I have a guilty pleasure, if not a somewhat silly one. That is, I really enjoy checking my “sales” figures on PubShare.
For those unaware, PubShare is a little nook of this (no longer new) world of independent publishing—a place that supports various kinds of fun little projects, including the Boundary Shock Quarterly project I often contribute to, as well as Face the Strange, the anthology that my daughter Brigid and I put together a few years back, and a lot of other cool collaborative things (Can anybody say “Amazing Monster Tales?”). As one might guess, it is not a place where writers go to get marvelously rich. Still, I enjoy looking at my numbers considerably more often than you might think I would.
At this point, you might ask why that is.
My “income” is just a trickle. Perhaps a quarter a day on average, which is, well, not a lot. I am aware some writers would basically blow it off as trivial. And for them, I’m sure it is. In most senses it’s trivial for me, too. So, what gives? Why do I like looking at these numbers?
Well, first, let me ask the persnickety question: is a quarter a day really trivial? It sounds so small, but when you add it over a year, that comes to about $90. That translates to four or maybe five days of groceries for us (estimating coarsely), or a couple solid dinners out. Beyond that, PubShare is a place where I’m constantly adding a bit of content, and overall that number goes up just a little each year as I get more active and have a bigger backlist.
Hold that thought, right?
I should note that, since I still see that trickle of income being generated by “old” material, this is partially passive income—meaning I don’t do anything at all this year to reap many of those quarters per day. That’s a thing I like about PubShare.
It’s part of why I think of PubShare as representative of the entire worldview of independent publishing. PubShare proves that material does not have to age in this world. It provides a platform that allows us lowly authors to take the very long view—something that really wasn’t possible in the traditional world, at least not until one made a certain presence of oneself (and even then it could be tenuous).
Here’s an example of what I mean: the first short story I placed into BSQ has not yet made what it might have made it I’d published it in an established magazine like, say Analog. But it’s done well, and if BSQ continues progressing as it is (thanks, Blaze!) there is every chance that in another year or four it will surpass what Analog would have paid.
I have no idea. I contributed to the effort because it was fun, because it was another way to reach readers (*), and because I can do more things with the work I put there. Things like release my own collections.
(*) If my numbers are correct, that first issue of BSQ has sold something near 800 copies, which is pretty good advertising, if nothing else.
If I look at it right now, from a purely financial point of view I’d be better off if I’d put that story into Analog (assuming the editor would have wanted it). But time is still moving, and the trail of quarters is still flowing. Once again, I didn’t decide to participate in BSQ for it’s obvious money-making capacity. I joined because it’s fun and Blaze is great to work with. But the fact remains that, over a long enough arc of time, there’s every chance I will also wind up better off financially being there than I would have if I’d sold to Analog.
Again, who knows what the future will bring. I’m just saying that places like PubShare remind me of how the world has changed from when I was a baby writer trying to play the tournament game of traditional publishing.
So, when I go to my PubShare numbers, I don’t look at the amplitude so much as I do the flow rate. A little bit every day. Cool. I think that’s the magic for independent writers. Oh, sure, some of us hit big moments where a project has really taken off. I’ve had that happen. Both my Fantasy and SF series have made it to the top of various Amazon charts along their way, and that’s always a heady thing. I hope they do so again. (The fact that I can say that sentence “I hope they do so again” tells you something about how independent publishing has changed the world). But so much of the life of a writer is about dealing with the times where the numbers aren’t so monstrous.
So, when I’m in that kind of mood I can get when I’m focused on the negative, I find opening my PubShare reports helps me focus on what’s real.
Stick with it.
Keep your eyes on the real prize, have fun making stuff.
Slow and steady wins the race.
It is silly, I suppose. But it makes me feel good.