A Shift in How Indie Authors Earn?

I watched Jack Conte, the creator of Patreon, give a forty-five minute talk on how The Internet is Shifting. It’s worth watching. I suggest you not watch it at anything but normal speed, because Conte talks very quickly in places. 🙂

The TL:DR summary of his speech is that creatives must re-invent ways to use Kevin Kelly’s exceptional 1,000 True Fans theory (which I first read in 2008!), as all Internet platforms, except for a small handful, don’t allow us to properly engage with our true fans anymore.

It’s probably not a big surprise that Patreon is one of that small handful of exceptions. BUT, Conte did point out that Patreon, had it remained as he’d first built it, would be one of the platforms that no longer serves creatives. Only, Patreon has radically altered how it works and now does provide the engagement and following that creatives need to keep their true fans close.

Discord is another site Conte added to this small list, which made me smile, as I’ve been gravitating toward Discord for over a year now. I have a server for PIFW, too. You’ll find it here.

And that old reliable, email, is still good to go.

But Facebook, BookTok, X, Instagram, et al, all have serious flaws that negatively impact creatives. Conte suggests that if you try to maximise your profile on these platforms, you’ll end up creating for those platforms, instead of creating what you want to make.

A scary thought.

Although he wasn’t dealing with publishing platforms like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc., I can see very clearly that this is exactly what happens to indie authors who chase the algorithms, looking for sales, follows, likes, etc. For years we were exhorted to “write to market!”…which is a euphemism for writing to please the algorithm.

With the coming of AI-written novels churned out in three minutes, we can no longer afford to write to market, because that’s what AI will be doing.

We have to be more creative, more fun to read and deliver more emotional tales and more amazing stories than AI. AI can’t be truly creative and unique. By virtue of how it is built, it is 100%, unavoidably derivative.

I spoke about the need to craft the User eXperience (UX) in the future, in “Why UX Will be the Critical Factor for Indies in the Years Ahead.”

I’ve long maintained that an author’s platform is critical, if an indie is to thrive. Conte underlines that, and goes on to explain that all the old tools we’ve been using to build our platforms for the last decade are now basically useless.

If you’ve watched your sales tank over the last year, then you’ve been monitoring the evidence of this implosion.

In the last two months, I have made more money from anything but retail sales. I was in book bundles, author co-op anthologies, and a Zoe-bub. I sold short stories to pro magazines. None of them are “big” deals, like Kickstarter. Yet all these projects (that I’ve thought of as “side” projects for years) added up to serious money. And none of them will do that if you don’t have an engaged audience of true fans.

Give the video a watch. It’s inspiring.

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