Good morning on this the twenty ninth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.
Yesterday, I wrote about a post by Brian Niemeier. He stopped by and left a comment I found very interesting, so I’m copying it here:
Hi, Chris. I can certainly empathize with your problem.
Here’s a piece of advice from a friend who is far more financially astute than me: If you don’t have money, you can substitute time.
That advice dovetails nicely with a second key principle of indie publishing that I didn’t have space for in the OP, which is learn to do as much as you can by yourself. If you can do an hour of online research per day, take a community college night class, or attend a web seminar on cover art, formatting, or web design, you’ll gain skills that will slash your overall publishing costs.
And even if you don’t have extra time for learning new skills, producing professional quality books doesn’t have to be expensive. On average, each of my books cost me around $650 total to make and get to market. Building good professional relationships is key.
In other news, I read this post by Russell Newquist. (If you missed my interview of him, here it is.) It’s in response to this post by Daytime Renegade, which was pondering the purpose of his blog. These posts bring up two things to me, which to some degree are variants on what Russell said. The first is about traffic growth. This blog has yet to gain much traction, or at least in ways that I know about. I’m not sure how much wordpress’s page view metrics capture people who read my posts in the wordpress news feed (supposedly 30 people are subscribed to my blog) and in RSS readers like newsblur. It might or might not, I just don’t know. My youtube channel certainly has gained more. As of the writing of this post I’m up to 182 subscribers, and there the subscriber count certainly followed something like an exponential growth pattern. (The mathematician in me really wants to point out that 1.000001n is exponential, but very close to linear.) But certainly it’s the case that since youtube recommends things based on view counts and just what people happen to watch, small numbers of views result in small numbers of recommendations. As one gets more views, one gets more recommendations, and hence more views. And thus more subscribers. But even without youtube’s recommendation engine, the same thing happens by way of more normal recommendations. In blogs this is shares on social media as well as other blogs linking to and talking about blog posts. Few readers generate few links and shares, but more generate more. The exponential growth curve is (more or less) inherent to the platform. It’s not merely how things work, it is (absent advertising) how things have to work. As Russell and I talked about in our interview, with production costs approaching zero, the key problem of our age is discoverability. And it is discoverability which produces this sort of growth curve. Patience may be the most practical of the virtues.
The other thing which I thought about was the subject of uniqueness, as Russell put it, or being an expert, as Daytime Renegade put it. Russell is right that originality is overrated. Russell gives this example:
You feel like none of your thoughts are new – but this is precisely because of all the time you spend reading: reading books, reading news, reading other blogs. You make the mistake of assuming that your readership is already familiar with all of the ideas you’re familiar with, because of course everyone else has read all the stuff you read. Doesn’t everybody?
In a word, no. Even other highly intelligent, highly educated people haven’t read everything you have. They can’t. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs on the Internet today. Roughly 1,000 new books are published every day on Amazon, with roughly five million already available in their Kindle catalog. Nobody can possibly read all of that, even if they’re independently wealthy and all they ever do is read.
That is, he gives the example of having read something that many if not most of your readers haven’t, so passing it on is giving them something that they could have gotten elsewhere, but didn’t. That is valuable, but there’s another reason that originality is overrated: in a somewhat different sense, originality is guaranteed. God is simple, but creation is complex. Every being in creation reflects some unique aspect of the goodness of God, and moreover created things work together to synergistically reflect some aspect of the goodness of God which they can’t reflect on their own. (This is related to how composite beings are real, which hyper-reductionism misses.) And rational creatures such as ourselves are each given the ability to appreciate some aspects of the goodness of God. I like archery and another man likes roller coasters; we each some some aspect of the goodness of God reflected by these created things which the other does not see. To some degree we can share these things—especially by describing the wonder of them through language. But also we can teach each other how to see these things. And here is where the guaranteed uniqueness comes from. Because each of us sees some different aspects of the goodness of God, whenever we describe anything to others, we do not describe it in precisely the same way. What is important, what is not; what we emphasize and what we don’t; what connections we make and what analogies we use—all these things may be similar, but will not the same, as what everyone else does when describing the same insight or truth. And equally true, not all readers will find all choices, emphasis, connections, and analogies intelligible; it depends on what they have been given to see. So having the same truth explained in many slightly different ways can really be of value to many people; as they find the people who explain truths in ways they find easy to understand, things they have have encountered before become intelligible. For all people, it’s quite possible that there are more than a few people who can’t learn from a smarter blogger than you just because what that blogger can give and what these people can receive are not compatible.
This is getting absurdly long so I’m going to cut it short, but one of the big themes of creation is that of delegation. When we feed a hungry person, we become God’s gift of food to that person. When two parents create a child, they become God’s act of creation of that child. In this way, by delegating his power to us, God incorporates us into himself. (This makes the incarnation, and the ancient Christian saying that God became man so that man could become God especially relevant, I think.) But it seems that within creation there is a great deal of delegation too. It’s easy to see in professions where people make tools for others to use, and so we share in each other, but this is specially relevant in intellectual matters. Geniuses can rarely explain things well except to very intelligent people, and very intelligent people can rarely explain things well except to intelligent people, and so on. There is variation, of course, and teaching is a learned skill, etc. But for those who think that they have nothing to contribute, it is no small matter to take the work of someone greater and make it intelligible to someone lesser. We all have our place within the hierarchy of being, and the greats often need the merely highly intelligent in order to have any impact at all. Socrates may have been the wisest man who lived, but his wisdom would not have helped nearly so many people were it not for an army of teachers who followed after him to explain his wisdom to people who couldn’t get it directly from his words.
God bless you.