Saturday, 9 April 2011

What have I learned this week?

I have a confession to make, with apologies to any of my professors who happen to read this. I didn't do a whole lot of work as an undergraduate. Most of the time, when I didn't have an essay to submit or exam to prep for (and even sometimes when I did), I was goofing off doing stuff largely unrelated to philosophy. I can't honestly say I'm entirely sure what I did some of the time, though large quantities of Guitar Hero were involved.

When I did have an essay due, I tended to throw the whole thing together in a handful of work-intense days. I work very well in short bursts and I'm a very efficient essay-writer, so this was enough to get me excellent marks - and indeed, it keeps my PhD ticking along nicely. However, it has left me used to doing research work in very short periods of time, and putting everything else aside to do so.

This worked fine at undergrad level, where I wasn't also working two jobs, my band was hardly active, and life in general was sedentary. It worked partly because the academic world is actually pretty well-structured for making information available. That's sort of the point, really. Therefore, research is conducted in an environment designed for it.

Unfortunately, the research I've been trying to do this week hasn't been in an academic context. There isn't really an academic context for e-publishing yet, because it's so new (yes, I know it's technically been around since the 90s. You know what I mean). I've been trying to get information from first-hand sources, from people who haven't necessarily got any academic experience at all, from people who are trying to sell books, not help other people sell theirs.

As a result, while my research strategy is working, it's working slowly. I'm finding authors in my bracket fairly easily (today I added Steve Umstead to the list of people I'll be watching closely), but it's starting to look like I'll have to email them individually to get the information I'm after. I was sort of expecting every self-publishing author to be an evangelist in the Joe Konrath vein, happy to make sales figures and even royalty data publicly available as a matter of course; not that I think most of the people whose blogs I've been looking at are deliberately concealing the information, they just don't have a reason to make it public.

Basically, then, I've not been able to accumulate information at the speed I'm used to. I know there are people - a good number of people - out there doing well with e-self-publishing even at very early stages of their careers, so I know it's possible. It's hard, statistical data which will take a bit longer to come by - and it's exactly this kind of data which will be most important for a common sense test. Still, pretty much everything I've read this week has reinforced my optimism, and that means it's been valuable activity in and of itself.

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