Stop The World, I Want To Get Off!

Change is the only constant in self-publishing, so you can’t stop the world and get off.

There are days when I wish the world stop changing so rapidly. The problem is, however, that my wish will never come true.

Self-publishing is so heavily dependent upon technology, and as we all know, technology is a word that should be defined in dictionaries as something that can, will and does change like the wind, every day. Or even more often. Hardly a day passes when I am not confronted by changes to almost every aspect of what I do, as a self-publishing author and blogger.

Only this week I have had to update my laptop operating system, my iPhone and my iPads, as well as manage a major upgrade and migration for the hosting of my blogs. On top of these issues were the almost normal weekly updates to my WordPress plugins, themes and scripts.

However painful these technical changes, updates and upgrades are to manage, the most difficult changes are when an online service provider changes their rules, or more commonly called terms and conditions of use, which we all read assiduously, don’t we? Ok, never. But when they change, the effects can be dramatic, and even traumatic.

Such was the case recently for a retired couple, who run a successful cooking blog, and after many years of building their site and income, it suddenly plummeted almost overnight. The reason for the loss of income was due to the loss of search traffic delivered by Google after a change to their search algorithm.

What are algorithms and metadata?

Algorithms are notoriously very secret and are used by all big Internet companies. For authors, the most important are Amazon algorithms, which of course no one knows anything about, but they can and do make the difference to selling a lot of books, or none at all. To try to correct this situation, all an author can do is make changes to their book’s metadata, and hope to improve the book’s positioning via these algorithms. Hope is the best word because it really is like a trying to find a needle in a haystack, in the dark, while being blindfolded and having both your hands tied behind your back.

Another problem with changes in technology is that as a blogger, my posts over time, often contradict what I wrote only a few months or even weeks ago. This applies particularly to distribution of ebooks, as what is good advice one day, can be bad advice the next.

In a recent blog post, Mark Coker from Smashwords wrote a long piece about the necessity for his aggregators to react quickly to changes made in their ebook catalogue. Perversely, it wasn’t about timely publishing – it was about unpublishing quickly! This is extremely important now, as with Amazon’s heavy-handed application of their demand for exclusivity when authors opt into KDP Select, a slow reaction by a retailer results in dire warning emails from Amazon. When you read Mark’s article, you will see that the end result of inaction by one retailer, has robbed Indian ebook readers of an alternative to Amazon Kindle.

On other platforms, I am sure you notice changes that affect the way you go about marketing books. In my case, changes by Facebook, Twitter and to a lesser degree Google+ are almost constant and need continual monitoring. In the last month, Google quietly decided to stop what they called ‘Search Authorship’, which for the last two years has been a great tool, which added a profile image and authorship credit to Google Search listings.

That I spent months learning how to use this authorship tool, on top of the money I spent on software for it, all adds up to nothing now, as Google decided to kill it with no warning or explanation.

But hey, that’s technology for you. It can, will and does frustratingly change, every damn day! The only way out of this never-ending circle of change is to ………… nope. You can’t stop the world of technology. There is no way out.

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

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