Monday, March 5, 2018

Why is this Patreon thing a big deal and why should we care?

I'm no expert on Patreon. Far from it. I'm a novice, with a side of paranoia inherited from my mother. I don't trust... also inherited from my mother with some of my father as a bad example thrown in... a paranoid schizophrenic and a sociopath got married and had kids... it did not turn out well.

Anyway, I have this thing where I don't half ass anything. I whole ass it. If I do well, I do well big. If I fail... I do it spectacularly. There is no in between. Well, there is. There's inaction. I am an expert at inaction. And procrastination. I could teach master's level classes on both topics. One day.

I am never the first to know something. I am never on the cutting edge of anything. Especially anything new fangled and technological, because I am Gen X and I have to be suspicious of it first. What's this button gonna do? Will it explode? I don't mind if it explodes. I really don't. I do mind if I get caught in the explosion so tell me how long I have after I push this button to get my fat ass to safety or you can forget me pushing this button. We Gen Xers came from the Silent Gens and the Boomers. We are kinda stuck somewhere between take over the world but not really in a hurry to do it. We were left to our own devices to entertain ourselves. We were the first latch key kids. We were left home alone in the middle of nowhere. We were fearless and independent and fuck you for even suggesting I need someone to take care of me, I've been taking care of myself since I was seven-years-old thank you very much... that might be more the whole fucked up parentage thing than gen xer description...

But, this Patreon thing, I've been watching it. For a little more than a year. Because I am all hip and trendy like that. Also because I am completely out of touch with what is going on anywhere other than my own bubble.

I've been watching Patreon while I've watched the publishing industry slowly disintegrate around me.

Let's go back a few years and tackle my lovely track record in the publishing industry. It explains so much about me.

I sold my very first book to Cerridwen Press in 2004. Cerridwen Press was the brand new imprint from Ellora's Cave for non erotic romance novels. My book was the thirteenth book published by Cerridwen Press when they eventually launched. And if that doesn't explain everything I don't know what does. No, I'm not superstitious, you are.

Cerridwen Press folded about three years later. Give or take. I can't find the actual date, but if I remember correctly it was in '08 or '09. So three or four years. All CP books were changed over to the newly launched EC Blush line. I wasn't offered my rights back. Or asked my permission. Nothing changed. My contract was for five years with Cerridwen, and they didn't exist anymore. I tried to get my rights back around the time the contract was up, but was told that all contracts were lifetime. Mine said five years. Or when the book stopped selling 150 copies a year. My book didn't sell 150 copies in five years and they still wouldn't give me my rights back.

And my dumbass self gave them another book in 2009. My second published story came out in 2010. And didn't sell anything. I think it might have sold twenty copies in the first year.

I got my rights to both books back in 2016 when Ellora's Cave went tits up in spectacular fashion. Of course I had to threaten them with lawsuits and other fun things to get the rights back. Not that it matters, there has been no interest in the books at all since I republished them... but they're mine again. That's all that matters.

Then there's my third publisher. Cobblestone Press. The house that bought The 51st Thursday and In from the Cold and never published them anywhere but their site. Despite publishing to all sites until the year before. And the publisher who hired an editing service so bad they butchered Cold striking out entire paragraphs and rewriting trite shit without my permission. I mean, rewording a perfectly good sex scene using the term throbbing member. I WOULD NEVER USE THAT TERM!. I was told to do the edits or they'd bury the book. I got my rights back before six months were up. I had to go public to do it. Strangely, they are still open for business.

Then my fourth lovely publisher. Silver Publishing. Such a lovely experience that was. They bought Beyond Complicated and chose not to publish it in wide release without telling me that they considered it too taboo to publish when they offered contract, or anytime after. They bought Behind Iron Lace... and it had a beautiful cover and it stayed in the top five on Amazon's top gay charts for 90 days. Yes I counted. I still have the graphs from Amazon saved. That book made into the top 100 of ALL books on Amazon. It was my biggest selling book ever. And the owner stole nearly every single dime in royalty from me.

That publisher stole every dime he could hide from all of his authors.

That was the single worst experience of my life. MY LIFE. The 18 months of pure hell I went through dealing with that man.

I've been with five publishers.

I've had issues with all but one of them.

Liquid Silver was the absolute best small press. I'm sure they're still open. I see their covers every now and then.

I pulled all of my books from all publishers as soon as my contracts expired because I never wanted to be in a situation like I found myself in with Ellora's Cave and Silver Publishing. Cobblestone barely rates a mention compared to those two experiences.

I was sort of pushed into self publishing. Kicking and screaming. Because in 2011 we were still in that whole self pubbing as last resort smear tactic era. Those who can't, self publish.
I did very well self publishing my books.
Yes, there have been misfires, and editing issues, and learning it all from the ground up and making up what wasn't available to learn.

I was one of the first in my genre to go entirely self published. And I absolutely will not give up control of my stories ever again. Good or bad or ugly. I will stop writing if I ever get to a place where I have to go back to a publisher.

Because I do not have the ability to trust anyone anymore. Small presses are going under every month. Some because they can't compete. And some because they are like Silver was.

The market for books has changed. It changed at the end of 2016 and no one noticed. I noticed. And watched helplessly as it continued to spiral downward.

Kindle Unlimited changed how people buy books. And how people publish books. I believe Amazon created the self publishing monster to force the big publishers to do their bidding. And now they are looking to kill the beast they created. 99% of all ebooks are bought from Amazon. And more than half of those are 'free' books through KU.

The problem is, Amazon unwittingly opened a market for book scammers that they have not been able to close, or even seemingly care to close. Quick, cookie cutter, cheap novels started appearing, by impossibly named authors (said Mercy Celeste) one after the other, two a month, three a month, twenty books in six months, with similar covers, and similar styles, and other similarly named authors popping up when those names were outed as not what they seemed, writing the same books with the same covers with the same impossible names. and brothers, or sisters, how many sets of brothers or sisters now write romance? All with the same style. And let's not forget book packing... one short story with five or six more short stories not mentioned in the title, so that what looks like a five hundred page story is really a bunch of short stories, some already for sale as their own stand alone title... and when one goes down another comes up.

Fast, cheap, cheaply produced, cookie cutter formulaic romances are now quite literally a dime a dozen.

Authors, like me, feel the pressure to compete. We can't. I can't anyway. Two or three books a year is about all I have time to write.

And let's talk about censorship.

Because it's not fun to have a book you can't publish anywhere. Yet Game of Thrones exists. I have a book that was banned from Amazon WHILE it was number one in the gay charts and number 80 in the overall chart.

Can you find that book? Do you know where to look for it? It's available. You have to visit my blog to find the only legitimate place to buy it.

It sells maybe twenty copies a year.

But this post was about Patreon and why artists are turning to it and why it matters.

So, one of the things I do when I start to figure out what to do next is to take some time and explore this new medium.

Remember I had to be dragged into self publishing in 2011, and again in 2012 even though I had been scorched by three small press publishers.

I didn't just jump into Patreon. I read other author's blogs on the medium. I talked about it with a couple of author friends. I looked at what other authors were doing. And tried to pretend it wasn't something I needed while four of my last five books completely failed (as compared to every single Mercy book before them except for the EC books but even then not much better).

I don't write fast enough. My books aren't 99 cents. I spent one fourth of what I earned last year on book covers, editing, promotion, and one audio book. I didn't go to a conference. I couldn't afford it. In years past I made significantly more than I spent. And really even last year wasn't bad, until you compare it with the two years before and you notice the pattern of dying sales. Not in cash. In book units sold. In 2016 I sold half of the number of books that I sold in 2015. In 2017, I sold one quarter of what I sold in 2016, with more books released.

It's not about writing more. I wrote more. I didn't write 20 books in one year. Or in six months. I can't afford to release eighty to one hundred thousand word novels for 99 cents. KU pays less than half a cent per page read. And the market is dominated by those authors who release 20 books in half a year.

Patreon, at least in my non-expert opinion, is just a new medium, in which I can release work that I can't on Amazon. Short serials. Material Amazon would ban. Special editions. Stuff like that. It lets me experiment with my art.

But most importantly, it allows me to control my art.

No one is holding a gun to anyone's head and forcing them to support my Patreon. It's a volunteer basis only. Much like buying a book on Amazon. You pledge a bit. And you get a bit.

I've seen a lot of ugly commentary on the topic.

I read a twitter thread where it was called extortion. The person already supported the author in question by buying their book on Amazon, or getting it through KU, as I believe the commenter stated. Why should they go to this other place and give real money... right there. real money.

Because two years ago authors could make a living and now we can't because Kindle Unlimited does not pay real money for pages read.

And now they've done a KU thing with Audio books.... One author stated that they were paid one dollar for 1000 minutes listened to through that program. One dollar. My only book in audio is my longest published book. It's one hundred ten thousand words. The audio has a run time of three and a half hours. That's 210 minutes. 1000 minutes is roughly five copies of that one book, and that author said they were paid one dollar for what amounts to five whole one hundred thousand word novels.

It cost me out of pocket, nearly $3000.00 to fund that one audio book. I have made $200.00 in profit on that one audio book and it took nearly a year to do that at Audible's already dismally low royalty split rates.

I want to write. I want to write all the stories. I want to produce the best quality work that I can. I predict that I will sell even fewer books in 2018 than I did in 2017. And costs to produce those books will go up.

So, I went to Patreon, you don't have to follow me there. But nothing that I share on Patreon will ever be available elsewhere. And if I can figure out how to make a living without Amazon... well, one can only dream.

Thanks for playing along.
Yes, I know I ramble.
This is not new, you have seven years of experience in my ramblings.

But really, if you want to keep up with anything new from me right now, Patreon is where it's going to be. Who knows, that second twin book might be there. One day. Or, honey, I can write smut til the cows come home if you're not interested in plot or editing or covers.

Mercy

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