September 2nd, 2014
What Used To Work, Doesn’t Anymore

Three years ago I started self-publishing my backlist. I eventually got everything put up this year. I have noticed a significant change in self-publishing, especially this year. There was a time when you could write the best book you could, have it edited, get an amazing cover, and be pretty sure it would sell decently. Not HUGE numbers, but sustainable numbers. Numbers that would allow most writers to make a living.

Time for a harsh truth: Those days are over.

Now you have to do all the above and hope that you don’t slip down even further. Someone on one of the many lists I belong to was talking about market saturation and predicting even bigger changes to the publishing industry because of it. I believe them. I no longer recognize most of the names I see on the bestseller lists. In fact, I’ve never heard of 85% of them. I don’t want the meaning of those lists to be lost, but I’m afraid that’s exactly what’s going to happen if things continue the way they’re going.

I heard reps from Amazon and Kobo speaking recently and they hinted that big changes were coming. One even hinted at some type of quality control being put into place. I admit that I had mixed feelings about that, since who knows who will be in charge of deciding what’s good or not. The one thing all these changes have driven home to me is that I can’t continue to do what I’ve always done. No matter how hard I work to make my books better (i.e. studying craft, hiring good editors, cover artists, formatters, etc.), my efforts won’t be enough on their own. That is a REALLY difficult thing for me to say and an even harder thing for me to accept. But accept it I must. I’ve come up with a few things I plan to implement on the marketing front, but even those won’t be enough to make a huge dent in a saturated market. (And I don’t mean that in a ‘oh woe is me’ way.) I’m simply stating a fact.

So what does that mean for me and writers like me?

For me, it means changing focus significantly. As much as I enjoy writing romance, I’m never going to be a top-selling romance author. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. (I needed to hear it again.;) I wish that weren’t the case, since that’s been my dream from age fourteen on, but it’s true. My ‘voice’ and the way I approach storytelling is better suited for other genres. Genres I might have a chance of breaking out in. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be writing more romances. I still have a few books I want to write. What it does mean is that they will no longer be my main focus or a priority. They can’t be, if I want to continue to make a living. I will have to push them to the back burner and work on building my other pen names. Pen names that don’t focus entirely on romance. Let the games begin.

It’s a brave new publishing world out there. The only thing certain is change. 🙂

8 comments to “What Used To Work, Doesn’t Anymore”

  1. Bad news for you, but good news for me: I’m not all that keen on romance 🙂 (I added the Dead World series to my wishlist because I thought they were urban fantasy.)

  2. The competition grows exponentially now, and new product on the market is a must. Name recognition is still a major key with so many books being published. There were 186,000 books in the Men’s Adventure category last week for example. More readers are aware now of Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ preview, and the accurate novel length projection provided. It is exciting competing on an open market though.

  3. Tez, You’re too funny. I still like reading romance, but also read a tremendous amount of urban fantasy.

    The Dead World series has romance in it, but it’s as gritty as any urban fantasy you’d pick up. I call them sci-fantasy thrillers. They may gross you out, but you should enjoy them–especially the new version of Red. (Make sure you didn’t put the old ones on your wishlist because I changed them significantly.

  4. Bernard, Yes, there is. I’ll be curious to see what happens if the market hits the saturation point. The girl talking about it said that it’ll mean even more significant changes to publishing than is already happening.

    Yes, I like the open market, too, though I doubt very seriously that I’ll be able to keep up the kind of pace I did in 2012.

  5. I bought all three original Dead World paperbacks, so I’ll probably be reading them instead of buying the new versions, but hopefully I’ll still enjoy them – I like sci-fi! 🙂

  6. Tez, Oh cool!

    The ones you have are more romancy, so hopefully you’ll still enjoy them. 😉

  7. I’m anxious to see what the future holds for self publishing. I wonder if reviews will be the deciding factor in if a self pubbed book is on the “good” list or not. Maybe reviews will be the gatekeeper? I don’t know.

  8. Nancy, I’m very curious to see if some of the distributers start acting as filters and what else the future of self-publishing holds. I sure hope it’s not based on reviews. I’ve seen books with hundreds of reviews that I couldn’t read through due to all the technical craft issues. There’s just too many ways to game them from what I’ve heard.