Business Musings: The Hard Part

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Some weeks I hate opening my e-mail. Most of March fell into that category.

Throughout the entire month, I got e-mails from writers at the end of their ropes. Some were losing their traditional contracts; others had seen their indie sales fall through the floor; still others were thinking of declaring bankruptcy. A handful asked for the names of attorneys to sue various and asundry publishers, agents, subrights organizations—you name it. And another handful wanted to know why they weren’t making the promised millions.

Welcome to the garbage pit found at the end of the gold rush.

The garbage pit is a tough place to be. I know this from experience. And a lot of you got personal answers from me, but they weren’t as in-depth as what I’m about to say here.

Bear with me as I set this up:

There really was a gold rush in ebook publishing, and it lasted longer than I had thought it would. (I explored the end of the gold rush in more depth in this blog post.) The gold rush started tapering off in 2012, but smart indies kept their income alive by moving with the changes in the industry for another year or more.

Then the tricks stopped working completely. On the Kindle Boards, they actually have a phrase for the end of the gold rush era: they call it the KU Apocalypse. The introduction of Kindle Unlimited put the final nail in the gold rush’s coffin. The readers who want free all the time had only to subscribe to KU to get all the books they wanted. With KU, writers got a fraction of what they were being paid before.

There is anecdotal evidence that the KU Apocalypse also hit the writers who weren’t exclusive with Kindle. In fact, some say, that’s where the apocalypse hit first.

I don’t know, because I have never allowed my ebooks to be exclusive. It cuts out too many readers, especially in growing markets, like iBooks. But indie writer after indie writer reported huge sales losses—many going from making tens of thousands per month to only making hundreds.

Tales like this were happening before the summer of 2014, but in the summer of 2014, some big names were affected, and that made national (mainstream) news.

That last bit showed hundreds of authors that the get-rich-quick schemes of the early indie days had a shelf-life, just like everything else in the world. The problem was—and is—that so many of these authors never planned for the gravy train to end.

I tried to talk about it. And I often got shouted down by people with only a few years in the business, people who told me I didn’t understand the new world of publishing. I tried to warn them that nothing remains the same, and they ignored me or attacked me whenever and wherever they could.

Now, the sites where the arguing happened have tamed down. The writers who had “the secret” have all but vanished. Those who remain are fantastic writers who actually built a fan base. And the other thing about those who remain? They wrote a lot of books while promoting and using all the indie tricks to improve sales.

Those books are good. The fans want to continue reading those books, and buy the next. It always comes down to writing a lot of good material, be those serials or linked short stories or large novels. Fans like what fans like, and will follow those series or those writers as long as the entire project remains fresh.

Does this mean that everyone whose indie writing career has trundled downhill have written bad books? Not at all. There are other issues at play here. Some of them have to do with bad covers or poor copy editing or poor content editing (for the difference, see this post). Some have bad book descriptions or blurbs. And a whole bunch of the books, more than I want to say, are just okay.

There’s nothing wrong with “just okay,” except that it doesn’t inspire readers to return for the next book. Just okay sold in the early part of the gold rush because there wasn’t enough supply to meet the demand for ebooks. Even traditional books were poorly scanned, not edited at all, and had terrible covers in those early years.

The problem is that eventually most writers and companies improved their e-book delivery. What was once good enough when there was limited choice became less desirable when the choices became unlimited.

Still, a lot of writers hung on, believing ebook gurus who claimed to know the “secret” of getting books in front of others. The secret kept changing. First it was free or 99 cents, then promoting on this book website or doing blog tours or getting into a 99-cent bundle with 10 other writers.

The thing is if it was easy to make a fortune using these techniques, every single writer with a modicum of skill who tried the techniques would be making tens of thousands of dollars. And while that happened for some writers, it didn’t happen for all writers even during the gold rush.

Now that the gold rush is over, the indie writers who earned a lot and are now earning one-tenth or even less of what they had previously earned are feeling like failures.

How do I know this? Because I’ve watched it for decades. Not with indie writers, but with traditional ones. Whether you like it or not, the pattern is the same.

Back when I started, the writers who’d been in the business a long time tried to warn new writers not to quit their day jobs when they got their first book advance. Yet I personally know dozens of writers who did. They sold a three-book contract for more money than they’d seen at one time, and think they had it made.

Let’s set aside how hard it is to freelance. I wrote an entire book about that. Let’s just look at the vagaries of writing.

Not every novel published traditionally succeeds. In fact, most don’t. Just like most indie books fail to make sales that can provide the writer with a living.

The writing career doesn’t follow a steady uphill trajectory. Unlike a salaried position where you remain at the same rate of pay until you get a raise, writing is filled with ups and downs. The writing career is made up of a succession of waves. Sometimes the waves are so huge that they could swamp a cruise ship, and sometimes they’re so tiny as to be invisible to all but the person measuring them.

And around every wave is a trough.

Sometimes—often—a writing career will dip to its lowest level ever before or after it hits its highest level ever.

The writers who stay in the business are the ones who learn how to surf. Have you ever watched surfers? They ride each wave, then paddle to the next. Sometimes they fall off their boards. Sometimes they go deep underwater, shoved by the force of the crash.

Most people fall off a surfboard once, get water up their nose, feel like they’re about to drown, and try something else—snorkeling, maybe, or swimming in a pool. Surfers are a special breed.

So are career writers.

The key to a career writer, as I’ve often said, is the ability to get back up after a large fall. Repeatedly. Unfortunately it’s not different in the indie business.

All of the indie changes—the things that are still going on—are indie waves, things writers have to surf. Some writers have survived and thrived through the KU Apocalypse. Some, like the circle I hang around with, never even felt it because no one discounted books (except for specials) and no one went Kindle-only.

That doesn’t make us smarter. We’ve had other highs and lows.

Some of the indie waves most of us never saw. I’m sure a lot of writers vanished around 2010 when readers demanded professional covers on the books they bought. I’m sure more writers vanished when traditional publishers finally caught a clue and learned how to produce lovely e-books, making the ebook standard the same professional standard that print books had. Those indie books with bad copy editing, misspellings, and weird pagination on every page? They no longer looked like traditional books; they looked amateur—and zingo! The writers who didn’t improve the quality of their epubs vanished.

The KU Apocalypse was dramatic because it hurt so many writers who were making a good living. A lot of those writers have hoped for a resurgence. They’re trying everything they can to capture lightning in a bottle a second time.

I know how they feel. I’ve had those moments in my career and I’ve counseled friends through them.

There are three very hard parts to being in that situation.

The first hard part is the financial situation itself. The first time most writers quit their day jobs because a lot of money is coming in regularly, the writers make basic financial errors. They don’t save for a rainy day. They believe the financial highs will continue (that upward trajectory thing I mentioned).

So when the first trough hits, writers in this situation have no resources to spare. They’ve quit their job, and they haven’t yet learned the freelance scramble. (The freelance scramble is, in short, pivoting to replace money lost with a new way of earning money. Tough, and not the way most people usually think.)

The second hard part is accurately assessing the situation. So many writers (and other freelancers) will look at an industry change and think it is only a blip. That blip will pass, they believe, and so they make no alterations to what they’re doing. They continue writing, publishing, using the same tools that had once made them the tens of thousands every month—only this time, those tools no longer work.

I’m not saying that the writers should quit, not at all. In fact, that guarantees failure. But writers need to assess what’s really going on. Is it a sea-change in the industry? The advent of Kindle Unlimited wasn’t a sea change, but a confirmation that the sea-change had already occurred. The influx of traditional publishers into the ebook market was inevitable, but it created a sea change that ruined the gold rush for a lot of indie writers. And so on.

Sometimes the sea change is genre-specific. When the Berlin Wall fell, spy novelists became irrelevant overnight. That genre has just started its comeback in this century. The fall of the Wall made no difference to romance writers or fantasy writers. I’m not even sure most of them noticed that a change was occurring in the publishing industry.

A sea change—and I don’t care what it is—never affects all writers equally. Which makes it hard to respond, because there’s no set way to handle what’s going on.

It makes writers take the change personally. And it makes assessment hard.

Have the books stopped selling at large numbers because of a sea change affecting much of the industry? Or have my books stopped selling (and no one else’s)? Or have my books stopped selling because they’re poorly written? Or have my books stopped selling because they’re poorly produced? Or because they’re hard to find? Or? Or? Or?

Sometimes, this need to reassess plus the financial stress makes it almost impossible for the writer to have any coherent thoughts at all. Writing itself becomes impossible, which makes the situation even worse and makes the panic grow.

Plus, on top of it all, is the third hard part.

Every writer I’ve ever met who encounters his first trough feels like a failure. The loss of income, the inability to sell at previous levels (whether indie or traditional), the fact that what once worked no longer works seems personal—especially if that writer’s friends are still doing well.

The writer blames himself, and in blaming himself, starts into a cycle of fear and scrambling that can lead to truly muddled thinking.

I can’t tell you how many times traditional writers have come to me since 2009, asking to take classes in writing craft because they weren’t able to sell another midlist novel, not understanding that the changes in the industry had caused most midlist writers to be on a become-a-bestseller-or-get-dumped treadmill.

Now indie writers are finding themselves in the same place. They think their writing is to blame for the loss of sales.

Sometimes that’s true. A lot of indie writers succeeded without learning the rudimentaries of their craft. These writers are often good storytellers, but the writing itself is so dense or flabby that readers have to wade through it to get to the great story. Or the writer writes sterling prose that goes nowhere. In both cases, the writer needs to work on craft.

But in so many cases, the problem isn’t craft. It’s the publishing side. Once upon a time (six years ago) writers could upload a Word document, slap a self-designed cover on all of it, and sell thousands of copies. Now, Word documents get chewed to pieces by the various online retail self-publishing sites, and terrible covers are no longer forgivable—and these are just a few examples of publishing problems that could have led to a decrease in sales.

The largest reason I’ve seen with indie writers whose sales decrease, though, is that they spent all their time promoting one or two books, instead of writing more books. After a while, those two books will find most of their audience. A new book refreshes, and brings in new readers who find the new book, and haven’t read the old ones.

But here’s the harsh truth: Often sales of books decrease through no fault of the writer at all. As I said before, sea changes in the industry cause one subgenre to become hot while a formerly hot subgenre goes stale. Writers in that second subgenre will see sales decrease as a matter of course.

And readers move. In January, Apple announced that iBooks downloads are increasing because (doh!) Apple finally included iBooks on its iPhones. (And they did a big promotion as well.) 

I know that Kobo is also changing its ecosystem, and it is increasing its sales as well. Amazon’s share of the ebook marketplace has gone down in the past six years as these new players are actually getting a foothold in the market. (I can’t easily find the actual numbers at the moment. So, in the spirit of getting the blog up this week, I’m going to add a link later…if I remember.)

If the readers move to a new platform, the writers who remain on the old platform will see sales decrease. Writers on new platforms (or better yet, all platforms) will see sales remain steady or rise.

Once you’ve been in business a long time—any business—you learn that outside events have an impact on what you do. And sometimes you just have to survive those outside events.

Sometimes you can make changes and sometimes those changes are hard ones to even contemplate.

But before we get to the hard part, let me say this:

I know these publishing changes in the past year have felt horrible. If I were to say that the changes aren’t personal, I would be wrong. It is personal to each and every writer affected by those changes. It hurts. It’s hard. It feels like failure.


It’s not failure.

Failure is the end result only if you quit. If you move to another profession. If you give up writing altogether.

Then yes, these events have equaled failure for you.

The key is to accept that feeling, and acknowledge that these changes seem personal. Then set that feeling aside (or deal with it after business hours) and move forward.

Because going forward is the only way to salvage your writing career.

Sometimes, going forward means taking what you might consider to be a step backwards.

Go get a day job.

I’m totally serious. If you’ve lost thousands of dollars of monthly income in the past year, and you have no reserves, a day job will solve one of your serious problems. It’ll ease your financial stress.

Yes, it’ll place stress on your time, but we all started with day jobs. We all know how to work around them.

And really, isn’t it better to pay the mortgage than it is to worry about where the mortgage payment comes from?

The next time you start making a lot of money on your writing—and believe me, you will make money again—have a large emergency fund before quitting your day job. And then only tap that fund when you are in an actual emergency.

Why am I recommending this? Because once the financial pressure eases, you’ll be able to assess your situation better. You’ll be able to gain some perspective, because your level of panic will go down.

And, ironically, a day job will give you more time.

That sounds weird, because of course, your writing time has decreased. But you won’t have to make emergency decisions to put food on the table. You won’t be focused on every dime at the same time you’re trying to examine what wrong turn you made. You will be able to make future plans again.

Going back to the day job isn’t a failure.

It’s a necessity.

Every single successful freelance writer I’ve ever met bounced on and off day jobs early on in her career. Every single one—except those who have a spouse, significant other, or family member who was willing to bankroll the ups and downs of a writing career.

Using the day job to relieve financial stress is a time-honored freelancer tradition.

Indie writers have never faced this before. Most of them believed that the gold rush would last forever. Some burned bridges horribly with their day jobs, so there’s no returning.

But there are other day jobs. Most freelancers get lower-level service jobs to tide them over—not career jobs. Things like retail or waiting tables or temp work. Those will often pay the bills until it’s time to freelance again.

Never look at one trough—no matter how deep—as the end of your career. It’s only the end of your career if you end your career.

You need to keep moving forward.

I know it’s hard. I know it’s breaking your heart. I know it hurts.

But if quitting writing hurts worse, then stand back up. Square your shoulders, and figure out how to continue writing.

You used to write because it was fun. Make writing fun again. Take the pressure off.

Then figure out what to do next.

There are no right or wrong answers. There’s only what’s good or bad for you.

If you use that as your guidepost, you will make the right decision. Not the decision your friends agree with or your writer pals online think is best. You’ll make the decision you can live with. And believe me, that’s the best decision of all.

When I came back to blogging, I mentioned that I wouldn’t be as rigid as I had been in my first five years (with no misses!) on this blog. I try to hit Thursdays as my blog day, but I haven’t been quite as consistent. Usually I blog earlier in the week, but this week events conspired against me, so I’ve put the blog up on Friday. I will keep you informed if I’m going to be later than Thursday.

A lot of you have mentioned that the last several blogs “hit it out of the park,” and yet donations were down on those topics. While I appreciate comments and forwards a great deal, the donations do keep the blog alive. So please, if you found something of value here, consider leaving a few bucks in the jar on the way out.


Click Here to Go To PayPal.

(Yes, White Mist Mountain is my company name)

“Business Musings: The Hard Part,” copyright © 2015 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

21 thoughts on “Business Musings: The Hard Part

  1. Regarding day jobs…I think that what M.C.A. Horgarth said above and in her links is brilliant and so true.

    I used to be an advertising copywriter who dreamed of quitting her day job to write a novel. Because my husband makes a good income, I was able to eventually do that, supplementing with freelance work. (I realize I was incredibly lucky to even have this choice.)

    I don’t regret getting out of advertising full-time, because having to write in a stressful environment about things that didn’t interest me sapped creative energy. And I’m so glad I was able to write a novel. But not having a “day job” has taken its toll on my social life, mood, Vitamin D levels, and overall feeling of being a member of society.

    I haven’t gotten out of the house enough, nor do I have much to talk about in everyday life where most people are day-job workers or parents or both. (I’m neither.) No one wants to hear about my characters or my life sitting alone in front of a computer.

    If my husband were also a writer or artist, and we both worked from home and then got together with other friends or colleagues during the day, it would be different. But he works in an office and I am here in a boring suburban townhouse sitting alone in front of my computer most of the day. When I do get out of the house (to meet other self-employed friends, take classes, go into town) it always costs money.

    I am now looking for a part-time job where I get out of the house, make some money, meet new people, experience real-life encounters and have an excuse to get out of yoga pants.

    That said, I may get another day job, hate it and retract all this, but I want to at least try. I think it may be causing a low-level depression to work from home so much.

    Anyway, M. C. A. Hogarth said all that in her live journal better than I did, but just wanted to add my experience here. And again, I realize my husband and I are very financially lucky that I even had a chance to try the experiment of quitting my day job. But it’s not all I thought it would be.

    1. Please forgive my typo in first paragraph; it should be M. C. A. Hogarth. (I have appt for new glasses next week.)

      And I do realize that my earlier comment sounds like “the adventures of rich lady problems”! I am by no means rich, but we don’t have kids and we both had decent incomes and saved over the years. Anyway, thank you Kris and all commenters.

  2. I’ve yet to actually make enough from my writing to even consider giving up my day job. I’ve watched my sales drop, pop back up briefly, before dropping again. I’m slowly learning how to surf, believe me it’s not easy, but I keep myself focused on the future, on the next book. I gave up writing once before and spent eight miserable years trying to be normal. Never again. At fifty six I figure I’ve got another twenty to thirty good years ahead of me, maybe more if I’d listen to my wife and take better care of myself. But sometimes it gets pretty damned dark in the trough. Thanks for sharing this and reminding me once more that I’m not alone.

  3. Thank you for posting this. I haven’t made enough money to feel the hit from KU that some others are, but I did see a drop in sales on Amazon. I took your husband’s advice and put my stories on a bunch of different platforms, so that also helped last year.

    But what really helped was your surfer metaphor and your mention of the Freelance Scramble. That metaphor was a necessary reminder of what life really is at a time when our family is reexamining the kinds of day jobs that will work for us (i.e. keep us fed and safe from the rain). Thank you.

  4. C.E. Petit made this comment in e-mail and gave me permission to share it here, with the disclaimer that this is general commentary, not advice:

    “From my years of dealing with publishing matters, I’d like to suggest that
    there’s a hidden part of part 1 (your piece of 02 Apr 2015) that magnifies

    Tax administration.

    Let’s face it: Almost all of those writers who have day jobs before that
    first big advance are statutory employees. That means that most tax
    administration is invisible to them — they’ve had money withheld for taxes,
    they’ve had money withheld for FICA (Social Security, Medicare, etc.), and
    the employer has paid its FICA contribution. Now, however, they’ve gone and
    budgeted based upon the gross amount they got — if they remember to account
    for any agent commissions or attorney’s fees or business licenses or office
    rent or any other cost of doing business.

    Then 15 April rolls around. Shakespeare’s soothsayer was a month early: It’s
    the Ides of April that are dangerous (ok, that’s technically the 13th, but
    cut me some slack, ok?). A HUGE payment is due… or the author takes an
    extension, or enters a payment plan, and pays interest and fees on top of
    the huge payment. And that payment includes things that these authors have
    no concept of: Self-employment tax (that is, they get to pay double for
    Social Security, Medicare, etc., because there’s no employer paying the
    employer’s share), estimated tax payments, etc.

    Lather, rinse, repeat: It never gets better. The next year will be the same;
    and the next, and the next, and the next advance will make things worse
    (especially if it’s paid in Novemberish and imputed for the whole year and
    then a penalty for failure to make estimated payments gets imposed). And
    that’s just the FEDERAL consequences. I can name more authors driven to the
    brink of, or into, bankruptcy just for these reasons than I’m comfortable
    with actually naming (even the dead ones)!

    There are three rules of thumb that can be followed to actually deal with
    this effectively.

    (1) For author-taxpayers who will be in the 15% tax bracket FROM ALL INCOME,
    take 23% off the top of your pay, divide it into four equal payments, and
    pay that amount using Form 1040-ES. If the very first income for the year is
    after 31 March, fewer equal payments may be the best way to go; this is
    general administrative advice, not legal advice.

    (2) For author-taxpayers who will be above the 15% tax bracket FROM ALL
    INCOME but below the “your standard deduction starts being phased out” level
    (currently nearly $200,000), follow rule 1 but make it 33%.

    (3) If standard deductions are being phased out, get advice from a certified
    tax advisor who thoroughly understands self-employment. This expicitly
    EXCLUDES every franchised tax advisor out there (H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt,
    etc., etc., etc.) and too damned many CPAs, but that’s for another time.

    And then there’s Rule Zero:

    (0) Everything you do depends upon keeping an organized system of records.
    If you don’t, NOBODY AND NOTHING CAN HELP YOU. EVER. And not just with taxes
    — with disputes over whether payments were made at all (or timely or in the
    correct amount), with unauthorized editions, with infringement accusations
    (for or against), with claims by states that you owe sales tax…”

    C.E. Petit
    This message may contain legal commentary. Unless specifically noted
    otherwise, such commentary is NOT intended as legal advice for any
    particular situation.

    1. Interesting stuff, and good advice. When I started my business, an accountant mentioned to me that one of the biggest reasons new businesses fail is not accounting for the monies due Uncle Sugar.

      I was fortunate to avoid that particular trap and went on to invent all sorts of mistakes to learn from which has helped me as I began to recreate myself again, this time into a writer.

      One lesson that carries over from everything that I do is that persistence (heck, mule-headed stubbornness) is a trait worth cultivating.

      A second, plan on disruptions and have multiple income streams that you can tap. It might be the day job or two, it might be a different genre, or even a fast slip over to non-fiction.

  5. I wrote something similar about day jobs (illustrated with cartoons!):

    Personally, now that I’m selling enough that I could conceivably quit my day job, which has been my goal since I was a teen in high school, I find myself paradoxically no longer wanting to quit. I can’t describe how strange a headspace this is. “Quitting your day job” has been beat into my head–into all our heads–as a metric for artistic success for so long that we often miss some of the good things about having an extra job. It’s not just the money. It’s getting out. It’s having to get out. It’s having a chance to socialize with people (and then go home and stop). It’s being exposed to experiences you wouldn’t have chosen, which is a lot of how creativity gets fed.

    I like my coworkers. My job doesn’t interest me, but that doesn’t matter–it’s not mentally strenuous, and it pays me moderately well. I don’t like the idea of leaving them. And so here I am feeling vaguely uncomfortable because… I’m not waving the “LOOK I MADE IT” flag where everyone can see it.

    What odd things we do to one another, we artists! How we twist each other into strange shapes about money, and importantly, about the status implied by money! You’d think we’d be beyond that. But we’ve conflated fiscal success with artistic merit for so long that I sometimes despair of us ever separating them again.

  6. My first day jobs were freelance, so that probably started me off on the right foot for the “replace lost money” thing. Every so often, I set something up or adjust something that is unlikely to have immediate payoff…and then see the payoff weeks, months, or years later.

    I have intentionally worked on my writing career with that final payoff in mind. Some folks dismiss any advice I give because I don’t have the sales they’re looking for. Even if I point out my focus is on the long-term, they see my methods as “pie in the sky”, deeming my current sales and rankings as evidence that what I’m doing isn’t working, while missing my point that it’s working exactly how I expected it to. (Better, actually—I certainly wasn’t expecting students to be using my novels for book reports and essays, yet!

    Lord willing, I am going to keep plugging away at writing for the rest of my life. I started publishing 4 years ago, and while my sales figures aren’t where I hoped they’d be at this point, my backlist and writing isn’t where I wanted to be now, either. (Life rolls of the good but exhausting sort.) Whenever I’ve actually hit writing/publication goals, results have hit or exceeded expectations.

    But my model also accepted and built on that natural ebb and flow of freelancing—an ebb and flow that is foreign to a lot of people. They start seeing it and panic, convinced they’re doing something wrong—or they ignore it (or its inevitability) and stick to the status quo.

    Ultimately, I’ve stopped yelling into the wind. I give the genuine advice to folks who give off a strong vibe of actually wanting it, and I shrug and keep my mouth shut around the ones who give off a vibe of wanting a magic bullet.

  7. I didn’t quit my day job until I felt I could for reasons other than my writing career. I quit work as a hospice nurse in the summer of 2010.
    I’m a damn good writer. (Of that I’m confident.)
    I have a devoted and deeply disturbed following who buy all my books.
    For someone who began publishing in 2009 I have quite a number of books – of varying lengths, in multiple genres– because it is fun and inspiring to write in multiple genres, and a short story can be every bit as challenging as a full-length novel.
    I’m not a household name. I’ve never made the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars some indies made. But over the past six years I’ve made enough money to satisfy me.
    Even though I don’t need book sales to survive, yes, the dramatic decrease in sales I experienced with the advent of KU shocked me.
    I took a good look at the situation. Rather than blaming myself I realized they system, the environment, the situation was changing so I made changes.
    Yes, I took a couple steps back, but on the whole I’m pleased with my changes. (I think one must be an option quarterback in this business.) I’ve increased the prices of my books (which by the way seemed to increase my sales) – although I’m currently running a March Madness sale through this weekend. I’ve made all but my short-shorts- which I’ve kept on KU- available on almost every other outlet.
    Do I feel like I’m starting over? The answer is yup, to some extent. I now have to build readership on platforms other than Amazon.
    Oh, I’m also gradually releasing audio books which, for one book in particular, has been a dynamite move.
    I doubt the publishing world will remain static. It never has. So you gotta go with the flow, if you want to write, that is. And I want to write so here I go.

  8. Kris,

    It seems that the only way to succeed outside of a gold rush is to build a fanbase and then feed it regularly. “Building a fanbase” is a combination of craft development and discoverability, with the former often being more important than the latter.

    Am I far off?

    Big Ed

  9. You used to write because it was fun. Make writing fun again. Take the pressure off.

    This. There are so many times when I’ve caught myself not having fun anymore, and it takes a real, deliberate effort to bring myself back to the fun. And then it’s all okay again. But during the time when it’s not fun, there’s worry, anxiety, etc.–and that’s not a creative frame of mind. It’s hard to create good work–entertaining work–when your mind is tense like that.

    Thanks for this whole post, Kris. As usual, you nailed it!

  10. Interesting thoughts.

    I’m still writing and self-publishing because I didn’t find success financially. I didn’t know there was an indie boom that’s now tapered off.

    Maybe the indie boom is just getting started here in the UK though, because all I’ve seen is evidence to support that with British indie authors.

    If my books ever do sell loads, I hope I remember to save some dosh for the rough times!

    Which genres have fallen in sales? My sales aren’t massive, but steady within the teen adventure categories and rom com novels I write.

    Thanks for this post, it’s insightful, thought provoking and motivating.

    1. Suz, re the genres, it depends on who you’re talking to. Trad Pub says urban fantasy is dead, but indies aren’t seeing that at all. So rather than give you a hard and fast answer, let me say just keep writing what you write. 🙂

  11. Great post, Kris. Spot on with everything you said. I’m an indie writer that was hit by dwindling sales a year ago, close to a fifth of what they were, but I’m also been a freelance feature writer for over a decade, so knew exactly what was happening.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ridden high with a regular income, only for a magazine to fold, an editor to jump ship, or a bean counter to pull at the house reins to find myself in the freelance scramble. So when my indie book sales declined, I tightened my belt, dipped into my reserve, and phoned and pestered editors for more freelance work to get my income back up, all the while continuing with my indie writing, improving my production and covers (I’m absolutely ashamed to say my first books while selling well were self-edited with hasty covers – now I pay editors and designers), and have tried new genres.

    Some books have bombed, others did okay, and now for the last few months my indie income has suddenly shot up to its previous levels thanks to a couple of decent sellers, but as you have said so well, I may be on top of a wave, still climbing it, or already heading for another trough. The secret is being prepared for whatever comes your way.

  12. Lovely post. I started when the gold rush was over so I’m really starting at the bottom. I only have a novella series out at the moment and am working on getting novels out this year.
    I know it’s going to be hard. I have made very little money and since last fall have made nothing so I know I have get more product out there and build a body of work. This is hard and I know even then I will probably make very little-maybe nothing.
    Being multiple genre writer might help. We’ll see. But I know it’s going to be a tough fight to get readers. There is no guarantees in this business that you will make anything.

  13. Your efforts belong to you. The results belong to God.

    Some days are diamonds. Some days are stones.

    To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. . . . A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; . . . .
    This article prompted me to take a look at Amanda Hocking’s offerings on Amazon. I counted 23 books. 21 are out now. 2 more are available by pre-order.

    Of the first 20, 3 were collaborations. They were published in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Her solo books were published in 2010, 2012, and 2013. The prices on her single books range from $0.00 to $9.99.

    Macmillan signed Ms Hocking because publishers believe lightning always strikes in the same place. 17 months passed from Ms Hocking’s last published book (Elegy) to her first book with Macmillan (Frostfire). I wonder what effect that delay had on her fans.

    I cannot say for certain but it appears that Ms Hocking’s early works have new covers.
    PS Writing every day again. Not up to speed but getting there.

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