Posts tagged: What does winning really mean

What You Can Win by Losing: The 2012 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards Have Been Announced! Didn’t Win? Some Words to Cheer You Up

The Gold Medal in the IPPY Awards--So near, but so far

On May 2, 2012, awards for the last few categories of the 2012 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards were announced. Did your book receive an award?

Mine didn’t, either. I’ve been entering the IPPYs for years. This was the first time  I didn’t win something. Kinda shocking.

It hurts to have your masterpiece spurned, but doesn’t hurt half as much as getting a one star review. That’s like a crossbow bolt to the heart, except you don’t get to die. You get to read those words savaging your beloved baby forever, or as long as your book’s Amazon page lasts. So losing in the IPPYs isn’t that bad.

You feel better already, don’t you?

This is an article about dealing with not winning a book contest. Usually I write about how to win book contests. One of the things I say in those articles is that you can do everything I say to do to win and still lose. I just demonstrated that.

Not winning in the 2012 IPPY (Independent Press) Awards brought to mind an actual event that happened to me in the olden days, before my body started disintegrating. I used to show horses.  My family was into horses. That means: We’d blow the kids’ college tuition fund if a good show prospect came up. We were over-the-top, raving horse maniacs, like everyone else we knew. We bred, raised, trained and showed our horses, which were Peruvian Paso horses. That’s right, they originated in Peru. What follows is an uplifting to you (I hope), though extremely embarrassing to me, tale illustrating what can be learned through losing.

Hang in there: This is more of a short (or medium length) story, than a blog post. Actually, it’s a free Kindle short.

Azteca de Oro BSN & I at the Monterey show. This is NOT me riding Vistoso. I couldn't find a picture of the Big V and me. I'm riding Vistoso's full brother, Azteca, at the Monterey Fairgrounds. Close enough.

OK. I was riding one of our top horses, Vistoso, at the Mission Trails Classic Championship Peruvian Paso Horse Show in Monterey, CA.  The Monterey show was very large and prestigious. All the top ranches attended the event; winning was a real coup.

Vistoso and I were in some class, most likely Performance Geldings, since he was a performance gelding. In performance classes, the horses don’t just zoom around the arena looking beautiful. They have to do something: stop and back up, go fast, go slow, turn in circles, reverse, and serpentine through poles set so close that the animals looked like snakes with manes and tails.

Vistoso and I were having the ride of a lifetime. We were on. We were in perfect harmony: a gorgeous young horse and an aging-but-still-pretty-together woman. Vistoso was a tall, bright chestnut gelding. He was big; he was bold. He was magnificent. (Which is what Vistoso means: Beautiful, delightful, showy, spectacular. Peruvian Paso horses are required to have Spanish names, in homage to their Peruvian roots.)

We moved around the carefully groomed arena. The stadium surrounding us was filled with everyone who wasn’t riding a horse or getting ready to. Vistoso didn’t take a false step the whole class. I could hear the four-beat sound of his gait, the paso llano, a slow gait particular to his breed. We were in perfect balance, horse and rider.

Other horses were in the arena, but I knew we had it nailed. We’d win the class, go on to the championship competition, and win that. From there, Vistoso would become the new Champion of Champions.

TWIGGY & LILY at Monterey–- This is my daughter Lily riding out of the arena on Twiggy, probably the hottest horse we've ever owned. Notice how the horse seems to be compressed horizontally, smashed from front to back. That's because she wants to leave the ring. If Lily let go of the reins, that horse would launch faster than something from Vandenburg Air Force Base.

The judge pointed to a number of horses moving along the rail, including Vistoso and me, and indicated that we should move to the center of the arena, next to the flapping canvas pavilion where the ring steward and officials sat with a pile of gaudy trophies. I eyed the trophies, panting slightly. We were in “the good pile.”

The judge then motioned to the horses still moving along the rail, indicating that they should leave the arena through the newly opened gates. They were “the bad pile.”

If you’re in the good pile, you’re that much closer to winning. Except that horses do not care about winning. They are herd animals: they care about being with their their buddies, who were leaving the arena. Horses in the good pile can become very anxious at this point.

The judge sent us to the far end of the arena and the announcer began  calling out winners, working from the lowest place to the highest. A couple of honorable mentions. Fifth place. Fourth . . . When their numbers were announced, riders piloted their horses to the flapping pavilion and picked up their ribbons. They then left the arena, the horses practically bolting as they neared the open gates.

The higher your placement, the worse it gets. I was circling Vistoso at close to light speed as he became increasingly distressed watching his fellow equines escape. Finally, the Big V and I were the only horse/rider pair in the arena, except for this other woman on a little liver chestnut. (Yes, he was the color of liver.) I knew her. She was a really nice lady. Little horse. No sweat. The class was mine. I kept circling Vistoso, hoping that my triumph wouldn’t be overshadowed by him bucking me off. Then the announcer called the second place number.

It was MY number! I came in second.  That was impossible. I had won the class. No one could have had a ride as good as ours. I rode out of the arena with my lousy red ribbon. I was pissed off, and I stayed that way the rest of the day, and into the night.

Evening fell, as it inevitably does. The big dinner dance was on. The Monterey fairgrounds have a really cool party set-up. Soft lights twinkled and the band struck up. A gorgeous buffet was laid out. Champagne flowed and folks in “Western/Peruvian formal” attire chatted it up or took to the dance floor.

I made my way through the crowd, turned a corner, and ran smack into the show’s  judge. My eyes narrowed and my back went up.

The judge recognized me and put out her hand, grinning broadly. “Boy, did you ride that horse this afternoon!” Her praise was as heartfelt as any I’ve heard.

She didn’t fool me. That class was MINE. “Well, if you liked us so much, why didn’t you give us the blue ribbon?” I said. You see, I’m a liberated woman. I’ve also taken nine million assertiveness trainings. I was not about to let someone ***** me over.

The judge rocked back, and then replied without missing a beat. “Well, this is a very good show. A second prize in this show is equivalent to a championship somewhere else.”

I walked away, feeling slightly better and proud that I’d spoken up for myself. I was no wimp.

* * *

Fast forward to the end of the show season, late Fall. I’m at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA. The National Championship Show for the Peruvian Paso breed is  in full swing. This is the big, BIG time. Griffith Park is a real equestrian center. Massive cement grandstands circle an over-sized ring, creating a bowl which is spanned by a very high and equally massive ceiling.

The Nationals are like this: All the horses you’ve seen  in the magazines are there with their famous trainers, equally famous ranch owners, and enough stable help to run a small resort. The barns where the horses are kept when not performing sport flags and banners and swags up and down the aisles. Each ranch has its signature colors. Videos advertising the ranches’ charms and horses for sale play at the end of each stall row. Multicolor ribbons flutter, too––whatever each ranch has won at the show is displayed front and center.  Believe it or not, some ranches deck out their turf with potted palms and carpeting. It’s a spectacle that looks like it came out of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, but with more horses.

My nervous system goes into overload and then flames out with the tension of the Nationals. I’d already blown the classes I was riding in. “The bad pile” was probably above my head in that company.  I had plenty of free time, so I sat in the stands, watching the show.

I jumped out of my seat when the  woman who stole that class from me in Monterey rode through the gates. I leaned forward, teeth bared, a growl turning over in my throat. She was a petite, slender woman with rich dark hair. Her spine was erect, perfectly balanced as she sat the horse. Her stirrups were long, permitting her legs to extend downward gracefully. If you had dropped a line from the point of her knee, it would touch the tip of her toes. She held her hands low, almost touching the front of the saddle. Her equitation was plu-perfect.

Her horse, the grubby little thing I’d dismissed, wasn’t so grubby when I looked at him carefully. Liver chestnut is actually a rich medium brown, very correct and conservative. The horse was small and fine, elegant, like its rider. They were a brilliant match of type and style. Her poncho, saddle, bridle, everything, was exactly what the rule book specified. The animal moved along, relaxed, but alert, and precisely gaited.

Riding is one sport where the better you are, the less you do. You can see dressage riders in the Olympics whose horses are doing unbelievable things, but you can’t see the rider doing anything. The pair before me were like that. Exquisite. You know, there’s good riding, and then excellent riding. This was riding touched by angels.

I sat there, my mouth falling open. My hands went cold. I didn’t win that class in Monterey because I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t see my competition because I was busy riding my own horse. Seeing her in that arena told me that she and that little gelding were world class. (In fact, they would win the National Champion of Champions Performance Gelding title later in the show.)

I had a sinking feeling when I realized what I’d done. I felt like my center of gravity was ten feet below the stadium and dropping. I remembered what I had said to that judge. My cheeks flamed. Embarrassment so powerful that you could almost see it washed over me. I had been so rude to that nice woman. I am still embarrassed about what I said, many years later.

I’ll never forget it.

* * *

So there it is: I didn’t win because I didn’t deserve to. I didn’t know I wasn’t the best because I was busy riding my own horse and couldn’t see the others.

* * *

Am I saying that your book didn’t win in the IPPYs because it wasn’t good enough? Well, . . .

Let’s take a look at that. When you enter your book in a contest, it’s like entering the arena on Vistoso that day in Monterey. You’re busy with your own entrant and can’t see the competition. You don’t know how good the other entrants’ books were. And you’ll never know. Remember me mouthing off to that judge when you feel like screaming over your placement. Don’t embarrass yourself.

Let’s look at book contests. You’ve zeroed out at the IPPYs this year. What should you do? Here are some options:

1. Walk away from it and never enter a book contest again. This is a pretty good option. Book contests are expensive. Aside from the cost of editing, proofreading, having my book designed and printed, along with the two years of my life I spent writing my book, Lady Grace, I forked out maybe $150 for the single category I entered. That includes the entry fee, postage, and materials for the press kit, which I included even though it wasn’t required. If I’d entered more categories or books, the cost would have multiplied.

Lady Grace, my 2012 entry into the book contests. Finished moments before entries close,will the Lady have what it takes?

As an indie author, do you need awards from book contests to sell your book? Let’s look at some of the most successful authors––indie or traditional––of our time. Take John Locke, the first indie published author to sell one million ebooks. John’s probably about to hit the two million mark by now. What did that get him? A lot of money and a contract with Simon & Schuster, one that he designed that meets his needs. (No yanking the indie author around.) And then we’ve got Amanda Hocking, who parlayed her young adult series into millions of book sales and dollars, and a contract with St. Martin’s Press. Darcie Chan, who published her book as an eBook after being rejected my the major publishers. She’s probably getting close to a million eBook sales by now and is a NYT Bestselling author, not to mention having a lot more loose change. What list of successful indies could leave out JA Konrath, the father of the “you can do better publishing it yourself” movement. Or M.J. Rose, probably the first author to go the self-pub route.

Did any of these people use awards from book contests for independent presses as their springboards to success? No. Did any of them enter such contests? Not that I know of.

(I don’t think they do blog tours, either.)

From these success stories, it looks like not entering book contests may increase your chances of success. Figuring out how to effectively sell your book is way to go.

2. Say you want to win prizes and enter more contests. What then? I’m like that. A compulsive competitor. I like to say, “Hi, I’m Sandy Nathan, award-winning author. I’ve won . . .” I like stickers and medals and certificates. I like to increase the number of wins I’ve got and post the new totals all over. Look at my website, for Pete’s sake. If that isn’t ever conspicuous flashing of glitz I don’t know what is.

My husband says, “Isn’t twenty-one awards enough?” I say, “No! A million wouldn’t be enough!”

You’re like me, you didn’t win the IPPYs this year, but you want to try again. Read the article below and follow it. This is my famous “What I do to win book contests” article. Do all that and enter your new book next year.

Or––take a look at your book and what you’re writing now. The IPPYs are a huge, prestigious contest, like the National Championships I described above. Are you up to that competition? If you don’t think you you can make it in the rarefied atmosphere of the IPPYs, pick a different contest. My article on how to win book contests has links to some very nice smaller contests. Maybe one is just perfect for your book.

3. If my recitation of what you actually get out of book contests sticks in your craw, pick a contest with really good prizes. Good prizes are a reason to compete even if you’re horrified by what I’ve said above.  I’m sharing a secret now. The 2012 National Indie Excellence Contest has killer prizes. Check ‘em out on their web site. They have regular winner and finalist prizes for the various categories, but the overall winners get stuff like thousands of dollars of services from top publicists. That’s worth competing for. It’s too late to enter this year, but 2013 is coming fast.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy––Winner of the 2011 Gold Medal for Visionary Fiction in the IPPY Awards

4. What does winning really mean? In 2011, I was thrilled and delighted when my book The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy won the Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction at the IPPYs. I’d won in previous IPPYs, but never a Gold. I feel tremendous gratitude to the people putting on the contest for acknowledging my book as they did.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy is Book I of Tales from Earth’s End. The series is a fantasy/sci-fi/visionary fiction tale about people pushed to the literal ends of the earth. In The Angel, nuclear holocaust looms as the characters work to mend their past “business” and figure out how to survive the destruction of the planet. The Angel is a good book. It’s an important book treating the possibility of nuclear weapons destroying our world, as well as what can come from an economic disaster which is not successfully resolved. It’s beautifully produced and has a killer cover. I like this book very much.

Lady Grace is the second book in the Tales from Earth’s End series and was my entry in the 2012 IPPY Awards. Lady Grace sets out what happens to a small group of survivors of the nuclear war as they begin to create a new world. Every book professional who has touched Lady Grace has told me that it’s not just better than The Angel, it’s way better. “Your pacing, the plotting, the characters––all are terrific. This is the best writing you’ve done.” That was my editor. Others have said the same sort of thing: I’ve hit my stride with Lady Grace. I knew it, too.

A woman in my book club who told me she’d hated everything I’ve written called me babbling in rapture after reading Lady Grace. “It’s fantastic, Sandy. It’s the best book I’ve ever read. How did you do that? Where did you come up with all that?” And more, she went on and on. I loved it.

Lady Grace, my 2012 entry into the book contests. Finished moments before entries closed, Lady Grace was left in the paddock area at the end of the race.

OK. The Angel won the Visionary Fiction category in 2011, for which I will be eternally grateful. Lady Grace didn’t win anything in 2012, but it’s a better book in every way. Except maybe its cover. The version I submitted was straight off the presses; it might have been a proof. The print copies of the book arrived so close to the contest’s deadline that we didn’t have time to make adjustments in the cover or anything else before shipping them off to the IPPYs.

The final issue I’m raising is about judging. I’m not doing the snotty thing that I did to that poor judge in Monterey. I realize that the emerging National Champion of Champions might have been entered in the Visionary Fiction category in 2012. I don’t know what the competition was, or what the competition was in 2011 when The Angel won the Gold.

It’s just really weird to me that a lesser book should win the competition and a superior one not even place. Did the judges read it? Maybe totally different judges were working in 2012, and they had different preferences. You see that showing horses all the time. Some judges hate a particular type, while others love it. Maybe the fact that the cover wasn’t totally jelled knocked it out. That’s possible. We’ve since modified the cover, cleaning up the colors and changing the tag line.

A lot of things could have happened, and some of them must have.

What does the judging mean? What do you win when you win? Are the winners really the best books? What does an award mean?

The more I think on these things, the more I tend to agree with my husband. Maybe twenty-one awards is enough. (Twenty-two now. Lady Grace was a finalist in Visionary Fiction at the 2012 Indie Excellence Awards.)

So, campers, we’ve finished our romp through Contestland. I don’t know if I made you feel any better after your non-award, but maybe I made  you more thoughtful.

I look forward to hearing from others about their contest experiences. Would you do it again? What did it do for book sales? Your career?

Let me know, folks.

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-one national awards for her writing. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (paperback. Kindle coming)
Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (paperback. Kindle coming)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice


Being a Successful Author Using Social Media, Plus Online Etiquette, Spamming, Cyber-bullying, and Avoiding the Dangers of On-line Particpation

Life Is Rough: Being a Successful Author Requires Skill. (Please note that I'm crying about Elvis Presley's biography, on the table before me, not anything to do with books.)

Skillfully using social media is a major key to an author’s success. That’s what all the book industry marketing experts an book publicists say––and I know people who have parlayed on-line eBook and print book sales  into contracts with major publishers and top literary agents. They’ve created the top-selling literary careers that other writers, indie press owners, and self publishers want. Careers that even bestselling authors who have literary agents and are published by traditional publishers want.

How? I have no idea. I know how to win book contests––twenty-one of them to date––and produce exquisite books that get five star reviews. I’m working on sales. (Ahem.)

OK. Let’s drop the search engine optimization-laden verbiage and get down to it. (And that intro and article title are about as SEO sticky as you can get. SEO is my latest thrill. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Google analytics come out. [2 years later: They came out just the same as usual. No change.])

This blog post has been grinding around inside me. I’ve been trying to distill what’s bothering me and what I want to say. I’m going to put it out as a series of articles, the first one centering on on-line participation and getting mangled, which happened to me recently. is about achieving success and sanity as an author or writer.

In the publishing world, success is measured by two things: the number of books sold and the amount of money made selling them. If you want to test this, go anywhere that authors or writers congregate. Check out my Facebook wall (or yours). Authors crow about their book sales and big events and triumphs as they happen. In this world, life in its complexity, beauty and richness is compressed into an obsession with Amazon sales.

Sanity is harder to define. If  you want to get picky, you can always take the MMPI, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (or have it administered by a clinical psychologist). The MMPI is a great tool to determine what type of psychopathology the taker has, and how much. How crazy you are, in other words.

My less precise but way more illuminating definition of sanity is contained in a series of questions: Are you happy? Not the kind of manic, hysterical happiness shown on TV quiz shows. Are you really happy, deep-in-your-gut happy? Do you feel your life is meaningful and that you are traveling in a direction which is taking you closer to the person you were meant to be? Do you feel in communication with God, if you believe in God, or whatever you consider the source of the universe? Your Higher Power? The Great Bazonga in the Sky? Are you in touch with That?

So here’s the question: Is it possible to be successful and sane in the writing profession? Writing is hard. Getting published in a professional manner is harder. (Whether you self-publish or go the traditional route.) In my experience, marketing is hardest of all.

I’ve talked to other writers about this. They say the same thing: “I dunno. I’ll tell you when I figure it out.”

One of the personally/spiritually positive things about writing is the fact that it continually challenges you to do terrifying things. And learn stuff that you never, ever would have thought about before.  Or wanted to. Like search engine optimization. And leading. Do you know what leading is? [The distance between the lines of print in a book.] Do you know which printer gives you the best price on copies of your book and the best distribution? How to set up and write a blog? Establish a web site. You learn things like this as your career progresses.

OK. What happened to me on-line the other day? I have certain terrors, like everyone else. Things that are hard and scary that I have to force myself to confront. We all have such things. For some of you, running into the creature below would be terrifying. Getting up close and personal with him might put you into intensive care:

Capoeira BSN, a Peruvian Paso Stallion

Capoeira BSN, a Peruvian Paso Stallion

Working around Cappy does not bother me, particularly. (Especially since he’s in Australia.) You have to pay attention when you’re around a stallion, but he’s manageable. This is my personal source of terror, what makes my knees go weak and my eyeballs shake:

The Kindleboards Homepage

Kindleboards Home Page

One of my friends, an extremely successful author, gave me clear instructions on what to do to succeed in internet marketing.

“You have to get on the Kindleboards. Go out, introduce yourself, make friends. Don’t talk about your book much. Get to know people first. Establish a presence on-line. People will get to know you. Then they’ll buy your book.” A couple other people said the same thing. And I’ve heard it on-line.

I gave it a shot. Opened the Kindleboards site and was confronted by the biggest, most  complicated and (to me) least user friendly web site I have ever seen. I managed to sign up, stagger into the writers’ area, and attempted to register my books. It took me maybe five tries. I did it wrong––putting my books on separate pages, which seemed to be what other authors were doing. That was wrong: All books were supposed to be on one page. I finally mastered listing my books, with various emails from the moderators. I was ready to leap into the 500 million forum threads, all with different rules.

Lord, have mercy! I haven’t been back, even though I suspect worlds of meaning or something exist on the Kindleboards.

After that experience, I thought I’d try Goodreads, another big site for readers and authors. I have over 1,300 friends there, somehow, but I’ve not been on their forums (or any forums) much. I was delighted to see that they had reader groups with subject areas like those of my most recent book, The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, which can be put in the  science fiction, visionary fiction, or fantasy slots.

I carefully read the posting instructions and put notes in the forums for the three categories  The Angel fit. “Hi, I’m Sandy Nathan, I wrote The Angel. It’s about . . .” And then I set up a page for the book itself. I immediately forgot what I’d posted and where. It was late and I was exhausted. But I was delighted that I’d gotten that far and thought this on-line stuff would be clear sailing from now on.

The next morning, I was greeted by a politely stated, but pointed, email from someone who said I’d spammed him the night before with 6 emails into his box. That people found that offensive and that I should post once and repeat with weekly or so intervals. Although the note was polite, it hurt. I was stung. Shaking. [Since posting this, I've heard from another author who said the same thing happened to her. It took her two days to stop shaking. All is not friendly in cyber-space!]

I was upset because I’d followed the rules, I looked them up, read, and followed them. I wrote back to the spammed man, groveling, and he wrote back. Then other people on the forum wrote about what happened. Turned into quite a lively discussion. It turned out the fellow who thought I’d spammed him was on a number of groups, the same ones I was on, and since I’d posted to those, a separate email had been sent to him from each by Goodreads. I hadn’t done it.

So the culprit was Goodreads programming, not me. The group decided I was innocent and would not be executed. That was the feeling I had.

Lord have mercy, again!

This situation got handled. The guy who wrote the email and I have communicated. He even bought The Angel. Things are cool.

But is this anything for a 66 year old woman with two master’s degrees to be doing with her life? I ask myself this all the time. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings and adventures in the world of on-line marketing. And writing in general. Blogging.

I’m going to have articles on the psychology of the internet, success, and more later.

All the best,

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-one national awards, in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with a 2012 release date. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.







Selling Books in the Great Recession: An Economist’s Perspective

Adam Smith the Founder of Modern Economics. His book, The Wealth of Nations (1776), establishes the idea that national wealth comes from the productivity of resources, not hoarding gold and silver.

I wrote this article back in 2009. It’s still relevant, alas. I’ve updated and illustrated it with uplifting portraits of great economists. These cool dudes have shaped our world.

“I didn’t know you were an economist,” one of my friends said when she heard about this series on selling books in the Great Recession.

Yep. I hold a BA and MA in economics. I was on my way to a PhD at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford when I realized that I couldn’t do the math. I slunk away to resume doing what I knew how to do––economic analysis.

I was the Economic Analyst for Santa Clara County (the heart of Silicon Valley), among other positions. My first publications were in economics.

Even though I’m an author and proprietor of a small press today, the current situation keeps shoving concepts from economics in my face. I felt compelled to write down a few insights, throwing in ideas from business theory and psychology. (I also have an MA in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling. I’m not bragging as I mention the alphabet soup behind my name: I’m from Silicon Valley, where multiple degrees are as common as downsizing and excess is barely enough.)

What do I see for booksellers and everyone else?


Well, duh. A real economic analysis would back up this assertion with studies and statistics. But we don’t really need that.  If we don’t feel the pain in our personal lives, we can go to out local mall and look at all the empty retail space.

Is that space ever going to be filled? Beats me. In the old days, economists thought that unemployment and under-utilization of productive capacity were short-term phenomena. Everything would be cool in the long run.

John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes, who revolutionized economics in the 1930s, exploded this myth by observing, “In the long run, gentlemen, we are all dead.”

Lord Keynes explained that the economy was like an elevator. Previous generations of theorists thought the economy would automatically rise to the top floor and stay there, at a natural equilibrium and full employment.

Keynes said, “Not so; the economy can get be stuck below the top and at less than full employment for a long time–-forever, maybe.” He also came up with the idea of government stimulus: direct government expenditures to get the economy going again. It primed the way to recovery from the Great Depression of the 1930s. WWII is what popped us out of that malaise. No one wants to get into a war to stimulate the economy. In our case, that avenue is closed: We’re already in a war.


How does this affect book sales? The way you’d expect. This series of articles was motivated by a friend lamenting his recent lousy book sales and by other friends asking, “How are you doing? What are you doing? Help!”

In the discussion below, I focus on the financial aspect of publication: Books and book sales as moneymakers. The situation has changed greatly over the years. I recall a publisher friend remarking, “Back in the 70s, you could make money publishing books.” Now the book market has thousands of small presses with more being formed every day. Hundreds of thousands of new books are released every year. Major publishers are cutting back and retail chains like Borders are going belly up.

Except for the mega best sellers, making a profit as a publisher or author is hard. But people still succeed in a big way. See John Locke, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in Five Months. Ditto Amanda Hocking and who knows how many more hearty independents are tossing the industry on its head. How they do it is the topic of future posts.

 I’m going to share a few thoughts, and then open up the series to the red-hot marketers in the next installments of this series. We’ll hear from people who are selling books, making money, and attaining their personal goals in this recession.

Thomas Malthus

Thomas Malthus, the man who put the dismal in "The Dismal Science." Mathus said, among many other things, that any increase in prosperity in society will be destroyed by a related rise in population. Hasn't proven true so far, but you never know.


“I’ve never made money with any of my books,” said my most illustrious boss, an internationally known business consultant and professor who has taught at Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford. He’s written classic books about business theory, which were published by the top publishers in the world.

“My books never made any money, but they got me consulting jobs that did.”

This bit of information is probably more valuable than any in this article. As a life success guide, it’s as valuable as the statistic that 90% of small businesses fail within the first five years. Of the 10% that make it, 90% fail in the next five.

Unless they’re independently wealthy, folks should imbibe my boss’s words before releasing books and memorize the failure rates of small business before starting small presses.

What business are you in? Selling books, or something else? What business should you be in, given your skills and what you write about?


An adage in applied psychology is: “If you want something, go to where it is.”

If you want money, you should be where it is. Where’s the money? Here I’ll call upon that venerable enlightenment organization, the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Where does the money live?

The BLS table May 2008 National Occupational Employment and Wage, a distribution of income by occupation, tells us. The table presents “estimates … calculated with data collected from employers in all industry sectors in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas in every State and the District of Columbia.” The numbers are based on a sample, but a very good sample. The table links to another table giving percentile rankings and the employment percent relative standard error.

The data shows the high income jobs are exactly where you’d expect them: at the CEO level of management, high level technical and scientific professions, and in the medical field. MDs in various specialties received the highest income, with surgeons showing the greatest mean income of any profession, $206,700.

What about writers and authors?According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, the writers and authors occupation (a sample of 44,170, about the same number as surgeons) showed a mean annual income of $64,560. (Anybody make that much with their books? This figure includes all the people writing articles and doing seminars about making money with writing.)

What does this mean? The data show that some writers make a living from their craft. On the other hand, millions of better paying jobs in other fields exist.

If making money is your primary motivation, it will probably be easier to become a brain surgeon or CEO than a financially successful writer.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx: Predicted Revolution Based on Class Struggle and Inequitable Distribution of Wealth. You don't have to think this different.


All of this is to establish that maybe writing for money isn’t the best use of your time. I was going to add an appendix of articles about writing for money, because many people would say the exact opposite. Tons of “make money writing” sites and courses and books exist. Google the topic, you’ll see.You may want to work with those ideas, in addition to what I’m saying. (However, none of the writers heralding the possibility of fortune through scribbling can get around the Bureau of Labor Statistics data presented above.)

Meanwhile, have you considered your writing a springboard to another career, as it was for my professor friend? You might augment your income by adding speaking gigs, leading workshops, consulting, teaching writing skills, self-expression, and the gamut of things related to writing that may prove lucrative. Stretch your creativity beyond “I’m an author.” Or just keep your day job.

This writing/publishing world is a rough place to survive, even without a recession. Consumers are jaded: What used to work doesn’t any more. Emailed offers get ignored, book signings aren’t attended, and contests and reduced prices don’t increase sales. (If I get one more notice of a contest or special event from another excessively smiley person selling books, I’ll scream. And get off their mailing list immediately. Add to this ecstatic announcements of new books or  5 star reviews.)

We need to do things differently.


I did not discuss one very important subject above. Economists don’t pay any attention to it; it’s irrelevant to economic analysis. That subject is joy. Bliss. Satisfaction. The personal reward we get from writing. I have more fun writing than doing pretty near anything else. I will even forgo riding my horse to do lay down a few choice words. Personal rewards need to be measured against monetary payoffs.

If you’re not making money from your scribbling or getting joy from tossing around words, you might want to think about taking up golf. Or anything else.

In future articles, I’ll discuss thrilling and very relevant concepts like price elasticity, opportunity cost, and use of influence. I’m turning the next article over to the guest bloggers.

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

There you go, guys, a couple of things to think about in promoting  your books. Have fun with them, and let me know how they work.

All the best,

Sandy Nathan
Winner of seventeen national book awards

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link for more information. All links below go to Kindle editions.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with an early 2012 release date planned. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.

Ringbinder theme by Themocracy