Demand, Supply, And The Indie Writer

     No, this won’t be a plaint about how there are just too many of us. The world can never have too many storytellers. The stories are infinite, and all of them deserve to be told…whether or not anyone is listening. And even the most inept apprentice to the art can improve at it, with study and diligent practice.

     This is about what indie writers “demand:” hope. Specifically, the hope of a readership.

     The great explosion in indie fiction has meant that only a few of us could “break through” to large audiences of loyal readers. That’s in the nature of things. Where many try, few will succeed greatly. The rest of us must content ourselves with small fan bases, however ardent their members may be.

     However, where there is a demand, a supply – assuming it’s not ruled impossible by the laws of Nature – will arise. The demand, in this case, is every indie’s desire for assistance at garnering a readership. And in accordance with the laws of the market, persons and organizations that purport to assist in that effort have multiplied like maggots on rotting meat. That comparison flatters the great majority of them. Maggots are a vital part of the ecology; most of these “promote your book” flacksters do nothing of any value for their fees, which are frequently substantial.

     It should surprise no one that these flacksters seek as much profit as they can get from the naive indie writer. Most of them stage their offerings on an ascending ladder: e.g., “copper,” “silver,” “gold,” and “platinum” service packages with escalating fees and promised varieties and degrees of promotion. The pitch is calculated to draw the mark up the ladder to the highest level he can afford. The indies I know have found the appeal of the highest levels hard to resist…if they’ve resisted at all.

     The purchase is made; the flackster fulsomely compliments the indie on his “wise choice;” the promotion is scheduled with much fanfare; and the indie sits back in eager anticipation of sales volumes he’d only dreamed about…which never arrive.

     But wait: there’s more! The indie who doesn’t “throw the hook” becomes a saleable item! His name, contact information, and the rest are freely offered for purchase to other flacksters hungry for a little of the action. While “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” has a long and venerable record of transmission from parents to children, apparently it’s remembered in the breach less often than it should be.

     As one who once fell for the bait, I’ve become cynical and distrustful…well, let’s say more cynical and less trusting than I was previously. So when a new pitch arrives in the email – on average, I get two per week – I allow myself a spot of sarcasm. Herewith, the latest such exchange;


FROM: Author Week <>
TO: <my email address>
SUBJECT: The Warm Lands

Hi Francis,

I came across your book and found the cover design absolutely brilliant!

Do you want us to include your book in our newsletter sent to 50000 Subscribers?
And Tweet about your book to 450000 Readers 105 times.
And also List your book on our website for 2 years straight?

If so, please submit your book here:
We have only 20 slots left for the ‘Featured book promotion’ for next week.
You can use the coupon code “RT20” to get a 20% discount.
Book promotion will begin on 31st May 2021 and run till 06th June 2021.

Thank You
Regards Ratnesh


Dear Ratnesh:

          >>> I came across your book and found the cover design absolutely brilliant! <<<

     I’ll bet you say that to all the hope-starved indie writers. Whatever you may have thought of the cover of The Warm Lands – are you aware that the Kindle cover image is not the same as the paperback cover image? – I’d also bet that you haven’t read any of the novel itself. The covers were contracted out to capable artists, for whose work I can take no credit. I, on the other hand, wrote the novel. So your flattery has not merely failed of its purpose; it has also suggested that you have not thought much about your “pitch.”

     I’ve already been taken for a substantial amount by two other “promote your book” flacksters. They haven’t done a blessed thing for me. (They have, however, sold my contact information to others of their ilk, such as you.) As I have no way of verifying your promises of action on my behalf – which you plan to offer to twenty more writers, at that – I would need substantial, verifiable confirmation of your claimed effectiveness before spending a penny on your services. But whose testimonials do I find at the AuthorWeek website? Two writers: Cara Miller, who churns out cheap tripe about romances that involve billionaires, and Brian Lucas, who – if he’s real, which a comparison of his picture at your website with the picture at Amazon makes questionable – has written only one book, and that one nonfiction.

     In brief, which I seldom am, I decline to serve as grist for your money-making mill.

Francis W. Porretto

     I got a modest degree of satisfaction out of writing and sending that reply. Yet I must tell you in all candor, Gentle Reader: when I read “Ratnesh’s” email, I still felt that tiny twinge of hope that an indie who has failed to achieve a substantial readership feels at any glimpse, however fantastic, of the possibility of a successful promotion. Fortunately, an extra cup of coffee and a few strokes of the “You’re too smart to be that stupid a second time, asshole” flogger, and I was once again right as rain.

     Verbum sat sapienti. Beware!

1 comment

  1. Are there books of the past years, little noticed at the time, that have become classics?

    Of course.

    You can never tell just what the future holds – of course, you also can’t collect royalties on those sales, either.

    But, most writers don’t write for the quick buck. They write for generations yet to come.

    One I’m currently re-reading, The Gulag Archipelago, was a quick hit – then, nearly complete obscurity. Thoughtful readers today are picking it up again.

    There’s a book I read in high school – Eighth Moon, by Bettye Bao Lord – was on the required reading lists. Fell into obscurity after Nixon’s visit to China. Now, several generations of Americans have absolutely no idea what the Mao regime was like. If I could find a copy, I’d pass it along to all of my grandchildren.

    But, there is the movie, Red Square, which has kept me from criticizing Richard Gere. He bucked the Leftist establishment to make a picture that shows the tyranny and corruption of China, in a fictional story that is truer than the fiction peddled by the Media. I have to believe that such stories will outlast the crap that fills the theaters and bookstores.

    So, I ask you – who do you write for – today’s audience, or the future?

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