I’ve gotten a few inquiries over the last couple months about writing a book in the Montana Collection. For those unfamiliar with this series, the books in it are Mitch’s Win, Boaz’s Wager, and Patty’s Gamble. The book would be a fourth one in the series, and it would be titled Shane’s Deal.
I’ve also gotten questions about more books in the Wild Hearts Series. The first book is The Stagecoach Bride (a co-authored book with Stephannie Beman).
The purpose of this post:
The purpose of this post is to explain what an author has to consider when deciding which book will be written next.
And yes, it really does come down to money.
Alright, so the best way I can explain this is that money plays a very big factor in what book will get written next. I know there’s the “writing for the sake of art” argument, but authors don’t live off of the “art” sentiment. They don’t pay their bills, feed their families, or pay taxes if they write books that don’t sell well. Writing is a business, but it’s a business most writers love doing.
I love writing. I don’t invest my time in a book I’m not passionate about writing. BUT (and this is the key), I have to believe the book will yield enough sales in order to take the risk on writing it. There are a ton of ideas I have that will never see the light of day, and the reason for it is because I don’t believe they have the potential to help me pay for bills, buy food, pay taxes, etc. Remember, 47% of everything I make goes right out the door and into taxes (federal and state). So I have to make about double the amount I pay into taxes in order to support my family. When you’re pricing books at $0.99 and $2.99, this is not an easy task.
I’ve been keeping my prices low because I know a lot of people who are struggling. We are all on limited incomes. I can’t buy everything I want. I don’t personally know anyone else who buys everything they want, either. I have to watch my budget very carefully. In fact, I’ve decided not to attend the RT Convention in Las Vegas because I can’t afford it. I have also decided I won’t be going to any more conferences for the time being. They’re expensive, especially given the traveling, lodging, and food expenses. I clip coupons and I watch every dollar I spend. So yes, everyone is on a limited income. But I will save up and spend money for things I value, and yes, I do support authors I enjoy by buying their books. If I don’t vote with my dollar(s), how will that author know the book was a success and that I want more like it?
So here’s why some books get written and others don’t:
I have to write what I believe has the very best chance of selling. And that requires me to make some very hard decisions. These are decisions I don’t like, but I don’t believe in digging my head in the sand and pretending everything is going to butterflies and cute little puppies. I’m a realist.
The simple fact is, Shane’s Deal doesn’t have the potential I need in order to write it right now. The Montana Collection does okay. It’s not my best selling series. It’s not my worst either. So it’s on the “when I get to it” shelf.
I handed the Wild Heart Series over to Stephannie Beman because my co-authored projects don’t sell as well as those I write on my own. (This also includes the anthologies I’ve done with other authors.) Stephannie Beman said she’ll be happy to write the rest of the series, but (and this is important), she needs some monetary reasons to do so. So if you enjoy the book, please spread the word about it to people who’ll buy it so she’ll want to continue writing it. She can’t work for free any more than I can.
These are hard decisions to make:
I’m not trying to be mean by not following up with additional books in these series. The reality is that the sales on these books have not proven to me that there is enough of a demand for them. If someone is providing a product that isn’t making enough money to stay in business, that person is either going to provide a different product, raise the price, or give up.
I’m really trying as hard as I can to keep my price at $2.99 for new books. I’m not at the point where I’m going to quit writing at this point in time. Right now I’m doing everything I can to keep doing this because it’s what I love. But the day might come when I’ll have to raise the price to $3.99 or walk away from this and get another job. That’s just how things go. It’s how it goes for every author.
If you have a favorite author, here’s the best way to support him/her:
I’m making this pleas on behalf of all authors out there who work hard to produce a well-written, compelling story. Here are some things we really need if we’re going to keep writing the books you enjoy.
- Please show your support by buying their book.
- Spread the word to your friends and/or reading groups. Word of mouth is something we can’t do. You are the only person who has creditability with the people in your life to be able to say, “Hey, this book is worth buying.”
- Please don’t ask us for free books. The majority of us already have put up free books for you to read. If we’re not worth your money, then fine, don’t buy our books. Move on to an author who is worth your money. But don’t come to us hoping to get more free books from us.
Here’s why authors don’t believe the “I can’t afford it” line.
I once had someone on Facebook gush on and on about how much she loved my books, but since she was broke, she couldn’t afford to buy any of them. (Mine are priced at $0.99 and $2.99). Guess what? A month later, she made a post on her Facebook timeline about this incredible book she BOUGHT for $7.99. It was fiction. It was a historical romance. Just like the kind I write. But by a different author.
Another case in point: someone messaged me and said, “You’re my favorite author. I just love your work. But I’m on a limited income, and I can’t afford to buy Eye of the Beholder. Can you please, please, please gift it to me?” (Eye of the Beholder, by the way, is only $0.99.) About a week later, I see this person make a post about a brand new movie she PAID to see on a Friday night. And guys, I don’t have to tell you how expensive those movies are when they’re new in the theater, do I?
These are just two examples of the many I’ve personally witnessed since I got started in this business in 2009. And it’s not just me this happens to. I’ve heard of other examples from many other authors in a variety of groups (on Facebook, forums, in private emails, and in person at conferences). This is a widespread scam.
So I have a very hard time believing anyone who tells me they are too broke to buy a $0.99 or $2.99 book. And I suspect other authors have a hard time believing this as well. The truth is, you will buy something if you value it. As authors, we will only write the books that have enough “value” to people. So that’s why some books never get written.
I hope I didn’t come off as sounding rude in this post. That wasn’t my intent. My intent was to explain why authors need a financial reason to want to write the next book. If the money is there, we will write it. If not, we won’t. When there are a finite number of hours in the day, we can’t afford to waste our time on things that won’t yield the greatest financial result. It’s not rude. It’s just being realistic about how the business really works.
You explained this better than I could. Nice job. Next one on my blog will be to explain that indie publishing is not something we were born knowing how to do, and that over time, as we learn, the quality of our editing and formatting improve. 🙂
Exactly! There is a huge learning curve to this business. I’ll keep a lookout for your post. I’m looking forward to reading it! 🙂
Very well written, Ruth. I totally agree with the financial side of the writing business. I have books, yes very beautifully written books, my fantasy romance comes to mind, that just sit on the Amazon/iBooks basement gathering cyberspace dust. I love writing fantasy romance with beautiful pros and all that jazz along with spirited heroines and hunky warriors (demons, angels, human, and an assorted of awesome creatures). But fantasy books, in my case, just don’t sell. So I push the series to the back of the writing list and concentrate on the ones that sells. That is the nature of the writing business. If your daily life depend on writing for money, then you need to chose the series that the majority are willing to buy. And I totally agree that readers/fans of authors should buy the authors’ books and help spread the word of their awesome products. Word of mouth is best ^_^
Yep, I hear you! I have some books I absolutely love (the Native American Romance Series comes to mind) that I reread time and time again, and this was a series I spent considerable time and money into researching. But it collects a lot of that cyberspace dust. The demand just isn’t there for it. And I’ve noticed my fantasy romances have been hard to move, too. Some genres seem to sell better than others, and we have to focus on those if we want to keep money coming in. We can’t worry about the books that don’t have a chance. It’s not feasible. It took me a long time to come to this conclusion and to stop feeling guilty for writing for money. What other profession would someone feel guilty for accepting payment for his/her work? I never once felt guilty for taking money when I was a data entry clerk, a fast food worker, or a daycare worker. But for some reason because I love writing, I felt guilty for asking to get paid for it. It’s ridiculous. We have a right to be paid for our books. (Sorry to ramble.)
I love your points! You made so many great ones, and I love how you share your experiences because it mirrors my own so well.
Word of mouth is golden. There is no other marketing tool that works as well as that, but it’s all up to the readers to do because we just can’t do it. We can write another book, we can buy ads, and we can engage on social media, but we can’t do word of mouth.
Love all your books prices are low compared to others I really like the Nebraska series.keep writing I will keep buying . Your fan Karen Mielkus
Karen, this means so much to me. Thank you so much!!
YOU GO GIRL!!!! Stick to your guns!! Your books are great.
Thank you, Cassandra! It’s much appreciated!!
Great advice Ruth:) And of course as authors we need to write books that will give us good return on investment. Thanks for this post… you explained it well! And I love your books… especially your mail order and regency books 😉 Keep writing and I’ll keep buying!
I’m glad I explained it well. 🙂 I worry that what I’m trying to convey isn’t coming across as I intend for it to.
You’re very nice to me, Lorna. If you ever need anything, let me know.
Aww thanks Ruth. I mean it I love your books and on top of that you’re a fun person and easy to talk to 😉 I appreciate your kind words, too. I did want to ask you if as you’ve written so many historical western romances – if you’ve discovered certain ‘tropes’ or reader expectations for those romances that engages readers? What I mean is, for example, in a western romance – maybe readers expect the heroine to meet a cowboy within the first 3 chapters, or something like that. The reason I’m asking, is I’m about to write a historical western romance, based on the early 1900s set around Calgary, Alberta. And I’ve never written a historical western romance before. If you have a minute I’d love your thoughts on that – or maybe that’s an idea for a blogpost 😉
I’ve been trying to think over common things historical western romance readers enjoy most, and this is what I’ve come up with. Heroines should be smart and willing to stand up to the hero. They call the weak heroine “TSTL” (To Stupid to Live), and that tends to annoy them. So if the hero is the “it’s got to be done my way or else” (before he falls in love with the heroine), go ahead and let her have a spine.
I’ve also noticed readers are more forgiving of a hero who is strong-willed more than a heroine who is strong-willed. My unpopular books (like Catching Kent) tends to feature a heroine who is actively pursuing the hero. Most readers seem to like it better when the hero pursues the the hero. Not sure why this is when they also want a heroine who isn’t afraid to stand up to the hero. I’ve been told a heroine who pursues the hero is seen as “pushy” and “annoying”. I asked the readers if they would have been offended had the hero done the same things the heroine did, and they said, “No, I guess I wouldn’t. For some reason, it’s different if it’s the man.” This doesn’t mean you can’t have a heroine attracted to the hero and playfully bring him her way, but I would advise against coercing him into marriage or chasing him when he says no.
Some readers groove off historical world building and others couldn’t care less. I prefer to get immersed into the story and let the historical stuff be wallpaper. I don’t think doing it my way has hurt. From what I’ve seen, books that are written in a way that immerses the reader into the story will do better than those that focus on historical authenticity. Do some research, but don’t get so engrossed in it that you stop writing. 🙂
Oh, some things that seem to work well: a plain heroine who is seen as “beautiful” by the hero, a recluse hero who needs a second chance, mail-order bride stories, marriage of convenience stories, arranged marriage stories… If I think of any others, I’ll add them.
Oh, as for when the hero and heroine meet, I tend to let them meet early on. Usually, they meet by chapter 2. I have done books where they meet in chapter 4 or 5, but I do have the build up of expectations of what they envision the other person to be like (like in an arranged marriage). If you can show the expectations aren’t what they’ll be getting, it can be a powerful source of conflict. Say like the heroine who can’t cook or sew (but will have to learn), and the hero is imagining this wife who’s an excellent housekeeper from the very moment he meets her. This can be pretty exciting for the reader as they wait for them to realize what they’ve gotten themselves into.
There is so many helpful tips here Ruth… thanks so much 🙂 I’ve copied and pasted your thoughts here onto a separate document so I can go over your ideas again as I write. Your tips spurred some great ideas already! You’re the best Ruth … thanks for being so helpful 🙂
I hope they help! Again, my mind is blank on other things, but maybe doing the A – Z challenge this month on writing elements will help get something going. 🙂
You weren’t being rude at all! I love your books, especially the Nebraska and Virginia series. I hope you will be able to write more books about the next generation of Larsons. Your prices are more than fair, but if you need to raise tour book prices I’ll still be buying them. Thank you for providing me the opportunity to escape into the past!
Thank you, Susan. I really appreciate that. The Larsons would be easier to write because I think those stand a good chance of doing well. I want to do Adam’s and Jacob’s romances. My problem with those is coming up with a plot.
Are you interested in Sep Edward’s book? He is Joel’s brother-in-law in Shotgun Groom. I was thinking of doing his book next year.
Ruth. I totally agree with you. I believe I have read all your books. I think the only exception are the galaxy series. Thanks to your free book (The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife). I got introduced to your wonderful writing. Your books prices very affordable. Thanks to your books I got was introduced to all the different genders. As long as you continue to write I will continue to buy your books.
Thank you. I deeply appreciate that. I don’t mind giving a free book from time to time to people like you who have supported me over the years. It’s why when I do run giveaways, I focus on people I know have been supporting me along the way. 🙂