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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Disillusionment: The Day Syon Went to Oblivion

This is a day that puts the capstone on my disillusionment. This is the day that my Kickstarter for publishing a new and improved bookstore version of Book #5, “The Owl from Oblivion”, dies in total failure. It is one thing to not get enough contributions but quite another when no one shows up despite my best promotional efforts. 

The book series and especially book #5, go to great pains to have a wide variety of different gifted children, accurately portrayed, as characters. I certainly pointed this out to the members of the gifted community I could reach. My response for the most part was dead silence. I mean people couldn't really be bothered to retweet a promo for the Kickstarter. And then there were the readers, the over one-thousand of you who received a free book, a few of whom even received the initial version of Book #5, POD printed in hardcover. 

The lesson I learned is that free books do not seem to attract readers willing to pay, even among the readers that had received books. No one could be bothered to even make a single $15 contribution. Considering I put in over $50,000 into the series and functioned virtually as a book charity, I didn’t think it was too much to ask for a few contributions to keep the series going. 

Sure there are people writing books every few months and pushing them out on Kindle on the cheap. And those books cater to those who want a fast read or something they can read while they wait in line. That’s a fine business if you like making Amazon rich and for most people, keeping yourself in the trench making virtually no money, having to turn books out on a pretty rapid schedule. 

You can’t write really deep and detailed books that way. They can take years to write. You need backing in the form of pretty steady sales to readers who want to spend extended, thoughtful time with a book. So Kindle, as a first platform for that kind of book, just doesn’t work. As a result, I have stopped releasing my newest books in eBook format. I confine them to real printed books.

When I release a book, I usually release it after it has had at least 3 professional editing passes. I knew book #5, “The Owl from Oblivion”, might be controversial, so I released a POD printed version that had only one professional editing pass. I wanted to see how early readers would react to it and get some feedback, which I did. And so, sitting on my hard drive is a better version of book#5. But without the money for the two remaining editing passes, it can go nowhere. Without the initial funding to perform an offset print run of the large book with lots of color illustrations, it can go nowhere. A POD print of the book is too expensive to be sold in bookstores—it really needs to be offset print to be cheap enough. And for the lack of contributions, it will sit there in oblivion, until I figure out how to run a successful crowdsourced campaign. 

Meanwhile, I am writing a new version of book #1 that will be much more in-depth and have a much more detailed characterization. Eventually this will hit the point of needing an editor and it will sit on my disk until it gets one.

Both book #1 and book #5 are being changed to be more acceptable to the mainstream. Why? Like any product, if your target customer base does not support your product, then you alter it until it appeals to a community that does. While my books will always be unusual, there is no longer a reason to make the gifted characters have such extreme differences which, while the gifted community might identify with them, the mainstream might find them too annoying to read. My original goal was to give some comfort to gifted children who experience extremes in emotion and perceptual differences from the mainstream. But if those kids never get to read the book because of the lack of support needed to take it to visibility, there is little point to maintaining those extremities at the expense of mainstream support. 

I have to say, I would have never predicted this situation. But the large publishers did. It’s why any query letter I made 6 or so years ago took an express trip to the trashcan if I mentioned “gifted”, even in the context of an underserved group. They knew that you cannot serve a group, underserved or not, if it leads you to going broke. And yes, I do track such things. I try to make data-driven decisions whenever I can.

So what are the plans? As always, I am writing. To the limited extent I can afford to, I myself will create some new illustrations, especially for the new book #1, whose story is sufficiently different that it will need some new illustrations. I may tinker some with book #5 now that I obviously don’t have any delivery deadlines on it currently. 

Once I have recovered emotionally for this failure, I will be back in the crowdsourcing arena, this time on Indiegogo. That campaign will focus on staged funding that will build the publishing business for my imprint. My idea at this moment is to structure the campaign towards much higher value rewards. For example, I’m thinking I will be able to offer for a $40 contribution the new and improved hardcover book #5 as a reward. That’s a pretty good deal considering a backer gets to make a significant contribution to the campaign and get a 640+ page color, hardcover book that would normally sell for $29.99 in the bookstore. I can do this by breaking the build of the publishing business into smaller steps. The original print books, including the POD version of book #5, will remain on sale on my site. At some point I might want to withdraw the POD version of book #5, “The Owl from Oblivion” if the differences with the future official bookstore version get to be too great.

If you are wondering about free giveaway books, there won’t be any for a long time, if ever. I want all my scant remaining money to go toward the development of the new books. You’ll have to excuse my harsh tone, but this will be a difficult period with limited resources for me to work through. At some point, especially when faced with failure, harsh reality has to be considered and harsh decisions made for there to be a chance of future success. This kind of critical examination has been key to my past tech success. I was foolish to abandon it for writing and publishing. 

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