An Exciting Time to be a Writer, or…?

When I first started writing this post, I’d stated that I’d been having a hectic time of things lately, though it wasn’t one of those “hectics” that bowls you over and leaves the smears of your remains staining whatever surface was unfortunate enough to bear the brunt of impact, and that I was more or less confused by things.

Man, did that turn on a dime! =|

Still, I think I figured some of it out, but I’m still piecing together the leftovers. PROMOTION! That’s the key! Or so they say, and I actually haven’t had as much time to promote the release of my next book as I’d hoped. Again, life comes atcha fast, as in, approaching warp speed! And before I know it, The Final Calling will be out and I’ll be making announcements for the release of my sixth book. Have I already written five? Wow, just wow.

So now I’m here, making note of how crazy it all is, but no matter which way the wind is blowing in that department, this is actually an exciting time to be a writer! I mean, isn’t it? Cause I’m kinda confused there, too … !

For example, the internet, which has revolutionized our entire way of life, has most certainly changed the way the writing/publishing world works. Maybe it took a little more time for that change to occur, but it’s happening everyday. I’ve read article after article now about the newer methods of self publishing and its impact on the market, and whether or not you believe that impact is beneficial, it’s turning the tide, particularly with how traditional publishing houses function on the whole.

Whenever I think about the course of these events, I usually end up imagining the traditional publishing houses as being a dam. Basically, it used to be that they were the ultimate say in what got put on a shelf and what should be left to gather dust. They were quite literally the concrete structure holding the larger lake back from flooding the valley, and regardless of right or wrong, what they stamped with a big thumbs up in approval was what we got to read–and very rarely did you ever get a book that was released by alternative means.

Then KDP came along like a giant wielding a club, and the giant hit the dam with a destructive slam whilst proclaiming, “Me give new way to publish books!”

So writers started forgoing the publishing houses, opting against waiting for acceptance or rejection in favor of putting their works up all on their own. Not only had this new method of self publishing broken the dam holding back the waters, when the lake spilled over, it created a hundred rivers leading to either new opportunities, or … they just sent you falling off a cliff.

All it took was traversing the river and seeing where it would lead, and this is a trip I think many authors are still on. Myself included.

image obtained from unsplash
Where’s the paddle for this boat, anyway?

Some of these rivers are long, after all. Amazon long. Oh my god, it’s a pun. Anyway, the point is that, ever since the dam burst and the ebook gold rush of 2009-2013 has passed, things are really, well, in a mess. Some of the floods have started to recede, and we’re surveying both the positive outcomes of this change, as well as the damages done (and we all know there have been some damages). Attempts to reconstruct the dam and make it better are underway, and even the giant is all like, “Okay, I need to work at controlling my impulses.”

I’ll admit, I’m not 100% certain how far those efforts have come. We still have giants and dams, and it feels like there’s a struggle going on between them that isn’t really getting anyone anywhere. While they’re fighting, a number of authors are just sitting in the background looking for ways to get their material into the hands of readers, resorting to networking on social media, sending requests to review blogs, and paying places to advertise. Basically, anything that might put a flashing neon light around their manuscript saying, “LOOK, LOOK, IT’S A BOOK!” Or something more simple like, “READ ME, SEYMOUR.”

I’ve tried all of the methods listed above, but I haven’t seen any significant results. Maybe I’m advertising in the wrong place, or maybe my networking skills aren’t up to par (like many writers, I don’t have all day to sit around looking for people to talk to). Or perhaps I lack the education needed to know exactly where to go and how to pitch my materials. But damn it, Jim, I’m a writer, not an advertiser, and while I can certainly develop marketing skills (I believe anyone can do anything they put their mind to), or just assemble a street team to spread the word for me, it gets kind of impossible when you’re already promoting, writing, editing, designing, and working a day job all at once (not to mention kids and whatever else might require your time).

And one place I think traditional publishing houses have the self publishing venue beat is in marketing.

After all, KDP and other places like it don’t actively promote your work. That’s not their job … is it? Their purpose is to publish it, but without seeking exposure for yourself, or getting 50+ reviews on Amazon, you’re not going to see your books listed anywhere unless you put it there yourself. This is really what puts the “self” in self publishing. Sure, you’ve written, edited, and done the x, y, z stuff all on your own, but your job doesn’t stop there!

Still, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if promotion shouldn’t also be a part of the self publisher’s job description. I mean, they are making money whenever someone buys our work, so you’d think they’d want to profit, and some do, but are they really going about it the right way? For example, there’s Kindle Scout; basically, KDP’s way of finding self published authors and offering them a type of traditional publishing contract. But isn’t this a step back? Returning to the ways of the dam that’s keeping the lake from flooding the valley? Or … do we need that to return?

I’m skeptical. With all of the changes that have occurred, it just doesn’t feel like this is a very practical way to capitalize, and if I’m being honest, I’ll say that I don’t believe either the giant or the dam is really working to change their models to suit the industry in its current state, or to suit the author’s needs to keep those of us working our asses off to put out quality works actually, well, doing so?

I’m not saying I wouldn’t write the best book I could possibly write just because I’m barely making sales or seeing any activity. Not. One. Bit. Writing is my passion, and I’ll keep doing it regardless of the sales I see. But sometimes, it does seem like the publishers (both traditional and self) are ignoring the little guys in favor of figuring out how to get ahead and make the most dough as soon as possible, and that maybe us authors don’t really matter all that much.

I could be very wrong (and I wouldn’t be surprised if I am). But what is everyone’s take on this? Are my fellow authors happy with their lot right now? Or are they feeling used/overlooked/frustrated with the way things are shaping up? Should self publishing platforms start offering more along the lines of promotion? Should the traditional publishing houses start accepting more manuscripts that were previously self published? It’s definitely something to discuss, so let me know in the comments!

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11 thoughts on “An Exciting Time to be a Writer, or…?

  1. I’m not a self-published author, but I do understand the struggle with promoting your work. When I used to write on Wattpad, I did everything I could to promote my story, but nothing worked. Everyone suggested I get featured but that seemed like the easy way out. Honestly, I don’t know the best way to promote a story or how to get readers. I feel like it’s getting harder to find and draw readers to my work. It seems the only way now is to use someone else’s fandom. Like writing fanfiction or something :/ It makes me sad.

    A good marketer is a nice thing to have > <

    1. Oh, I remember getting all kinds of reviews in my fan fiction writing days, and you’re right, it’s because it’s someone else’s fandom essentially. I have had a few people “follow me” so to speak, and they genuinely seem to enjoy my stories, but it’s more like a couple of groupies, you know? LoL :)

      I’d signed up for Wattpad not long ago, but the trouble there for me is that I’m so busy working on my series I don’t have the time to write anything to post! But in any case, I think it’s just a matter of continuing to do what we love to do just because we love doing it. I’ll never stop being a writer, it’s just what I am, and if I happen to entertain a handful of people along the way, or a couple hundred, that’s what really matters to me!

      1. I know how you feel, but still, I do wish I could gain more readers for my work. It seems most well-known authors these days used someone’s else’s fandom to get noticed.

  2. I agree with this post. It seems if you want to succeed as an indie or new traditional author you have to promote with like 90% of your time. The odds are stacked against you and there are leeches and vipers around every corner wanting a cut for their “expertise.” I’ve blogged a little bit like you on some of these scammers and their tactics, like the paid promotors. I’ve tried the things on my blog, like collaborative writing experiments and stuff and it seems to have helped build a group of friends.

    1. Oh, I have definitely had to deal with those scammers before! Every now and again, I’ll get an email from some weird website wanting me to sign up and “you’ll only get the full service if you pay x amount of money.” Sorry, but I’ll pass.

      I’ve also managed to make a few friends, or at least vague acquaintances, through blogging and posting on facebook. I think the key to remember in all of this is that success just doesn’t happen overnight. Okay, it does, but not to everyone, and when you’re expecting someone to suddenly shine a spotlight on you at any minute, you’re pretty much fooling yourself, and eventually, that kind of expectation is going to drag you down. So just keep building that group of friends. I’d rather have a group I could actually talk to about the things I like anyway than wake up tomorrow to find out I have three books on the bestsellers list and not know which way to turn afterward lol!

      But seriously, something like that would scare the crap out of me!

      1. I’d take a few best sellers first and then rebuild the network. It is much easier than the other way, that is for sure.

  3. I think the self-published market is saturated. So many of us are trying to be seen, we’re like drops in a vast ocean. Most of the paid promotion (I include blog tours…I booked two, to see if the fuss was worth it, and my answer is NEVER AGAIN.) attract other authors, not readers, or leeches who are only after winning free stuff.
    Trad publishers have the advantage of big money to advertise in magazines, put their books up in NetGalley or BookBub (the only two sites who are worth it, but cost an arm, a leg, and a kidney), distribute the books in stores/supermarkets etc…
    I am still a beginner, but more and more, I feel that all the indie success stories the internet is cramming our throats with are flukes, and there will be less and less of them.
    “But sometimes, it does seem like the publishers (both traditional and self) are ignoring the little guys in favor of figuring out how to get ahead and make the most dough as soon as possible, and that maybe us authors don’t really matter all that much.” Yes. Yes. And yes.
    What doesn’t help is that many readers now refuse to pay for books, whilst being happy to pay $$$ for a cup of coffee or new phone app. Coffee takes 30 seconds to make, 10 minutes at most to drink. I won’t start on the figures for writing and reading a book, but the comparison is very frustrating.

    1. I totally agree with what you said about readers not wanting to pay for books. That is the scary thing about me posting my books online first. If I ever do publish them, I often wonder if readers will buy them. I’m sorry to hear about the struggles self-published authors are having.

    2. “I think the self-published market is saturated.” Oh, it definitely is! I didn’t want to go too far into that topic in this post because I wanted to focus more on the actual publishers, but just as there are people trying to take advantage of indie authors by offering all kinds of paid services, there are also authors taking advantage of the system and mass producing books that are designed to get them a payment as fast as possible.

      But if you’re thinking indie success stories are a fluke, I can’t argue with you, and I think a large part of the reason why it’s so hard to get ahead right now is a lack of organization in the market. Traditional publishers and self publishers are so busy conducting their own affairs in a manner that benefits them the most that they’re really not seeing how offering authors the tools they need rather than putting stipulations on everything could get everyone a piece of the so-called pie. Or maybe it’s just that they don’t want to share that pie, I’m not sure.

      But the point is, I think someone could make a fortune by organizing some type of publishing business/press that has all of these services combined. For example, editing, promotion, cover design, website design, and an on-site forum dedicated to networking with readers all in one place. It should also give authors the tools to actually promote their work without any of the limitations (for example, kindle’s exclusivity deal where you can only list your books on Amazon if you want to take advantage of their free promotional tools). They could even have a group of people dedicated to quality control in some form (that would be harder to work out, but it could definitely be done).

      Now, this does pose the question of who could benefit from this service and how? Well, I definitely don’t think authors should have to pay to have their work published (I’m not talking about making another vanity press here), but some services would certainly need to be paid for the business to thrive. Perhaps it could also act as an agent for authors who’d prefer to be traditionally published as opposed to self published by sending their manuscripts to publishing houses and being a hub of communication between author and publisher.

      Overall, I’m going to at least ten different places on a daily basis right now to “keep everything together”. I come to my wordpress blog to keep my work updated with my followers, but I also have an entirely different set of followers on facebook, tumblr, and twitter. I have my reviews on goodreads, and my blog posts here are set up to go there as well. I publish on Amazon and Smashwords, and it’s a matter of visiting retailers to see when my books have been listed for sale. I design my own covers and whatnot, but I’m often on the hunt for stock photos that suit my needs.

      And when I actually want to have a sale on one of my books (or all of them)? My only option right now is offering coupon codes from Smashwords because Amazon, again, won’t let you give anything away unless you’re published with them exclusively for that particular title.

      So again, it all boils down to author tools that will allow them to get their books in reader’s hands, and we just don’t have many options to do so.

      Anyway, you mentioned blog tours, and I’ve never been on one, but it did sound like a huge hassle to me that wouldn’t get much attention from readers. So I’m definitely going to take your word for it and avoid them! I’d also heard of both Netgalley and Bookbub, and you’re right, they charge an arm, a leg, a kidney, and your firstborn child. I guess if it gets results, to some people, it would be worth it. But when you’re struggling to pay day to day bills, that’s not going to be a possibility.

  4. Six books?! Wow I’m impressed. I’ve only just started my self-publishing journey and my aim has always been six books (the ones i’m working on.) I can’t imagine what it will be like once I’m published, I don’t think anyone will find my work and I bet I’ll be at a loss of what to do when it comes to marketing. Any book promotions I see on Twitter just annoy me, so I probably won’t use that medium… Anyway i’d love to get traditionally published, but that’s a dream for now :)

    1. Oh boy, I know exactly what you mean about twitter! I opened an account there sometime around July of last year, and tried it out for a while, and maybe I’m not twittering right, but it just isn’t really my scene. I know you can add people to groups to make the massive amount of tweets you start seeing after following so many people less chaotic, but that in itself is a hassle and there are just *so many* book ads anymore that … yeah, it’s like swimming in the ocean during a storm. Without a lifeguard. =\

      I don’t really think twitter is the best place to advertise anyway, mostly because the tweets are SO SHORT! I mean, we’re writers, we write stuff, LONG stuff, and being limited to a couple hundred characters and an image just isn’t very practical, not to mention, I doubt it’s very appealing to readers. So while I do share my posts here on Twitter, and post the occasional image, I’m definitely not very active there, and I don’t blame you one bit for avoiding it. Perhaps it’s a tool to use, but success using a tool depends on your skill with it. I might be able to hammer a nail into a wall like a pro, but if someone handed me an electric grinder? Yeah, there’s going to be some damages lol!

      Either way, I wish you all the best in publishing! Just keep doing what you do and get it out there, and worry about the marketing stuff when the time comes! It’s all a matter of networking with readers and making an “author brand” as I’ve heard it called (basically, your author name) and if you know ten people who’ll read and review your book, then it’ll get passed on to more, and then more! Takes time, but it’s worthwhile! :)

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