Tractor Big Year: Farewell ye olde bookshoppe

Keeping up my theme of being controversially bold in order to spur myself into action, here’s why bookshops are DOOMED:

In the Old World, Robin Reader pays $15 to $35 for the privilege. I, the writer, pocket $1 to $3.

In the New World, Robin Reader coughs up $3 to $10. I receive $2 to $7.

Freshness Big Year: I abandon cycling dreams (for now)

Does anything bring as much freedom and physical exhilaration as a bike ride? 2017 was Cycling 101 for me and such a pleasure! With Pedal Pete, a role model of speed, stamina, and joyfulness, marrying my daughter later this year, I can’t help but dream of bunch rides, Gran Fondos, carbon enduro bikes, early morning post-ride coffees, touring across Europe . . . on and on I spin visions of a world opening up.

But 2018 isn’t the year for such dreams. Other dreams, yes, and mighty ones, but this year I’ll go backwards with my riding. In 2017 I rode 4,000 kms. At the start of this year, I aimed for 90 kms/week, which equates to 3,000 kms over the year. Now I’ve reset the 2018 target to just 2,000 kms. Almost too miserable to bother about, eh?

Tractor Big Year: What’s the worst that can happen?

In the Old World, pre Kindle, you, the writer, sought the attention of a Big Publisher who stuck your paperback in Billy’s Bookshop. You can still opt for this strategy in 2018 and it can be sensible. What might you expect? At best . . . an Oprah bestseller! Or you might sell a few or more than a few. What’s your worst outcome? No Big Publisher notices you . . . not one . . . you don’t end up with a book at all!

In the Old World, pre Kindle, if you were REJECTED (note the jilted lover language), you could (and still can) pay someone to print your PDF and Photoshop’d cover, stick the book in your garage, and hawk it to friends. This was the old “Vanity Publishing” approach, one rightly stigmatised.

In the New World, your strategy can be to Self Publish your ebook and pbook. This is NOT Vanity Publishing – you mimic the professional steps of the Big Publishers by paying for editing, for cover design, for this and that. Your ebook and pbook will NEVER end up in Billy’s Bookshop. What might you expect? At best . . . a bestseller! Or you might sell a few or more than a few. And your worst outcome? Because it’s not in Billy’s Bookshop, no one even notices its existence and all you end up doing is hawking a few to friends.

The worst outcome in the New World is no worse than it was (and can still be) in the Old World. At least your garage doesn’t smell of mouldy books!

Freshness Big Year: 1,250 kms + 2,000 kms + 80 sessions

Daily but less: 2018 is as shown. The jogging target is slightly above my original goal of 1,200 kms, more than last year’s 1,000 kms, and of course well below the 1,700 kms of 2016. My second annual cycling target is well below what I thought I was aiming for – 3,000 kms –  and only half of last year’s 4,000 kms. The gym goals are unchanged.

Tractor Big Year: It’s a confusing world out there

Five days out of every six in 2018, I’ve spent an afternoon hour puzzling how to self publish. I can’t be more pleased with both my diligence (my “off” days have been travel or sick days) and my improved situation of the complex, messy world of publishing.

Needing to be bold, and acknowledging I might be mistaken, here’s how I’ve begun to see my environment in deliberately simplified language: (i) old people still buy paperbacks from Billy’s Bookshop, but ebooks will demolish all but a handful of bricks-and-mortar establishments within a decade; (ii) for romances, sci-fi, mysteries, and thrillers, self-published ebooks priced at $1 to $5 dominate the sales charts (in spite of all those James Pattersons you see in airports and supermarkets); (iii) kids’ books and textbooks are still physical; (iv) my history book lives somewhere in between those worlds.

Readers and writers, both, can choose to live in either the ebook world or the pbook (paperback) world. Readers and writers can stick with the Big Publishers or opt for the great unwashed world of Self Publishers.

In this interregnum of epochal change, there is no obvious optimal strategy. Me? I’ll aim for the future, take risks, and try to have fun.