by so-and-so and a book released by, well, me?
Keep in mind, I'm not talking about major presses, or even smaller presses -- at least nine times out of ten there's distribution that will get you into bookstores, even if they are fading away, but at least it's something.
What I'm talking about, instead, are the micro presses set up by people like you and me. I could set one up tomorrow, in fact, and open submissions, and people would submit (see above), and then I would accept a few and publish them somewhere down the line and those books, baby, those would be published.
Over the weekend Michael Martone was in the area doing a reading at Elizabethtown College. I went and enjoyed the reading immensely and talked to him afterward about this and that. At some point he asked how Phantom Energy -- the collection he had blurbed -- was selling. I just smiled and told him it was selling as well as you'd expect a flash fiction collection to sell. After all, I had gone ahead with the project knowing that it wasn't going to sell well, at least not initially. The audience, for the most part, are the writers who enjoy very short fiction, and nine times out of ten those writers carry that elitist attitude that it must be published to be of any quality (e.g., not done by the author himself, which is why a few flash fiction collections published by well known micro presses do fabulously). Even with the great blurbs from Michael Martone and Ben Loory, and the fact that pretty much every story in the collection was previously published in well respected journals (both online and print), and that even some of the stories were finalists or runners-up for contests or awards, the fact that I released it myself makes it pretty much impossible for the collection to be reviewed at any semi-well known book review website.
And, quite honestly, I don't really care.
The reason I mention this is that the majority of my ebook sales come from that hideous and reprehensible genre we refer to as, well, genre. The Serial Killer's Wife and The Calling are my best selling novels to date, and they are, respectively, a straight thriller and a supernatural thriller. Would a literary novel of mine be selling as well as those two? Highly doubtful.
A recent essay at The Millions talks about reasons to not self-publish. The piece, unsurprisingly, comes across rather elitist. But that's because there's a huge canyon between literary readers and writers and genre readers and writers (though yes, there are oftentimes those, such as myself, who like to straddle the canyon). The arguments placed in the essay are good arguments, but they lend themselves more toward the literary side of things (hence, the author's second reason for not self-publishing: "I Write Literary Fiction").
Though some of the other reasons the author gives, such as "I’d Prefer a Small Press to a Vanity Press" and "Self-Publishing is Better for the Already-Published," come across, to me at least, as fallacies. Because at this point it almost seems like writers decide to go with publishers for the vanity. They want to impress their friends, who are ... yes, class? That's right -- writers themselves. And honestly, there's nothing wrong with that. If that's what they want to do, that's what they want to do. But they shouldn't kid themselves thinking they aren't, even by a small stretch, doing it for vanity sake.
And, finally, is self-publishing better for the already-published? Um, I guess. But you know what? I'm doing just fine self-publishing, and I haven't really been published before. Some authors who have been published before and who are doing self-publishing aren't finding any success. That's just the way the cookie crumbles, so to speak.
Personally, I'm starting to get tired hearing everyone talking in circles. Writers defending traditional publishing and writers defending self-publishing. It goes on and on, and in the end, nothing will ever change.
So what, pray tell, is the point?
I honestly don't know.
But it's all become noise, and as a pre New Years Resolution, I plan to distance myself from all that noise. My sales continue to steadily increase every month (which I hope they continue doing), so I'm quite happy with where I am right now. And so I'll continue to write and I'll continue to publish and I'll look forward to my next 10,000 sales, which will hopefully lead to 100,000 sales, and so on.
After all, I'm not here to debate.
I'm here to write.