A frenzy of self-publishing followed Amazon’s program to allow authors to publish their own works. A bit slowly at first, and then an explosion in 2011 and 2012, which is still exploding. And no, Amazon wasn’t the only company, but they were, and still are, the largest.
Some of the big names to come out of that time? Colleen Hoover, Abbi Glines, Jaime McGuire, etc, etc, etc…
But there were some smaller authors, who were say… Maybe between agents with finished young adult books, and they did pretty well too.
I made more money than I ever thought I would writing. For about a little over a year, my salary equaled my husband’s – he’s a prosecutor. So, an attorney, but a public servant attorney. Good money. Not Mercedes-owner kind of money. But again, wayyyy more than I ever expected to make writing books for teens.
I’ll admit. It felt AWESOME. I was grateful, amazed, and thrilled that I was making a living doing something I’d always wanted to do. I’d finally pushed myself, and IT WORKED!
And you wanna know what happened?
A LOT of people started publishing books on their own. And to be heard/found, they were selling them for 0.99, almost all the time. Giving away books for free. Putting MANY books in packages, and selling the packages for 0.99.
Do you know what happens when you put books out there, and tell people that each book is only worth pennies?
People start to believe that books are worth pennies.
And after years of either checking out from a library, or paying around 10 bucks a book, people were loading their kindles and nooks (ok, mostly kindles, let’s be honest) with so many books, they’d need three lifetimes to read them all. BECAUSE BOOKS FOR PENNIES! (yes, I’m guilty of this too – on both the buying and publishing end of things)
A few things happened. FAST: Too many new cheap books to keep up with. Too many new authors. Readers realized they’d need to live 3 lifetimes to read all the books they’d purchased. (probably more).
And the bottom fell out. (not for everyone, and there’s still room for new “superstars” of self-publishing) But for a lot of us, the bottom fell out. Dropped in what felt like minutes.
But, I’m one of MANY authors whose income went from 3-12K a month to next to nothing. This happened so fast, we were all left stunned.
Imagine, for a moment, that your income is based on the things you create with your heart and mind, and then imagine that suddenly, you were being shown that those things had no worth.
This is how I felt for a while. I still sometimes do, you know, on those days when I want to have a pity-party for myself 😉
But I was one of the lucky ones. I was one of the few who jumped ship (sort of) for traditional publishing when I was still making money on self-published novels. For a while, I blamed the long publishing timelines that go with traditional publishing on my numbers dropping, and then I blamed… Well, isn’t it always easier to blame something else?
The truth is that things change: Readers change, timelines change, trends change… There is only so much a person can control. I will tell you right now that the books I put the most effort into, generally sold the least, and the books I put up for fun, paid off student loans, and bought family cars. To this day, there’s no rhyme or reason as to why one novel sells great, and the next flops. (I’m maybe in the minority here).
I read a fab blog post by Chuck Wendig for authors who are mid-career. He said two things that have stuck with me:
- People who have been authors for a long time, most of them, have reinvented themselves through genres, categories, and pen names, several times over.
- DIVERSIFY. Take advantage of ALL the publishing options out there. Do so without shame.
He didn’t use those exact words, but that’s MY takeaway, and let’s be honest – once our words are out in the world, people can interpret them as they wish. (If you’d like to gain your own interpretation of this post, go check it out – http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/01/20/some-thoughts-for-you-mid-career-writers-out-there/
So, where does that leave me now?
Making a few bucks a month from the stories I’ve left on Amazon that I’ve done on my own, and needing a new challenge. One of those new challenges is editing. Helping bring someone else’s story to life is MAGICAL. Almost as magical as bringing my own novels to life. Another new challenge, is my NEED to switch up what I write.
Yes, stepping outside the genre I write for my publisher might not be my best move, but sometimes a person NEEDS change.
About a year ago, I talked about stretching writerly wings and starting fresh (you can find that here – https://beenwriting.com/2017/01/09/spreading-writerly-wings/). I’m very happy to say that I’m settling into the idea that I CAN TAKE MY TIME to decide what I want to do next. That I can write several novels that will probably never see the light of day while I gain some new footing. That I can also take time to dig myself into enough genres that I’ll know what I’d like to move forward with next. Where I’d like to be publishing next. What publication avenue would best suit the novels that have been spit out in a flurry of drafting, and now sit on my computer, waiting for me to make my next move.
The lesson to learn is that anyone can reset, at any time, if they’re willing to work for it.
I find myself feeling very much like I did before I signed my first contract. Hopeful. Excited. More ideas spinning in my head than I could ever hope to have the time to write. But this time I have the advantage of experience. And good, bad, or mediocre, that experience is worth more than any pennies I’ve made along the way.
Happy Writing and Happy Holidays,