Breaking the Links

All of my book links will soon be broken.

As a self-published author, I’ve had to learn every aspect of the business. I’ve often used processes to help streamline my publishing. One of these involved using a site called SmartURL.

Once I got beyond the first three books, updates became tedious. I would sometimes need to update what’s called the front or back matter – the mailing list page, the “books by” page, etc. and wanted a way to pull this off without having to individually change each book.

SmartURL came to the rescue.

A link aggregator of sorts, I could place one of those links on the page and viola! any adjustments to links could be made on a single website and not in each and every book.

I received an email yesterday stating that after a decade or so, SmartURL has been bought out. Their new company will require either a monthly fee or will start attaching pop-up ads to my links.

I have no intention of subjecting my readers to pop-up links. (In fact, I’m not even sure this wouldn’t violate some aspects of the GDPR.) And the monthly price is far too steep.

So I archived all the links.

I’m not clear yet if this breaks them. I may need to shutdown my account to do that. But this has prompted a whole bunch of self-pub introspection because right as I’m picking up steam on this new series, I need to stop and put out a small fire. Only question is how?

My back catalog has gone completely dormant. Roughly two years ago, I stopped advertising all together. The costs were getting to be too much. Effectively, what Amazon has done to the self-publish world is found a way to weed out quirky sub-genres in favor of big selling ones.

It’s how romance has bled into nearly every single category. The blind algorithm sees the big sales and thinks every book would benefit having a little man chest or what not. (Not knocking romance, mad respect for those enterprising souls. But FFS Amazon…)

Its also a large part of the reason I started this thriller series. It’s simply too difficult to sway the one viable self-pub marketplace left to sell odd little books in odd little universes.

I’ve researched nearly every alternative. Selling books on my website, providing paper copies to small independent stores. None of it works in the “yes, I can make a living at this” volume.

That’s made this recent need to update my book links something of a decision point. How far do I need to go to make this correction?

One option in my mind has been to start a penname. I may do this. I’ve so far resisted because I’d rather have all of my books in one place. Also, this latest series is ironically the most “me” series I’ve penned yet, based very loosely on my travels and my former work for the FBI.

The other option is to flat out unpublish my books. Pull them off digital shelves. Make them inaccessible. But digital publishing has its drawbacks.

See, the blind algorithms controlling these bookstores also oversee their copyright protection. And I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about authors finding their own books being published by nefarious actors and then getting automated demands to -take their work down-.

Crazy nonsense. Dystopian corporate overreach. But, sadly, it is the world we live in.

I’m not sure yet how I’ll address this. Maybe I’ll go the penname route and let my previous books silently fade out on their own. Maybe Russ Linton becomes solely a screenwriter. Or a short story author. Or an editor. Or any of the other hats I’m currently wearing.

A penname would certainly be helpful when it comes to launching a new series. And I still have feelers out there for representation too. Ultimately, if that happens, it might be out of my hands what the marketing department decides.

But what these broken links remind me of is that every part of life is a journey. We’re always being asked to pick a direction. Make life-altering decisions. I’ve gotten pretty good at that over the years. And sometimes those decisions require a clean break from the past.

Whatever happens, I’ll keep you guys posted here. While it seems simple, the penname route is a time-consuming process. A name, a website, a platform. Hell, maybe I’ll skip all that – I’ve been so over the internet and “social” media lately. In that case, I’ll need to brainstorm a new way to platform while masquerading as somebody else.

A strange world we live in but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Categories: Author News

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