Going On The Account: Scaling, Scaling, O’er the Bounding Main…

No, I’m not dead; unlike the old saw, where it’s an either/or, the fact that I hadn’t published in a while does not mean I perished yet.

(An sometimes, perishing doesn’t stop you from publishing; this notice for Michael Hasting’s posthumous novel The Last Magazine makes this book sound like something to add to the reading list for me this summer…)


I’d be writing more here if when I did have writing time, I wasn’t busy writing something else.  Remember the piece I sold naming rights in a while ago?  Ain’t going to appear on the door after a phone call like a pizza, y’know…


Truth be told, some of the hesitation with coming out here is rooted in a sense of-


How do I put this, without sounding defeatist or in need of antidepressants…?


Let’s just say, that some days there’s a lack of enthusiasm, a sense that there’s a bit too much futility involved in putting words together.  Like, for example, plotting a work in the wake of the Amazon-Hachette Dispute, taking place after you’ve started an association with Amazon though their Kindle Direct program, and were going to get into bed with the group perceived as a big bad out there in the midst of this blow-up.


And if that isn’t distraction enough, there was Tony Horwitz’s piece in the TIMES about his digital book publishing experience, which he dismisses while praising the book-and-mortar model (or as some call it, “bm”).  And while he shows some of the prejudices of someone who’s been an established writer on dead trees while acknowledging some of his mistakes, even if teh text can be dismissed, the tone lingered.


Which made the critique of the bit over on Gawker especially welcome; in addition to writer Michelle Dean putting Horwitz on the defense for some of his hubristic missteps, there was a comment to the piece provided by cartoonist Remus Shepherd, that helped put it all in perspective.  Remus was kind enough to grant me the right to reprint this observation:


Let’s make a list of benchmarks for media, shall we?

Just to note: ‘Average’ means ‘typical’, Successful’ means ‘financial break-even point’, and ‘Superstar’ means ‘Cited, awarded, or otherwise larger than its medium’. I’m working these numbers from the perspective of someone involved in webcomics and traditional publishing.

10 readers — Average single-person Blog.

100 readers —Average Webcomic. Average Self-published novel.

1,000 readers — Successful Blog. Successful Self-published novel. Average multi-person Media blog site.

5,000 readers — Successful Webcomic. Average Trad-pub novel.

10,000 — Superstar Blog. Successful Media site. Average Indie film.

20,000 — Superstar Self-published novel. Successful Trad-pub novel.

50,000 — Superstar Webcomic. Successful Indie film.

100,000 — Superstar Trad-pub novel. Superstar Media site.

500,000 — Average TV show.

1,000,000 — Successful TV show. Superstar Indie film.

5,000,000 — Superstar TV show. Average Hollywood movie.

10,000,000 — Successful Hollywood movie.

50,000,000 — Superstar Hollywood movie.


Having been presented figures like this from elsewhere, getting an independent confirm was gratifying.  Knowing how big the playing field is, how many chairs to set at the table when you throw a party, that helps a lot.

So yes, I should just calm the frak down already, I know, but sometimes you need to benchmark yourself in a way to make it seem like you’re not doing it for nothing.

Even though as a writer, considering what that gig pays, well, yeah, you kinda are…