While Scribd and Oyster have been offering subscription-based services to readers for a while now, Amazon has just come out with their version under Kindle Unlimited. Upon reading some discussions on all of this, I came to the conclusion that there is nothing set in stone in the publishing world. It is always evolving, always changing. And no one can tell with 100% certainty where it’s all headed.
For example, back in 2009 when I started publishing ebooks, I never imagined I would earn more than $30 a year (if I was lucky) with my work. And today when new authors publish, they are disappointed if $30 is all they get in one month. Then in 2010, the big thing was $0.99. It was easy to gain a new readership at this price point. Today? Not so much. Though, pricing the first book in a series at free seems to still work. But with big name authors lowering their price points, it’s not wise to price too high either for your non-free titles. With subscription services taking off, I’m sure it’ll have some impact on how book prices go. But it’s too soon to tell just how things will shake out.
The point to all of this is that nothing stays the same in this crazy up-and-down roller coaster world of publishing. I’m not going to say what will or won’t happen.
But what I can offer are some ways to cope in this volatile market we’re in, so hopefully, we can all stay sane. :)
1. Keep writing.
Why? Because this is what we love to do. It is our passion. This is why we get up in the morning. Writing is our escape from the outside world when it presses in on us. Sometimes you have to turn off the TV, get off the Internet, and shut the door on people who are trying to distract you. If you’re like me, you feel anxious when you don’t write. I can go for a week without writing and be fine, but after that, I get irritable and stressed out. I need to write to stay level. It’s how I relax. If writing doesn’t relax you, then I suggest finding something else that does, like going for a walk or seeing a movie. You need a way to step away from stressful situations. And, if you’re relaxed, you’ll write better.
2. Keep publishing.
There are certain times of the year I find it better to publish than others, but I don’t limit myself to only those times. I publish even on months that historically have sucked for me. Publishing on a regular basis helps to steady out the money you bring in. The more books you publish a year, the better your chances are of making money and staying “new enough” so people don’t forget you. I realize everyone’s life differs. Some people can write fast; others can’t. But if you can get something new out on a predictable basis or when you promise readers you will, it’ll help.
Keep in mind that not all books will sell well, and there is no way to predict which will do better than others. But when you keep getting books out there, you increase your chances of being noticed and staying relevant. And you never know. Some day your work might take off. If you took the time to lay the groundwork and acquire a nice backlist, that could work in your favor.
But most of all, one more book finished and published, is a satisfying feeling all on its own. I’m working my way to the goal of 50 romance books. (I just published my 42nd one.) The best rewards are those where we set a goal for ourselves that we can control.
3. Be aware of sales but don’t obsess over them.
I do think it’s important to know how your books are doing, but try to limit how often you go to check your dashboard or sales rankings. Some people can check their sales once a day and not agonize if they are losing momentum. Some people can only check their stats once a month. It depends on your comfort level. If you’re obsessing over them, then it’s time to back off. I realize it can be hard to do that, but it’ll help you keep sane if you do.
The picture above with the up and down chart is very much like my own dashboard. From month to month, it can be an extreme up or down, and this occurs even in months when I publish a new book. What I usually do is track my sales for the first two months on any book I publish. What I’m doing is gauging which type of romance I’m writing that resonates best with my readers. I write Regencies, historical westerns, and contemporaries. I usually write them around the same time so I can publish them around the same time. Why do I do this? To get a better idea of what I should write more of in the future.
My overall sales seem to be better in the first part of the year. October through December are awful for me. January through March are best. April through September are pretty stable with a regular up and down flow. By publishing in all these time frames, I am able to get a better idea of whether my reader base prefers Regencies, historical westerns, or contemporaries that I write. I know there’s good money in contemporaries, but these are not my best selling books. I do best with Regencies and historical westerns because that is my particular reader base. I write contemporaries to get a break and do something different. If you can write fast, you do have the luxury of writing a couple books that you think won’t do well with sales. But overall, you want to try to aim your books for your readers, if your goal is to make some money off your work. If your goal is to write solely for enjoyment (and that is perfectly acceptable), then you don’t have to take sales into account.
4. Most of all, remember to enjoy what you’re doing.
I do believe it’s okay to step away from writing if you have lost the joy in it. Maybe you need a break. Maybe you need to evaluate whether or not this is what you really want to do. It’s hard to be a writer when people are highly critical of books. Some people will email you, leave comments on your blog, or write reviews about your book, and they will be rude. It happens to all writers sooner or later. We can’t please everyone. It’s impossible. The work we do is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of thick skin to be in the public eye, and that thick skin takes time to develop.
There were a couple of times when I wanted to give up. I stepped back and took a month off to figure out if I wanted to keep writing books for the public. (I don’t think I can ever get away from writing. It’s who I am. But I don’t have to publish what I write.) There were times when I stood in the shower for a long time and cried or needed to talk to other writers because I was down in the dumps. (Believe me, non-writers have no idea what it feels like to get hateful messages telling them how much their books suck.) Two times, I almost unpublished everything I’d ever written.
Only you can decide if you want to stick with it. Don’t let someone else tell you if you should or not. This is your decision. And if you want to quit for a while, there’s no reason why you can’t come back later and start again. I don’t know what the answer is for you if you feel like taking a break or quitting. But I can tell you that you can get thick skin. Hurtful comments will always hurt. They might not hurt as much. But the pain does go away. You do get stronger. You will get over it faster. The positive will come in. Life is a cycle of ups and downs. Nothing stays constant.
Being an author in an ever-changing publishing world can be rough, but if you focus on things you can control, then the path gets a lot smoother. You can’t change what the trends are. All you can do is keep writing, publishing, take everything in stride, and, if necessary, take a break to get your mind back into the game.
image 1 (pen and paper): ID 2947054 © Richard Thomas | Dreamstime.com
image 2 (publish): ID 39234114 © Wavebreakmedia Ltd | Dreamstime.com
image 3 (stats): ID 18004323 © Daniel Draghici | Dreamstime.com
image 4 (think forward): ID 39709981 © Libux77 | Dreamstime.com
These pictures were purchased by Ruth Ann Nordin, one of the administrators of this blog.