Despite my overzealous title for this article, I am not jumping for joy over the recent news of the downfall of the hybrid indie/small press publisher known as Booktrope. I’m not exactly surprised either. Let me be clear about at least one thing, I’m not going to pretend as if I known all the answers when it comes to the business of publishing books, such a business has existed well before my time on the playing field. I can share only my own experiences and what I’ve seen regarding general popularity in marketing and consensus among a few like-minded writers. After reading a few other articles on this similar subject matter, and also seeing how some were reacting on social media and groups on Facebook, I felt perhaps someone out there somewhere would like to know what I thought of everything. And by everything, I mean not just Booktrope, but also the underlying causality of the fall of Booktrope, AND the even more under-underlying causality, the writer. The best way I can explain my understanding in the failure of both Booktrope and writers is to go about this point for point. Shall we get started?
The fall of Booktrope as a whole is actually best explained by my good friend, Duncan Ralston in his recently published article on Ginger Nuts of Horror. You can find that post here. Basically, to sum, Booktrope created a system with little to no quality control. They wanted to create an enormous backlog. Good. Great. Best thing, really. Except for one thing. Pacing. Backlogs are great, but the faster you create one while paying little heed to the actual quality of books for letting in, well then…we all know now what happens. The system collapses. If you’re an author going to back to indie basics, yes, build that mother-f-ing backlog. But you better make sure each of those works on your catalog are of good quality. Why? Seriously…? If all you publish is shit, and word catches on all your work is shit, who is going to want to buy said shit? No one. Now, is this what happened to Booktrope? In a way. They also over stretched themselves and faltered on to-little-to-late marketing. They also put a lot of assumption into one particular basket…cross-promotion.
Before I dive into this, I know this article is not going to be very popular with many who may or may not read this. What follows is my opinion, and just that.
Since I first started this precarious journey known as publishing, there has been one gleaming/glaring ugly side of it that is more nefarious than any other aspect and failure in most publishing ventures. For whatever reason, even when writers deny feeling as such, they have this preconceived notion that other writers are somehow their competition. They’ll “like” a post like nobodies business, but they’ll hardly ever share anything. Some might comment, “Way to go!” and other such other bullshit. They build websites but never showcase anyone but themselves, they join groups but never respond to any other post but their own, etc. etc. You know what they call such behavior in the adult film industry? I don’t know either, but I assume its the equivalent to what’s known as being a “fluffer,” just enough to get it up but never to bring to culmination. Such individuals I’ve found to be poisonous, cantankerous, and everything wrong with small press, independent, publishing. Such writers get into publishing and they have BIG stars in their eyes and sticks up…(I won’t go there), needless to say, they publish their shitty (or perhaps even decent) book and think they’ve hit the big times, they’ve become the next Stephen King or Ray Bradbury or Sylvia Plath or Kurt Vonnegut or Clive Barker or J. K. Rowling (yes I mentioned her, I love those Harry Potter books, don’t judge!!) or Neil Gaiman or Maya Angelou or Hunter S. Thompson or Shirley Jackson.
I hate to pop your bubble buddy, but…you’re not the shit, you’re just plain shit. You haven’t hit the big times. You’ve published a book, and yes that is an achieved in and of itself, but its not the end game. You haven’t reached stardom, and you may never will. That doesnt mean you need to stop dreaming. Dreams are wonderful, so long as you keep them in perspective. Cross-promotion is the lifeblood of small press and independent publishing. That other writer beside you in the trenches is not your enemy OR your competition. You are both soldiers on the front line of publishing. I’ve seen this hesitancy toward cross-promotion so much I’ve got shell shock. Not just with those in Booktrope but also in other small presses (of which I will not name for fear of being burned at the stake). And I don’t get it. Do these fluffer writers really believe that if they cross-promote another writer people will start buying the other persons books over their own? Who are you sharing these posts with? Family and friends, right? Do you think YOUR family and friends will stop buying YOUR stuff? No, you big dumb idiot! The point of cross-promotion is to breech the “family and friends” bubble on social media.
And this bring us to the nitty-gritty.
If you’re one of the fluffer variety of writers out there, do you honestly think/believe that other writers are going to want to share your stuff if you are in fact unwilling to share theirs? I’m not going to name names, you are who you are and God willing you’ll know at least that much. I know one (more than one, really) writer in particular who jumps on to these writer/publishing groups I’m in and always asks for people to help share their stuff but yet never NEVER reciprocates. Some call these folks trolls. Me? I call them turds. Cause that’s all they are. Floating nasty little turds. It boggles my mind, it really does. It never fails. I’ll see these fluffers bitching about why their stuff never sells, or sells poorly. Now, this could be for other reasons, such as crapper quality or if you’ve only published one damn book. Mostly, it boils down to breaching outside your family-friend bubble on social media. They’ll moan and complain yet never think it that by maybe helping out other writers and cross-promoting, those other writers will likewise reciprocate, and then maybe by doing such consistently, sells might just pick up.
Well…this article has certainly turned into a sort of vent/therapy session for me. I know many will not agree with what I’ve said. And that’s okay. Were fluffer-writers, non-cross-promoters, the causality for the fall of Booktrope? Not entirely. They sure as shit didn’t help matters. Booktrope as a company should have slowed things down and focused a little more on marketing and quality control. Their recent venture with Hubble-Bubble pulled in some big numbers for sales, or so I’ve heard, but sadly it was a little to late. Much too late. It is my strong opinion that for small presses and independent publishers to thrive, there must be a strong urgency toward cross-promotion. Writers within said spheres need to stop acting as if they’re on their own private island. It takes a community to grow and prosper. Do you know what happens to people on remote islands? No, they don’t lounge in hammocks drinking coconut rum on the beach, they die, miserable and alone.