Writers: This is Not the Pyramid Scheme You’re Hoping For

I’m a writer. Always have been. Always will be. I’m also a writer who wants to work on a project that will hopefully attract new readers and get paid. Sometimes that works out. Sometimes that doesn’t.

Like everyone else, I too dream of “making it big.” But what does that mean, anyway? Let’s say the hand of publishing blessed me and I made millions on a book. What then? Would I stop writing?


What happens if I didn’t sell as many copies as I thought I did. Would I stop writing?


If tomorrow, an EMP destroyed the entire internet and all my digital files, would I stop writing?


If some reader publicly came out and said “Gee, I don’t like any of the other books in your series besides the first one, so stop writing.” Would I listen?

Yeah, not a chance.

I write because I love it and I’m trying like hell to make an honest living from my words.

The thing is, the publishing industry has always been in flux. For as long as I can remember, there’s always been some kerfluffle or another. We’re seeing it and hearing more about it now because that’s what the internet does — highlights micro-and-macro trends as they happen. Yes, what’s happening now is a big deal for the industry. Bookstores are going out of business. e-Readers are changing their buying habits. Advances are changing. Prices are all over the map. Self-publishing is less and less of a stigma. But it won’t getting sorted out by the end of this year. Chances are, it will take five, ten or twenty years for the dust to truly settle before there’s any sort of a baseline trend. Even after everything stabilizes, there will always be an anomaly. There will always be change. Adapt or don’t.

So why then, are so many writers freaking out? Well, here’s the thing: we all want a guarantee that we’re going to be successful… Only there is NO guarantee… And that’s where people get a little nutty about this stuff. I often imagine an author sitting at his (or her) keyboard with a calculator figuring out ye olde writing algorithm to scale the proverbial publishing pyramid. Make the rounds at small presses? Check. Sell 20 short stories? Check. Get an agent? Check. Don’t forget to level up! Overnight publishing success? Of course!

But being a successful writer isn’t a zero sum game. You don’t get 1,000 readers who will only read your work and no one else’s. You don’t forgo small presses and self-publishing because they’re so much worse off than the larger houses. You make choices that work for you. Period. If self-publishing works for you? Then do it. If you’re happy going through a small press? Then okay! Trying to get an agent? Go you.

Hopefully, you make informed choices based on what you want to earn, how much time is required, etc. Even then, you have to realize you’re going to screw up. And that’s okay, too! If you’re in it for the long haul, like I am, then persistence is key. Just say it with me: money flows to the writer…

Here’s what I focus on: writing. And then? Selling my work. If that doesn’t pan out? I pitch. You know, for more writing. To sell. That’s it. Maybe go to a con or two. As my readership increases, my tune may change to include more appearances, but right now that’s what I’m focusing on.

Am I worried about what the future will bring? Yeah, but worrying about writing and actually sitting down and writing are two, very different things. I can whine about wanting to be a popular and successful author all I want, but if I have nothing for people to read… Well, I guess I can keep whining. For a different reason. As in: What was I thinking?

Oh, I suppose I should remember to have fun. If I’m not doing that, then why am I writing again?

[Photos] Madison Protests Saturday, March 12

These photos were taken on Saturday, March 12th in Madison, Wisconsin. Over 100,000 people were in attendance. Comments are closed to avoid political debate.

    Apex Book Company Revisited

    Earlier this year, I had mentioned I had done some consulting for Apex Publications, which is the parent company of Apex Book Company, Apex Magazine and The Zombie Feed. A little over sixty days have passed since implementing a new strategy, and I all can say is “Whooo-hooo!”

    In order to make the magazine soluble, I recommended amping up the subscription-based model and holding a drive for new subscribers in January. The tagline was simple. “New Year. New Stories.” This drive was a huge success and made possible by dedicated readers, newsletter subscribers, and fans of short fiction. Apex exceeded its goal and has continued that momentum. The magazine that wasn’t profitable has now broken even and there are signs of additional growth. What’s more, Jason is now able to start the arduous task of improving the magazine for existing subscribers and incorporating promotional aspects for the book line that provide value for readers. Previews or excerpts, for example, is something I just mentioned to Jason earlier this week. Instead of placing an ad, magazine subscribers can read the first chapter or two of a select Apex title in addition to the stories they read. That way, they get something new to read that allows them to make a decision whether or not they want to proceed with a sale.

    The other thing that’s happened, is that I’ve seen an amazing groundswell of support from the authors who are publishing through Apex. The Apex blog has taken on a more focused tone; these talented individuals are talking about the things readers want to read — and the stats are backing it up, too.

    These are nascent moments, but positive enough to spark Jason’s renewed enthusiasm. Unbridled excitement is an awesome thing to see, because when it’s unleashed it’s contagious. In other words, I coached him up front on what to watch out for and let him loose (so to speak). Now Jason is able to take off because he has a firm grasp on the core business, has seen a positive effect from the changes that were made, and he understands where he needs to go. So much so, that he’s planning long-term and releasing new things with a proper launch.

    Businesses thrive when they have a strong core business with some amount of flexibility. It is important to be able to change-on-the-fly, but it’s also important to have long-term, measurable goals. Apex has all of these things and more.

    I have no doubt that there are big things in this publisher’s future. What’s happened these past few months has been necessary for this small business to refocus its efforts, but there is a lot of room for growth.

    Just in time for Spring. Yay!

    Like Zombies? Short Stories? Contest for New Anthology!

    Hey everyone,

    Just wanted to let you know that The Zombie Feed is running a contest to celebrate the release of The Zombie Feed, Volume 1. You may recall I posted the Table of Contents and the ability for you to pre-order a signed copy; well, now’s your chance to win a free book to add to your library.

    Contest ends on Thursday, March 10th and it’s really easy to enter. Just visit the link below and ask a question for your chance to win!

    Ask a Question, Win The Zombie Feed Volume 1

    [New Release] Read “The Message” at Bewildering Stories

    Hi everyone,

    I’m excited to announce my latest short story entitled The Message is available for you to read online at Bewildering Stories. The Message is a work of flash fiction with a dystopian science fiction theme.

    The reason why this story is called The Message, is because there’s a hidden communication to the reader embedded in the work. On the surface, it seems innocuous, but is it really? Find out!

    After you read my story, I invite you to check out the other fine works in Bewildering Stories, Issue 421.

    Thanks everyone!

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