Pivot Points

There are moments in life when things change. When the world you know pivots. Sometimes you can force these moments to happen by the choices you make and sometimes you just have to sit back and watch the world change without being able to do anything to control it.

Whether you agree with the result or not, I’d say the 2016 U.S. presidential election was a giant pivot point for the world and many on all sides have been trying to deal with the fallout from that moment ever since.

I’ve been feeling for a bit that I’m approaching a pivot point of my own, one I can maybe direct.

But that pivot point is also being impacted by shifts outside of my control. And one of those is happening right now on kboards. For those who don’t know, the board recently changed ownership. (All you have to do is visit without being logged in and you’ll see the new advertising that’s everywhere, including in the middle of discussion threads.)

Part of the ownership change appears to have involved a change to the terms of service on the site which a few authors noticed and posted about. That conversation quickly grew to a point where a number of people consulted their attorneys and demanded a change to the terms or else deletion of their accounts. At that point there were some big names who were talking about leaving but some that were maybe going to stay and it looked like the board might be diminished but still continue on as a valuable resource on self-publishing.

Well, today a representative of the new ownership (someone who should seriously learn how to use spellcheck before posting to a forum full of writers) posted to that thread and basically dropped a lit match in a dumpster full of explosives.

I would expect given the reactions I’m seeing to that post that this will mark a pivot point for that board and possibly for self-publishing.

I know that there are many who have self-published successfully without access to kboards and that some consider it a drama-fest or a space full of amateurs, but it really has been one of the few highly public places that most authors could go to to get mostly accurate non-scammy guidance on self-publishing.

And while the number of really successful authors who participate regularly has certainly diminished over the years, there were still six- and seven-figure authors  posting there regularly as recently as last week.

Now, though? I’m seeing some pretty big names leaving and some other big names who appear to have gone silent. New users may find their way there, but I think the number of long-time users who are going to leave is going to be significant and that there will never be a forum that rises up to contain that level of information and experience in one location if that happens.

The market has matured to the point where it simply doesn’t make sense for everyone to show their hand about everything. In the early days of self-publishing it was a “we’re all in this together because it doesn’t work without us all being in this together”. That is no longer the case. Now it’s a bit like a game of musical chairs where you have 10,000 people playing and only 1,000 chairs for them to sit in.

That may sound doom and gloom and I apologize for that. It’s not meant to. There is still tremendous potential in self-publishing. But it’s going to get harder from here on out. It already was headed there. This is just going to accelerate that by a factor of ten. IMO. I could be wrong, but I do think this is a pivot point for self-publishing.

It’s certainly not the first and it won’t be the last.

Author: M.L. Humphrey

I am a former securities regulator, registered stockbroker (although only briefly), and consultant on regulatory and risk-related matters for large financial institutions with expertise in the areas of anti-money laundering regulation, mutual funds, and credit rating agencies. Since 2013 I have also been a published author who writes under a variety of pen names across non-fiction, fantasy, and romance.

2 thoughts on “Pivot Points”

  1. Do you think this shift of ‘too many authors, not enough chairs’ will be across the board or specific to genre, specific to non-fiction, etc? I’ve wondered about there being too many authors, not enough readers for a long time, but I also thought it might be a difficult market to truly saturate, given how many voracious readers are out there, reading one or more books per day. At the same time, I’ve wondered if social media might be a bane long-term. More and more folks might be spending their free time reading through social media rather than spending their free time reading books…but I hope that never actually ends up being the case…

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    1. In terms of social media, I think there will always be readers out there and that where social media has really had its impact is on face-to-face interactions. People are so busy keeping up with what’s happening online that they often pay no attention to the person right there in the room with them. And too many people let that online interaction take the place of forming real-life relationships.

      I think no matter how many writers there are that someone new can come along and write a book that just takes off because it’s not like anything else out there or because it hits all the buttons with the right readers. (Which most books do not.)

      The issue with so many people publishing right now is how to get enough momentum for that to really happen. I think the visibility issue is the worst on the fiction side of things because at least from where I’m sitting there are 100x as many self-publishers in fiction as non-fiction. You always hear, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel.” You rarely hear, “I’ve always wanted to write a technical manual on X.”

      But within little sub-genres there can still be plenty of room and demand for more books. Problem is, with the pace of self-pub those little sub-genres can get flooded if they do well enough for others to notice them.

      If we have enough of a pause in the pace of change (which may not happen), I expect we’ll reach a new equilibrium between readers and writers as writers who tried self-pub and didn’t sell either stop writing altogether, stop trying to publish, or at least stop self-publishing.

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