Business Musings: All Good Things

Business Musings free nonfiction On Writing

I should have seen it coming when I couldn’t figure out how to write the year-end blogs. I found a dozen topics that fit, but none really interested me. They’re all important from different perspectives. The perspectives are so different from each other that they no longer feel like part of the same industry.

For example, traditionally published writers claim they care about craft, but really, they care about old-fashioned readership—which has been declining through the trade channels for the past five years or more. Bestselling books published by traditional publishers sell half of what they sold in 2009, and that was already down by another third from 1999.

Traditional publishers don’t help writers get an audience. Traditional publishers buy up copyright for the term of the copyright so that they can have assets on their accounting books. They take years to publish something, which is often unrecognizable from what the author initially intended.

Still, traditional writers hope for “legitimacy,” whatever that means, and strive to get agents, even though book agents take 15% of the book for the life of the book and do very little work (as well as often practicing law without a license).

Traditional publishing has changed for the worse in the decade plus since I started this blog, and still writers get sucked into trad pub. I was done about five years ago writing for writers who want to go that route, because I hate to see their dreams crushed.

Just this week, I watched a writer whom I respect, who should know better, try to find a new agent because the writer’s partner, also a writer, has a New York Times notable book (which is also a bestseller), and can’t get their book agent to return phone calls.

How discouraging. When someone else (not me) suggested hiring an attorney instead of a book agent, the writer (whom I respect a bit less now) essentially called that someone an ignorant idiot.

That same interchange could have happened in 2015 or 2009. No one learns on that side of the fence, and very few people change. They don’t want to.

On the indie side of the fence, learning is essential. Writers share knowledge and ideas, all while writing the books of their hearts (to use the romance term). Some writers go awry because they get caught up in analytics or trying to write “what sells” but writers have always been like that.

The problem with indie these days is that there are so many good ways to make a living that there’s no longer one path.

Okay…that’s not a problem. That’s a good thing.

I started writing this weekly blog at the advent of the indie movement, mostly to remind myself that this is a viable career path. Now I can’t imagine existing without indie publishing. Going back to traditional wouldn’t be possible for me.

It was barely possible in 2009. The contracts got worse, the editors were a nightmare, and I wasn’t about to give my copyright to some corporation for a mere five figures, when I knew the copyright on a single book could bring in licenses worth tens of thousands of dollars.

I wasn’t that desparate in 2009 and I’m certainly not that desperate now. As I noted in some recent blogs, my books are all in print. The books of my traditional friends? Not in print at all. Or if they are in print, my friends aren’t making a dime off of them.

It’s discouraging, but as I’ve seen over the past few years, people have dug in. It doesn’t matter that traditional writers now have to get a “real” job to make a living. Or that the changes in indie have made it possible for those of us who understand business to make a good living while writing what we love.

We’ve changed.

The world has changed.

And honestly, I’m not that interested in writing about the publishing industry weekly. There is no publishing industry anymore. There are different aspects of book publishing, all of which fascinate me, and none of which make me want to pontificate for a few thousand words every single week.

Then there’s my writing itself. In the spring, I made a list of the books clamoring to get out of my brain. The series that need finishing right now, the standalones I’ve been dying to write, the books I’ve intended to write since the turn of the century if not longer, as well as the short stories that rise to the top of my to-do list because I read an inspiring article or saw an amazing play.

I will have time to write all of that if I double down on my fiction writing. Or triple down. When I write fiction, I write a minimum of 1,000 new words per hour. The blog takes a minimum of 10 hours per week from idea to page, including the audio (which is maybe 20 minutes of that 10 hours). I love the audio. It’s fun.

The blog, not so much.

In fact it had become such a drag that I put it off until the last minute, and then have to give up even more fiction writing time to get it down.

And while the blog makes me more money per month than someone would earn making minimum wage (not counting all the nonfiction books I get out of it or the other perks), I could make more money if I write three novellas a year, whether I sell them to traditional markets or not.

The blog is self-sustaining financially, but it’s actively costing me money. My earnings as a fiction writer have gone up dramatically in the past fourteen years.

The earnings—for those of you who still have a traditional publishing dream—do not come when a book or story is released but slowly over the course of a year. I used to say that indie writers don’t get advances, but with presales and the rise of Kickstarter, indie writers make money before the book comes out. Sometimes that money is more than a typical book advance. Sometimes it’s less.

But it’s always at the beginning—and then the writer goes on to sell copies of the book for years, rather than a few months as it happens in traditional.

So each moment I spend writing fiction brings me more money than I made even five years ago. I used to clock my writing time at $500 per hour, but it’s more like $1000 per hour…and that doesn’t count other licenses like sales of related merchandise or movie options. I haven’t done that math.

Thirty dollars per hour writing a blog post that has little resale value or $1000 per hour writing stories that can sell for decades. It’s really a no brainer.

I never really worried about that when I needed the blog to explain the changes in the publishing industry to myself. I just wanted the blog to pay me for my time. I did turn the posts into many books, some of which sell really well and some of which need massive updating. But I don’t want to update them. I have other things to do.

Yes, you’re beginning to understand where this is going. The weekly blog on my website is going away. I will be using the time to write more stories, finish some book projects, do other book projects and, oddly enough, do a lot more promotion of my existing work.

Because there are times when my brain is too tired for fiction, but awake enough to write nonfiction or promotional material. I will use that brain power on something that can actually help my existing fiction works rather than explore something that I’m no longer interested in.

Except…I do like noting things about the publishing industry, from time to time. Some things catch my attention and I want to discuss them. I will do that on my Patreon page, which I am not shutting down.    

I’ll be doing mostly short posts pointing out an article that writers might want to pay attention to, or commenting on some major change. I’m not going to do a long essay, unless I feel inspired.

I have a hunch I won’t feel inspired for a few months, and then something will grab me and I’ll have to make my opinion known.

Will I post a publishing industry blog here on my website? Probably not.

I will, however, get back to doing the Recommended Reading List, which got set aside in this strange year from hell, and absolutely will continue with the Free Fiction Monday posts. I’ll also be revamping the website (now that it has a new design) so that it serves 2020s instead of the 2000s.

So I’m not going away. I’m just not going to write something on a deadline week in and week out. I have too much fiction to write.

Did Dean’s fall have anything to do with this change? Not really. Except that I noticed just how much I would rather be writing fiction than commenting on changes that I really didn’t care about.

But I had had these feelings since I made that list of projects back in the spring, and maybe even before that. I was getting tired…not of the grind…but of the topic.

I really would rather be writing something else.

Thank you all for coming to the blog over the past 14 years, to read the roughly 1,000 posts on the industry that I’ve written. You’ve challenged me and supported me and given me ideas.

I value it all.

“Business Musings: All Good Things,” copyright © 2023 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright olly18 on Deposit Photos.

 

33 thoughts on “Business Musings: All Good Things

  1. Dear Kris,
    Your clear vision and insight here has both taught and inspired me over these years. In complex subjects like this, most writers just can’t be that clear. They get caught up in jargon and theories that are explained by using jargon and theories. But you write like you teach, bringing us along for the ride. And that is greatly appreciated. I’ll miss the weekly peek into what interests you, but can’t wait to read your new writing! Onward!

  2. Thanks for writing this blog for so long, Kris. It will be missed! Wishing you many more fulfilling (& lucrative) hours of fiction instead.

  3. Thank you for writing the blog! I gained so much value from it, both in terms of learning about what traditional publishing entails and how to navigate the independent publishing world. It truly was invaluable for me as a newcomer, not to mention simply the joy of getting to read the short stories and recommendations alongside! I’m glad to hear the rec lists will continue as you return more fully to your primary interests.

  4. I am sorry to see it go as I learned a lot here. So thank you for that.

    But you’ve got to do what’s right for you. Good luck!

  5. I found your blog a few years ago when I was looking for updates on Talia’s Revenge or the Retrieval Artist series in general. Even though I’m not a writer, your articles were interesting to me as a reader by helping to explain the changes I was seeing. Plus, I found much of what you wrote was sage advice in general for a lot of us in many other industries to protect ourselves in the current corporate environment. Thanks for all the excellent informative postings over the years, and I hope to read even more of your fiction in the future!

  6. I’m glad you addressed whether this was due to Dean’s accident because that’s the first thing I thought as I read this. After my husband’s illness, I started my fiction writing career. I am so glad you and Dean are both doing well…and I understand why it’s important to focus on doing what you love. However, I will miss your blog posts. All the best to both of you and Happy Holidays!

  7. Well, dang. Though I completely understand your reasons for stopping this series… it’s still a bummer because I love this series and I’ve learned so much! I went from desperately wanting to be traditionally published (because I thought that was the best thing for a writer) to realizing how wrong I was and how little I knew about traditional publishing. Now, I’m just thankful I didn’t sell my copyright without knowing any better, which I probably would have if I’d gotten that coveted book deal ten years ago like I wanted.

    Seriously, I’m going to miss the weekly posts on here! Though I do enjoy Free Fiction Monday and at least that isn’t going away. 😀

  8. This blog has always been so appreciated. I looked to Thursdays. It kept me in a good frame of mind. However, now I will have to look forward to more KKR fiction instead of just writing insights.

    Thank you for doing this as long as you did-

  9. Hi Kris,
    I have only recently discovered your blog and love your musings. Could you post recommended links to older posts for people every so often, if you no longer wish to write new posts? I have been checking out some of your older posts which are linked below and enjoying them greatly. Thanks for all you do and enjoy your writing x

  10. Hi Kris, sorry to hear this, but totally understand your decision. I’ve been reading Business Musings (and its various precursors) every Thursday since its inception and learnt something useful each and every time.

  11. Thank you, Kris, for doing so much to help all of us understand the (traditional) world we came from and the new world we’re in, the business and the craft… all of it. You and Dean are terrific. You’re also writers, first and foremost, so of course you’re doing the right thing now: may you enjoy even more success with every new book and story!

  12. I’ve been reading these blogs since very close to the beginning, and I’m sad to see you stop, but fourteen years is a long, long time and it’s completely understandable you don’t want to keep doing this any more. Thank you for what you have done.

  13. Hi, Kris,
    One of the challenges I’ve been running into is finding writers who talk about craft above the beginner level. It used to be that I thought I could trust the craft books coming out of traditional publishing. You’d think they’d want people to learn how to be better to get into their stable…but no. It’s very profitable to focus on beginners because beginners will throw money at anything that helps them with their dream (write the book, not get published, though the latter is implied). Unfortunately, some of the skills are disappearing because they were on top ten agent lists of “Do not do this.” Yes, these are some advanced writers talking about craft skills like you and Dean; I’ve taken Superstar courses with Johnathan Maberry and Jim Butcher. But I can count the writers on two hands with plenty of fingers left. The experienced writers are writing, and the not-so experienced writers are teaching basics.

    Worse, some indies aren’t interested in new craft skills. I attended a mastermind session–our group had 10 book writers. The big focus? How to do production goals and word count. Everyone listed various forms of marketing as their expertise. No one talked about craft as an expertise. I know a writer who writes a million words a year…and he cannot sell above semi-pro level because he refuses to do depth. He thinks it’s about how you market.

    So I’ve had to dig into The Writer Magazine from the 1940s and 1950s (available free online) to find the craft skills no one’s teaching, or variations on ones that people are but that i want a different perspective. But it’s disheartening that we have all this knowledge that can be available, and people won’t teach it because beginners get it wrong.

  14. Makes good sense to me! Looking forward to reading more of your fiction, although my Thursday morning tea will miss catching up with the blog.

  15. Wow, this feels like the end of an era! I have loved your publishing blog for years, and it really helped me choose the self publishing path and understand it. Thank you for all the time you spent sharing your experience and expertise. I know it’s helped so many writers. I understand your choice, though. I hope you get to write everything you want to!
    Rebecca

  16. Thank you!
    I’ve been following your newsletter for a couple of years now, having come across your post on copyrighting. I have appreciated your business posts and the time you’ve put into them. As well as participating in events like 20Books.
    But you must do what you enjoy and what makes you the most. So enjoy!
    Wishing you and Dean a Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. The end of an era. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.

    I’ve been here for a little over a decade and your essays have always been a much anticipated highlight of the week. They have been a big part of the inspiration to finally get serious about my fiction writing and to finally publish it. I literally would not be where I am today with my writing career – small as it is – without you. So a massive thank you for that.

    I see the paypal link is missing from this post, but I will hunt one down in an older post to show my gratitude with more than just words. Somehow I feel that whatever I can miss can never be enough to compensate for the advice you have given out for free for all this time.

  18. Understandable. I too write for my blogs, and as you say the cost versus benefit analysis is not great. OTOH I’ve been in such a bad place that the only writing I’ve managed to finish has been for my blogs. Life has been emotionally a bit of a nightmare.

    BTW: Just finished your Anniversary Day Saga, and what can I say? It sucked me in, and I couldn’t put them down. I consumed then like a starving person having their first good meal after a famine.

    Now I have but one question! When is Talia’s Revenge coming?

    1. The last couple of years have been like that for me too, Ashley. I felt like I was hanging on to my writing by my fingernails.
      This winter (I live in Canada) I can feel the stressors slowly evolving into, well, less stress 🙂 and the writerly stuff coming to the fore again. This is in spite of discovering our rescue cat was pregnant and I’m now a ‘grandma’ of six adorable two-week-old bundles of black fur. 😀
      Reading this blog too has helped my sanity.

  19. Thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom all these years, Kris. I came to your blog maybe a couple of years ago (and to indie publishing a few years before that), and it has always stood as a voice of reason amid all the chaos this industry has been. Thank you for keeping us focused on what really matters. I’ll miss the weekly posts but I’m also eager to read more of your fiction.

  20. As a reader, I’m grateful to hear that you’re moving on to writing more fiction, because I love your stories more than your blogs. I’ve appreciated the blogs as a writer, but I’m glad that you’re following your heart and your bliss and your muse. Life is short, and I can’t wait to read whatever comes next.

  21. Thank you for my dose of sanity each week.
    I have loved your blog and directed my blog readers to it every week.
    I will miss you. But I understand.
    Kia kaha (strength). Kia manawanui, (be steadfast) mana wahine toa (warrior woman)
    Arohanui (much love)
    Maureen

  22. For selfish reasons I’m sorry to see the blog go, but I have to cheer you for priortizing your writing! Bravo! So happy for you!

    I’ve been saying for years that the blog was the most insightful observation on publishing in the biz and everyone should be reading it. I think you were incredibly generous to do it as long as you did.

    Most people do the things that they are good at. Your problem Kris is you’re good at everything (or at least a LOT of things.) I’m glad you’re priortizing the thing you love. And ALSO for selfish reasons, I’m glad the world will get more KKR Fiction. : )

    S.

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