The article I am referring to is at this link if you want to read it. The post was written by Clayton Noblit at Written Word Media. This was a really good article. I enjoyed it a lot. I encourage authors to check it out.
Now for my thoughts…
My initial thought as I read the blog was, “I’m screwed.”
I laugh as I write that, but it’s how I was feeling the entire time I was reading it. Things are changing so fast in publishing that I don’t know if I can keep up. I’m currently at my mother-in-law’s taking care of her for a few days. I have a husband and four kids, and while one is now in college and the other is a senior, I do want to spend time with them before they move away. Then there’s the regular stuff that takes up a day (car repairs, school stuff, appointments for the dentist/doctor, and on and on). On top of that, I have to get enough sleep and take care of my health. I might not have a “real” job, but I don’t have all day to sit and write like people assume I do. This is why my marketing is pretty much nil, and it’s why I take so long to answer blog posts and emails.
I think authors that can keep up with all of these changes are those who have a ton of free time on their hands or have a qualified assistant to do the bulk of the “legwork” for them. While I’m training my oldest to help me out, it’s taking time. We have a ways to go before he can do the business end of things himself.
But before I slip into the “this is the end of my writing career” mindset, I have to stop. There’s a thing called the self-fulfilling prophecy. The self-fulfilling prophecy is when you plant an idea in your head that ends up becoming a reality because you end up acting in a way that ensures your expectations are met. So I’m not going to give into the “I’m screwed” mindset. What I need to do is take a step back and think over what things I changes I can handle given my hectic life.
When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing to do is remove the stuff you’re not interested in. Then you can look over and prioritize the things that are interesting.
You can’t do everything. Being on every single social media platform will wipe you out. Likewise, focusing on every marketing opportunity will wipe you out. The best chance of long-term success when you’re looking to stick with something is to pick things that you enjoy. I’m all for trying new things, but when you don’t have much wiggle room, you have to be pickier about the things you’ll experiment with.
Writing with the help of AI
Right away, I can tell you that I am not using artificial intelligence (AI) to help me write my books. I can see the appeal. In a world where everything is “right now”, readers can get impatient for the next book. To complicate matters, a lot of them want to binge read an entire series, which means they won’t even buy Book 1 until the series is finished. That can be stressful when you need every book sale you can get to pay the bills. For authors driven to get books out as fast as possible to keep up momentum, this AI is probably going to be fantastic. You can have assistance to get books done quickly, and you don’t have to worry about ghostwriters possibly plagiarizing someone else’s work.
Despite the appeal, this isn’t for me. I’d rather write all of my books. I love the creative process. To me, the fun part is writing. I like going into a book and not knowing how things are going to play out until I’m writing the scene. It’s an adventure. It’s like going on a road trip without a map. The surprises that pop up along the way is what makes writing enjoyable. The part I hate is the marketing aspect of it. That’s why I do so little marketing. But some authors prefer the marketing, and they are probably the ones who will benefit from AI’s assistance.
Some authors are doing great with direct sales
I’ve had a Payhip storefront for years, and I might get one or two sales a year. I used to offer coupons to help generate interest, but people told me they buy from their preferred retailer because it’s easier to press the “buy” button and get the book directly loaded to their e-reader. As a reader, I do the same thing. Convenience matters. I don’t know who these authors are who are doing great with direct sales, but no one I personally know are among them. Maybe you have to be a big-time author to generate the interest. I would only recommend this to authors who have a good following or are super awesome with marketing.
More authors are upping their prices
I have actually decided to decrease the price of my new releases. This was a personal decision. In my house, we aren’t doing so great financially due to repairs and the cost of food, gas, utilities, etc, going up. This past year was an expensive one for my household. In light of my experience, I decided to go from asking $3.99 to asking $2.99 on new releases in hopes that I could give my readers a break. I did keep my current $3.99 books at $3.99 because I don’t feel like going across multiple retailers and adjusting the price. As I mentioned above, my time is limited. But I did lower the pre-orders to $2.99.
This is a personal thing each author has to decide on. I know a book is cheap compared to a coffee or a movie, but I had to follow my heart on this one. When it comes to business decisions, I tend to go with my feelings. Some authors think I’m crazy. Maybe they’re right.
Small publishers are finding success
I want to make a comment about the small press part of the blog post. Years ago (probably back in 2010), I read a post by a man who made a prediction about the future of publishing. He said indie publishing would explode for a time. Then small publishers would step in and take momentum. Then, eventually, the small publishers would merge and eventually become big publishers. He based this theory on what happened in the US in the past. Perhaps he is right. They say history repeats itself. Maybe we’re going to see the transition from indie to small press in the next decade or so.
This could be due to many things. Maybe changes in publishing will be so overwhelming that authors would rather hand off the harder part of the business to a publisher than navigate those changes alone. Or maybe smaller retailers will fold under until only one or two big players remain who will decide not to accept indies anymore. Or maybe subscription services will pop up all over the place, and authors will get paid so little (due to lack of representation by a publisher) that they’ll go to small presses who can negotiate good contracts for them. Anything is possible. Then again, maybe indies will always have a place in the publishing arena. Unlike the past, we have the internet now.
Either way, I’m grateful I got in when I did in 2009 because this has been one of the biggest blessings God has granted me. I never could have written my books with full creative control without the invention of the internet, the ease of indie publishing, and the popularity of the ebook reader. Since I was 12, my big dream was to be a published writer. My exact entry in my diary was that I hoped I would one day be a bestselling author (meaning “successful”) and have a loving husband. I then added, “I hope I don’t have to choose between the two, but if I do, I’d rather be a successful writer.” (Sorry to my husband, but it’s true.) 😛 I wrote this in my bedroom while looking up at the night sky. I still remember writing that down even after all these years. Thankfully, God didn’t make me choose between an author and having a loving husband. He granted me both things. No matter where things go from here, my life is complete.
Digital ads will become more expensive and difficult to track
The reason I never went into Amazon, Facebook, and Bookbub click ads is that I felt like they would end up losing their effectiveness over time, and I didn’t want those ads to be the main way I produced visibility. I’ve seen authors get so reliant on ads that they stop making money when the ads lose their effectiveness. Then they panic. I never wanted to be in that position. I might have left some money on the table by not buying those ads, but I’ve never regretted that decision.
That being said, there are some ads I do run every once in a while. My favorite ad sites are Freebooksy, LitRing, and Booksends. Some authors love tracking a bunch of click-through rates and tweaking keywords, but that’s not my kind of thing. I’d rather be writing.
Audiobooks are ready to boom
For years, people have been saying audiobooks are a hot market, but in my experience, the money is still way better in ebooks. ACX is awful for a return on investment. ACX will let readers return those audiobooks, and that cuts into an author’s and/or narrator’s profits. Findaway Voices is much more friendly to creators. Things might change with Spotify taking over, though. I worry the acquisition will turn Findaway into another ACX. I don’t know, guys. Making audiobooks is fun, but it’s a lot of work and time, and quite frankly, it doesn’t bring in enough money to do in earnest. AI, however, could be the game changer authors who are strapped for cash need. If AI does a fantastic job and cuts the cost and time of doing the audiobook to almost nothing, then we could probably see a real boom in this aspect of the business.
Serialized reading apps are becoming more mainstream
Out of everything on the list, I think the serialized app might be the thing that’s worth my time to look into. But not Wattpad. Wattpad requires authors to participate on there with readers to get paid. I don’t have time to participate on Wattpad. I barely have time to answer blog posts and emails, and it can take me weeks to do that. For busy authors, the best thing to do is invest in places that will pay without requiring engagement with readers. A site like Radish might be a good option. So I applied to join. There are other serialized apps out there, too. So much to learn, so little time. I’m starting with Radish, and then I’ll continue from there. Out of everything in that blog post, I’ve decided this is going to be my goal for 2022. If I have time, I’ll look into AI for audiobooks, too.