This Week in Self-Publishing: On Medium Claps and Climate Change

Patreon revenue (total): $6,909

Book revenue (total): $913.75

Book sales (total): 201 ebooks, 134 paperbacks

Book expenses (total): $4,274.85

Money spent this week: $35 (on this month’s BargainBooksy promo)

It’s been a month since my first BargainBooksy promo, which means I’m eligible to BargainBooksy again. The promo goes live on Sunday, so I’m predicting a spike in sales over Sunday-Monday-Tuesday, but I’m going to bet that it will be a slightly smaller spike than I got with the first promo, because… a lot of BargainBooksy’s readers will have already seen the book when it promo’d last month, and the people who bought the book aren’t likely to buy it again.

What about the people who didn’t buy the book during the first promo? There’s this theory that showing people something more than once makes them more likely to buy it—which is why we’ve all got products following us from one sidebar ad to another—but there’s also the FUCK YES or NO theory, which suggests that people who have already said no to my book aren’t likely to say yes to it.

Who knows? I am excited to see what happens.

And now that my website is all built and I’m lookin’ all profesh, I am excited to start submitting to some of the more exclusive promo sites.

That’ll be next month.

So I didn’t plan to transition This Week in Self-Publishing away from Medium right as they introduced the claps thing, but… I am so glad I don’t have to deal with the claps thing.

A quick summary: Medium decided to junk its former “recommend” metric and is now ranking all articles (past and present) based on the number of claps they receive.

Yes, an individual reader can tap the clap button more than once (but not more than fifty times).

No, not all claps are equal. Medium will rank some clappers’ claps as clappier than others’ claps based on how often they clap and how many claps they clap:

Our system will evaluate your claps on an individual basis, assessing your evaluation of a story relative to the number of claps you typically send. All this will help the stories that matter most rise to the top.

I think the clap system is crap. Especially the part where Medium is going to start distributing writers’ pay based on clap value:

For the creators in the program, each month you will be paid based on the level of engagement your stories get from Medium members. Essentially, we look at the engagement of each individual member (claps being the primary signal) and allocate their monthly subscription fee based on that engagement.

Which puts writers in the embarrassing position of having to make like Allison Williams in Peter Pan Live! 

Not that this is all that different from the way Kindle Unlimited divides up its pie. But it feels different. With KU, authors get paid by the number of pages read, which—although there are plenty of ways people have tried to game that system—is a fairly straightforward metric. You either keep reading or you don’t.

With Medium Claps, a binary metric (recommend/don’t recommend) becomes a… um… fiftynary metric.

Either you clap once or you don’t.

Either you clap twice or you don’t.

Either you clap three times or you don’t.


You could argue that it’s the same as “either you turn page one or you don’t, either you turn page two or you don’t,” but the clapper doesn’t get anything from additional claps, the way the reader gets more information/entertainment/story/emotion from additional page turns.

Medium’s asked all of us to do more work, and make more decisions, for nothing.

Which is why I’m glad that it happened right when I started this-here blog.

On a completely different topic, I was very interested to read the Seattle Review of Books’ review of Amitav Ghosh’s Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.

As Jonathan Hiskes writes:

In The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Ghosh examines why contemporary fiction struggles so mightily to respond to climate change. The title phrase explains how future historians will regard writers and literary tastemakers of our current era, Ghosh says. The sort of fiction that wins prizes, appears in literary journals, and draws invitations from high-minded festivals acts as if climate warning signs don’t exist. Merely mentioning the subject risks being relegated to the lower-prestige world of science fiction, as if “climate change were somehow akin to extraterrestrials or interplanetary travel.”

If you’ve read The Biographies of Ordinary People, you know that I make plenty of subtle references to climate change. A book that anchors itself to specific years and seasons needs to allude to steadily warming temperatures and winters without snow.

But I also left some stuff out. Back to the SROB:

Ghosh became an accomplished, celebrated novelist, and he wondered why he never drew from the tornado in his fiction, which frequently incorporates significant weather events. He concluded that it was too improbable. Serious contemporary fiction, he realized, relies on a pact with readers that they can expect a “realistic” world.

My hometown was one of the towns affected by the Great Flood of 1993, a 500-year-flood that happened sooner than expected. When I wrote Biographies, I time-jumped over 1993 on purpose; writing the flood would require me to put my imagined Kirkland, Missouri in a specific part of the state and formally link it to my actual hometown, which was not one of my goals with this book. (You did read the Author’s Note, right?)

So I kept the climate change and cut the flood.

And the tornado.

I guess that means they’re still there for me to write about someday, if I want to. ❤