The Business Rusch: You Are Not Alone

 

The Business Rusch: You Are Not Alone

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Maybe the stars have aligned poorly.  Maybe the various impending international debt crises have us on edge. Or maybe it’s this season’s abundant natural disasters.  Or maybe it’s as simple as this: I’ve been blogging so people are writing to me.

But what I’ve seen this past month from established writers is an abundance of despair.  I got a sad phone call from a friend, had a lot of sit-down conversations with writers who were ready to give up their dreams, and a nine-page single-spaced e-mail from a hell of a writer of dozens of published books, wondering whether or not to quit altogether.

Books that would have sold five years ago don’t sell now. Series that are growing are getting bounced from their publishers for not growing enough. Agents, unable to sell product, are telling their mystery clients to write romance novels and their romance clients to write thrillers.  Other agents are starting backlist e-pub companies and robbing their clients blind.  Still other agents are blaming the writers for the fact that nothing is selling well and encouraging them to sign terrible book contracts.

Bookstores don’t carry paper books any longer.  New York Times bestsellers can’t find their backlists in stores.  American authors with bestselling novels overseas are being told that foreign countries never pay the promised royalties, only advances.

Traditionally published bestselling writers look at their royalty statements, see that their e-books sell only 30 or 100 or 200 copies in six months, and wonder how the hell upstart self-published writers whose books have ugly covers and whose interiors need copy editing manage to sell tens of thousands of e-books each month.

Editors who once had to tiptoe around their biggest authors are telling those writers to change what they write because their sales have decreased, and clearly, their writing has gotten worse over the years.  Writers whose rabid fan base numbers 10 or 20 or 50K get told that their books no longer sell to that fan base even though the writer is constantly getting e-mails from that base and is signing brand new books for that base.

Publisher sales figures are impossible to get.  An estimated laydown of 50,000 becomes an estimated 17,000 one month later.  On the royalty statements issued six months after that, that laydown then becomes 5,000 books with another 5,000 in the reserve against returns.  But, that same book, tracked by Bookscan (which only covers 50%-70% of the book market [and maybe less now]), shows sales, sales (not books shipped), of 30,000.

But even if Bookscan’s numbers are true, the book’s editor says, thirty thousand is pretty insignificant for that genre or for that particular series or for that particular writer.  The writer will have to take a smaller advance and accept worse contract terms.  Or the writer doesn’t get offered another contract period.

And of course, of course, it’s the writer’s fault.  The writer misread the numbers, wrote down the wrong amount in the initial phone call with the editor on the laydown.  Oh, it wasn’t a phone call, but an e-mail? My bad, the editor says.  It was a typo.  I didn’t mean 50,000.  I meant 5,000.

So, the writer says, if you only printed 5,000 and I sold 5,000 and the book is still in print and still being ordered, then my book is doing well, right?

Wrong. We overpaid your advance, the editor says. We never ever should have paid that much money on a book that would only sell 5,000 copies.

Sound familiar? It should to many of you.  I get letter after letter delineating problems like this all the time.  If I hadn’t gone through something similar five years ago, I would be thinking, “What the hell?” But I’m not thinking that because I know how it feels.

One writer said that on her bad days, she wonders if she needs a tinfoil hat to confirm her craziness.  Another wrote on a blog that the despair from all of the changing facts made her contemplate suicide.  Still a third took all of the blame herself, and started writing vampire romances even though she hates them, thinking that her award-winning, bestselling romantic suspense novels had somehow gone horribly downhill and she hadn’t realized it.

What I write back each and every time or find myself saying in conversation (often to a weeping writer) is this:

It’s not you.  You’re fine.  Your writing is as good as ever. The business is changing and you’re caught in the crossfire.  It’s not personal, even though it feels personal. You are caught in the middle of a nightmare. The rules are changing, and no one knows where any of this is headed. Talk to other writers. You’ll see.  It’s happening to all of us.

Believe it or not, knowing that it’s not personal helps.  It gives the writer a chance to breathe, to look around and see that the changes in the industry are happening, and they’re hurting all of us.

You don’t believe me about the changes, about the ways that publishers are shifting the world beneath our feet as we try to walk forward? Then read this blog by agent Kristin Nelson about Random House’s most recent royalty statements. Random House has decided unilaterally to pay its authors 25% of net on e-books even if the author’s contract calls for something else, like  50% of gross.  After you read her post, read what the Passive Guy, an attorney who no longer practices, has to say about this behavior.

Or what he writes about the rights grab that Harlequin is making.   Read my post about the industry changes, “Writing Like It’s 1999,” or my post from two weeks ago about Barnes & Noble, which has since been confirmed by B&N employees and some other links you’ll find in the comments section.

What’s worse is that the people we once thought were our advocates—our agents and our editors—can’t help us any more.  Both agents and editors are suffering in their jobs, but in different ways. Agents—who are savvy about business—have realized that they can no longer make money in traditional ways, so many of them are looking for other ways to make money.  And often, those ways hurt the writer. See what agent Peter Cox says about this, about the way he’s fighting to keep some semblance of decency in his profession.

Editors have another problem. They’re overworked since so many of their colleagues have been laid off.  Editors love books, and love finding new writers, and that crazy-making stuff I listed above—the thing with the shifting numbers?—it happens in a publishing house too. The editor is often the last to know how well one of her books is doing.

She’s told by the sales department that the laydown will be 50K, then discovers that only 17K was shipped.  She goes to make a new deal with the author only to be told by the publisher that in-house numbers show that the book sold less than 10K.  She checks, finds out that the book went back to print for a second time, which means that the 17K should have sold. When she asks about it, the publisher ignores the protest, saying, Make your offer based on the 10K, and if the writer doesn’t like the pay cut, then let her go.

Evidence to the contrary—Bookscan numbers, previous letters, second-and-third printing marks inside the books themselves—don’t matter. The editor must do her publisher’s bidding or lose her job.  And eventually that wears the editor down. Either she doesn’t care any more or she gets angry at the writers (and their agents) who are the only people she can safely get angry at and still have a job.

She’s feeling pinched, because if none of her authors sell well, then her job is on the line.  And the books might be selling well, but she doesn’t know it any more than the writers do.

But the editor can talk to her colleagues and realize that they’re going through the same tough times. The agents see this happening to client after client and know it has nothing to do with the agenting, so it must be the writers themselves.

But the writers—oh, the writers—they work alone.  And often they have no one to talk to.  Many writers don’t tell their writing colleagues because these writers don’t want to be perceived as failures. When the writers tell their fans that the next book in a series won’t appear, the fans blame the writer.

The writer is often all by herself, struggling to make one-tenth of the income she made just five years before, confused as to why her once-popular books aren’t selling to publishers despite evidence that the fans still want the books and the books are selling.  Her agent is telling her to write in a new genre. Her editor won’t take her calls.

And she can’t escape to her writing, to those stories she always made up to give herself joy or comfort, because her writing is the problem.

Is it any wonder so many writers use the word “despair” these days when discussing their writing life? Is it unusual for so many writers to walk away from a decades-long career and return to teaching or bartending?

I wonder just how many writing casualties there have been in the last decade, writers who silently walked away from their computers.  Writers who’ve decided to give up writing for a salaried career.  Writers who no longer tell people that once upon a time they published five novels.  Writers who can’t even read any more because they don’t want to think about how they failed at the very same thing.

I don’t know about you, but I often look through my bookshelves, searching for some favorite writers, trying to see if they have a new book out, and I don’t see anything since 2003 or so, nothing new, no hint of anything new, no write-up in the “Where Are They Now?” section of RT Book Reviews, no website, no blog, no Facebook page.  No obituary. No nothing.  Ten years ago, they were writing book after book.  Now they don’t seem to be writing anything.

I could have been one of those casualties.  I almost was.

Three things saved me.  First and foremost, my very patient husband who kept asking me this: If you’re not going to write, what do you want to do? He promised to move if I needed to go to school, to help fund my education or new-business startup, whatever I wanted to do, knowing full well that the word “want” was the key.  I didn’t “want” to do anything else.  I wanted to write.

Second, I don’t just write in one genre or one length. I’ve always been a writer first.  I write nonfiction, short fiction, mystery, romance, fantasy and science fiction. I have written advertising copy and screenplays.  I have ghost-written novels and ghost-written business documents.  If my novel career died—and for a few years there, it looked dead—then I could fall back on other types of writing.

Finally, I’m good at business.  I did the math and realized that no matter what else I did—teaching, editing—I would never earn as much money as I did from short fiction or nonfiction sales.  It helped that the local radio station was looking for a news director at the time, a job I was eminently qualified for (probably overqualified for, considering all my radio credentials).  That job paid double my last radio job.  But I would have been working 60 hours per week, and making less than I did if I just wrote nonfiction and short stories.  I didn’t have to sell another novel. I could make a living wage in other ways.

I was lucky. My crisis came early in this publishing shift, and I had a way out of it that included writing.  In rapid succession, I fired two different agents and learned just how much they got in the way of selling subsidiary rights.  I started getting Hollywood deals.  I started selling foreign rights again.  I hired another agent, an ethical one, and learned through him that the problems I was having were happening across the board.

I sold nonfiction. I sold short stories. And I persevered. And about the time everything started collapsing for other writers, I was able to rebuild my novel-writing career.  In addition to the under-contract novels with traditional houses, I had some other good fortune. My own personal downturn left me with three growing series that no publishing company wanted, so I was able to experiment with indie publishing.  Venturing into indie publishing was easier for me and Dean than it was for others; we’d already owned a publishing company back in the dark ages before all the technological advances, so we weren’t afraid of giving these new opportunities a try.

Within three months, we learned through publishing novellas related to just one of my series that the “fact” that “no one” made money in electronic publishing was not a fact at all, but a lie, caused by ineptitude and numbers manipulation.  (See Kristin Nelson’s blog or this post of mine.)

Now I have more work—both indie and traditional—than I can possibly do this year.  But only because I survived the despair.  As I tell my students, it doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked to the ground.  Nor does it matter how long you remain there.  What matters is whether or not you get up.

So…

I know a lot of you are feeling this despair, and I know you need help getting back on your feet.  I’m not a counselor, career or otherwise, but I do know a few things because I’ve been there.

Think about these things:

1. Realize that what you’re going through is not personal.  Even if your agent told you that you aren’t the writer you once were.  Even if your traditional publishing editor says no one wants to read your work.  Those things are not true. They’re excuses to cover up something that’s going on in the agent’s office or in the publishing house.

What is happening to you is happening to all traditionally published writers right now, from New York Times bestsellers to writers who’ve sold only one novel.  The flux in the industry has had a huge impact on your career because the flux has had a huge impact on the traditional publishing industry.

What you’re going through feels personal because you can cite examples of things that have happened that are unique to you.  You have a different career than I do.  You might publish in a different genre or you might have been in the business longer.

But realize that all of us have seen our traditional sales decline.  All of us have been told that you can’t make money off your e-rights.  All of us have been told that the reason our books aren’t selling to expectation is because of us and not because of the changes in the industry.

Bullshit. Walk into a Barnes & Noble like I did earlier this month, and then tell me why midlist book sales are down.  Look at the rise of e-readers and ask why your agent—who can’t sell your new novel to a traditional publishing house—is so eager to reissue your backlist electronically.

Realize that it’s not personal, no matter what your agent and your editor tell you. Then realize that this change is having a financial impact on you, and if you want to continue to make a living as a writer, you need to understand the changes.

2. Feel sad.  It’s okay to be down.  The industry we learned as young writers doesn’t exist any more.  It’s a different industry.  Learning  how to survive in a different environment is hard.  Recognize that.  And it’s okay to feel sad about the changes.

3. Learn the new world of publishing. As I said in “Plan For the Future,” it will take time to understand what’s going on. Take the time to learn it.

It will also take time for the flux to settle down.  I don’t know what kind of publishing industry we’ll have in 2016.  No one does.  We don’t know which traditional publishing companies will thrive and which will fail. We don’t know what kind of e-reader we’ll be using then, but we know that we will use one.  We don’t know what kind of work people who once called themselves agents will be doing.  We don’t know—and we won’t know for a while.

It’s hard to exist in continual transition, but that’s what our industry is going through. The writers who will survive will surf the change, constantly watching the waves, and trying to figure out what works.  Will those writers crash and burn? Sure. Surfers do every day. But these surfing writers will also be the ones in the position to catch the right wave and ride it all the way into to shore.  Be one of those writers.  Don’t get stuck pining for the past.  Exist in the present and scout the horizon for hints of the future.  You can do this.  You can survive it.

4. Have a back-up plan.  Traditional publishing was once the only game in town.  It is no longer.  We’re still used to thinking that it is. So when folks in traditional publishing tell you that you can no longer be a writer, you tend to believe them.  So indulge your fears.  Believe those folks for a minute and ask—like I did—what else you can do.

Then do the math. Can you make more money doing that other thing? Do you want to do that other thing? Do you need a vacation from writing? Do you need to try something else for a while?

If you do need to try something else, then go for it. But remember: only one thing will destroy your writing career, and that one thing is simple.  If you quit writing, then your career is over. Are you willing to destroy your career all by yourself by giving up or are you willing to fight for that career?

If you’re willing to fight, then ask yourself a series of questions: can I write in more than one genre? Can I write under more than one name? Can I write short stories or nonfiction or novels? Can I learn indie publishing? Am I willing to invest in my own writing by paying flat fees for covers and editing, and then uploading the books myself?

You took a chance when you became a writer in the first place. Now the industry you’re in has changed, and the times call on you to take another chance.  Your fans want you to write another book or finish that series.  Your fans don’t care if you get published by Bantam or by your own press, so long as your fans can find the book.

So believe in your readers.  Trust them.  They like your work.  They want to read it.

The new world of publishing has given you the opportunity to get your work back in print.  Take that opportunity.  It will benefit you.

5. Have fun. Do whatever it takes to make writing fun again.  Maybe it’s as simple as writing that book of your heart, as the romance authors call it, that book you’ve always wanted to write but your agent/editor told you there was no market for.

Or maybe you should write a book just for you. Promise yourself that you’re not going to show that book to anyone.  Just use it to get your groove back.  Play.  Experiment.  Become the joyful writer you were before you had an agent or a book contract or a published novel, before you had a reputation that needed guarding or fans who had expectations.

Have fun.

We all got into writing because we love it.  We would write on our days off.  We would write in our downtime.  We would write when our friends went on a picnic or to the movies or to a football game.  We would write because we wanted to write.

The key to surviving in this business, the key to turning the despair around, is to find a way to have fun again.

Me, I’m enjoying the hell out of the fact that I can write anything I want.  If a traditional publisher doesn’t want it, then I can publish it myself. If I don’t want to license it to a traditional publisher, I don’t have to.  If I want to write it because I want to write it, then I do.

For years, editors and agents and well-meaning friends crowded into my office, telling me that this story wouldn’t sell or that I needed to write that kind of novel “to make my name.”  Now, the new world of publishing has enabled me to silence those voices.  The only voice in my office is mine—and, um, that of the occasional cat who wants cuddles or dinner.

And that’s how it should be.

We have opportunities here.  It’s hard to see them when you’ve been pushed and shoved against a wall, when you’re crowded into a corner, and people are telling you lies to further their own interests.  Shut down the voices.  Remember who you are and what you want.

Then pull yourself up a little and look around.  Take a few steps forward. Therapists say that the best cure for that feeling of helplessness, that feeling of despair, is to take action.

The changes in publishing have made taking action in your career easier.  You don’t have to go through an agent or an editor. You can do it yourself if you want. And if you want to remain only in traditional publishing, go back and read my blogs about surviving the transition.  Realize that the industry is going through massive change, and don’t take any of it personally.

In the last ten years, almost every working writer has felt that despair that so many of you contacted me about this month.  The despair is understandable. It’s survivable as long as you remember that it’s coming at you from the outside.

Your writing is as good as ever.  The industry is what has changed.  If you don’t believe anything else I’ve told you, believe that.

It’s not personal, even though it feels personal. The rules are changing, and no one knows where any of this is headed. Talk to other writers. You’ll see.  It’s happening to all of us.


“The Business Rusch: You Are Not Alone” copyright 2011 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 

 

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125 Comments

  1. Thanks, Kris. Another fine hand up from the ground, as well as a light kick in the ass. I don’t need those as much as I did a few months ago, trying to get going again. Maybe it’s a good thing I “slept” through the last few years, so I get to come back swinging while the market is in a tidal change. It’s all becoming fun again.

    Best advice you ever gave me, I saw in your article today, and is jsut as helpful. Go Play!

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  2. Think of the case of H Beam Piper, as I understand the history, his books were selling well, but the royalties were being sent to his agent, who had died. before the mess got straightened out, he went broke, decided that he was a failure as a writer, and committed suicide.

    the current disconnect between what’s actually happening and what writers are being told is happening sure sounds like it could lead writers to the same conclusion. Learn what’s really going on.

    I also don’t think that _all_ publishers are playing the games (although it’s obvious that some are). It may be that the day of the huge, centralized publishing house is drawing to an end, and instead you will have many small publishing houses, providing the editorial (and other) services that really do help authors.

    I know that as a Science Fiction reader, if I see a strange book with the Baen logo on it (or even more likely, look at what Baen has published electronically this month), I am far more willing to try an unknown author because Baen has a good track record and I expect that I will probably enjoy the book.

    there is another publisher (who I will refrain from naming), who, like Baen, publishes ~4 new titles a month, and also has them available electronically (without DRM, in every available format), who’s logo on a book (or publisher credits on an e-book) make me less likely to buy the book based on the fact that quite a few books I have purchased from them that had teasers that sounded interesting ended up being books I don’t like. since they remain in business, I assume that there are people with different tastes in books who choose them instead of Baen.

    so it may be that part of the answer is for writers to find small publishers who publish books that they like and see about using them.

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    • Thanks, Loren. Sometimes I think it is better to have missed the last few years.

      Hmmm, Dave, I initially had that point about some publishers. But I did redraft the early part of this piece, so maybe I cut it. Yes, there are some publishers who aren’t playing games. But all of the big ones seem to be, and it’s crazy-making.

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  3. After reading that post I don’t know whether to feel good or bad about just getting started in the industry. On the plus side by starting out I can choose to be an indie-publisher and avoid all the crap already published writers are facing.

    On the negative side, there’s now no one but me to help create my success. And that’s a scary thought! ;) (But one I’ve faced before having run small businesses in the past.)

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    • If you created small businesses in the past, Alex, then you know how scary/fun it is. Newer writers have a different set of problems, but at least they’ll “come of writing age” in this new world of publishing, so might have a better grasp on it than established writers.

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  4. Great post as always, Kris. I hadn’t realized the turmoil that a lot of traditionally published writers were going through because of the changes in the industry.

    I thought that I’d chime in as a reader for just a minute, rather than as a rookie writer: To the writers out there that are despairing, please don’t. The publishing world is getting rocked right now and I’m sure it looks scary but I think the vast majority of writers can come out ahead. I think that in a lot of ways these changes can be seen as a blessing in disguise. Again, speaking as a reader, I can’t tell you have many writers that I loved who’ve I’ve been able to find again because of indie publishing. These are writers who either put up their out of print backlist or continued with cancelled series that fans still loved.

    As one example, I remember years ago when I first saw a copy of The Sacrifice, the first book in the Fey series. I was totally broke and couldn’t afford to buy a copy BUT it was so interesting I had to read it. So I read it in the store (sorry Kris =)) Now that my financial circumstances are better, I’m buying the re-releases as they come out (I even have a signed copy of the paperback edition of The Sarifice. Woohoo!) I’ve also found books by authors that I loved when I was a kid but haven’t seen anything by these authors in years.

    So, again, please don’t give up on yourselves. Your readers are rooting for you.

    Reply
    • No need to apologize, Steve, about reading in the store. I think a lot of readers do that, particularly with an author they don’t know, and then go on to buy other books. Thank you for doing that with mine. I do hope writers read your comment. I do think the changes are a blessing in disguise and it’s nice to see that others think so as well.

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  5. Parts of this article made me feel like I was reading my own blog. I’m a psychologist as well as a novelist, and I’ve been talking about how important it is to recognize that the writing life is difficult, that it can make us feel crazy, and (as recently as a few days ago) that even if we aren’t to blame for the problems in publishing, we still have to be the one to make a change.

    So if any of your readers skim over that part of your message, I want to re-emphasize it: taking action is the best thing you can do to help yourself deal with the stress of the changing times in publishing.

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  6. Reading this is almost makes it sound like the beginning writers have it made a bit over the established ones. Meaning (seeing that the established writers are sharping their pencils and lighting their torches prepared to march on Castle JustPassingThrough) new writers don’t know what it was like before and therefore don’t know what they are missing. What new writers know now (because of your blog and your husband’s blog) is that you write what you want and them throw it up on Amazon or other place, rinse and repeat and maybe, just maybe you will make some money from it and be considered a professional author. Where as if you have been an author since the 80’s and have been doing things one way and all of a sudden here comes another way, that’s got to be scary (I don’t remember who said it, but what we humans fear most of all is change and the unknown and now with the electronic age you are getting both like a one two punch from Jack Johnson). I guess it’s like what is always said: Those who can adapt will survive and those who cannot will not (though I’m part hippie so I kind of would like it that those who can adapt will help along those who cannot. Like Wavy Gravy said at Woodstock: The food that you have left, take it and share it with your family: which is the person sitting on your left and the person sitting on your right.)
    Peace ma’am

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    • Thanks, J.A.P. You echo some comments below. (And I love the Wavy Gravy quote.)

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  7. Thank you so much for this. Am now stepping back from the edge, and taking deep breaths.

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  8. Kris, this is very good. Thank you for addressing these issues.

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    • Laura & Darlene, you are very welcome.

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  9. Awesome post, Kris. I don’t often comment on blogs or forums any more (always afraid getting sucked into the Great Internet Vortex, what with my semi-obsessive tendencies), but wanted to tell you how much I appreciated this one. And as someone who’s paid a lot of attention to what spikes traffic on the Internet, I’m pretty sure this one will go viral. It has all the elements: heartfelt, uplifting, educational, and touches on many universal themes.

    I wanted to highlight this key passage:

    “Me, I’m enjoying the hell out of the fact that I can write anything I want. If a traditional publisher doesn’t want it, then I can publish it myself. If I don’t want to license it to a traditional publisher, I don’t have to. If I want to write it because I want to write it, then I do.”

    This is how I feel, and what’s amazing is how fast that despair can turn to this feeling of optimism and empowerment.

    Again, great post. Just wanted you to know there’s a lot of us out here who may not comment much but really appreciate the time you take from your fiction to write your blog.

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    • Thanks, Scott. I do hope people share this post with folks who are standing on that edge.

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  10. Awesome Kris! To be honest, I don’t understand why this is so hard for these writers but I guess I have never been in their shoes. I started just last January and have already been to the Superstars seminar and the Kris and Dean school of hard knocks, which means that I was prepped for this before I even started. One of the bloggers on my blog tour asked me this question for my guest post: Why did you choose to go indie? So I sat down and wrote out the answer. When I was finished, I had to put it up on my blog this week because the answer surprised even me.

    The final conclusion I came to was:

    “One really great thing that indies have that those who publish traditionally don’t have is the direct connection with the readers. When I indie publish, I can get my work out to the readers much faster than with a traditional publisher, letting my readers know ahead of time when it will be available. As an indie author, I can connect directly with the readers on my website, find out who they are, what they do, what they like and share my life with them. This is one thing I’ve seen Amanda Hocking do that I really like – she shares herself and her life with the people who read her books and her blog. It makes her unique. This is also what JK Rowling has finally decided to do as well – connect directly with the readers through her new website, Pottermore.”

    I hope these writers move on and find that being indie is such a great way to go!

    Reply
    • Melissa, as someone said below, change is difficult. You came in without preconceptions, so you can dive into this new world. Folks who have a stake in the old world are finding this very hard. I hope they can see that the changes will eventually benefit them. But just seeing it can be difficult right now when they’re so used to 20+ years of experience of writing another way.

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  11. Kris,

    WRT un-personal making it better: Yes. I don’t have the bibliography, but apparently people can suffer much harsher treatment when it’s NOT personal without being traumatized. Something in being targeted by a person on a personal level betrays our core “social contract”. Check books on PTSD and Grossman’s “On Killing”. Or ask Barry E. to put you in touch with Rory M [*].

    On a firm defaulting contract: can’t you send the equivalent to a C&D letter?

    WRT to your partner: having a partner in crime is always good. Not necessarily in the same business. And the simple fact of asking “Why” changes lives (my wife had a too-good-to-be-true panic attack when we were 8 months in our relationship; it’s been 13 years since; “why?” changed both our lives; there have been other, less pinpointable, instances).

    Silly question: If “you can’t make money from ebooks” why do publishers want the rights for?

    I was having an email conversation some days ago with a writer / video “producer” on a very specific “technical” field, fed up of finding his works on P2P sites and similar. He was thinking, as I read it, to quit. I don’t think I managed to convince him that it doesn’t matter how many sales you “lose” to P2P, it matters how many sales you WIN on e-form. And his publisher is, frankly, crap. I don’t know why he puts up with it at this stage. He’s Belgian and has been around for a while: he has other options. [Again, ask Barry; the Belgian in question is also a character on Rain's saga].

    Take care.

    [*] You could probably turn Rory’s life into a novel, BTW. But I’m not telling in the open, even if he probably would. Also, I’ll be meeting Barry RL in CO in a couple of weeks.

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    • Thanks, Ferran. Exactly on the non-personal stuff. And yes, you can send a C&D letter on the changing contract. I hope folks do that. I don’t have any contracts with Random House, thank heavens. Good post on all of this. Thanks.

      Reply
  12. Thank you for this post. I’ve never been published by a traditional publisher, and I don’t know if I ever will. At one time I would have cut off an arm to find an editor that believed in me. And I have the great good fortune to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills and the right attitude. Now it’s all up to me.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Louis. Exactly.

      Reply
  13. Thanks, Kris. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed today, so I needed this.

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Kim. :-)

      Reply
  14. I believe that these days are the best ever for both readers and writers. There is a treasure trove of literature available to us at a moment’s notice, and more ways to publish and reach readers than ever existed before. To me this new world feels rich with possibility.

    I am sad to read that the transition is so hard for many of the creative people who are the very heart of literature. Without you, without us, there is no publishing. There are no books, none of the great stories to make us laugh and cry and think, that transport us to other worlds and into other people.

    Publishing as a business has done a great job in many ways bringing those stories to readers, and helping many of you to make a living from your creativity. But to me it seems clear that publishing as it developed over time had as many drawbacks as advantages, and left many, many wonderful stories by the wayside because they didn’t fit the marketing niches that publishing developed.

    In many ways the business has been a parasite on the writers it hired. Personally I’ve always thought the business took more than it should, in terms of royalties and creative control and contractual advantages. But there were so few alternatives that the business always held the upper hand.

    I believe that writers hold the upper hand now, and I hope that once creative people adjust to the transition, every one of us can use the many options now available to write more, reach more readers, make more money, and have more control of our work. I hope that every writer will come to feel glad, not sad, and empowered, not adrift. I really believe this is the best time ever to be a writer.

    Reply
  15. Thanks, Kris. This is just what I needed to “hear”. Despair is the perfect word and it’s been weighing me down. Killing the joy. Thanks, thanks, thanks! Time to take a deep breath, take a look around, and regain control over my career. ;)

    Reply
    • Adrian, John W., glad to have helped.

      Arinn! I remember that story fondly. Glad to hear from you!

      Jnfr, I too believe these are good days for readers and writers. I love the changes. But I do know how hard it is for some to accept/make the change. Hence this post.

      Reply
  16. Articles like this are the reason we formed Novelists Inc back in the pre-internet days. Writers need to be told that publishing is a business, and that we need to keep up with what’s happening in the industry–if only to keep from shooting ourselves and realizing it’s not personal. ‘

    Now, if only we could persuade all writers to read this column, you may have saved lives!

    Reply
    • Patricia, thank you. Writers do need to know that they’re in a business and they must have business attitudes to survive. Realizing that these ups and downs are not personal is often a life-saver.

      Thanks, Robin, PJ & Chris.

      Jolea, I love your story. I’ve been laughing a lot at things that used to upset me as well–and it’s a lot of fun. :-)

      Reply
  17. I’ve been reading your Business Rusch posts for some time now and found this one especially inspiring. Maybe it’s indicative of the times, or just plain funny – I got a rejection letter from an agent I queried back in March (about the time I decided to heck with that approach). I received the form letter 2 days after publishing my first novel. So, instead of feeling down about yet another rejection, I laughed.

    I sincerely hope that all writers take a hard look at the pros and cons of this new way of doing things, and then take the reins of this runaway carriage. I really don’t think there’s anything to lose and a lot to be gained.

    Reply
  18. Kris,

    Wonderful post, as always. I tweeted it. I’ve also been making similar comments to my friends. I start by joking with them, saying, “STEP AWAY FROM THE LEDGE. NOW.” LOL. Then I get serious and try to get them to see that they can’t take it personally, they really can’t. I also tell them to fire any agent who is trying to convince them of ANY of the things you mentioned. On that point, I’m absolutely rabid.

    On a minor side note, I pulled out my April RH royalty statement and checked the math: mine is calculated correctly at 25% of retail. Now, I’m not certain the number of units it correct for the e-books, which is a different issue, but for the number reported, the math was handled correctly. So I would urge everyone who writes for RH to check their numbers, then if they aren’t correct, notify RH. I’m personally not seeing what Kristin Nelson reported.

    Keep up the great posts, Kris. I suspect they’re helping far more writers than you know…

    –PJ

    Reply
    • PJ, the problem with the Random House royalty statement is for the folks whose contracts call for a different percentage. I have books still in print from other publishers that entitle me to 50% of the gross, which was industry standard 10 years ago. Apparently Random House is paying people like me that 25% of net, even though these writers should be getting a different amount–like 50% of gross. So check your contract. See what percentage in royalties that Random House is entitled to. It might be 25% of net. But it might be a completely different figure. That’s what Kristin Nelson is talking about. It sounds like you did check your contract, but folks who have books with Random House should check their contracts to make sure they’re getting paid according to contract, not according to some accountant’s whim.

      Reply
  19. Thank you so much for the thoughtful, caring post. I’ve wandered bookstores in search of my favorite writers as well, wondering where their new books were. It saddens me to think they might have given up. And thanks for such good advice to move us all forward.

    Reply
  20. This is a beautiful post, Kris. In the midst of all the number-talking and business-strategizing–which are vitally important–it’s important to realize there are also feelings that go along with all of it. Thanks for a feeling post. I’m sure a lot of people recognize themselves and are comforted!

    Reply
  21. Once again, you nailed it. The shell-shocked “you don’t love me anymore” reaaction, the feeling that whatever ability I had has fled, and the resignation of sticking out the day job until I’m 80. Or 90.

    Then the realization that I am free to create WHATEVER I WANT. The relief of knowing it isn’t personal. The elation of the first, tiny success in the new world of publishing. Most of all, the reassurance of knowing I am not the only one going through this – and, in fact, that I haven’t had it nearly as bad as many others. But I have the advantage of a fantastic support group to keep me from spinning off the face of the planet :-)

    Thanks for a great post!

    Reply
  22. I’ve been having similar thoughts. Though, at the moment, I’m still being published by a small, UK firm, I’ve decided to strike out on my own as well as continue with a publisher. I formed my own book company and am overseeing the publication of its first book — mine, a novella, not a popular form for traditional publishers. I also plan to reissue early out-of-print copies of my own series. Marketing is a pain, but the rest of it is a lot of fun. Even writing a blog has enabled me to use my experience as a magazine and newspaper editor and fulfills some need I have to put words and pictures together as well as comment on a larger world. I would encourage writers to investigate opportunities even as the ground shifts uncomfortably beneath us.

    Reply
    • Ronald, it sounds like we are on the same wavelength. I’m also using my editing/journalism experience, which is making this a lot more fun than I had initially thought it would be.

      Randy, I hesitated about the title. Initially I called this one “Despair,” then thought that was stupid title for a post I wanted people to read. So I have this one, which unfortunately has had the result of putting the Michael Jackson song on repeat in the jukebox inside my brain. I glad the title made you think about the difference in the industries, though. We’re generally a supportive bunch because we do work alone, I think, and because we don’t compete with each other. There’s room enough for all of us.

      Reply
  23. Once again you light a candle for those of us in the dark. Thanks, Kris.

    When I read something like this, I am reminded that, despite all the fear and change and despair, that the writer is actually IN CONTROL. It doesn’t feel like it. Whether or not I get published depended, until recently, on other people — agents, editors, distributors, buyers. But it’s like the movie business: everyone involved from the producer to the actor to the director to the propmaster waits on someone else before he can do his job — except for the writer. NOTHING happens until the writer does her job first. So I remind myself, when depression threatens, that I have it in me to write another story. And another one after that. And over time, I have faith that they will find their audience. Thanks to the Internet, now I know they will.

    No matter what, I can sit down and write. I can worry about what happens to them after I write, but in the meantime, I can just write. I refuse, categorically refuse, to let my concerns over the saleability of a story interfere with those glorious hours of writing. And when, as Ronald puts it, the ground shifts under me, I will surf the earthquake, dammit.

    Reply
    • Great post, Sarah. I think control is the key part. That and having fun with our writing. :-)

      Thanks everyone else for the great comments as well.

      Reply
  24. Thanks, Kris. I’m not in the category of writers you describe, but I really appreciate the optimism and, like Scott said, the heart behind this. It’s a fantastic post, and I’m sure it will help a number of people climb back from that ledge, and maybe see the opportunity in all the chaos right now.

    Reply
  25. Many thanks for writing this one, and for publishing my first short story many years ago. :) A lot of inspiration here, and good coping strategies for a Strange New World.

    Reply
  26. This is a great post, but the title struck me funny. I guess that’s because I work in an industry (broadcasting) that has raised backstabbing to an art form. Some TV people are just one notch below politicians.

    On the other hand, I have found writers to be an incredibly supportive group. When you’ve got writers block, or you haven’t sold anything, or have a string of rejections, there’s always a positive story from the writing community or another writer there to cheer you on. And when you do have any success, there’s always heartfelt congratulations without a hint of jealousy. Finally, if you keep writing you have your characters to keep you company.

    Unlike those who work in other industries, writers are never alone. Simply because we’re writers.

    Reply
  27. For me, it isn’t just the industry – it’s the whole world exploding while I try and keep an eye on it. Thanks for this. :)

    Reply
  28. Kris,

    You have a way of making me want to get up and brush myself off and try again. Yes, I have felt that despair recently. I have been wondering which direction to take in my writing. And reading this post I realize the answer to the question – which direction should I take? – is – whatever direction I want to take, that I feel compelled to take.

    My personal life has left me in despair recently too, but I have been recovering. The answer is the same: to get up out of the dust and keep trying and not to throw in the bloody towel. A few days ago I went to church with someone – not because I usually go to church but because they do, and I wanted to understand and empathize with them. But anyway, at the close of the ceremony some altar servers went up and used poles with cups on the ends to put out the altar candles. And this spoke to me about my own situation. I will not be the one to put out the candle of my writing or of other aspects of my life. I will fight on. Though I keep getting knocked to the ground I’ll keep getting up, no matter how many times I need to. Putting out the candle myself would be like quitting. Never, I say. Never.

    Reply
  29. Personally, I find the paranoid point of view much more satisfying.

    I would much rather my career be destroyed by the active malevolence of a evil publishing cabal, rather than as a result of “changes in the industry.”

    In the first view, I’m the center of the universe. In the second, I’m a dufus being hit by a random piece of space junk. What comfort is there in that?

    Reply
    • Walter, my friend, you are being attacked by the evil publishing cabal. The rest of us are being hit by random space junk. When you’re through with the cabal, can you as the center of the universe save the rest of us from the space junk? Thanks. :-)

      Reply
  30. Coming briefly in from the other side, in a sense: I spent a very long time as a very modestly successful writer in traditional publishing. I understand why people miss it. But for whatever reason, I saw a lot of its dark side early; traditional publishing was something like the rabbit colony that was being fed&trapped in Watership Down, and something like being a dependent in a Mafia family. We writers were all kidding ourselves that we were independent business people; we were parasites on a crooked incestuous operation. The purpose of that “personal connection” to editors and agents was exactly to tie us into them (even though it also tied them into us).

    It is now harsh cold daylight, and the old party is over. But the old party was a cruel, dysfunctional, manipulative place that was never for our benefit. Time to make a better world. This is not the time to give up, not the time to surrender, not the time to sit in the ruins and cry. This is time to start.

    And maybe shoot some of the enemy wounded as we’re leaving the field, as long as it doesn’t take too much time or effort.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about how dysfunctional it all has been. Good points, John.

      Reply
  31. the tone of some of the posts (and comments) makes it sound like there is never a good reason to have an agent or deal with a publishing house.

    while it appears that the big 4-5 (or however many giant publishers you are dealing with) are all doing things that make you want to watch them very carefully, if not avoid them entirely, it may be worth an article to talk about the other side of things, what can a publisher so that will help a writer, etc.

    or are things really so far gone that you are starting to advocate not dealing with any publisher or agent at all?

    Reply
    • David L., I advocate not trying to get an agent at the moment if you don’t have one. Right now that business is in flux, and the agent you hire today might become a publisher or quit the business tomorrow. Wait a year or two and see what happens in the agenting business before deciding on that front. If you have an agent, monitor their business to see what they’re doing and how they plan to continue with their business in these changing times. Please see my surviving the transition post on agents for this.

      As for getting a publisher, I have been dealing with whether or not to do that for months on this blog, ever since October. Go to this link and find the pertinent articles. http://kriswrites.com/business-rusch-table-of-contents/business-rusch-publishing-articles/ The short answer is simple: it varies as to who you are and what you want from your career.

      Reply
  32. Outstanding,Kris. And dead on.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Steve P., Nancy, Dave H. & Rose.

      Reply
  33. Wow, thank you so much for this! I’ve been going through this without really knowing what it was, and thought I was alone. I’ve always been so enthused about writing, have been published by indie press, have an open invitation to submit all my work to a top Hollywood movie agent who only accepts projects by referral, have short stories that are being considered for a joint project between my indie publisher and the Executive Producer for THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies, and yet I haven’t been able to interest a literary agent in my work. I also continuously see literary agents reprimanding writers online as though the writers are complete morons, I’ve seen sales figures posted online by New York Times best-selling authors that seem so ridiculously low, I don’t know how the authors even pay rent. Everything has seemed so off-kilter in the publishing industry for some time now, I kind of lost my mojo. I’m on the third rewrite of a science fiction novel that I know is my best writing to date, and yet I keep abandoning it, afraid I’m not going to be able to write it to a high enough standard. I continue to buy a lot of books, but often have difficulty reading them because, as you said, they just remind me of my failure to succeed. A few months ago, I finally tried self-publishing three novels and three short stories for 99 cents each on Amazon Kindle. My sales figures have been increasing on a regular basis, doubling within two months time and on par with numbers I’ve read are good for the first few months, and I finally feel a freedom to write the types of books I want to write. Some days since self-publishing, I actually see a glimmer of a long-lost friend off in the distance: my mojo, my enthusiasm for writing. Thanks so much for this brutally honest blog post, Kristine! I’m sure you’ll help a lot of writers. This has certainly helped me.

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Marilyn. I’m glad to have helped in whatever way I did. It sounds like you’re building a heck of a career. Congrats on all of it–and on having the courage to put things up yourself as e-books.

      As for rewriting, you might want to go to my husband’s blog. He’s updating his “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing” series and he just finished a bit on rewriting that might apply to you. http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=4398.

      Good luck with it all.

      Reply
  34. Excellent comments! Long ago I read William Goldman’s “Adventures in the Screen Trade” in which he said of the film industry, “Nobody knows anything.” Meaning that nobody really knew which movie would be a success and which would fail, or why. I took those words to heart, and I think they are as true today in the publishing industry as they ever were in Hollywood. The key is to ignore all that so-called wisdom and do what you love to the best of your ability.
    (Of course, now I’m repeating what you said above.) Thanks for the insight.

    Reply
  35. I have been on the floor (literally last November, trying to get the razor blade out of my safety razor because I’d not placed a new book for 3 years, despite being an award-winning author, and thought I had lost all my talent). I blamed myself, obviously, though in truth my agent had recently died, and a reshuffle at my publisher had shunted my editor out of the door just as my seven-book series for them was coming to an end, so there may have been other forces at work.

    Kris is right. Taking action saved me. During all-night sessions on the net when I was too depressed to sleep, I discovered Kindle and amazon’s kdp platform, and taught myself to turn a manuscript into an e-book with the help of the forum. I decided I would self-publish my reverted rights books as e-books (and my new manuscripts, if necessary!) and have just started a joint blog
    http://www.kindleauthors.co.uk
    with a few other authors suffering the same kind of thing. Do visit us and find out how we’re getting on!

    The main thing is I am having FUN again, and achieving even tiny sales all on my own feels good. Also, that fun has recently translated into a four-book deal for a new series with a lovely new publisher. So do not despair, anybody who is still down on the floor suffering. The important thing, as ever, is to keep writing. You can only fail if you give up.

    Reply
    • Katherine, thanks for your honest comment. I know the despair you felt has happened to too many writers. I’m glad you found your way out of it. And I’m really glad you’re having fun. Because if we can’t have fun writing, why are we doing this? Thanks so much for the comment.

      Reply
  36. I’m afraid that the market is being glutted with garbage as well as good books. I’m afraid to put some of my stuff ‘up there’ for fear of being drowned in the flood of poorly written stories that were rejected by traditional houses and agents for good reason.
    So, I’m holding off until I can figure out just what exactly is going on.
    Thank you for this, however, as it explained more than I’ve been able to get about the changes from people too eager to become millionaires from their questionable product.
    How bad off were the Luddites, anyway?

    Reply
    • Irene, I think you should not worry about the “garbage.” It’s always been with us. Not every book published traditionally is good. And your definition of garbage is different from that of other readers. So give it a try. And if you need a gatekeeper to tell you if your work is up to snuff, try writing short stories for traditional short story publishers. See my post last week on how you can benefit from that: http://kriswrites.com/2011/06/22/the-business-rusch-short-stories/

      Reply
  37. Wonderful, wonderful article, Kris. THank you.

    Reply
  38. An awesome post, Kris! I’m at a different stage of my writing career than those you were primarily talking to, but I can only imagine how perfect this heartfelt piece was for those who are in the crosshairs right now.

    Reply
  39. Thanks, Kris! I’ll definitely take a look at your husband’s website.

    Reply
    • Great, Marilyn. :-)

      Reply
  40. Thanks, Kris. Great post. As Dave H says, I’m not in your target audience for this post but it stills helped immensely.

    Reply
  41. One more comment, then I will shut up. :)

    “It’s not personal, even though it feels personal.”

    Of course it’s personal, but it’s impersonal as well, because *evolution* is always personal (whether one actually has offspring or not). What we are seeing is as natural and inevitable as the decline of an old species, one which overspecialized to dominate its environment, and then found itself outmaneuvered by a faster, nimbler species when the environment changed.

    When I get scared of what’s happening in the industry, I remind myself we’re all part of evolution, whose ONLY law is “Change or die”. Faced with those alternatives, the choice is easy.

    Reply
  42. Thank you for sharing your writing with us.

    I am a reader. At age 8 I was reading an entire Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys book every day. At age 13 I read Gone With the Wind in 4 hours.

    One year for my birthday my husband got me a Kindle and a hammock. I’ve read books and bought their sequel without ever getting off the hammock.

    In April 2010 my husband lost his job of 25 years and life became very simple. Food, shelter and clothing for the children only.

    He found another job, thank God, but the fear is slow to recede. Pre job loss I bought books with abandon. Now I check with my husband before I pay even a dollar for a Kindle addition of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.

    I fear I’m not alone in this.

    There is an interesting story in today’s Wall Street Journal about self publishing.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304584004576417602085440540.html?mod=WSJ_Leisure%26Arts_LEFTFeatures

    No matter what else happens the very human desire for story telling will go on, and the clever will construct a business model for making a living doing just that.

    Katherine

    Reply
    • Thanks, Katherine. I’m glad your husband found a new job. I think you’re right about the fear: my mother lived through the Depression. Her family was poor before that, and things got worse. She worried about every dime, even when she no longer had to. (My father, whose family had money in those hard years, never worried like she did.) I don’t think it goes away once you’ve experienced it. And I think you’re right: I think a lot of people watch every purchase now, people who never did before.

      Thanks too for the link.

      Reply
  43. Walter Jon Williams your comment made me LOL and I rarely LOL whilst online. Plus your assessment of the situation was spot on. Kristine, as an artist who once did many illustrations for many publishers and thusly got monetarily and creatively screwed in many ways, I feel everyone’s pain. When I moved strictly to gallery work, I instantly felt free to paint what I want, when I want—kinda like a writer might feel going indie. Even so, I can equate working with an art gallery much like working with a publisher and their e-book royalties. I can understand the 15% royalty structure in traditional publishing when it comes to hardcover and paperback books. However, when it comes to ebooks, the royalty structure in traditional publishing seems way off. An art gallery typically offers a straight 50/50 monetary split for any painting sold by any new artist they take on (and that’s on the gross not on the net). Now if that new artist starts to sell well for the gallery and gain popularity, he then gains more leverage. At this point he can negotiate his half of the commission up to 60% or even 70% or take his talents down the road to the next gallery who will pay him what he’s worth. It seems to me that ebook royalties in traditional publishing need to fall somewhere within this type of model otherwise I don’t see traditional publishers surviving any of these changes. After all, even the lovely ladies working in the Nevada brothels get to keep 50% of gross. Just sayin.

    Reply
    • Brian, you made me LOL with the brothel reference. :-) Niiiiice. I used to own an art gallery, and we did split things that way for artists. And you’re right. It was on the gross. It would be nice if traditional publishing went for this model, but I don’t see it. Right now, traditional publishing isn’t offering much that a writer can’t do herself with some ingenuity. Or at least, a midlist writer. Some of the bestsellers are still getting perks that the rest of us can’t get, but that’s changing as well. Interesting times….

      Reply
  44. What will we do when the present Amazons and Smashwords of the new publishing world morph into the only behemoths on the block and start raising their rates and lowering ours?

    Perhaps all authors should take a cue from JK Rowling and begin, in a serious way, to consider indie publishing from their own websites as their ultimate goal. That’s not to say they shouldn’t continue to publish their books through the other eretailers/distributors, but if they put all their eggs in the edistribution basket, they will, over time, be giving the same power to those edistributors that print publishers once wielded.

    Not everyone (actually, not anyone except maybe Oprah) has the platform of JK Rowling and certainly it’s not easy to drive eyeballs to the website of a virtual unknown. In the not so distant past, Amazon was an unknown. It can be done.

    Ah, but it does take capital, that oh, so elusive green stuff.

    So here’s an idea that works in the bricks and mortar world of real potters, at least here on Cape Cod. Potters (clay throwing makers of crockery and other ceramic goods, not boy wizards) formed a cooperative. They share costs and some forms of distribution. They still maintain their independent shops. They support each other.

    Those writers being abandoned by their paper publishers can formed a cooperative edistributor. It would not only acted as an etailer for their eformatted books, but could also acted as a clearing house and/or atelier for those aspects of epub production the writer could or would not do him or herself. The most important aspect of this etailer would be that the pricing and allocation of revenues would be in the control of the cooperative, through the writers themselves. Over time it could, and IMHO should, grow to rival any of the present edistributors.

    So, when the time comes that B&N or Amazon thinks they’re the only game in town and they can now call the shots, the writers will have already established an alternative outlet. Their fans will already be familiar with that outlet. If an edistributor starts making what the writer considers unreasonable demands, her or she can say “no” and pull their books. Without another established place to distribute the books, they will once again be at the mercy of a corporate behemoth.

    Now is the time to embark on such an enterprise.

    Perhaps those who have posted their hand wringing, razor blade searching, head banging despair here, could form the core of such a cooperative. It seems their print publishers have handed them a great gift–the time and motivation (if not necessity) of exploring other venues.

    And who knows, it could be a lot of fun.

    Reply
    • There are cooperatives already, Mary. Bookview Cafe is one. I’m sure there are others. I hope writers form more of them. But make sure you have iron-clad agreements. I used to live in a town filled with long-established co-ops, and often they had labor/financial issues that rivaled those of big corporations.

      I also think readers will get used to being able to find a writer’s books on her website. Then the reader can chose the venue for ordering: the website itself, e-tailers, or brick & mortar stores. Right now, readers get upset if they can’t find a writer’s website to get the news on the next book. I think that’ll morph into wanting the next book off the site as well.

      Reply
  45. I’m glad I read this. I’ve heard nothing positive about the publishing industry in months, maybe years, and relapsed into passivity marketing wise, even as I kept writing. All I could tell myself was “Thank goodness I like my day job.”

    Reply
    • Glad it helped, Paul. :-)

      Reply
  46. Excellent article, and thank you for balancing the bad news with the good news. I’ve been stalled in my writing also–mainly because of life events and the business of marketing my two published books (“and now, for her next act .. the author turns marketer, blah, blah …”). What really helped me was to step back and think about and face up to what I actually wanted from a writing life. I read a book, “The Van Gogh Blues” by Eric Maisel and it completely switched my thinking. With too many other glum and weary life events to pull one down nowadays, I was damned if my writing was going to be another glum depressor. It sounds odd, but I found it liberating to think of my writing as something that fed the deeper part of me–not some product-driven and penny-pinched industry. As an incidental outcome, my writing improved when I regarded it on a more personal level. It also helps to go get a day job, as I have. When I worked freelance or didn’t work, the despair simply crushed me.

    Reply
    • Great post, Aine. Thank you. I think you’re spot on about figuring out what you the individual writer wants. It might be different from my goals or someone else’s goals. Once you figure those goals out, you can then decide how to achieve it. As you can tell from my post, I believe that writing should be fun. So when it becomes drudgery every day, all the time, something is wrong. I think a lot of writers feel that way. I hope these new opportunities change all of that.

      Reply
  47. The Business in book/e-book form?
    I try to read your posts religiously (or secularly in my case) but I miss some due to multiple problems listed in this post. I consider Amazon. I have ten books out, contracted for more, but having the same contract/royalty issues you mention, so what does that truly mean? Not much. I don’t have a backlist. I write a book every four months to stay a full-time writer, which leaves little time to write something new to sell to an indie or publish on Amazon. In other words, all your posts are a manual of sheer survival in this business and when I miss one or don’t have time to read it, I know I missed something important. Living in a rural area that only has the slowest of dial up, hopping from post to post can be time consuming. It would be great to have them all in book form with wolume 1, volume 2, and so on as you keep our heads out of the nooses. Hell, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. As you said, no one else in the industry seems to be telling us much. A source of genuine information is priceless.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Rob. Yeah. The Survival Guide is for the general freelancer and needs updating. The Business articles are changing all the time. But I plan to put the 1999-surviving the Transition up as an e-book…as soon as I can get it all into one form. Like you, I have so many deadlines that I’m juggling everything from sleeping to eating. Which reminds me…I really should have breakfast. :-) So I am thinking about doing exactly what you suggest. Just trying to figure out how to make it all work.

      Reply
  48. PS I’m aware of the Freelancer’s Survival Guide, but the industry has changed so much in only two years, your new posts even more relevant now…Survival Guide 2: Turn Off the Gas and Get Your Head Out of the Oven? Should be a joke…but like so many others who’ve commented, it’s not half the joke you wish it was.

    Reply
  49. Your latest post on the sorry state of the publishing industry, “You Are Not
    Alone,” was brilliant. And a must-read for authors. What a compendium of
    horror stories! I’ve linked in my blog, Facebook, and Twitter posts.

    Thank you for bringing all this to our attention. You and Dean have been
    sources of inspiration and information for me as I navigated my way to
    publishing my new novel, “HUNTER.” Thanks for all you do.

    — Robert Bidinotto

    Reply
    • Thanks, Robert! I’m glad our posts have helped. Congrats on the new novel.

      Reply

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