Like that guy used to sing, this is the end, and my friend Marina has some final observations about the Italian Indie Ebook Market, and its denizens.
And as two of those denizens, both Marina and I feel very strange about this whole situation. Because we are writers, and writing is what we do.
And seeing the bad state of the market in which we – more or less – live, is a source of pain and of depression.
If it’s so bad why do you keep writing and self publishing?, you might ask.
Because, as Donald Fagen said when he channeled Ray Charles, that’s what I do.
Thank you for reading these posts, and thanks to Marina for writing this chillingly accurate overview.
One last time into the fray, my brave!
Dying of exposure
Let’s talk money, shall we?
There’s an Italian word which is ubiquitous in the world of work. It’s “gavetta”. Literally, it means mess tin, which makes us think of soldiers at war. But it also means apprenticeship. Can you feel it? If it’s the same word for the mess tin of a soldier on the front and the apprenticeship of a person trying to find a job, it must mean that the two have something in common, right? Like suffering, and pain, and hard work that doesn’t bring much satisfaction, and scars. Lots of scars.
The Italian culture has this sort of cult of the idea of gavetta. When you leave school, you’re still soft. You don’t know the world, let alone what working means. Then you enter the workforce and you’re on the lowest rung, and it’s gonna be hard work, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and when you’ll have endured it, then you’ll surely be ready to be a real member of the working force. You’ll be worthy of being paid. Because gavetta means not earning a decent living wage, possibly not earning at all.
Gavetta means writing for exposure. Gavetta means ghost writing for the right person and, in exchange, have the chance of meeting a couple of other right people. Gavetta means submitting stories to non-paying markets curated by the right important editor who works for a publisher who will keep all the profits of the highly priced book. Gavetta means to lick boots and buy dinners and be nice to everybody, waiting for the right shove at the right time, for the stars to be right, for your moment in the limelight.
It may never happen, but that’s the game we are supposed to play, here.
We are supposed to live and possibly die of exposure, accepting visibility as the only currency we are worth of.
And if we decide to self-publish our thing, we’ll become the pariahs who decided to self-publish because, obviously, we knew we weren’t good enough for the real publishing world.
Antifans and saboteurs
Among the thing we all would love to have, there’s our personal army of fans who will buy each and every one of our new books, and who will help us market our products through word of mouth.
What some of us would love NOT to have, is antifans.
Antifans are those people who follow your every move, who read your every post on your blog or on your social media platform, who keep up to date with everything you do, with the sole purpose of pulling you down and destroying you.
They’re the ones who would commit seppuku before being caught saying anything positive about you.
They’re the ones who organize for a flood of reports to hit Amazon or Google Play or whatever other retailer, telling it that one of your ebooks contains non-existent formatting errors, or non-existent typos, so that Amazon, or Google Play, or what-have-you ends up pulling your book off the platform until you fix what can’t be fixed because it isn’t there.
No, I’m not exaggerating. It happened. It happened so well that some of my colleagues arrived to the point of having one book being reported for typos/formatting issues each week.
The solution, in the end, was for them to write to the marketplaces in questions and let them know that they were being used by someone malicious. The customer services in the end agreed that yes, something was up, but only after my colleagues showed them that there was no way to fix typos that had never been there in the first place, or formatting errors that couldn’t be found anywhere in the ebook.
The lazy marketplaces
If many English-speaking marketplaces are reported to be slow to react to scams and problems, their Italian-speaking counterparts are even slower and messier.
The aforementioned problem of authors being targeted by groups of antifans who tried to destroy their work was solved, yes, but it took time and effort. It meant months of wasted time and mental energy on the part of the targeted authors, who each week had to review their files, grovel through the process, re-upload the files, cross their fingers, and wait for the next fake report to appear.
Have you ever found yourself thinking “My goodness, they just hired a bunch of raccoons to handle customer service, there’s no other explanation!”?
Well, I did, and I’m not the only one.
Here around, we’ve had the joy of dealing with Amazon suddenly telling us that ebooks which had been for sale for a whole year were suspect of containing copyrighted material (uhm, yes, dumbass, the book contains a post from MY blog, it is an EXCERPT from MY book…).
We’ve dealt with marketplaces saying covers were inappropriate (no naughty bits, weapons or any other sensitive material was visible…).
We’ve dealt with books suddenly losing all of their reviews for no reason at all.
We’ve dealt with the aforementioned flood of (sometimes illegally) machine translated books being thrown on the market, and with the retailers doing nothing even after dozens and dozens of reports.
We’ve reported trad-published authors-and-editors who 5-starred their own books (published by their own editorial line), and the retailer did nothing at all. (as an aside, those same trad-published authors-and-editors admitted having done the deeds, and invariably said it was just an experiment, just a joke, ain’t it funny?)
We’ve dealt with retailers scrubbing away a review because, if you published even only a single sci-fi story in all of your career, you can’t ever ever ever EVER say that a shitty, sorta-sci-fi story (written by a review-buying author) is a shitty story (by an author who bought most of their reviews).
The Italian marketplaces are schizoid not only when it comes to marketing, but also when it comes to enforcing their own rules and standards.
Come to the Italian marketplace. You’ll have fun.