Today’s post is inspired by an excellent blog post I came across in a Facebook writing group on The Ghostwriter Game by Sherry Ficklin.
Writing for passion offers wonderful buffers that I didn’t even consider when I decided to leave the rat race of trying to keep up with the trends in the indie publishing world. There have been several trends I’ve noticed over the past ten years I’ve been in this business.
Here are four trends I’m aware of that has played a big role in indie publishing:
1. Exclusivity to Amazon. This meant authors had to enter the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program, which later gave birth to Kindle Unlimited. Authors who entered this program could only sell their ebooks on Amazon. They could not sell it on any other retailer. In return for this, Amazon gave these books special rankings (aka visibility) not granted to books not in the program. Greater visibility means more sales (or, at the very least, more pages read money).
2. Writing to market. If authors wanted to keep sales going, they had to figure out what types of books were selling the most and then write books tailored to that audience. (I fell into this particular trend, which I have come to regret. But I learned a lot of valuable things from it, so it was worth slogging through the pain of being immersed in it.)
3. Ads. This one gained serious momentum in 2018 and is still riding high. Authors are talking about how it’s “pay to play” now. In order to make money, you have to spend a lot of money. Some authors spend $1000 to $10,000 a month on ads. These ads are mostly run through Amazon or Facebook, and yes, people really do spend a lot of money to get noticed. So if you’re not playing this game, your sales are taking a hit. Even authors writing to market have to run ads to stay relevant.
4. Ghostwriters. This is the latest trend. I’m not sure when it started, but I suspect it was around 2017. That’s when I noticed that in order to stay relevant, I had to get books out as fast as possible. Before 2016, I used to be able to release a book and rest for a month or two before I needed another one to keep sales going. I can’t speak for other authors on when they noticed they needed to get books out faster to keep a steady amount of sales coming in, but 2016 is when I noticed it. (Hence why I began writing to market at that time.) Anyway, over the years, the time period between release dates has gotten shorter and shorter. It started out that a book would fall off the map of visibility in 90 days. Then it was 60 days. Then it was 30 days. And at the time I’m writing this (March 2019), it seems like you need to get a new book out every week or every other week to stay relevant. This is where ghostwriters come in. There’s no way in the world an author can stay sane while getting all of those books out so quickly. Authors need breaks. No one can work without a break. So ghostwriters are a trend. They help authors stay relevant in the indie publishing world.
Why writing for passion buffers against trends:
I don’t fault authors for doing any of those trends. As I said, I did one of them myself. They keep authors afloat in an ever-changing landscape. But chasing these trends is stressful because they aren’t consistent. They only work for a while. And believe me, this ends up taking a toll on the author. This is why some authors have personal assistants to help them. They can’t manage all of this load on their own. There’s only so much any one person can do in a day.
Chasing trends is really about chasing money. Yes, money is important. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t. We need it in order to pay the bills and eat. Who wants to work at their job and NOT get paid? Writing is work. It’s work authors enjoy, but it’s still work. Just because you enjoy your work, it doesn’t lessen its value.
But when money becomes the focal point of what we do, it can hinder us from being able to enjoy writing. Most writers I talk to started writing early in life. They wrote because they loved writing, and they had stories they wanted to share with the world. When you replace that passion with the quest for money, it makes writing a chore. As I said in the last paragraph, money is important, but it needs to be placed in the right perspective to avoid making it the only thing that matters.
This is where the benefit of writing for passion comes in. Writing for passion gives you something other than money to aim for. It focuses your attention on the story itself. It frees you up to indulge in the characters’ lives. You immerse yourself into the story, and, as a result, the story becomes the reward.
When your focus is on the story, your eyes go off of the trends. It no longer matters what the new gimmick is. All that matters is writing a story you can give 100% of yourself to. So while other authors are chasing trends at a frantic pace, you can relax and enjoy the world you’re creating. I’ve written plenty of stories for passion and more than I care to admit for money, and the difference between the two is like night day. Writing for passion energizes you. It excites you. It makes you eager to wake up. Really, what it does is produces a joy in you that money can never give you. Money is a temporary pleasure, but the joy that comes from working on something you’re passionate about brings pleasure for a lifetime. When your focus is on the joy of writing for passion, you will stay level while the rest of the world is on a crazy rollercoaster ride.