Scale: That All the Books Should Be Counted

Image - iStockphoto: eZeePics Studio
Image – iStockphoto: eZeePics Studio

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

Writer Unboxed | Scale: That All the Books Should Be Counted 

[su_dropcap size=”4″]C[/su_dropcap]aesar Augustus: All Is Forgiven

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
Luke 2:1, King James Version, New Testament

That glow on the faces of so many of us Protestant ministers’ children this time of year is a reconnection. Like sticking our fingers into the sockets of our childhoods, we sit around tempting mythology to jump us again, gazing at this verse and that phrase by the self-published (on papyrus) author Luke.

We have no imperial swell like Augustus today who can decree that each author—all the world—shall step forward and state his and her output and earnings.

In fact, Hugh Howey has identified a precise flaw in how we survey and then interpret results in these issues. I can give it to you with my evolving bullet points on this story:

  • If you’re a traditionally published author, surveys will ask you how much you are making from your books—once you’ve been published.
  • If you’re a would-be traditionally published author and have not yet been published (you’re “in the slush pile” waiting for the Angel of the Lord to show your book to the right literary agent), you will not be asked how much you’re making from your books—you are making nothing, you have not yet been published.
  • If you’re a self-publishing author (maybe because the Angel of the Lord hasn’t made his move with the agents and you’re sick of waiting), the surveys will ask you how much you’re making from your books—no matter at what level your output is being seen and sold. You are, effectively, still in the slush pile that’s being discounted by the traditional world and by surveys, and yet you are being counted because you published yourself.
  • So surveys make self-publishing look like a lot less lucrative path in publishing than traditional. Because your aunt’s lovely memoir of life as a Methodist minister’s daughter—Abiding in the Fields—which she created and self-published for 15 members of the family, is being counted as the badly selling output of a published author who has sold only 15 copies of her magnum opus.

We need a handle on the scope of the industry and the scale of self-publishing within it. In coming months, I may come back to you with more on this and ask you to offer your input on further considerations. Unless we can get another decree out of Caesar Augustus, we’re going to have to sort it out, ourselves.

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