Business Musings: The Year Ahead…Again
In early January, I arrogantly wrote a post about the year ahead, reminding writers that this was an election year, so they needed to plan for a sales slowdown in the fall. I even said I wasn’t sure if the election would have repercussions in the spring and summer, since I was expecting a protracted primary season. And, oh, yeah! The impeachment. Remember that?
Discussed all of that and the possible impact on book sales.
Back when things were normal, in a world that no longer exists.
I’m sorry, y’all. We’re in a new world. Tonight, I told a friend that this stasis most of us are in (and some of us are just being let free from) is the world rebooting. You know what it’s like when a computer reboots. Sometimes it hangs there, and you wait and wait and wait for it to come back up. When it does, there’s relief, but worry. Will the dang thing need to be unplugged? Started again? Are the problems solved?
We don’t know. And maybe this post will be as antiquated four months from now as the January post is.
But…I’m starting to get a picture of what the rest of the year will look like for all of publishing. I outlined what’s going to happen with traditional publishing in the previous post. In the post before that, I warned indie (self) published writers not to succumb to all the gloom and doom from traditional.
That’s because we’re on a different path. We should be publishing into this crisis. Readers want ebooks, and they want the ebooks now. So make sure your books are properly priced (that is, much lower than traditional, but not too low) and continue your publishing program.
With one caveat.
One of the things that traditional publishing is doing, without thought or planning, is pushing back the release dates for their big books. A lot of books are coming out in the middle of a presidential election, something that traditional publishing tried to avoid. (And which I warned you about as well.)
Some books are being delayed as much as a year. Publisher’s Lunch has a list of self-reported delays, and so does Publisher’s Weekly. Not every book being delayed is on these lists. I heard from a few writers who preordered traditional books only to have the pub date changed after order.
You’d think that publishers would want their books to appear when everyone is stuck at home and trying to find something to do. But traditional publishing doesn’t want to sell ebooks. They want to sell hardcovers and paper books and audiobooks, none of which are selling in this crisis. (See last week’s post)
So traditional publishers are delaying books until August and beyond, some books as much as a year.
But let’s just focus on 2020, shall we, and find the opportunities for indies.
The first opportunity is right now. Don’t delay your releases the way that traditional publishers are doing. Put your finished books out now, with an ebook priced well under the $9.99 price point that traditional use. (No, don’t get into a pricing discussion. Figure it out for yourself or look at my posts on pricing. It’s a science, okay? Work it out.)
Second, if you’re working on a tight publishing schedule like some indies do—a book every two months or so or whatever it is you do—continue that. Your readers will stick with you. Some new readers will join up.
Third, do things to gain new readers, but make sure they’re discount things. I’m in several Storybundles this spring. The ones I’m curating were going to happen anyway—the Mysterious Women bundle and an upcoming writing bundle. But the other two? The YA Charity Bundle and the Adventure Bundle? Those have come about after the virus hit, so that we could offer inexpensive books for people who don’t have a lot of cash at the moment.
People are buying. They just have limited cash, and they’re scared.
We’re also offering a number of first book in series free right now. For example, my very first Diving novel is free, so that readers can jump into the series (which they’re doing). Some readers are not going to have the extra cash to jump in, but they can go to libraries, where the ebooks are also available.
Four, this is the time to be wide, not exclusive, because everyone is stuck at home, and going to their favorite platform for books. Be available on those platforms, so that readers can find you, when they can’t get their favorite traditionally published author.
Five, realize that the fall and winter is going to be a clusterfuck. Everyone and their dog (if the dog is writing books) will have a book out. There will be a ton of noise about publishing, and a lot of desperation as well. So don’t have your one big release coming in the fall. It’s going to be ugly out there.
Six, however, if you’re on that clockwork publishing schedule that your readers expect, keep to it. That book every two months. Keep doing it in the fall and winter, because that’s what you do. Don’t alter it for an election or because traditional publishing has gone nuts.
Seven, expect a sales decline in the fall. There will be a resurgence of the virus (hopefully without a lockdown), lots of election insanity, and now, tons of traditional publishing insanity. If your book rises above the noise, it’s because you’re on that publishing schedule or you’ve hit the zeitgeist by writing the definitive plague novel or something.
Eight, don’t spend a lot of marketing dollars in the publishing glut of the fall. Save your marketing for another point—whatever that might be.
Finally, be calm. You can’t control sales right now any more than you can control the damn virus. So write your books, publish them well, and if they don’t sell to your expectations, don’t worry about it. Books aren’t produce. The book will be there when the crisis is over, and maybe then you’ll want to promote it.
Traditional publishing is in crisis, but indie publishing is not. We’re there for readers. We just need to recognize it.
Continue writing and publishing your books. Have fun with them, and your readers will as well. We all need a safe place to forget about the world for a while. As a writer, you create those places for your readers.
Your job is important. Time to step up and get it done. Getting it done includes getting it published.
Your readers will be grateful when you do.
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“Business Musings: The Year Ahead…Again,” copyright © 2020 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © 2020 by Kristine K. Rusch
I’m lucky. I have three Russian-doll series. Secondary characters in some stories are main characters in others. So every sale I make excites some interest in every other book or shorter story & adds sales for those other books/stories.
Shorter stories are a good place for those secondary characters to take center stage for a time.
Recently I began every week to put out for free one of my books for five days (the max Amz will allow.) I bundled the shorter stories into collections of three, each three showcasing a secondary character. For my very popular Space Orphan trilogy I priced the first book at $.99 (the min Amz will allow). The other two 120K books are at $3.99.
I publish exclusively at Amz after finding B&N, Apple, etc sales were rare. Thus I was eligible to Amz’s KU/KOLL subscription services. I find that I make as much or more income from those services as book sales.
Book sales ramp up first and fall off first, then the sub services begin to ramp up and fall off. By the time both income sources fall below a certain level I always have another book ready to publish.
Mark & others, create a web site now. It will occupy some of your free time. Plus you need a website BEFORE you have stories to sell. It takes time to learn the tech and more importantly the art of making & running it.
WordPress.com is the best way to go. It makes creating and using your site fairly easy from the very beginning. And has lots of room to go fancier when you are ready to do so.
But at the beginning just try to create an absolutely MINIMAL site that is elegantly attractive & easy to use. TAKE BABY STEPS to improving it. Get into the habit of posting SOMETHING every week, or two, rarely more often.
Keep your posts to subjects that are likely to show up in your books. If you’re into horses, or history, or space travel each week you will automatically know of books/tv shows/events that fans of you and your stories will enjoy.
Your site is a business site, so keep personal stuff out of it UNLESS you are a great wit that can make your weekend BBQ disaster laughalicious or at least chuckilicious.
Your site is a place that you have complete control over & will serve as your most important contact with your fans. FB/Twit/etc can help, but they are sidelines for a working author.
Look at the sites of your favorite authors for inspiration for your site, but more for a source of ideas than to slavishly imitate. You want to someday have a site that reveals YOUR BRAND to the world, not someone else’s brand.
On point as usual. Great post. Thank you .
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Just bought the first Diving novel and the next three coz I could afford them. Such a relief to have my reading lined up for the next couple of weeks. 🙂
Excellent advice about Indie publishing too. There will always be readers who dismiss Indie writers, but as this crisis continues, even some of them may discover how good Indie fiction truly is. Apart from Robin Hobb and China Mieville, I don’t think I’ve read a traditionally published book since 2012. I suspect the Big Five may have just shot themselves in the foot.
Bookbub had a blog post lately about the types of books that are selling, and what people are requesting. People are looking for “happy books”. If that’s not folks looking for an escape, I don’t know what is. I’m pondering how I can show off my cozy mysteries as happy books. 😀
Cozies put order on chaos. That feels good in chaotic times.
What I’m currently getting a good laugh from is the (typical during a crisis) mad rush to publish Coronavirus-related fiction. I can certainly understand the non-fiction rush; people want info ASAP to guide their lives and actions right now. What I can’t grok is why anyone in lock-down want to read dismal, depressing fiction mirroring what’s happening in real life.
Escapist fiction should be escapist. Let’s see what book sales say about all this!
Darn it. opportunities everywhere – and I CANNOT write any faster.
As a member of the vulnerable old and already ill group, I’m glad I’m writing at all (only skim the internet these days). But I am, and it’s coming along, but there is a limit to my acceleration possibilities, and I’m at it.
Thanks for being the voice of sanity in this madness, Kris. I’ve been releasing on schedule because I set up pre-orders for the first half of 2020 back in December when I thought this would be a “normal” year. Despite my fears that readers would cancel their pre-orders when the solid waste hit the spinning turbine, pre-orders have actually gone up. It shows how desperate folks are for a distraction.
Always interesting to read your comments Kris.
One extra thing. Book publishers often issue their books in USA first and later on in the rest of the world. As the USA election will also be in the late autumn maybe that is the time for authors to concentrate on getting their books noticed in the rest of the world?
Keep up the good work
Thanks for this. I just wanted to add that, for ‘freebie seekers’ and readers who are really skint right now, I’ve been telling them there’s always the library. ? Although brick and mortar libraries are closed, the apps are open and the books of wide authors are listed in a lot of them.
Well said, I like the cut of your jib. Steady at the helm, keep doing what works. Indie writers and publishers are not the dinosaurs the traditional publishers are. They have fallen into a tar pit and don’t even realize they are sinking. I will share this sage advice widely.
Thanks for the optimistic report, Kris.
Here in New Jersey, it’s a little difficult to be optimistic. Writing does take me away from it, but it isn’t easy. My creative voice is guiding me towards very tough, gritty, revenge endings. I mean really, I just finished a short story and the main character was a hard-boiled garden gnome.
The bright side is I’m hearing the creative voice now. I was able to kick critical voice right square in the groin and he’s been in a fetal position on the floor for a couple of weeks now.
I was laid off permanently on March 27th, so I really should be pushing full speed ahead. At some point I’ll be publishing a group of 5 short stories into a book, which will represent my first attempt at indie publishing. I’m scouring youTube videos on how to do this.
Oh, damn, I didn’t drink my Clorox today. I gotta go.
Give yourself time to grieve and mourn the loss of the way of life you had before this craziness. Any work you can do on your writing in this tough time is excellent. (And I love your hard-boiled garden gnome. I made a garden gnome the hero of a romance novel once.)
Mark, please leave your website (with buy links on the website) next time you comment because your garden gnome sounds totally awesome!
Suzan, I don’t have anything published yet. Too many years of critical voice stopping me.
Thanks to Dean and Kris, I have the little bugger tied down for now.
But thanks for your encouragement.
Mark, if you have a website, leave that link and people can follow you…then know when your book is published. 🙂
My first reader reported back on the hard-boiled Gnome story. He said he found the character comical. It didn’t sound comical to me while I was writing it. Herein lies the proof of Dean’s advice that writers are the worst judge of their own work. A while back when critical voice had me by the throat I would have thought the story failed. But it worked for my first reader.
Onward to the next story.